WASHINGTON — NASA is to launch a “priority” mission to explore mysterious domes on the moon. The space agency announced a rover will visit the Gruithuisen Domes, a geological feature that has baffled scientists.
The domes are suspected to have been formed by a sticky magma rich in silica, similar in composition to granite. On Earth, however, formations like these need oceans of liquid water and plate tectonics to form, but without these key ingredients on the Moon, lunar scientists have been left to wonder how these domes formed and evolved over time.
The Lunar Vulkan Imaging and Spectroscopy Explorer (Lunar-VISE) investigation, slated for 2025, will consist of a suite of five instruments. Two of them will be mounted on a stationary lander and three mounted on a mobile rover to be provided as a service by a Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative vendor.
Over the course of ten Earth days (one lunar day), Lunar-VISE will explore the summit of one of the Gruithuisen Domes. By analyzing the lunar regolith at the top of one of these domes, the data collected and returned by Lunar-VISE’s instruments will help scientists answer fundamental open questions regarding how these formations came to be.