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Exploration of Planetary Crusts: A Human/Robotic Exploration Design Reference Campaign to the Lunar Orientale Basin

Author: 
James Head
Topic: 
Human Exploration & Destination Drivers
Delivered As: 
Oral
Abstract Text: 

Microsymposium 56, “The Crust of the Moon: Insights Into Early Planetary Processes”, identified a series of outstanding problems for future international human/robotic exploration of the Moon centered on (http://www.planetary.brown.edu/html_pages/micro56.htm): 1. Crustal geometry/physical structure; 2. Crustal chemistry/mineralogy/petrology; 3) Exogenic crustal modification by impacts; 4. Chronology of crustal formation/evolution. In response we are formulating a human/robotic exploration design reference campaign to the 930 km Orientale impact basin, the most well-preserved basin on the Moon, that provides insight into all aspects of these fundamental questions. Our design reference mission combines robotic exploration geophysics traverses operated radially from the basin interior, together with human exploration missions to the key sites that will provide data to address these questions. We outline six human exploration mission landing site targets using the HALO Mission Architecture concept and capabilities: 1) Base of the Cordillera ring/Montes Rook Formation; 2) Base of the Outer Rook ring/Lacus Veris maria; 3) Inner Rook peak-ring massifs/Maunder Formation impact melt rough facies 1; 4) Maunder Formation impact melt sheet smooth facies; 5) Central melt sheet craters/Mare Orientale/Kopff crater; and 6) Maunder crater interior/ejecta. Our strategy for human/robotic exploration optimization centers on six themes: I) Precursor (What do we need to know before we send humans?); II) Context (What are the robotic mission requirements for final landing site selection and regional context for landing site results?); III) Infrastructure/Operations (What specific robotic capabilities are required to optimize human scientific exploration performance?); IV) Interpolation (How do we use robotic missions to interpolate between human traverses?); V) Extrapolation (How do we use robotic missions to extrapolate beyond the human exploration radius?); VI) Progeny (What targeted robotic successor missions might be sent to the region 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 architecture provides insight into human/robotic exploration strategies for other lunar regions and other destinations.

Co-Authors: 
G. Chavers. (MSFC)"...
SSERVI Identifier: 
NESF2016-061

About SSERVI
Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts."