Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Dear Lunar Community:
Although during the first few years of the new administration there was a change in NASA's focus that relegated the Moon to the backstage, it now appears that the Moon is emerging as an important target in NASA’s evolving vision for human exploration of the Solar System. There are numerous reasons for the lunar community to be excited about future exploration-science activities. The success of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), and the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) on Chandrayaan-1 and new observations made from lunar samples has revealed a new and exciting view of the Moon. New lunar missions Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) and Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) are preparing to be launched. The recently completed NASA Planetary Science Decadal Survey has identified sample return from the South Pole-Aitken Basin and a Luna Global Geophysical Network as high priority missions in the next decade of the New Frontiers program. The Goggle x-prize competition to place landers on the surface of the Moon is moving forward at a rapid pace. The LEAG has been active in promoting the Moon as an important target in the new NASA. Some examples are below:
- LEAG co-sponsored with Curation and Analysis Planning Team for Extraterrestrial Materials (CAPTEM), the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and the Lunar Science Institute a workshop on volatile reservoirs on the Moon (A Wet vs. Dry Moon). This workshop focused on the nature and distribution of surface and interior volatile reservoirs using a variety of observations from missions, samples, and theoretical computations. The nature of these reservoirs has both high science and high exploration-resource importance.
- The Lunar Exploration Roadmap was updated during 2010 and both the Sustainability and Feed Forward themes were revised. The latter examined the possibilities of using the Moon to develop technologies/ procedures that could be used in the exploration of Near Earth Asteroids (NEA).
- In collaboration with CAPTEM, the Simulant Working Group of the LEAG analyzed the status of lunar regolith simulants and the demand for Apollo samples. This analysis can be found here.
- LEAG and CAPTEM also completed a review of sample acquisition and curation during human lunar surface activities.
- LEAG sponsored a town hall meeting at the Lunar Science Forum (July 19–21, 2011; http://lunarscience 2011.arc.nasa.gov/) to update the community on the role of the Moon within NASA’s evolving vision for Solar System exploration, discuss the preservation of heritage sites on the Moon within the context of future robotic and human exploration, and explore synergies among potential targets for human exploration (Moon, Mars, Near Earth Asteroids). The latter involved a panel consisting of chairs of the LEAG (Charles Shearer), Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (David Des Marais), and Small Bodies Assessment Group (Mark Sykes). The Small Bodies Assessment Group will conduct a similar panel discussion in the near future.
- LEAG conducted a review and issued a response to the Planetary Science Decadal Survey.
- LEAG developed a robotic implementation strategy within the context of the LEAG Lunar Exploration Roadmap.
- The LEAG Annual Meeting will be held in Houston, Texas November 7–9, 2011 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI). The focus of the meeting will be options and opportunities for the next decade of lunar science and exploration. See the LEAG meeting announcement for more details.
We believe that the Moon is still front and center in this nation’s space exploration plan. LEAG will continue to serve the broader lunar community in fostering lunar science, exploration, commerce, and international cooperation.
Charles K. Shearer