In a press release on Wednesday, NASA teased "an exciting new discovery about the Moon" coming on Monday. The agency said that it would be holding a live teleconference on Monday, Oct. 26, at 12 p.m. ET to share this discovery with the world. Commenters on social media are at a complete loss about what this announcement could be.
Whatever NASA has discovered about the Moon, the agency said it would "contribute" to its "efforts to learn about the Moon in support of deep space exploration." The discovery was reportedly made using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy — or, S.O.F.I.A., a Boeing 747SP aircraft outfitted with a massive telescope, which can be flown up to the stratosphere to observe outer space. Judging by NASA's announcement, the discovery also pertains to the recently announced Artemis program, which will send two astronauts to the Moon's surface in 2024.
let’s goooooo MOON 2 pic.twitter.com/zE2wEdx6Vo— adam (@dunnnnne) October 21, 2020
"Understanding the science of the Moon also helps piece together the broader history of the inner solar system," the announcement read.
The teleconference will be streamed live on NASA's website, apparently in audio format only. It will include remarks from Paul Hertz — director of the astrophysics division at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.; Jacob Bleacher — chief exploration scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters; Casey Honniball — postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Naseem Rangwala — project scientist for the S.O.F.I.A. mission based in Silicon Valley, California.
As for the revelation itself, the contents of the news conference are anyone's guess. Some online are trying to speculate about what S.O.F.I.A.'s 9-foot telescope could have learned, flying above 99 percent of the water vapor that typically obscures the view into space. The telescope also observes in infrared wavelengths, allowing it to detect phenomena that is impossible to see in visible light.
NASA intends to send the first woman to the Moon in 2024 with the Artemis program, as it announced earlier this year. The agency hopes that this will be a stepping stone in getting a manned mission out to Mars, perhaps as soon as the 2030s.
In the meantime, the upcoming Artemis mission is meant to demonstrate the capabilities of new technologies, which have advanced a great deal since lunar travel stopped. Understanding these technologies will be vital for any Mars missions to come, as will an established presence on the Moon. NASA claims that it intends to hold a strategic presence there for future launches. For the latest from NASA and their mysterious moon discovery, visit the agency's website on Monday, Oct. 26, at 12 p.m. ET.