Lunar and Planetary Institute

Lunar Science and Exploration
Center for Lunar Science and Exploration

Higher Education Lunar Consortium

Other Community Assets

Lunar Science    Course Materials and Resources     Exploration and Missions

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Lunar Science

NASA Lunar Science Institute
NLSI is comprised of a central office at NASA Ames Research Center and distributed, collaborative national and international teams, all of which are investigating aspects of lunar science, including the Moon’s formation and geologic evolution, the lunar environment, potential for exploration, and the science that can be undertaken on the Moon.  The site, as well as the CLSE site, offers links to the other NLSI teams.

Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES)
NASA’s ARES group performs the physical science research at Johnson Space Center, including research on astromaterials, curates all NASA-held extraterrestrial samples, and provides support to the human and robotic spaceflight programs with expertise in orbital debris modeling, analysis of micrometeoroid/orbital debris risks to spacecraft, image analysis and earth observations.

Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon
The Committee on the Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon (National Research Council) authored this final report on the current understanding of the early earth and Moon; the identification of key science concepts and goals for Moon exploration; an assessment of implementation options; and a set of prioritized lunar science concepts, goals, and recommendations.

Course Materials and Resources

Cosmochemistry Illustrated

A series of PPT slides with cosmochemistry content, including these lunar-related topics:

  • Planetary Basalt Compositions
  • Textures of Extraterrestrial Basalts
  • Exsolution of Lunar Pyroxene
  • Lunar Pyroclastic Eruptions
  • Lunar Anorthosite Parent Magma
  • Ages of Lunar Anorthosites
  • Magma Ocean Solidification:  Oldes Lunar Zircon
  • Oxidants from Pulverized Rocks
  • Water in the Lunar Interior

NASA’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science team offers on loan to educators:

Lunar Sample Educational Disk Program
The disks contain six samples of lunar material (three soils and three rocks) and are accompanied by descriptions of each sample and educator resources. Educators (primarily K-12 and informal) must be trained in the use and security of the disks prior to receiving the loan.  

Lunar Petrographic Educational Thin Section Set
Thin sections intended for use in upper-level petrography classrooms; students are encouraged to examine the thin sections and write petrographic descriptions.  A potentially useful site for the undergraduate classroom using the samples:

Note that sites, contact information, and accessibility information are being updated

Planetary Science Research Discoveries
Archive of articles about formation and evolution of the Moon and the lunar environment.

ASU Space Exploration Resources:  Earth’s Moon
Clementine, Lunar Orbiter, Apollo, and LROC images are available, as are petrographic images of Apollo samples and several classic lunar publications like Don Wilhelms’ “The Geologic History of the Moon."

Fourmilab Switzerland
An interactive site created by John Walker that allows you to view the Moon from Earth, our Sun and the night side. It also gives descriptions and details of lunar formations. This site is suitable for all ages.

Google Moon

Moon in Google Earth

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Spectacular 3D stills and videos of the Moon are produced in a variety of formats.

Impact Crater Posters
The Geological Effects of Impact Cratering  poster illustrates the effects  such as crater formation, shock quartz, transition crater diameter, breccia and shattercones (downloadable).

The Environmental  Effects of Impact Cratering  shows the local, regional and global effects of impact cratering, such as atmospheric heating, tsunamis, shock waves, and global wildfires (downloadable).

ALTA II Hand-Held Reflectance Spectrometer for the Classroom
The ALTA is a rugged, simple classroom instrument designed to help students in grades 5 to undergraduate learn about light, color, and spectroscopy. Using the spectrometer, students can collect data reflected from rocks, minerals, and other materials in specific wavelengths of the visible to infrared electromagnetic spectrum. Lesson plans are included.  ALTA’s can be borrowed from the Lunar and Planetary Institute and

Moon Mineralogy Mapper Education Web site
A suite of hands-on inquiry based activities engage middle-school students in understanding and interpreting reflectance spectra from Earth and Moon rocks.  These activities are part of a suite of educational resources that investigate the geologic history of our Moon, the Chandrayaan-1 Mission, spectrometry, and future lunar exploration.

Planetary Geology Exercises
This educator's guide features exercises grouped into five units: 1) introduction to geologic processes, 2) impact cratering activities, 3) planetary atmospheres, 4) planetary surfaces and 5) geologic mapping. Suitable for grades 5 through Higher Education.

Exploration and Missions

NASA Exploration System Mission Directorate
The exploration arm of NASA, from designing the hardware to astronaut health to strategies for exploration.  The “Getting to the Moon” pages ( present the NASA programs, missions, and research involved in lunar exploration.  Potentially useful videos/images for the classroom can be found at:

Vision for Space Exploration
Plan for the Nation’s exploration of the solar system, with an integrated lunar exploration program.

Updates and information on all the latest in hardware that will get us to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.  Constellation hardware overview, with links to fact sheets can be found at:

Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle

Overview: Ares V Cargo Launch Vehicle

Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle

Apollo Program

In 1994 Clementine, a joint venture between the Department of Defense and NASA, tested instruments in a long-term space environment and acquired a global multispectral map of the Moon’s surface.

Lunar Prospector
Lunar Prospector orbited the Moon from January 1998 to July 1999, acquiring a global map of lunar resources, gravity, and magnetic fields. 

Chan’e-1, part of the first phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, orbited the Moon from November 2007 to March 2009, acquiring imagery and data about the lunar surface composition and environment.

Smart-1 (Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology 1)
Smart-1 tested a solar-powered ion drive, in addition to collecting data to investigate the geology, morphology, topography, mineralogy, geochemistry, and exospheric environment of the Moon. The mission orbited the Moon for approximately three years from 2003 to 2006.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Kaguya mission orbited the Moon from September 2007 to June 2009.  The mission undertook global mapping of the lunar surface and gathered magnetic and gravity field measurements.

The Indian Space Research Organization’s spacecraft currently is in a polar orbit around the Moon at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface. Its 11 instruments are undertaking chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the Moon. 

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Site – LRO
LRO currently is in low polar orbit (50 km) for a 1-year mission under NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. LRO will return global data, such as day-night temperature maps, a global geodetic grid, high resolution color imaging and the moon's UV albedo. There is particular emphasis on the polar regions of the moon where continuous access to solar illumination may be possible and the prospect of water in the permanently shadowed regions at the poles may exist.  Objectives of LRO include finding safe landing sites, locating potential resources, and characterizing the radiation environment.  Multimedia link offers potentially useful images and video for the classroom.

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite – LCROSS
The LCROSS mission will send an impactor into a permanently shadowed crater in the south pole region of the lunar surface, creating a debris plume that will be analyzed by the LCROSS spacecraft, LRO, and Earth-based telescopes. The mission will analyze the plume for the presence of hydrated minerals; if water is present in the plume, LCROSS will help confirm the presence of water ice on the lunar surface. Multimedia link offers potentially useful images and video for the classroom.  Impact Date: 9 October 2009. Potentially viewable with backyard telescopes.

Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory - GRAIL
GRAIL, scheduled to launch in 2011, will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the Moon for several months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail. The mission will provide scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.

Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer – LADEE
LADEE will orbit the Moon to characterize the atmosphere and lunar dust environment.

International Lunar Network – ILN
ILN will provide an organizing theme for all landed science missions in the 2010s by involving each landed station as a node in a geophysical network. Ultimately, this network could be comprised of 8-10 or more nodes, some located on the lunar far side. Each node would have core capabilities, such as seismic, heat flow, or laser retro-reflectors.


LPI and CLSE Resources


Kepler crater

Lunar Science and Exploration Information Portal

SSERVI Central (at NASA Ames)

Other SSERVI Teams
   Ames Research Center
   Applied Physics Laboratory
   Brown University - MIT
   Goddard Space Flight Center
   Southwest Research Institute
   Stony Brook University
   University of Central Florida
   University of Colorado

Previous NLSI Member Teams
   Applied Physics Laboratory
   Brown University
   Goddard Space Flight Center
   Southwest Research Institute
   University of Colorado (a)
   University of Colorado (b)

International NLSI Partners
   Saudi Arabia
   United Kingdom

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