Ames Hopes To Get A Chance To Help Dig Up Moon

Nov 22, 2005

NASA has announced that it is assigning management of its Robotic Lunar Exploration Program to NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

Returning astronauts to the moon will start with robotic missions between 2008 and 2011 to study, map and learn about the lunar surface. These early missions will help determine lunar landing sites and whether resources, such as oxygen, hydrogen and metals, are available for use in NASA's long-term lunar exploration objectives. The assignment marks a rebirth of robotic space flight work at NASA Ames, which has a history of spearheading unmanned space launches.

"The Robotic Lunar Exploration Program is a critical element of NASA's Vision for Space Exploration," said Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Dr. Scott Horowitz. "Data collected will help determine where we go, and what we find during our first human missions to the lunar surface."

"Ames is delighted to be the home of the new Robotic Lunar Exploration Program," said G. Scott Hubbard, Ames' director. "Our center has a 40-year history of excellent space flight programs and project management: the Pioneer 6-13 series, the Galileo Probe and Lunar Prospector, as well as a lunar magnetic field instrument for four Apollo missions starting with Apollo 12 in 1969. We will apply all this experience to make RLEP successful," Hubbard noted.

Launched on Jan. 6, 1998, from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla., Lunar Prospector reached the moon in four days. The mission was the last NASA voyage to our nearest neighbor in space.

The spacecraft orbited the moon and gathered data that resulted in evidence that water ice exists in shadowed craters near the lunar south and north poles, the first precise gravity map of the entire lunar surface, confirmation of the presence of local magnetic fields that create the two smallest magnetospheres in the solar system and the first global maps of the moon's elemental composition.

Returning robots, and then astronauts, to the moon provides opportunities to develop and mature technologies needed for long-term survival on other worlds, according to scientists.

"An exploration science program with a sustained human presence on the moon gives us the opportunity to conduct fundamental science in lunar geology, history of the solar system, physics and the biological response to partial (Earth) gravity," said Christopher McKay, lunar exploration program scientist at Ames.

"Establishing research stations on the moon will give us the experience and capabilities to extend to Mars and beyond," robotics deputy program manager Butler Hine of Ames noted.

Copyright 2005 by Space Daily, Distributed United Press International

Explore further: High resolution far-infrared all-sky image data release

Related Stories

Building a smarter rover

Jun 04, 2015

The next mission to Mars could carry a smarter rover that is able to make better decisions absent instructions from Earth. Engineers are looking to automate some of the simple decision-making steps undertaken ...

NASA funds SwRI instrument to date moon and Mars rocks

May 12, 2015

NASA has approved $2.6 million to advance development of Southwest Research Institute's (SwRI) Chemistry, Organics, and Dating Experiment (CODEX) instrument. The device will allow unmanned rovers to analyze the decay of radioactive ...

Interview with veteran NASA astronaut Brian Duffy

Apr 07, 2015

Space is always on the mind of a veteran NASA astronaut Brian Duffy. The key figure in an aerospace company Orbital ATK and a Space Shuttle commander is extremely keen on flying to space again. The enthusiasm ...

Recommended for you

High resolution far-infrared all-sky image data release

5 minutes ago

A research group led by a University of Tokyo researcher, using the AKARI satellite's Far-Infrared All-Sky data, have created all-sky image maps and released the full database to researchers around the world ...

Image: Spirals in Saturn's D Ring

29 minutes ago

Although the D ring of Saturn is so thin that it's barely noticeable compared to the rest of the ring system, it still displays structures seen in other Saturnian rings. Here the spiral structures in the ...

Russian cosmonaut sets record for most time in space

58 minutes ago

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who is the current commander of the International Space Station, has set a new record for most time spent in space, with a total of 803 days, Russian space agency said Tuesday.

Up, up and away, in the name of science education

17 hours ago

US researchers extol the virtues of high-altitude balloons for science education in a research paper published in the International Journal of Learning Technology. According to Jeremy Straub of the University of North Dakota ...

New plan proposed to send humans to Mars

18 hours ago

A new, cost-constrained U.S. strategy to send humans on Mars, could be achieved within projected NASA budgets by minimizing new developments and relying mainly on already available or planned NASA assets. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.