NASA recently selected three winning payload projects as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, part of its Artemis program. Two will land on the far side of the moon (which is away from Earth) so they can collect data about the region for future launches.
A project of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory—the Farside Seismic Suite—will land in the Schrödinger impact crater. It will use two seismometers to collect data on the moon’s tectonic activity. It will also take note of any activity caused by small meteorites and study the internal structure of the moon.
That payload’s targets will complement those of the other set to land on the dark side of the moon. Called the Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite, it will be equipped with two instruments capable of investigating and analyzing the lunar electrical conductivity and internal heat flow.
The only proposal that doesn’t land on the dark side of the moon, called Lunar Vertex, is scheduled to land on Reiner Gamma, a large lunar vortex visible from Earth. While scientists still don’t have much understanding of lunar vortices, they believe the vortices are anomalies caused by the moon’s magnetic field. That’s exactly what that mission aims to study, using a built-in magnetometer, and what we learn from it could potentially provide more insight into the interior (and core) of the moon.
The three proposals were submitted in 2020 to NASA’s Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon (PRISM) call. Currently, the three teams behind each of the proposals are still working out the details with NASA about project funding. Whatever those details are, NASA’s goal is to have them on the moon by 2024.
“These selections add to our robust pipeline of science payloads and studies to be delivered to the moon via CLPS. With each new PRISM selection, we will build on our capabilities to enable greater and better science and prove technology that will enable the will pave the way for astronauts to return to the moon via Artemis,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.