Today, our moon is simply a rock and rather lifeless. The moon has no atmosphere or magnetosphere to protect it from the Sun or the radiation that emits from our host star. And of course, the moon has no liquid water on its surface. According to a new scientific paper, Earth’s only orbiting body may not have always been so uninhabitable.
“Associating our Moon with habitability seems outrageous, and certainly it would have been just a decade ago. However, results from recent space missions, as well as sensitive analyses of lunar rock and soil samples, have indicated that the Moon is not as dry as previously thought.” the new study is published in the journal Astrobiology, by a team led by Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at Washington State University, and Ian Crawford, a professor of planetary science and astrobiology at the University of London.
The new study suggests that 4 billion years ago, the moon’s condition may have been right for the existence of simple lifeforms. Around that time, the moon was surrounded by a dense debris field and marked the first peak point of the moon’s formation. Basically, given the basic atmosphere that existed during the moon’s formation coupled with the tiny bit of pressure it once had (about 1% of Earth’s) may have caused some water to pool on the surface.
The paper argues that “current understanding is that the Moon originated from a gigantic impact 4.5 billion years ago. The extent to which volatiles was preserved in the Moon-forming debris disk produced by this impact is model-dependent, but impediments to the diffusion of water molecules in a silicate-dominated vapor are expected to result in some water retention in the disk and therefore in the newly formed Moon”
It’s also important to note that during the time in the early days of the moon’s formation, it had somewhat of a magnetosphere–shielding it from dangerous cosmic rays that may impede the development of life.
The next time conditions were right for the existence of water was 500 million years later when the lunar surface experienced peak volcanic activity which extremely hot gases could have spewed water vapor through the surface, creating a system habitable for life. “In addition, recent studies of the products of lunar volcanism indicate that the lunar interior also contains more water than was once appreciated and that the lunar mantle may even be as comparably water-rich as Earth’s upper mantle.”
“The image of liquid water teeming with microbes on the lunar surface completely shatters the current paradigm of the Moon as a dead rock in space,” Schulze-Makuch said in an op-ed. “Of course, we have to be careful not to get carried away with the idea. After all, we don’t see any of the water-modified topography on the Moon that we see on Mars.”
Jeff Bezos’ private spaceflight company Blue Origin is making strides on developing its New Glenn orbital rocket that is expected to launch cargo deliveries to the moon. NASA is also developing a plan to return their astronauts to the lunar surface in the coming years. These missions both commercial and public will enable scientists to study beneath the lunar surface and confirm some of these theories put forth about the moon’s past.