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Moon rock harvested by Apollo astronauts unveils secret of Moon's magnetism

It has been decades since man has walked on the moon. Scientists have made an important discovery about the moon recently using rocks recovered by astronauts from the Apollo missions of the 1970's.

One of the big questions that have stumped scientists since the early exploration of the moon is why lunar rocks are magnetic. Earth's magnetic field is produced by its rotating, iron core; something that the moon lacks.

Scientists at MIT believe they have finally solved the mystery. The scientists believe that about 4.2 billion years ago the moon had a liquid core that produced a strong magnetic field, similar to what the Earth has today.

Evidence of the molten core theory was found by analyzing the oldest of the moon rocks, which were not subjected to major shocks from impacts on the moon's surface. These later impacts erase all evidence of earlier magnetic fields.

The particular rock used by the researchers is one collected by astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt who is the only geologist to ever walk on the moon. Ben Weiss, one of the MIT researchers, told Space.com, "Many people think that it's the most interesting lunar rock."

Weiss and other team members used a commercial rock magnetometer fitted with a special robotic arm to study the faint traces of magnetism in the rock. The researcher say that the test results allowed them to rule out other possible sources of magnetic traces in the rock, such as the magnetic fields that are briefly generated by the impacts on the moon. The magnetic fields generated by these collisions reportedly generate mini magnetic fields lasting mere seconds up to a full day for very large impacts.

The readings the scientist made show that the rock was in the presence of a magnetic field for millions of years and that the magnetic fields must have come from a magnetic dynamo creating by a rotating core. The magnetic field on the moon is believed to have been about 1/50th of the magnetic field the earth has today.

Space.com says that the findings fit into the theory that the moon was created when a Mars-sized body collided with the Earth, blasting much of its crust into space where it clumped together and formed the moon.



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RE: Interesting...
By mindless1 on 1/17/2009 3:51:48 AM , Rating: 2
You can't possibly believe we wouldn't have this tech now w/o any space program?

The precursors of this tech were there, some things are just inevitable and trying to assign cause to one group, or honor individuals' work, is just a sign of man's ego to think each individual is somehow extra-special.

We are like ants. If one person didn't discover something it would come sooner or later anyway because that one person had the benefit of all the ants that came before and shared their knowledge.

It's not the Space Program that matters, it's that we remember we need to allocate a certain % of our assets to research. It is important to make this distinction because we have to realize that at some point merely firing more rockets into space or analyzing microbes on Mars is a dead-end. We can funnel a lot of money into that, or funnel the money into what we really need, to solve the problems here on earth so that we have millions more healthy, educated minds working on such problems instead of only a few.

Our strength (as ants) is in numbers, not in how much we pay to a few thinking unlimited resources is the answer. Unlimited resources will come anyway if enough people come to the same conclusion - without the waste we already have, and with a better standard of living for all.

The only thing that makes this planet so desirable to leave is those who ruin it for the rest of us. We could escape into space and what good would it do if a new colony just perpetuated the same environment that some are so desperate to leave? If we just "want to know" that is an unreasonable position, just knowing without application is trivia, unfruitful. It has to have an end and we need to not only question that end but question why.

The space program is not trivial, it's funds should be slightly increased, but only if, and after, the budget has the pork trimmed out and other programs are given their suitable funding.

No matter how many trillions we might pour into the space program, we're not going to achieve great strides in space exploration as a result. See above what I wrote about ants, the ants at NASA may be quite clever but they too depend upon the advances made outside the space program.


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