Not everyone thinks we should be investing so much time and money in the ISS, but there’s more than one reason to return to the moon: while it’s a source of a potentially perfect fuel to some nations, to climate change researchers, it represents the ideal place from which to study climate change on Earth.

Researcher Shaopeng Huang has found that surface temperatures on the near side of the moon accurately record important information about Earth’s climate system. Based on his analysis, he is calling for an international effort to develop and deploy monitoring stations on the moon for the study of global warming here on earth.

Fortunately, instruments left behind by the Apollo 15 astronauts in 1971 inadvertently provided just the necessary measurements. Huang says, “One of the main scientific objectives of the Apollo 15 mission was to drill two boreholes about three meters into the lunar soil and insert specially designed probes. The point was to see how temperature varies with depth, in order to calculate the heat flow outward from the interior of the moon.” But drilling in the moon’s powdery soil turned out to be much more difficult than expected, so they could only penetrate a little more than half the depth they wanted to reach. So when the probes were inserted into the boreholes, several thermometers designed for measuring subsurface temperature ended up measuring surface temperature instead. Because of this, NASA acquired 41 months-worth of records of the moon’s surface temperature.

What does this have to do with the temperature of the earth? When Huang examined the moon data, he realized it could provide valuable information on Earth’s climate shifts, because on the near side of the airless moon, where Apollo 15 landed, surface temperature is controlled by solar radiation during daytime and energy radiated from Earth at night. Even weak radiation from the earth produces measurable temperature changes in the moon dust.

Huang says, “Countries around the world are racing to launch missions to the moon? (and here at, we know why!) “The time could not be better to join forces to create a network of temperature and radiation observatories on the moon for the purpose of studying climate change on Earth.”

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