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NASA lands payload on the other side of the Moon for the first time

NASA has selected three new scientific payloads under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which is part of the Artemis program. Of the three, two land on the lunar hemisphere that always faces away from our planet. It marks the first time NASA has landed payloads on the other side of the Moon, and the purpose is to collect data about the area as a potential future destination for Artemis astronauts.

The other side of the moon remained untouched by machines and spacecraft until China’s Chang’e-4 mission landed on it back in 2019. There’s still a lot we need to find out about the hemisphere before we start sending humans to visit it. One of the proposals chosen by NASA will e.g. Land on an impact crater called the Schrödinger Basin to better understand tectonic activity on the other side.

Farside Seismic Suite, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory project, will spend months collecting data using two seismometers. In addition to giving us more information about the moon̵

7;s tectonic activity, it is also expected to shed light on how the distant side is affected by small meteorites, as well as provide more data about the Moon’s internal structure. The results of this project will complement the seismic data collected by the second payload for the Schrödinger Basin: The Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite. Equipped with two instruments, it will examine internal lunar firing and electrical conductivity.

However, one of the three selected proposals called Lunar Vertex will lead to Reiner Gamma – one of the most visible vortices from Earth. We still do not understand what the moon’s vortices are or how they form, but they are thought to be related to anomalies with the Moon’s magnetic field. Lunar Vertex, which consists of a lander and a rover, will take measurements of the magnetic field for researchers to study.

All three projects were sent to NASA as part of the call for payloads and research studies on the Moon’s surface (PRISM) last year. The teams are still negotiating with NASA on how much they will make their proposals a reality, but the agency’s goal is to deliver the payloads to their destination by 2024.

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