The Apollo missions that put astronauts on the surface of the Moon were – and still are – a triumph of technology and human spirit. But perhaps just as important as those footprints left on the Moon are the samples of lunar rock and soil the astronauts brought back to Earth.

Geophysicists have learned a lot studying those rocks over the years, including that the Moon once had a magnetic field. But the enduring mystery of why it no longer has one remained. Until now.

John Tarduno, a geophysicist at the University of Rochester, reexamined the Apollo rocks with a new technique that can detect even the faintest signs of magnetism. His results not only have major scientific implications for the study of the ancient Sun and Earth, but also can tell us whether the Moon may be hiding a precious stash of resources vital for space exploration.

Also today:

Daniel Merino

Assistant Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast

Scientists have been studying lunar samples brought back from Apollo missions to understand the geologic history of the Moon. NASA

Moon lacked a magnetic field for nearly all its history – new research resolves mystery sparked by rocks brought back on Apollo

John Tarduno, University of Rochester

Without a magnetic field, the Moon’s surface is exposed to solar wind. These could have been depositing resources like water and potential rocket fuel on the Moon’s surface for billions of years.

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