24/7 Space News
Lunar science entering new phase with commercial missions to conduct research
illustration only
Lunar science entering new phase with commercial missions to conduct research
by Jack Burns | Professor - University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder CO (SPX) Feb 06, 2024

For the first time since 1972, NASA is putting science experiments on the Moon in 2024. And thanks to new technologies and public-private partnerships, these projects will open up new realms of scientific possibility. As parts of several projects launching this year, teams of scientists, including myself, will conduct radio astronomy from the south pole and the far side of the Moon.

NASA's commercial lunar payload services program, or CLPS, will use uncrewed landers to conduct NASA's first science experiments from the Moon in over 50 years. The CLPS program differs from past space programs. Rather than NASA building the landers and operating the program, commercial companies will do so in a public-private partnership. NASA identified about a dozen companies to serve as vendors for landers that will go to the Moon.

NASA buys space on these landers for science payloads to fly to the Moon, and the companies design, build and insure the landers, as well as contract with rocket companies for the launches. Unlike in the past, NASA is one of the customers and not the sole driver.

CLPS launches
The first two CLPS payloads are scheduled to launch during the first two months of 2024. There's the Astrobotics payload, which launched Jan. 8 before experiencing a fuel issue that cut its journey to the Moon short. Next, there's the Intuitive Machines payload, with a launch scheduled for mid-February. NASA has also planned a few additional landings - about two or three per year - for each of the next few years.

I'm a radio astronomer and co-investigator on NASA's ROLSES program, otherwise known as Radiowave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the photoElectron Sheath. ROLSES was built by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and is led by Natchimuthuk Gopalswamy.

The ROLSES instrument will launch with Intuitive Machines in February. Between ROLSES and another mission scheduled for the lunar far side in two years, LuSEE-Night, our teams will land NASA's first two radio telescopes on the Moon by 2026.

Radio telescopes on the Moon
The Moon - particularly the far side of the Moon - is an ideal place to do radio astronomy and study signals from extraterrestrial objects such as the Sun and the Milky Way galaxy. On Earth, the ionosphere, which contains Earth's magnetic field, distorts and absorbs radio signals below the FM band. These signals might get scrambled or may not even make it to the surface of the Earth.

On Earth, there are also TV signals, satellite broadcasts and defense radar systems making noise. To do higher sensitivity observations, you have to go into space, away from Earth.

The Moon is what scientists call tidally locked. One side of the Moon is always facing the Earth - the "man in the Moon" side - and the other side, the far side, always faces away from the Earth. The Moon has no ionosphere, and with about 2,000 miles of rock between the Earth and the far side of the Moon, there's no interference. It's radio quiet.

For our first mission with ROLSES, launching in February 2024, we will collect data about environmental conditions on the Moon near its south pole. On the Moon's surface, solar wind directly strikes the lunar surface and creates a charged gas, called a plasma. Electrons lift off the negatively charged surface to form a highly ionized gas.

This doesn't happen on Earth because the magnetic field deflects the solar wind. But there's no global magnetic field on the Moon. With a low frequency radio telescope like ROLSES, we'll be able to measure that plasma for the first time, which could help scientists figure out how to keep astronauts safe on the Moon.

When astronauts walk around on the surface of the Moon, they'll pick up different charges. It's like walking across the carpet with your socks on - when you reach for a doorknob, a spark can come out of your finger. The same kind of discharge happens on the Moon from the charged gas, but it's potentially more harmful to astronauts.

Solar and exoplanet radio emissions
Our team is also going to use ROLSES to look at the Sun. The Sun's surface releases shock waves that send out highly energetic particles and low radio frequency emissions. We'll use the radio telescopes to measure these emissions and to see bursts of low-frequency radio waves from shock waves within the solar wind.

We're also going to examine the Earth from the surface of the Moon and use that process as a template for looking at radio emissions from exoplanets that may harbor life in other star systems.

Magnetic fields are important for life because they shield the planet's surface from the solar/stellar wind.

In the future, our team hopes to use specialized arrays of antennas on the far side of the Moon to observe nearby stellar systems that are known to have exoplanets. If we detect the same kind of radio emissions that come from Earth, this will tell us that the planet has a magnetic field. And we can measure the strength of the magnetic field to figure out whether it's strong enough to shield life.

Cosmology on the Moon
The Lunar Surface Electromagnetic Experiment at Night, or LuSEE-Night, will fly in early 2026 to the far side of the Moon. LuSEE-Night marks scientists' first attempt to do cosmology on the Moon.

LuSEE-Night is a novel collaboration between NASA and the Department of Energy. Data will be sent back to Earth using a communications satellite in lunar orbit, Lunar Pathfinder, which is funded by the European Space Agency.

Since the far side of the Moon is uniquely radio quiet, it's the best place to do cosmological observations. During the two weeks of lunar night that happen every 14 days, there's no emission coming from the Sun, and there's no ionosphere.

We hope to study an unexplored part of the early universe called the dark ages. The dark ages refer to before and just after the formation of the very first stars and galaxies in the universe, which is beyond what the James Webb Space Telescope can study.

During the dark ages, the universe was less than 100 million years old - today the universe is 13.7 billion years old. The universe was full of hydrogen during the dark ages. That hydrogen radiates through the universe at low radio frequencies, and when new stars turn on, they ionize the hydrogen, producing a radio signature in the spectrum. Our team hopes to measure that signal and learn about how the earliest stars and galaxies in the universe formed.

There's also a lot of potential new physics that we can study in this last unexplored cosmological epoch in the universe. We will investigate the nature of dark matter and early dark energy and test our fundamental models of physics and cosmology in an unexplored age.

That process is going to start in 2026 with the LuSEE-Night mission, which is both a fundamental physics experiment and a cosmology experiment.

Related Links
Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
NASA's Laser Navigation Tech Enables Commercial Lunar Exploration
Hampton VA (SPX) Feb 06, 2024
Later this month, NASA's commercial lunar delivery services provider Intuitive Machines will launch its Nova-C lunar lander carrying several NASA science and technology payloads, including the Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL). This innovative guidance system, developed by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, under the agency's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), can potentially revolutionize landing spacecraft on extraterrestrial worlds. The NDL technology is a NASA payload ... read more

Space Beach Law Lab: Shaping the Future of Space Law at Queen Mary Conference

Third NASA Enabled Private Flight to Space Station Completes Safely

Axiom 3 astronauts undock from ISS for trip back to Earth

Four astronauts splash down after Axiom private mission

SpaceX Expands Global Internet Coverage with 22 New Starlink Satellites

Dream Chaser Spaceplane Undergoes Extreme Testing at NASA's Armstrong Facility

New Satellite Launch Marks a Milestone in China's Commercial Space Sector

Following repeated delays, NASA launches new PACE Earth-observing satellite

Ripple Me This: Sols 4089-4090

Lake deposits in Idaho give scientists insight into ancient traces of life on Mars

Confirmation of ancient lake on Mars builds excitement for Perseverance rover's samples

NASA helicopter's mission ends after three years on Mars

Space Pioneer and LandSpace Lead China's Private Sector to New Heights in Space

BIT advances microbiological research on Chinese Space Station

Shenzhou 18 and 19 crews undertake intensive training for next missions

Tianzhou 6 burns up safely reentering Earth

Rocket Lab Boosts Capital with $355 Million in Convertible Senior Notes Amid Growth Plans

Signal Ocean to make $10M strategic investment in Spire Global

Terran Orbital announces agreement with Shareholder Group

Geespace achieves milestone in satellite constellation development for future mobility

MXene-coated Devices Can Guide Microwaves in Space and Lighten Payloads

New Data Prep Tool from Spatial to Streamline CAD Workflows

DLR develops mobile station for Satellite Laser Ranging

Spaceborne Computer-2 sets new benchmark for AI and ML on ISS

Migration solves exoplanet puzzle

Carbon Monoxide Dynamics Offer New Insights into Exoplanet Habitability

UC Irvine-led team unravels mysteries of planet formation and evolution in distant solar system

NASA's Hubble Finds Water Vapor in Small Exoplanet's Atmosphere

NASA invites public to dive into Juno's Spectacular Images of Io

Europa Clipper gears up with full instrument suite onboard

New images reveal what Neptune and Uranus really look like

Researchers reveal true colors of Neptune, Uranus

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.