Lunar Orientale Basin: Commercial Spacecraft In A Human/Robotic Exploration Design Reference Campaign For Crustal Evolution
The path forward for exploration of the Moon re-quires a) the identification of fundamental scientific questions, b) identification of relevant resources, and c) a combined effort of national, international and commercial exploration partners. This should be done in an integrated fashion, utilizing a broad strategy for the systematic exploration of the solar system using wide ranges of technology and ac-complishing our fundamental goals through interna-tional and commercial cooperation. A series of out-standing problems for future international hu-man/robotic exploration of the Moon center on: 1. Crustal geometry/physical structure; 2. Crustal Chemistry, mineralogy, petrology; 3. Exogenic crustal modification by impacts; 4. Chronology of crustal formation and evolution. Furthermore, the nature of mantle uplift and the possibility of sam-pling mantle in the uplifted material as well as de-termining the nature of basin impact melt processes (differentiated or undifferentiated) is critically im-portant. Direct dating of impact melt and placing Orientale in the firm context of lunar chronology is also achievable. We are formulating a human/robotic exploration design reference campaign to the 930 km Orientale impact basin (1,2), the most well preserved basin on the Moon, that provides insight into all aspects of these fundamental questions. Our design reference mission is a model for the exploration of the planets toward the 2050 time frame, and combines robotic exploration geophysics traverses operated radially from the basin interior, together with human explo-ration missions to the key sites that will provide data to address these questions. We outline six hu-man exploration mission landing site targets: 1) Base of the Cordillera ring/Montes Rook For-mation; 2) Base of the Outer Rook ring/Lacus Veris maria; 3) Inner Rook peak-ring massifs/Maunder Formation impact melt rough facies; 4) Maunder Formation impact melt sheet smooth facies; 5) Cen-tral melt sheet craters/Mare Orientale/Kopff crater; and 6) Maunder crater interior/ejecta. Our strategy for human/robotic exploration optimization centers on six themes and is flexible to the important new results of significant discoveries that will be made in the next few decades. It also provides a host of candidate strategies for commercial initiatives and operations as follows: I) Precursor (What do we need to know before we send humans?); II) Con-text (What are the robotic mission requirements for final landing site selection and regional context for landing site results?); III) Infrastruc-ture/Operations (What specific robotic capabilities are required to optimize human scientific explora-tion performance?); IV) Interpolation (How do we use robotic missions to interpolate between human traverses?); V) Extrapolation (How do we use ro-botic missions to extrapolate beyond the human exploration radius?); VI) Progeny (What targeted robotic successor missions might be sent to the re-gion to follow up on discoveries during exploration and from post-campaign analysis?). We use the targeted human exploration sites to illustrate how human exploration, complemented and assisted by robotic exploration, can provide insights into early planetary processes by exploring and characterizing the crust of the Moon. Our architec-ture provides insight into human/robotic exploration strategies for other lunar regions and other destinations on other planetary bodies. This international government/commercial design ref-erence mission approach will assist in identifying the key landing sites and technologies, including laboratory, re-mote sensing and in situ, that will be necessary to ac-complish these fundamental and broad scientific goals in the coming decades. It will also serve to form the part-nerships and identify the opportunities and obstacles to international and commercial synergism. Human-Robotic partnerships in science and engineering syner-gism (SES), such as that exemplified by the NASA Solar System Exploration Virtual Institute (SSERVI), are ab-solutely essential to formulating and achieving these goals. References: (1) Zuber, Maria T. et al, (2016) Gravity field of the Orientale basin from the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory Mission. Science, 354, 438-441DOI: 10.1126/ science.aag0519. (2) Johnson, B. et al. (2016) Formation of the Orientale multiring basin, Science, 354, 441-444, DOI:10.1126/science.aag0518.