Do Protons Decay? The Answer Might be on the Moon

Model of proton decay. (Credit: Wikipedia/Cjean42; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Does proton decay exist and how do we search for it? This is what a recently submitted study hopes to address as a team of international researchers investigate a concept of using samples from the Moon to search for evidence of proton decay, which remains a hypothetical type of particle decay that has yet to be observed and continues to elude particle physicists. This study holds the potential to help solve one of the longstanding mysteries in all of physics, as it could enable new studies into deep-level and the laws of nature, overall.

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How Much Water Would a Self-Sustaining Moonbase Need?

Artist rendition of a future lunar base. (Credit: ESA - P. Carril)

As humanity returns to the Moon in the next few years, they’re going to need water to survive. While resupplies from Earth would work for a time, eventually the lunar base would have to become self-sustaining? So, how much water would be required to make this happen? This is what a recently submitted study hopes to address as a team of researchers from Baylor University explored water management scenarios for a self-sustaining moonbase, including the appropriate location of the base and how the water would be extracted and treated for safe consumption using appropriate personnel.

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Japan’s Lunar Lander Survives its Third Lunar Night

Lunar surface seen by SLIM

Space travel and exploration was never going to be easy. Failures are sadly all too common but it’s wonderful to see missions exceed expectations. The Japanese Space Agency’s SLIM lunar lander was only supposed to survive a single day but it’s survived three brutal, harsh lunar nights and is still going. The temperatures plummet to -170C at night and the lander was never designed to operate into the night. Even sat upside down on the surface it’s still sending back pictures and data. 

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NASA is Building an Electrodynamic Shield to Deal with all that Dust on the Moon and Mars

Artist's illustration of Artemis III astronauts on the Moon. Credit: NASA.

Exploration of the Moon or other dusty environments comes with challenges. The lunar surface is covered in material known as regolith and its a jaggy, glassy material. It can cause wear and tear on equipment and can pose a health risk to astronauts too. Astronauts travelling to Mars would experience dust saucing to everything, including solar panels leading to decrease in power. To combat the problems created by dust, NASA is working on an innovative electrodynamic dust shield to remove dust and protect surfaces from solar panels to space suits. 

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Wireless Power Transmission Could Enable Exploration of the Far Side of the Moon

Schematic from Figure 1 of the study displaying the wireless power transmission and receiver on the lunar far side with three satellites (SPS-1, SPS-2, and SPS-3) in a halo orbit at the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2. (Credit: Donmez & Kurt (2024))

How can future lunar exploration communicate from the far side of the Moon despite never being inline with the Earth? This is what a recent study submitted to IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems hopes to address as a pair of researchers from the Polytechnique Montréal investigated the potential for a wireless power transmission method (WPT) comprised of anywhere from one to three satellites located at Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2 (EMLP-2) and a solar-powered receiver on the far side of the Moon. This study holds the potential to help scientists and future lunar astronauts maintain constant communication between the Earth and Moon since the lunar far side of the Moon is always facing away from Earth from the Moon’s rotation being almost entirely synced with its orbit around the Earth.

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Finally, an Explanation for the Moon’s Radically Different Hemispheres

Schematic illustration with a gravity gradient map (blue hexagonal pattern) of the lunar nearside and a cross-section showing two ilmenite-bearing cumulate downwellings from lunar mantle overturn.

Pink Floyd was wrong, there is no dark side to the Moon. There is however, a far side. The tidal effects between the Earth and Moon have caused this captured or synchronous rotation. The two sides display very different geographical features; the near side with mare and ancient volcanic flows while the far side displaying craters within craters. New research suggests the Moon has turned itself inside out with heavy elements like titanium returning to the surface. It’s now thought that a giant impact on the far side pushed titanium to the surface, creating a thinner more active near side. 

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China’s Next Lunar Relay Satellite Blasts Off

Launch of Queqiao-2

Communication between spacecraft relies upon line of site technology, if anything is in the way, communication isn’t possible. Exploration of the far side of the Moon is a great example where future explorers would be unable to communicate directly with Earth.  The only way around this is to use relay satellites and the Chinese Space Agency is on the case. The first Queqiao-1 was able to co-ordinate communications with Chang’e-4 landers and now they are sending Queqiao-2 to support the Change’e-6 mission. 

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Japan’s SLIM Lander Finds Power Even Though It’s Face Down

Photo of the SLIM lander on the surface of the Moon - showing it tipped onto its side.
Photo of SLIM Lander

The Moon is a bit of a hot bed for exploration of late.  The Japanese agency JAXA have been getting in on the act but their SLIM lander fell on its side with its solar panels pointing toward the ground. Until today, JAXA thought that was it but today it seems that they have managed to re-established contact again.

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China Reveals How it’s Planning to Search for Water Ice at the Moon’s South Pole

A render of China's planned lunar base. /CFP

It’s been a big week for Chinese space exploration. First a successful test flight of Zhuque-3 and this week we learned of their plans to explore the Moon’s South Pole. Previous missions have even returned samples to Earth but the Chinese landers have yet to explore more southerly areas of the Moon. Chang’e-6 is due to launch in a few months to collect samples from the far side of the Moon while Chang’e-7 launches in 2026 to the Moon’s south pole. 

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Europe is Working on a Multi-Purpose Habitat for the Moon

Image of the Multi-Purpose Habitat (MPH) being developed through a recent partnership between the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space. (Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

With NASA gearing up to send humans back to the Moon in the next few years with the Artemis missions with the goal of establishing a permanent outpost at the lunar south pole, nations are making efforts to contribute to Artemis and a permanent presence on our nearest celestial neighbor. Recently, the Italian Space Agency, formally known as Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), has taken steps to establish the first permanent outpost on the lunar surface, known simply as the Multi-Purpose Habitat (MPH). This endeavor was officially kicked by the ASI signing a contract with the French-based aerospace company, Thales Alenia Space, who specializes in space-based systems, including ground segments and satellites used for both Earth observation and space exploration.

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