Astronaut Alexander Gerst hopes that missions to the moon will provide more information about the development of life on Earth.
Gerst told the German News Agency: “We may find on the moon meteorites that came from the Earth, that is, rock fragments that were ejected from the Earth as a result of a major collision at some time in the past and then landed on the moon.” Berlin. The 47-year-old is considered a potential candidate for the American missions “Artemis 4” and “Artemis 5” to the moon, which are scheduled to be planned within a few years.
Gerst explained that traces of early Earthly life, such as microbes, are likely trapped in moon rocks. “That would be very exciting.” Due to plate tectonics, such monuments cannot be found on Earth anymore. On the other hand, the Moon has been geologically quiet for billions of years.
It was thrown, turned over, melted
Through tectonic movements, rocks on Earth, along with their artifacts, are thrown up, overturned and melted in a continuous process. “We have had almost nothing since the early days of the Earth, and what little we have is strongly geologically influenced,” said Matthias Neuenhaus of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen. “But on the moon, nothing happens.”
According to current knowledge, the oldest evidence of life on Earth is about 3.5 billion years old. According to current assumptions, the Moon was formed at least 4.46 billion years ago from debris resulting from the collision of the primitive Earth with the Mars-sized celestial body Theia. This could make it a valuable archive of early life on our planet.
Material from Earth on the Moon
Analyzes showed that the moonstone brought to Earth by astronauts during the Apollo missions in 1971 could contain materials from Earth. Nieuwenhuis explained that the composition of the small fragment is typical for Earth, but unusual for the Moon. It is estimated that in the last 3.9 billion years alone, about 36 to 61 kilograms of Earth's rocks per square kilometer may have reached the Moon, and in certain places up to half a ton per square kilometer.
The planetary scientist explained that the impact speed of these materials is fairly low, at about three kilometers per second. “This is why fossils from Earth's early history can still be found there.” Traces of early terrestrial microbes on the Moon may have been preserved to this day in the form of biological and chemical markers.
Astronaut vs robot
Nieuwenhuis believes it is realistic that an astronaut, not a robot, would find the corresponding rock at some point. “A properly trained astronaut has a special eye for his surroundings: What doesn't fit here, what's unusual?” He can head straight for an unusual rock, increasing the chance of finding an amazing find.