Monday, May 24, 2010

Lunar Daylight Exploration

Astronauts in rovers explore out to 300 km during daylight

Cost Constrained Human and Robotic Exploration

Brand Norman Griffin, A.M., ASCE
Gray Research, Inc., Jacobs Engineering ESTS Group

With 1 rover, 2 astronauts and 3 days, the Apollo 17 Mission covered over 30 km, setup 10 scientific experiments and returned 110 kg of samples. This is a lot of science in a short time and the inspiration for a barebones, return-to-the-Moon strategy called Daylight Exploration.

The Daylight Exploration approach poses an answer to the question, “What could the Apollo crew have done with more time and today’s robotics?” In contrast to more ambitious and expensive strategies that create outposts then rely on pressurized rovers to drive to the science sites, Daylight Exploration is a low-overhead approach conceived to land near the scientific site, conduct Apollo-like exploration then leave before the sun goes down. A key motivation behind Daylight Exploration is cost reduction, but it does not come at the expense of scientific exploration. As a goal, Daylight Exploration provides access to the top 10 science sites by using the best capabilities of human and robotic exploration.

Most science sites are within an equatorial band of 26 degrees latitude and on the Moon, at the equator, the day is 14 Earth days long; even more important, the lunar night is 14 days long. Human missions are constrained to 12 days because the energy storage systems required to operate during the lunar night adds mass, complexity and cost.

In addition, short missions are beneficial because they require fewer consumables, do not require an airlock, reduce radiation exposure, minimize the dwell-time for the ascent and orbiting propulsion systems and allow a low-mass, campout accommodations. Key to Daylight Exploration is the use of piloted rovers used as tele-operated science platforms. Rovers are launched before or with the crew, and continue to operate between crew visits analyzing and collecting samples during the lunar daylight.

Download the study in Adobe Reader format, HERE.
Earth and Space 2010
Honolulu, March 14-17. 2010

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