Feb 6 2010, 03:37 PM
As a follow on to the LCROSS impact mission, I propose a near-term (<1000 days from today to launch) lunar landing mission be dispatched to examine the impact site for distribution of volatiles in the impact crater and at nearby locations. The instrumentation should be modest, based on established rover designs, use RTGs and have trenching and volatile analysis capatility. Near real-time control capability would be possible. Perhaps a stripped down version of Mars Surface Laboratory could be considered.
Feb 6 2010, 04:28 PM
It's all about costs and tradeoffs. The mission you describe could be designed with present technology but the cost and other priorities preclude such a thing. There are other missions planned for some time already in the pipeline waiting for their share of ever-scarce $$$$ not to mention other scarcities such as launch vehicles which are more or less booked for the near term.
The fact is that we can all dream up useful missions with RTGs and rover capabilities but science returned vs. time, man hours and money spent will always be a gauntlet that such missions must run. Ultimately, no one is sitting around wondering, "Gosh what kind of spacecraft can I build, launch and operate to investigate something interesting." There are plenty of ideas already on the drawing boards for missions to return way more science for the money spent than the one outlined above.
Feb 6 2010, 05:03 PM
Thanks, you've made great points about cost and competing missions. That being said, in terms of science, the LCROSS impact obtained a uniquely positive result. Most likely, the impacter did not strike the highest volatile concentration within the immediate area. Trenching and other techniques in the impact area could reveal layering and indicate depths and a distribution gradient.
Feb 6 2010, 06:54 PM
The mission you describe would appear to be similar to the goal of Russia's Luna Resurs (Resource) rover, now combined with India's Chandrayaan 2 mission, set for 2013, and also to Astrobotic's proposed 2014 Ice Surveyor mission:http://astrobotictechnology.com/wp-content...nd-services.pdf
- except that they are not targeted specifically for the LCROSS impact site. Most of what needs to be done could be done in any of these polar cold traps, and need not go specifically to the LCROSS crater.
Feb 6 2010, 08:09 PM
Thank you for the information on future projects in the works. In choosing a landing site to continue the study of lunar volatiles I would have thought a visit to the Cabeus impact would be useful to establish ground truth. Being a few degrees north of the south Lunar pole suggests advantages for solar powered rovers, and for observing vaporized volatile cycles due to changing solar insolation. I am 100% for exploring deeper into the polar regions, but given we've discovered a case for certain, why not follow through, take advantage of the excavation, and refine knowledge of the site?
Feb 6 2010, 08:41 PM
Being in permanent shadow is not an advantage for solar powered rovers. The other point to consider is where the most suitable landing sites are, and where rovers can drive successfully into a shaded area. I agree that ground truth is very useful, but it may not need to be at exactly the same place, the actual LCROSS crater. Also there are permanent shadow areas that permit a direct communication link with Earth (at certain seasons), i.e. not needing a relay, and that is not true at the LCROSS site, as far as I understand it.
Feb 6 2010, 09:20 PM
I'll try to dig up some charts of solar insolation/Earth visibility as a function of time for the Cabeus region.
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