UK lunar science missions:MoonLITE & MoonRaker

Davies, Phil and Phipps, Andy and Taylor, Mark and Da Silva Curiel, Alex and Baker, Adam and Gao, Yang and Sweeting, Martin and Parker, Dave and Crawford, Ian A. and Ball, Andrew J. and Wilson, Lionel (2007) UK lunar science missions:MoonLITE & MoonRaker. In: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Recent Advances in Space Technologies, RAST 2007. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Recent Advances in Space Technologies, RAST 2007 . UNSPECIFIED, TUR, pp. 774-779. ISBN 1424410576

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It has been 35 years since the last human presence on the Moon. Since then, our knowledge of the Solar System has expanded immeasurably, bringing us up against questions that are impossible to answer on Earth. There is now a global renewed interest in returning to the Moon, driven by the demands of science and as a stepping-stone for human exploration of the Solar System. The Moon provides a unique record of processes affecting evolution of terrestrial planets in early Solar System history (the first Gyr or so). This includes internal processes of geological evolution (e.g. differentiation and the first formation of a crust) and external processes caused by the environment (e.g. meteorite flux, interplanetary dust density, solar wind flux and composition, galactic cosmic ray flux) that are not as easily accessible anywhere else in our solar system. So far, all of the direct information concerning the lunar surface has been obtained by a number of soft landings on the near side of the Moon mainly from Apollo, Luna and Surveyor missions. Actual samples have only been returned from 9 locations from mid to low latitudes on the near side including 6 Apollo and 3 Luna landing sites. There is little doubt that returning to the Moon could, with sustained effort, vastly enhance our knowledge of the Solar System and our own planet. The UK already plays a significant role in lunar science research by participating in the Clementine, SMART-1, Chandrayaan-1 and LRO missions, as well as through geological studies using remote sensing and lunar meteorite data as inputs to theoretical modelling. These place the UK in a good position to play a leading role in the next steps of lunar exploration. Recently, the UK Science & Technology Facilities Council (formerly known as PPARC) funded Surrey Satellite Technology Limited and the Surrey Space Centre to carry out a pre-phase-A study of a UK-led small-scale lunar mission. A fundamental driver was that any UK-led mission must be affordable, while satisfying key science objectives not yet addressed and offering the opportunity for educational outreach and stimulation of the UK industrial capability in space exploration. The study assessed the scientific and technological requirements of three baseline mission options, namely orbiter, lander and sample return. The first system design was performed and design cost drivers in terms of science performance and required technology were identified. In the end, two mission proposals were established, namely MoonLITE and MoonRaker: MoonLITE (Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecom Experiment) comprises a small orbiter and four un-braked penetrators. The scientific goal is to emplace a network of seismology and heat flow experiments to investigate the seismic environment and deep structure of the Moon. The four penetrators would be distributed over the surface, with at least one in the far side and one in the same area as an Apollo landing site. One penetrator if possible would be targeted at the South Pole Aitken Basin and equipped with a sensor to detect water or other volatiles. MoonRaker involves a single propulsive soft-lander targeted on a near-side landing site with direct communications to Earth. The mission has a primary goal of attempting in-situ dating of the young basalts at northern Oceanus Procellarum. This paper presents a preliminary mission definition (technology/science) of the two mission concepts as well as a comparison with other proposed international missions. It opens discussion on ways of leveraging the UK's role by strategic partnering with other nations also interested in pursuing affordable lunar exploration.

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22 Jun 2019 01:03
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20 Sep 2023 02:27