NASA has selected three new scientific payloads as part of the Artemis program’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services effort. Two of the three will make their way to the lunar hemisphere, which is constantly facing away from our planet. NASA will be landing cargo on the far side of the Moon for the first time, with the goal of gathering data about the area as a possible future destination for Artemis astronauts.
Until China’s Chang’e-4 mission landed on the far side of the Moon in 2019, the far side of the Moon remained unexplored by machines and spacecraft. There is still plenty we need to learn about the hemisphere before sending humans there. For example, one of the concepts NASA selected would land in an impact crater called Schrödinger basin to gain a better understanding of the far side’s tectonic activities.
The Farside Seismic Suite, a project of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will collect data for months using two seismometers. Along with providing additional information about lunar tectonic activity, it is planned to give insights on how small meteorites contact the Moon’s far side and provide further data on the Moon’s internal structure. The results of this study will be used to supplement the seismic data collected by the other payload traveling to the Schrödinger basin: the Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite. It will be equipped with two experiments to explore the internal heat flow and electrical conductivity of the moon.
However, one of the three selected concepts, dubbed the Lunar Vertex, will be directed toward Reiner Gamma, one of the most apparent lunar spirals from Earth. Although we do not fully understand what lunar swirls are or how they arise, they are believed to be associated with anomalies in the Moon’s magnetic field. Lunar Vertex, which consists of a lander and a rover, will collect magnetic field data for scientific study.
All three concepts were submitted to NASA last year as part of NASA’s Payloads and Research Investigations on the Moon’s Surface (PRISM) call for proposals. The teams are still negotiating with NASA about the amount of funding they will receive to make their concepts a reality, but NASA’s goal is to get the payloads to their destination in 2024.