How much does Lanzarote’s landscape look like the Moon?


Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (EFE).- Since NASA and ESA astronauts began training in their volcanic slag fields in 2017, Lanzarote’s “lunar landscape” has ceased to be a platitude to become a scientific promise in its own right, but does this Canary Island look so much like the Moon? So much so that its rocks are identical to those collected by Apollo 14.

And the discovery is important because, sooner or later, man will establish a base on the Moon and, to do this, he must first know what he can do with the materials that cover its surface: are they used to build a shelter or a Can these soils be planted? Is it possible to extract oxygen and water from it for the astronauts? Do they contain fuel suitable for their ships (helium)? Can they supply materials such as iron, titanium or chrome?

Quarry of Tao, in the municipality of Teguise, where samples of basalt were taken to compare it to lunar rocks. EFE/Adriel Perdomo

In reality, rocks brought directly from the Moon are already available to man, notably thanks to NASA’s Apollo program in the 1970s, but they are so rare and precious that it is inconceivable to experiment with them at large. ladder.

For this reason, scientific groups around the world are searching the planet for places that not only resemble the Moon or Mars (the second goal of the new era of the space race), but also have soils at the same physico-chemical properties. . .

Teams from the United States, Japan and China have published several of these “analogues” in recent years, but in some cases they come from places with very rare “lunar” resources and in others their rocks only resemble those of the Earth satellite. . . , but they have little to do chemically and petrologically. They don’t serve.

In the latest issue of “Scientific reports”, a journal of the “Nature” group, four researchers from the CSIC Institute of Geosciences (IGEO), the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan) publish a new analogue of the Moon that would have left Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell speechless because its rocks are identical to the regolith they walked on, the characteristic mineral “carpet” of the lunar surface.

On February 5, 1971, Sephard and Mitchell landed on the Fra Mauro highlands, where the lunar module of the failed Apollo 13 mission was to land ten months earlier. They spent 33 and a half hours on the Moon, including nine in ” walks” to the surface, and 33.5 kilos of rock were brought back to Earth.

Volcanic landscape in Lanzarote
Volcanic landscape next to Montaña Colorada, located in the municipality of Tinajo and one of the last active volcanoes during the Timanfaya eruptions. EFE/Adriel Perdomo

Fernando Alberquilla (IGEO-UCM), Jesús Martínez Frías (IGEO-Involcan), Valentín García Baonza (IGEO-UCM) and Rosario Lunar (IGEO) compared the known physico-chemical, mineralogical and morphological properties of these Fra Mauro rocks with the basalt samples they collected in the Peñas de Tao, in Lanzarote.

And his conclusion is that they are practically identical, or to put it in technical terms: “a strong correlation (between the Peñas de Tao and Fra Mauro) can be seen, not only in mineralogical and geochemical terms, but also in their properties physical.”

Which, they add, opens a new field of research in which there will be room, for example, tests to extract oxygen from basalt oxides, tests on the potential of these volcanic soils of the Peñas de Tao as building material or experiments with them aimed at finding out how it will be possible to sow and cultivate on the Moon.

Web editor: Rocio Casas


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here