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The Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon

The Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon

Project Scope

The committee will examine the scientific challenges and opportunities opened up by a sustained program of robotic and human exploration of the Moon during the period 2006-2023+.
The primary tasks to be addressed by the committee are twofold:

1. Identify what science objectives can be addressed in the near-term via a program of orbital and landed robotic lunar missions in the period ~2008-2018 and in the initial phase of human lunar exploration (~2018-2023); and
2. Sketch out what activities could be undertaken by human astronauts on the Moon to advance the integrated science objectives set above. This would include projections for applicable measurement sets, instrumentation, and sampling strategies.

The secondary tasks to be addressed by the committee are also twofold:

1. Analyze and tabulate those objectives and activities oriented toward the requirements of NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD)--for example, robotic characterization of the lunar environment of value to human safety and in situ resource utilization--to the extent that these characterization requirements are provided by ESMD. The committee should specifically note the synergistic opportunities that may arise where there are areas of overlap between basic science objectives and ESMD's applied characterization requirements.
2. Collect and characterize implementation possibilities for more ambitious, future lunar science opportunities that may be addressed after ~2023, if any, that deserve feasibility and cost/benefit analysis in a future study.

The scientific scope of the primary study tasks 1 and 2 should encompass: the history of the Moon and of the Earth-Moon system; implications for the origin and evolution of the solar system generally, including the Sun; and implications of all of these for the origin and evolution of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the solar system.
It is not intended that the study will address in depth more ambitious future (i.e., >2023) opportunities, such as Earth observation systems competitive with current and planned Earth-orbiting systems, or astronomical observatories that might follow systems currently in design or development. Similarly, consideration of applied laboratory research in life sciences or the material or physical sciences in the lunar low-gravity environment would not be within the scope of this task.

As the committee undertakes its primary and secondary tasks it should be guided by the following considerations:

1. The committee should assume that the initial human lunar exploration capabilities will be consistent with those outlined in the September 2005 report of NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study;
2. Scientific activities that the committee believes should be undertaken in the context of robotic and human missions to the Moon should be consistent with, or derivable from, goals and priorities enunciated in the NRC's most recent decadal surveys in solar system exploration and solar and space physics, as augmented or expanded in subsequent NRC reports;
3. The scientific activities endorsed or recommended by the committee for implementation within the context of a lunar exploration program should be prioritized using criteria consistent with those used in the respective NRC decadal surveys. The committee should also evaluate its recommended scientific activities with respect to their competitiveness with other means of implementing the same scientific goals (e.g., an activity recommended for implementation by astronauts should also be considered in the context of implementation by robotic means); and
4. Scientific priorities should be considered by the committee in the context of a science program commensurate with NASA's current space science budget (i.e., a flat budget with inflationary growth, at best, in the out years). However, activities in pursuit of identified science objectives can be considered in the context of expanded budgets for lunar science in the post-2010 time frame provided that the committee defines its specific budgetary assumptions.

     The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon: Interim Report
    2006_the_scientific_context_for_exploration The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon: Final Report

Dr. William B. Banerdt
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Dr. James L. Burch
Southwest Research Institute

Mr. Andrew L. Chaikin
Independent Consultant

Dr. Barbara A. Cohen
NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center

Dr. Michael B. Duke
Colorado School of Mines [Retired]

Dr. Harald Hiesinger
Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat Munster

Dr. Noel W. Hinners
Lockheed Martin Astronautics [Retired]

Dr. Ayanna M. Howard
Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. David J. Lawrence
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Dr. Daniel F. Lester
The University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Paul G. Lucey
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Dr. George A. Paulikas
The Aerospace Corporation [Retired]

Dr. Carle M. Pieters
Brown University

Dr. David H. Smith
National Research Council

Dr. S. Alan Stern
Southwest Research Institute

Dr. Stefanie Tompkins
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Dr. Francisco P.J. Valero
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Dr. John W. Valley
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Charles D. Walker
Independent Consultant

Dr. Neville J. Woolf
University of Arizona