Farside surprise – Mare Moscoviense and Luna 3

Seen here is the only large dark region on the lunar farside, called Mare Moscoviense.

The dark plains of Mare Moscoviense captured from orbit by NASA Apollo 13. Source: NASA on Wikipedia

Lunar maria are solidified lava plains, composed primarily of basalt, and are plentiful on the Moon’s nearside. These are formed by partial melting of the lunar interior, specifically the mantle. But something’s off about the lunar farside, the side that is not visible from Earth due to the Moon being tidally locked to Earth.

Lunar nearside vs. farside. Notice the stark absence of large mare areas on the farside. The only exception being Mare Moscoviense. Images by NASA Clementine spacecraft. Source: LROC blog

The first image of the lunar farside from Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 painted a surprising picture. The farside of the Moon lacked large mare areas, and Moscoviense (named after Russian capital Moscow) was the only exception. Which makes Moscoviense all the more interesting.

Why does the farside lack large maria? Is it because of the thicker crust on the lunar farside which makes it hard for interior lava to rise above? Why is the farside crust thicker?

Landing in Moscoviense to characterize its materials & composition and comparing & contrasting it with nearside samples from Apollo/Luna will answer many mysteries about the lunar farside and the Moon’s evolution. Moscoviense awaits a visitor from Earth.

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