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Yutu-2 data suggests Moon’s far side is “bombarded more frequently” than the near side

The uncertainty of science: According to a new paper, based on ground-penetrating radar data obtained by China’s Yutu-2 rover on the far side of the Moon, scientists now think that the Moon’s more heavily cratered far side is that way because it actually gets bombarded more frequently than the near side.

From the paper’s abstract:

The Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) onboard Yutu-2 can transmit electromagnetic pulses to detect the lunar subsurface structure and properties of the regolith. The relative permittivity, loss tangent and TiO2+FeO content of lunar regolith materials at landing site are constrained with LPR data in this paper. The results indicate that the farside may be bombarded more frequently, leading to different regolith accumulation rates on the lunar nearside vs. farside. [emphasis mine]

The data was accumulated during the rover’s first five months on the surface, during those five lunar days. It found that the regolith at the landing site was about 39 feet thick, much thicker than found at the landing site for Yutu-1 on the Moon’s near side. The difference was partly expected because of the nature of the different locations, but combined with other factors the scientists concluded that a higher bombardment rate on the far side would also help explain the difference.

To put it mildly, this conclusion is uncertain. We only have one data point on the far side, and only a few more on the near side. At the same time, the conclusion is somewhat an example of science discovering the obvious. The very first images of the Moon’s far side, taken The Soviet Union’s Luna 3 lunar probe in 1959, showed the surface much more heavily cratered than the near side, with far less areas of smooth mare. Numerous mapping missions since have confirmed that impression.

And it is also intuitive to come to this conclusion. The near side always faces the Earth, which likely acts to intercept many of the type of meteorite hits that reach the Moon’s far side.

This conclusion however is still intuitive, and an honest scientist will not trust it. That this result from Yutu-2 appears to confirms it is therefore nice.

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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
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  • mpthompson

    I was under the impression that the mare on the near side was caused by tidal forces from Earth when the Moon was much younger, much closer to Earth, and had a molten liquid interior. This changed the evolution of the Moon’s crust and mantle in such a way that large oceans of lava remained on the near side longer through the early heavy bombardment than the far side where the crust solidified earlier which preserved scarring from collisions much more readily.

    Of course, I could be mistaken.

  • Ryan Lawson

    I’m not sure how long it took for the Moon to become tidally locked to the Earth, but that would largely explain to me why the ‘outside’ facing half of the Moon would get more bombardment. It is effectively acting as the shield (or more like a cosmic buckler) for objects headed for the Earth.

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