Lunar Heat Flow Experiments: Science Objectives and a Strategy for Minimizing the Effects of Lander-induced Perturbations

Walter S. Kiefer (Lunar and Planetary Institute)

Planet. Space Sci. 60, 155-165, 2012.

Abstract: Reliable measurements of the Moon's global heat flow would serve as an important diagnostic test for models of lunar thermal evolution and would also help to constrain the Moon's bulk abundance of radioactive elements and its differentiation history. The two existing measurements of lunar heat flow are unlikely to be representative of the global heat flow. For these reasons, obtaining additional heat flow measurements has been recognized as a high priority lunar science objective. In making such measurements, it is essential that the design and deployment of the heat flow probe and of the parent spacecraft do not inadvertently modify the near-surface thermal structure of the lunar regolith and thus perturb the measured heat flow. One type of spacecraft-related perturbation is the shadow cast by the spacecraft and by thermal blankets on some instruments. The thermal effects of these shadows propagate by conduction both downward and outward from the spacecraft into the lunar regolith. Shadows cast by the spacecraft superstructure move over the surface with time and only perturb the regolith temperature in the upper 0.8 meters. Permanent shadows, such as from thermal blankets covering a seismometer or other instruments, can modify the temperature to greater depth. Finite element simulations using measured values of the thermal diffusivity of lunar regolith show that the limiting factor for temperature perturbations is the need to measure the annual thermal wave for 2 or more years to measure the thermal diffusivity. The error induced by permanent spacecraft thermal shadows can be kept below 8% of the annual wave amplitude at 1 meter depth if the heat flow probe is deployed at least 2.5 meters away from any permanent spacecraft shadow. Deploying the heat flow probe 2 meters from permanent shadows permits measuring the annual thermal wave for only one year and should be considered the science floor for a heat flow experiment on the Moon. One way to meet this separation requirement would be to deploy the heat flow and seismology experiments on opposite sides of the spacecraft. This result should be incorporated in the design of future lunar geophysics spacecraft experiments. Differences in the thermal environments of the Moon and Mars result in less restrictive separation requirements for heat flow experiments on Mars.

Text of paper (on Elsevier website)

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Walter S. Kiefer,   kiefer@lpi.usra.edu