NASA lunar goals revealed in new report – ‘Moon holds vast scientific potential’

NASA asks commercial companies to help collect moon data

NASA has now published a report detailing scientific priorities for the Artemis III, astronauts the US-based space agency has slated to send to the Moon in 2024. One of the goals will be to bring back a total of 85kg of highly-prized Moon rock samples.

Derived from both the lunar surface and sub-surface, this significantly exceeds the 64kg returned by NASA between 1969 and 1972.

The Moon holds vast scientific potential and astronauts are going to help us enable that science

Thomas Zurbuchen

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement: “The Moon holds vast scientific potential and astronauts are going to help us enable that science.

“This report helps outline a path forward toward the compelling science we can now contemplate doing on the lunar surface in conjunction with human explorers.

The Artemis 1 mission, scheduled to take place before the end of 2021, will involve a test of the Space Launch System and an unmanned Orion spacecraft.

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And Artemis 2 is expected to involve a crewed test flight launched into orbit in 2023, although this will not involve landing on the Moon.

But Artemis 3 will send astronauts, at least one of whom is a woman, to the Moon in 2024.

The voluminous report published on Monday, reveals NASA set seven scientific objectives for the Artemis III mission, including understanding planetary processes.

The NASA astronauts will stay for a maximum of six and a half days on the Moon.

The report also offers a resource for mission planners who will be developing their surface activities.

Among the experts’ recommendations is establishing a live data and video link to a science support team on Earth to support the astronauts.

They also suggest developing lighter scientific instruments capable of performing more than one investigation.

In addition, NASA should also reportedly consider pre-positioning science assets in the vicinity of the Artemis III landing site.

The NASA report states: “This could consist of an inert cache of tools/instruments to be accessed by crew upon arrival, and/or one or more instrumented landers or rovers for environmental monitoring.”

The space agency eventually plans to establish an Artemis base camp on the Moon before the decade ends.

Although this ambitious plan will require tens of billions of dollars of funding, it has already been given the presidential green light by Joe Biden and Congress.

Congress will have to sign off on the financing for a project that has been set by President Donald Trump as a top priority.

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The $28 billion (£21 billion) would cover the budgetary years of 2021-25.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine noted in September how “political risks” were often the biggest threat to NASA’s work.

Barack Obama cancelled plans for a manned Mars mission, after his predecessor spent billions of dollars on the project.

Mr Bridenstine said: “To be clear, we’re going to the South Pole,” he said, ruling out the sites of the Apollo landings on the Moon’s equator between 1969 and 1972.

“There’s no discussion of anything other than that.”

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