Amundsen Crater: Access To Lunar Volatiles And Sunlit Areas On A Level Plain

Thomas Marshall Eubanks
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Amundsen Crater: Access To Lunar Volatiles And Sunlit Areas On A Level Plain
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The search for lunar volatiles ranks high in the decadal surveys of planetary science [1] and are also of intense commercial interest. The Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSRs) on the Moon are arguably the coldest places in the inner solar system, and may permanently trap a wide range of volatiles, delivered by comet impacts or possibly outgassed from the lunar interior. The PSRs thus are expected to contain an important scientific record of the history of volatiles in the inner Solar System, and the material trapped there is a potential resource for future economic development [2,3]. These regions have been the target of intense scientific interest in the last decade, and were the target of the LCROSS impactor [4], but surface sampling by landers or rovers is complicated by the complicated terrain and perpetual darkness, which leads to a lack of solar power and direct communications with Earth in a PSR. We are developing a Superconducting Access to Lunar Volatile Operations (or SALVO) to both explore and exploit the lunar polar regions. In an initial deployment we plan on using a rotating tether (or rotovator) to deliver a compound deployment of scientific equipment into the heart of a PSR, and also in a neighboring sunlit area, with minimal environmental disturbance and without the use of rockets near or on the lunar surface. After a literature search, we have identified Amundsen Crater (see the attached image) as a near ideal location for initial deployments for research and subsequent deployments for commercial exploitation. Unlike many PSR located in impact craters, with rough topography and considerable elevation differences between sunlit areas and the PSR, in Amundsen Crater there are both PSR and sunlit areas on the relatively flat crater floor, suitable in a initial deployment of a superconducting cable for power distribution in the PSR, and later for rover traverses from a landed station into the cold regions. The Amundsen Crater PSR includes areas with very cold temperatures and elevated hydrogen abundance; comparisons of PSR and sunlit regions on the same geologic terrain (the crater floor) will help in the determination of the effects of the cold polar environment on the lunar regolith. [1] National Research Council, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013- 2022, National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2011. [2] I. A. Crawford, Lunar Resources: A Re- view, Progress in Physical Geography 39 (2015) 137–167. arXiv:1410.6865, doi:10.1177/0309133314567585. [3] P. Spudis, The Value of the Moon: How to Explore, Live and Prosper in Space Us ing the Moon’s Resources, Smithsonian Books, [4] L. Heldmann, et al., LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) Observation Campaign: Strategies, Implementation, and Lessons Learned, Space Science Reviews 167 (2012) 93–140. doi:10.1007/s11214-011- 9759-y.