NASA has identified the key science goals for the Artemis III mission, which will launch the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024.
The Artemis III Science Definition Team team prioritized investigations that will help NASA understand the risks and potential resources of the Moon’s the South Pole, where the agency hopes to establish its Artemis Base Camp concept by the end of the decade, said the report on Monday.
One of the key recommendations was that astronauts should be trained and equipped to collect a variety of surface and sub-surface samples.
“The Moon holds vast scientific potential and astronauts are going to help us enable that science,” Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.
“This report helps outline a path forward toward the compelling science we can now contemplate doing on the lunar surface in conjunction with human explorers.”
Questions the team explored include how to approach investigations and key science activities on the lunar surface and how to incorporate science into the concept of operations for the crewed mission to the lunar surface.
The team also solicited papers from and drew from many existing reports outlining the highest science priorities of, the lunar science community, which has been preparing for the return of humans to the Moon’s surface for decades.
“Science will be integral to Artemis missions, and we look forward to planning missions of human and scientific discovery that draw on the thoughtful work of this team,” said Kathy Lueders, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
“The work NASA is already doing in science will help prepare for the Artemis III landing in 2024 and maximize the science value of having humans back on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.”
As was the experience during the Apollo era of human exploration, every second of an astronaut’s time on the lunar surface will be meticulously planned, and the report will provide a resource for mission planners who will be developing crew surface activities.
Activities related to field geology, sample collection and return, and deployed experiments all are part of the necessary mix of work to advance a science program at the Moon.
NASA said it will develop a detailed mission operations plan when human landing system capabilities, a landing site, and other architectural details come into sharper focus.
The procedures and operations techniques developed for Artemis III will also inform future Artemis missions.