As NASA continues its plans for more commercial shipments to the surface of the moons each year, the agency has selected three new science investigation payload groups to advance understanding of Earth’s closest neighbors. Two payload wings will land on the far side of the moon, a first for NASA. All three investigations will receive trips to the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, part of the agencies Artemide approach.
Payloads refer to the agency’s first picks from the call for proposals, Research Investigations on the Moon (PRISM).
These choices add to the robust pipeline of science payloads and probes that will be delivered to the Moon via CLPS, said Joel Kearns, deputy director of exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. With each new choice of PRISM, we will advance our capabilities to enable bigger and better science and demonstrate technology that will help pave the way for astronauts to return to the Moon through Artemis.
Lunar Vertex, one of three selections, is an assembled set of landers and landers that will be delivered to Reiner Gamma, one of the moon’s most distinctive and mysterious natural features, known as the lunar vortex. Scientists don’t fully understand what lunar vortices are or how they form, but they do know that they are closely related to anomalies associated with the moon’s magnetic field. The Lunar Vertex spacecraft will perform detailed surface measurements of the satellite’s magnetic field using an onboard magnetometer. The lunar surface magnetic field data collected by the spacecraft will enhance data collected by spacecraft orbiting the Moon and help scientists better understand how these mysterious lunar vortices form and evolve, as well as providing additional insight into the interior and core of the Moon. The department is headed by Dr. David Bloit of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
NASA also selected two separate payload wings for tandem delivery to the Scheringer Basin, a large impact crater on the far side of the Moon near the Moon’s south pole. The Farside Seismic Suite (FSS), one of two payloads to be delivered to the Schrdinger Basin, will carry two seismometers: the vertical wide-scale seismometer and the short-period sensor. NASA has measured seismic activity on the near side of the moon as part of the Apollo program, but the FSS will return the agency’s first seismic data from the far side to a possible future destination at Mina for Artemis astronauts. This new data could help scientists better understand tectonic activity on the far side of the moon, reveal how the far side of the moon was hit by tiny meteorites, and provide new constraints on the moon’s internal structure. The FSS will continue to collect data for several months on the lunar surface after the probe’s life cycle. To survive the two-week long lunar nights, the FSS package will be self-sufficient with independent power, communications and thermal control. Dr. Mark Banning of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California leads this payload group.
The Lunar Inner Heat Materials and Materials Set (LITMS), another payload destined for the Scheringer Basin, is a set of two tools: the Lunar Thermal Instruments Exploration Using the Rapid Air Drill and the Magnetotelluric Lunar Foundation. and the electrical conduction of the Moon’s interior in the Scheringer Basin, giving an in-depth look at the internal mechanical flow and heat of the Moon. The LITMS data will also complement the seismic data acquired by the FSS to provide a more complete picture of the near and deep surface of the far side of the Moon. Dr. Robert Grimm of the Southwest Research Institute is leading this payload group.
While these decisions are final, negotiations on each premium amount continue.
These investigations demonstrate the power of CLPS in delivering large science results in small packages, providing access to the lunar surface to achieve high-priority lunar science goals, said Laurie Glaes, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. When scientists analyze this new data along with Apollo lunar samples and data from our many orbital missions, they will advance our knowledge of the lunar surface and interior and increase our understanding of crucial phenomena such as space erosion to inform future manned space missions. Moon and beyond.
With these options, NASA will work with the CLPS office at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to issue mission orders to deliver payload packages to the Moon by 2024.
For these payload groups, the agency also selected two project scientists to coordinate scientific activities, including selection of landing sites, development of operational concepts and storage of scientific data obtained during surface operations. Dr. Heidi Haviland of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will coordinate the suite scheduled for delivery to Rainer Gama, and Dr. Brent Gary of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will coordinate payload deliveries to Scheringer. basin.
CLPS is an essential part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration efforts. Scientific and technological payloads sent to the lunar surface as part of the CLPS will help lay the foundation for human missions and a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface. The agency has awarded six task order awards to CLPS suppliers for lunar delivery between the end of 2021-2023, with other awards expected until at least 2028.