Space scientists have come up with a novel way of studying the moon (and possibly later other satellites like Europa). Scientist Sir Martin Sweeting’s Moonlite experiment plans to launch a satellite to orbit the moon. Once in orbit, the satellite would fire four dart-like missiles at the moon’s surface, penetrating three or four metres to study the composition beneath the ground.
Planned for a launch in 2013, the project has had recent tests of the high powered darts in South Wales prove very successful. The subterranean probes are hoped to provide details on the heat flow, seismic activity and water components of our closest astronomical friend.
Meanwhile, the most recent astronomical mission is having problems with its own studies of extraterrestrial soil. The Phoenix lander is struggling to sift the clumpy Martian soil to small enough pieces to study in its compact detectors. The robotic lander is resorting to shaking and sprinkling soil samples with its robotic arm to get material small enough to study.