Las Palmas, Spain, Oct 11 (EFE).- Ever since astronauts from NASA and ESA began to set up camp in 2017, Lanzarote’s lunar-like landscape has been an area brimming with scientific promise.
But does this Spanish Canary Islands really share so much in common with the Moon? The answer is, yes, to the point that rocks found here are almost identical to those collected by the Apollo 14 expedition to our rocky satellite.
This discovery is crucial because, sooner or later, humankind will establish a lunar base.
Before that can happen, scientists must find out how the surface of the Moon can sustain human life and infrastructure. Will we be able to build a base and a road? Can we plant seeds, extract oxygen, water? Does it host materials like iron and titanium?
Scientists already have access to rocks brought back from the Moon, thanks mainly to NASA’s Apollo program in the 1970s, but these are scarce and valuable, and therefore unsuitable for large scale experiments.
It is for this reason that scientists from around the world scoured the planet not only for areas that appeared similar to the Moon or Mars – our next stop in the modern space race – but also contain similar geophysical and chemical properties.
In the latest issue of Scientific Reports, a publication under the Nature umbrella, four scientists from the CSIC Institute of Geosciences, the Complutense University in Madrid and the Canary Island volcano institute (Involcán) published a new report that would have left the Apollo 14 astronauts with jaws dropped.
On February 5, 1971, NASA’s Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed on the Moon’s Fra Mauro highlands, the region where the failed Apollo 13 was slated to land 10 months prior.
They spent 33.5 hours on the Moon, nine of those walking on its surface. The astronauts brought 33.5 kilograms of rock back with them to Earth.
They found that basalt samples from the Peñas de Tao geosite in Lanzarote were nearly identical to Apollo 14 lunar soil.
“There is a strong correlation not only in terms of mineralogical and geochemical terms, but also in physical properties. For this reason, the Tao basalts are considered analogous to the lunar surface according to the landing site of the Apollo 14 mission,” the report said.
The findings open up a new field of research on the samples, to establish whether it is possible to extract oxygen, plant seeds and use the volcanic rock of Lanzarote for constructions.EFE