Mission To The Rima Bode Regional Pyroclastic Deposit

Paul Spudis
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Mission To The Rima Bode Regional Pyroclastic Deposit
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Moon Express has released information on a preliminary robotic architecture that describes a variety of spacecraft configurations and missions [1]. One of the earliest missions under consideration is an exploration of the Rima Bode pyroclastic deposit [2]. This feature consists of a mafic ash deposit of regional extent. Several scientific and resource utilization questions can be addressed through this mission, including the volatile content of the lunar interior and the implantation of solar wind hydrogen in mature pyroclastic deposits. Moon Express Spacecraft. The MX-1 spacecraft is self-propelled, having a 250 kg wet mass with a total delta-v of 5.8 km/s. Depending upon the launch vehicle selected, it is capable of carrying up to 30 kg to the lunar surface and provide up to 200 W of electrical power to serve a variety of payloads [1]. A single MX-1 lander can carry sufficient payload to permit in situ analyses that address several of the major science and exploration questions associated with the Rima Bode deposits. Moon Express Mission. We have selected a smooth area near the main vent of the regional dark mantling deposits of Rima Bode [2, 3] as the site for the first Moon Express lander. This material appears to be rich in both Fe and Ti and is optically mature. Because the concentration of implanted solar wind gas is positively correlated with fine grain size and Fe- and Ti-rich compositions [4], we expect this deposit to be rich in adsorbed solar wind hydrogen [5]. Recent work on M3 spectra suggests that juvenile water from the lunar interior might also be present in these deposits [6]. We will measure the surface chemical composition and bulk hydrogen content of the Rima Bode pyroclastics. In addition, an imaging spectrometer will map the surface distribution of the 3 μm spectral absorption associated with the presence of water and hydroxyl molecules. Payload instruments are simple and robust and have significant heritage from previous missions (e.g., the neutron instrument being tested for NASA’s Resource Prospector mission [7]). In addition to providing direct measurement of the composition of the pyroclastics, the data will also provide ground truth to better calibrate remote measurements. Post-landing, the MX-1 spacecraft can be used as a ballistic “hopper” to translate over distances of tens to hundreds of meters on the lunar surface. The MX-1 can land, make compositional measurements and then hop to another site, allowing the assessment of lateral variations in the composition of the ash and solar wind concentrations. Future missions could include the return of samples to Earth for both scientific and operational analyses and the emplacement and delivery of surface networks, rovers and instrument packages. We can thus determine the properties of regional pyroclastics using robotic in situ analysis and exploration. References [1] http://www.moonexpress.com/robotic-explorers/ [2] Gaddis L. et al. (2003) Icarus 161, 262. [3] Gaddis et al. (1985) Icarus 61, 461. [4] Taylor et al. (2001) J. Geophys. Res. 106, 27985. [5] Carter J.L. (1985) Lunar Bases and Space Activities 21st Century, LPI, 571. [6] Milliken R.E. and Li S. (2017) Nature Geoscience 10, 561. [7] Elphic R.C. et al. (2008) Astrobiology 8, 639.
Robert D. Richards, Moon Express Inc.