Plans afoot to ‘Prospect the Moon’

Posted on 20 Feb 2020 and read 538 times
Plans afoot to ‘Prospect the Moon’The first European device to land on the Moon this decade will be a ‘drill and sample analysis’ package — Prospect — and the teams behind it are one step closer to flight as part of Russia’s Luna-27 mission.

Its main goal is to study the composition of the soil near the lunar south pole, with water a key target; it is believed that there may be concentrations of frozen water at or below the surface.

Prospect is a robotic drill and a miniature laboratory with a suite of scientific instruments.

Its task will be to penetrate the Moon’s soil to depths of up to 1m, acquire lunar samples, and deliver them to the mini labs in by the lander.

Answering questions such as how much water is present and how accessible it is will help plan future missions involving the use of local resources.

Speaking after completion of the preliminary design phase, and following the recent signing of a 31.5 million euro contract with European industry that paves the way for the ESA (European Space Agency) (www.esa.int) to start working on the detailed design, Prospect project manager Richard Fisackerly said: “Prospect is part of a pioneering new wave of lunar science and exploration.

"This contract opens up the path to the delivery of the drill to Russia and operations on the lunar surface.

"Extracting oxygen directly from lunar rocks and soil could be an efficient and sustainable way to support human life or spacecraft propulsion.”

Mission success depends not only on the scientific instruments but also on the landing site.

Some areas of the lunar south pole are illuminated by the Sun for about four weeks, and science teams will now start the process of selecting a ‘shaded and scientifically attractive’ landing site for Luna-27.

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