NASA Selects Experiments for Possible Lunar Flights in 2019

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 12 science and technology demonstration payloads to fly to the Moon as early as the end of this year, dependent upon the availability of commercial landers. These selections represent an early step toward the agency’s long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and, later, Mars.

“The Moon has unique scientific value and the potential to yield resources, such as water and oxygen,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Its proximity to Earth makes it especially valuable as a proving ground for deeper space exploration.”

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for proposals leading to these selections as the first step in achieving a variety of science and technology objectives that could be met by regularly sending instruments, experiments and other small payloads to the Moon.

“This payload selection announcement is the exciting next step on our path to return to the surface of the Moon,” said Steve Clarke, SMD’s deputy associate administrator for Exploration at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The selected payloads, along with those that will be awarded through the Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads call, will begin to build a healthy pipeline of scientific investigations and technology development payloads that we can fly to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial landing delivery services. Future calls for payloads are planned to be released each year for additional opportunities,” he said.

The selected payloads include a variety of scientific instruments.

  • The Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer will measure the lunar surface radiation environment.
  • Three resource prospecting instruments have been selected to fly:
    • The Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System is an imaging spectrometer that will measure surface composition.
    • The Neutron Spectrometer System and Advanced Neutron Measurements at the Lunar Surface are neutron spectrometers that will measure hydrogen abundance.
  • The Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometer for Lunar Surface Volatiles instrument is an ion-trap mass spectrometer that will measure volatile contents in the surface and lunar exosphere.
  • A magnetometer will measure the surface magnetic field.
  • The Low-frequency Radio Observations from the Near Side Lunar Surface instrument, a radio science instrument, will measure the photoelectron sheath density near the surface.
  • Three instruments will acquire critical information during entry, descent and landing on the lunar surface, which will inform the design of future landers including the next human lunar lander.
  • The Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies will image the interaction between the lander engine plume as it hits the lunar surface.
  • The Surface and Exosphere Alterations by Landers payload will monitor how the landing affects the lunar exosphere.
  • The Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing payload will make precise velocity and ranging measurements during the descent that will help develop precision landing capabilities for future landers.

There also are two technology demonstrations selected to fly.

  • The Solar Cell Demonstration Platform for Enabling Long-Term Lunar Surface Power will demonstrate advanced solar arrays for longer mission duration.
  • The Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator will demonstrate a navigational beacon to assist with geolocation for lunar orbiting spacecraft and landers.

NASA facilities across the nation are developing the payloads, including Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; Johnson Space Center in Houston; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Nine U.S. companies, selected through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) in November 2018, currently are developing landers to deliver NASA payloads to the Moon’s surface. As CLPS providers, they are pre-authorized to compete on individual delivery orders.

NASA also released the Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payload (LSITP) call in October 2018 soliciting proposals for science instrument and technology investigations. The final LSITP proposals are due Feb. 27 and awards are expected to be made this spring.

“Once we have awarded the first CLPS mission task order later this spring, we will then select the specific payloads from the internal-NASA and LSITP calls to fly on that mission. Subsequent missions will fly other NASA instrument and technology development packages in addition to commercial payloads,” said Clarke.

Commercial lunar payload delivery services for small payloads, and developing lunar landers for large payloads, to conduct more research on the Moon’s surface is a vital step ahead of a human return.

As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA has announced plans to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface by 2028.

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/moontomars

  • Saturn1300

    I doubt there will be any flights to the Moon this year or maybe ever for NASA to ride share with. There is not any reason to go. They will not go unless someone pays them to. They have to make a profit. There is no gold or diamonds to bring back to pay for the trip. A test flight? If someone pays for it. NASA will have to pay for the whole flight. I don’t think it is even lawful for a private company to bring back soil or rocks and sell a few grams. A government can, but they can not sell it. Perhaps other countries will hire a private company to bring back samples and NASA can go along. Maybe there is a customer out there that just wants to land like the ones that are paying for the Israel lander and NASA could put these payloads on it like the laser reflector.

  • P.K. Sink

    NASA is the anchor customer…others will follow.

  • Vladislaw

    Who says there are no lunar gemstones? Why do you have to bring back gold? As long as you own it .. do electronic banking. Gold sits in vaults as reserves .. it doesn’t travel around like paper money.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, it codified what was already a right under the OST, private ownership rights to space resources.

  • Saturn1300

    And the rest of the world says it is OK because they want to do it or Obama claims rights to anything in Space. He can’t give permission. The FAA has to approve any launch. Has NASA done the EIP and EIS? Restoring the land to its original state will be difficult. There are many craters. It will be hard to shape them and rebuild the regolith. Nobody has the right to dump spoils all over the Moon. Those long banks of spoils as some have depicted might be objected to. They had better not desturb anything. My stupid spell checker does not know much. And I also forget also. So bear with me please. If you don’t understand ask and I will try again. It doesn’t know French derived words and me too. Even though I took French in HS.

  • Vladislaw

    I said gemstones… The volcanic activity on luna could have just as well coughed up crystalized minerals as it did on earth billions of years ago. From my understanding pressure and heat is what is required and luna provided thoses. What name a company like DeBeers gives to gemstones on luna will be up to them.

  • Robert G. Oler

    maybe…I hope this is a success because if the technology of lunar landings is now in the hands of private industry, well more will come

  • ThomasLMatula

    Why in the world would NASA being doing an EIS for the Moon, since it’s not part of this ecosystem? Besides, NASA is not part of the Space Resources Act of 2015 so it wouldn’t be involved in issuing the license…

  • P.K. Sink

    Yep…Germany has already expressed interest in using the type of Lunar lander that Israel has sent toward the Moon. Imagine that…Germans and Jews working together. So far…space exploration has brought out the best in humanity.