Huang believes the moon to be the ideal locations to study global climate change, which is driven by an imbalance between incoming energy from the sun and the outgoing energy from Earth.
Huang explains that we can’t identify the relative contributions of natural and human-induced influences, or predict future changes without understanding the climate system's inputs and outputs, also known as Earth’s “energy budget”.
Currently it is very difficult to detect changes in the energy budget with existing ground-based and space-borne technologies, Notes Huang. Oddly, in what could be described as a “happy accident”, instruments left behind by the Apollo 15 space mission inadvertently provided just the necessary measurements.
This was especially fortuitous as the original intent of the Apollo 15 equipment was never realized, and has now finally been put to good use. Huang explains that the original plan was to drill boreholes into the lunar soil and insert specially designed probes into the surface to see how temperature varies with depth, which would calculate the heat flow coming from the interior of the moon. However drilling into the lunar surface, turned out to be much more difficult than expected. (Where’s Bruce Willis when you need him?)
At any rate, the equipment was not placed deeply enough and consequently calculated 41 months worth of information about the surface lunar temperatures instead. Huang was able to show that the temperature changes correlated with temperature changes on Earth.
Huang says the moon is the best location for an observatory for several reasons. "As the sole natural satellite of Earth, the moon is an enduring platform without complications from atmosphere, hydrosphere or , and could provide records of Earth's radiation budget that would complement ground-based and man-made satellite records."
Huang, and many other scientists, believe that monitoring climate change is a huge priority, and that the time is ripe for a lunar observatory. "Global warming on Earth is among the most profound scientific, social, economical and political challenges of our time," Huang says, "At the same time, countries around the world are racing to launch missions to the moon. The time could not be better to join forces to create a network of temperature and radiation observatories on the moon for the purpose of studying climate change on Earth."