NASA has announced two new science instrument sets, one of which will be the first to study the Gruithuisen Domes and also an addition to the increasing number of commercial Moon explorations under Artemis.
These payloads are the second choice of the Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon call for proposals. Both shipments delivered to the lunar surface through NASA’s Custom Lunar Payload Services initiative, making NASA’s more extensive lunar exploration infrastructure for this decade.
Joel Kearns is NASA’s deputy administrator for exploration. He stated that the two chosen studies would address critical scientific questions about the Moon. “The first will investigate rare lunar volcanism and study the geologic processes on early planetary bodies. The second will investigate the effects of the Moon’s low gravity, radiation environment for yeast. This model organism is used to understand DNA damage repair and response.
The Spectroscopy Explorer investigation and Lunar Vulkan Imaging consist of five instruments. Out of five, two of these will be mounted on a station lander and three others on a mobile rover.
LunarVISE will take 10 Earth days (one lunar night) to reach the summit of one Gruithuisen Dome. These domes have been thought to have been formed by sticky magma-rich silica. It is similar in composition to granite. These formations require oceans with liquid water and plate-tectonics to be constructed on Earth. However, lunar scientists have not been able to find these ingredients and are left wondering how they evolved.
LunarVISE’s instruments collected data and returned it to scientists, then answered fundamental questions about the origins of these formations. These data will also help to inform future robotic and human missions. This payload suite will also be headed by Dr. Kerri Donaldson Hanna of the University of Central Florida.
The Lunar Explorer Inst. for Space Biology Applications (LEIA) is the second investigation. This CubeSat-based device is small. LEIA will allow biological research to be done on the Moon. The device is small and CubeSat-based. S. S. Researchers could combine the LEIA data with other data from biological studies to help answer a centuries-old question on how partial gravity and real deep-space radiation influence biological processes. NASA’s Ames Research Centre will host the LEIA payload.
NASA has made these selections and will be working with the CLPS office in Houston at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre to issue task instructions to deliver the payload suites to Moon in 2026.
The agency has appointed two project scientists to coordinate science activities with selected instrument suites, also working with the payloads for landing site selection, archiving data obtained during surface operations and developing concepts and operations. NASA Ames Research Centre in California, Dr. John Karcz, will coordinate Lunar-VISE for delivery to Gruithuisen Domes. NASA Langley Research Centre in Hampton (Virginia) Dr. Cindy Young will coordinate LEIA for delivery.
CLPS is an essential part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploratory plans. The science and technology payloads will be sent to the Moon’s surfaces, setting the stage for human missions to and around the Moon. CLPS providers will receive seven task orders from the agency in the 2020s for lunar deliveries. There are more awards through 2028.