Most of us will never go to the moon, but the next best thing is Canada.
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Amidst ice hockey, maple syrup, and extraordinary civility, the country also has one of the best craters in which you can study the moon without jumping into a spaceship.
You may not have heard of Mistastine Crater in northern Newfoundland and Labrador (I think most Canadians will forgive you, right?), but here’s why it’s perfect for the moon. There are several.
As with most of my dating life, Crater’s remote location is isolated from most humans, mimicking the loneliness I felt on the Moon. The structure is similar to that seen in many lunar craters. The area contains unusual rocks that are eerily similar to those astronauts have found on the moon.
These qualities make it a good training ground for potential astronauts for NASA’s Artemis mission, which plans to land astronauts on the moon as early as 2025.
On Wednesday, NASA took an important step towards its return to the moon, launching an unmanned test flight called Unmanned Flight. Artemis ITo demonstrate that the rocket and spacecraft are safe to fly, they will remain in semilunar orbit for up to 25 days and will not land on the surface.
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“This crater in Labrador was not known to be a crater during the Apollo missions,” says Gordon Osinski, a planetary geologist at Western University in Canada who has guided astronauts around the crater. I was. “I’d love to see all the astronauts walking on the moon eventually come to Mistastine.”
Mistastine, known locally as Camestastine, is located on the religious and traditional hunting grounds of the Mushuau Inu Indigenous people and requires their permission to visit.
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The crater was essentially “off the beaten path,” said Cassandra Marion, a planetary geologist who has visited the planet six times.
There is no formal airstrip, and visitors usually land on small, non-pressurized freighters on bushy gravel roads, unless large rocks get in the way.
It often rains and the wind blows. When there is no wind it is buggy with lots of stinging gnats.
Located in the Canadian Arctic, the rugged terrain is a mixture of taiga and tundra. Black pine and alder live in lowlands, while moss grows near riverbeds and in highlands.
And there are small delicious blueberries all over the tundra. Marion said if she doesn’t watch where she sits, she might get “purple ass” when she stands up.
“She’s a cruel mistress in a way, but I’ll be back,” Marion said. I feel like I’m the only one.”
In September, Marion and Osinski took two astronauts to Mistastine Crater for geology training and identifying rocks that may be visible on the moon. Many rocks are accessible from outcrops or cliff faces that emerged millions of years ago.
Mistastine Crater was formed when an asteroid impacted about 36 million years ago, leaving the large 28 km-long dent in the ground that we see today.
Osinski said such large craters, called compound craters, are common on the moon’s surface.
The complex crater is shallower and flatter, rather than a bowl-shaped depression like the Arizona meteor crater that also trains astronauts.
Like many moon complex craters, Mystatin has a mountain called the Central Peak.
“This crater on Labrador is not only a complex impact crater, it is also relatively well preserved,” Osinski said. “I’ve been there many times and it’s still really pretty when you walk uphill to the rim and then literally peer into this huge hole in the ground.”
We know that being in Mistastine Crater isn’t exactly like the moon. Unlike the moon, it has wind, water and Wi-Fi.
In fact, modern Mystatin may not look like the Moon. This is because it contains a lake (spanning about half the size of the first crater impact) that is probably the result of glacial outflow from the last Ice Age. But don’t let the lake fool you.
The great similarity to our lunar friends is in its rocks. One of only two craters on Earth, it contains large amounts of rock called anorthosite.
The other is the heavily eroded Manicouagan impact structure in Quebec, where the much younger and better preserved Mistastine crater is favored for research and astronaut training.
Anorthocytes are rare on Earth, but common on the Moon. You may never pronounce the name, but you’ve seen it every time you look up at the moon. This rock is a brightly colored, highly reflective patch found throughout the moon’s surface, called the lunar highlands.
“One of the reasons you see so much around the moon is because of the way it was formed,” said Julie Stopp, a lunar geologist at the University Space Research Association’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. I’m here.
Compared to our home planet, the Moon’s surface was mainly eroded by impact craters and volcanic activity.
According to the popular formation theory, the moons came together when a Mars-sized object collided with the young Earth about 4.6 billion years ago, around the time the solar system began to form.
Stopar said hot debris around the Earth coalesced into the moon, covering the young moon with oceans of magma.
Simply put, Stopar says that as the surface ocean of magma cooled, various minerals and rocks began to crystallize.
Dense material sinks and lighter material floats to the top, essentially becoming the surface of the Moon. A common mineral that floats on the surface is anorthite, which is the main constituent of anorthocite rocks.
The origin story of anorthosites on Earth is more complex and poorly understood, according to Marion, a scientific advisor at the Canadian Air and Space Museum.
Studies have shown that anorthosite probably formed through the separation of light crystals in magma, but formed deep within the mantle.
As the magma slowly cools and crystallizes, the less dense mineral crystals separate from the denser material and solidify to form anorthosite. This rock was brought to the surface by erosion and plate tectonic activity.
So what about the fact that an asteroid happened to crater this rare anorthosite-rich region? Well, it’s just a stroke of luck.
The collusion resulted in high temperatures and pressures that essentially crushed, shattered, and melted the rock. Marion said the effects of a high-velocity impact would be similar to a large impact on the Moon.
“The way rocks have changed is similar to how they changed on the moon after the impact,” Marion said.
Marion points out that anorthosite exists throughout this region of Labrador, even though you can’t go to the crater itself.
Astronauts traveling to the moon photograph different types of rocks, including molten rock, and provide notes to help researchers like Osinski return to Earth.
“They can’t take home every rock they see. ) How do you basically select it in real time?” says Osinski.
Stopar said that if astronauts were able to bring back more lunar rocks, researchers would be able to date lunar craters and better understand the geology of our neighbors and floating debris at the beginning of the solar system. can create a historical history.
She also said that we can learn how much water was brought to the Earth and Moon from comets and asteroids, and the challenges to life at that time.
Stopar, a team member on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, said:
“Scientifically, every time we get a sample of the Moon, we learn a lot about it, so I think that’s great. I’m learning a lot about the moon.”
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