Trex Sservi Investigations For Characterization Of Strategic Lunar Landing Sites And Isru Tool Development
The Toolbox for Research and Exploration (TREX) is a new node of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). The overarching goal of the TREX project is to develop tools for exploration of airless surfaces in preparation for human and robotic in situ resource utilization (ISRU) missions. TREX is using laboratory spectral measurements (ultraviolet (UV) through mid-infrared (MIR)) and experiments (e.g., impact and irradiation), accompanied by studies of existing data from the Moon and small bodies, to understand their surface characteristics to investigate ISRU potential (emphasizing OH/H2O for fuel and drinking, and oxygen for breathing) and to identify strategic future landing sites. Using this knowledge, combined with field studies, our team will develop decision-making software and research methods that will inform astronauts or autonomous robotic spacecraft of location and quality of in situ resources. TREX studies place an emphasis on the finest fraction of grains (~10 μm) and their spectral and physical properties. Such fine dust represents much of the material on the lunar surface and can present operational hazards to equipment and humans. Fine-grained dust can also mask the spectral properties of underlying rocks (potential resources) and the dust itself is a potential harbor of resources because small particles have large surface areas relative to their volume onto which adsorbed water can attach, and they generate void spaces able to store volatiles such as OH. Minerals, volatiles, or other resources valuable for future exploration could also be associated with immature surface materials or geologic processes (i.e. volcanism). Understanding relationships such as these will inform future exploration strategies and aid in identification of regions across the Moon that could harbor such volatiles, and the variability of these volatiles, using spacecraft UV through MIR datasets. TREX is assessing the spatial distribution, characteristics, and possible origins of lunar materials to identify areas of different grain sizes. In addition, modeling techniques will be used to understand lunar cold traps (away from polar regions and thus more accessible for human missions) that could harbor volatiles. Combining remote sensing observations with results from grain size evaluations and laboratory investigations, TREX will identify and characterize strategic landing sites by evaluating surface material shapes and sizes, maturity of surface materials, composition, mineralogy, thermal attributes, space weathering effects, and correlations with strategic geologic features with an overall goal of addressing ISRU potential. Results from our investigations will inform future instrument development needs, further enable assessment of hazard and ISRU potential, and facilitate identification of new locations of resources and strategies for accessing these resources. The result of this effort will be recommendations for optimal landing sites from an ISRU and exploration perspective, as well as a definition of the science that can be accomplished from such sites.