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The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon
Determination of the average rate of volatile transport to the poles, including sunrise/sunset dynamics; and
Determination of typical loss rates by various processes (e.g., photoionization, surface chemistry, Jeans escape, Michael-Manka mechanism).
Such studies could be completed from early surface networks, fixed or mobile landers, or orbiters, or a combination of any two, with experiments that would include ion-mass spectrometers, optical/ultraviolet spectrometers, and cold cathode gauges. Later, as rocket traffic and human activities perturb the lunar atmosphere from its native state, studies of the environmental effects of human and robotic activity would be highly illuminating, as an “active experiment” in planetary-scale atmospheric modification.
Before extensive human and robotic activity alters the tenuous lunar atmosphere, it is important to understandits composition, transport mechanisms, and escape processes. At the same time, the lunar dust environment mustbe well characterized so that effective human exploration and astronomical observations can be planned.