Focus on Research


Lunar research was one of the hallmarks of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in its first decade (the 1960s) as the United States prepared for the Apollo missions and LPL led the way in mapping possible landing sites. In the half-century since, the kinds of lunar research performed have changed, but the Moon is still an object of intense scrutiny. Our nearest neighbor in space lacks many of the processes occurring on the surface of Earth today, including the effects of wind, water and biology, so the rocks on its surface contain records of a much earlier era of Solar System history. On the other hand, because it lacks either an atmosphere or a strong internal magnetic field, its surface experiences effects that the Earth’s surface does not. Current LPL researchers study many different aspects of the Moon, including its composition, history, surface properties, magnetic field, interior structure, and even its tenuous atmosphere. Although the first studies were done with telescopes, we now have everything from the samples returned in the Apollo missions to modern spacecraft missions in orbit around the Moon.