Like Pink Floyd, a new NASA-funded commercial mission will see us on the “dark” side of the moon.
The agency announced (will open in a new tab) On Thursday (July 21), a team led by Draper will be tasked with delivering a suite of science and technology payloads to Schrödinger Crater. (will open in a new tab), an impact basin on the far side of the moon. Draper SERIES-2 lander is scheduled to land in 2025.
The $73 million Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract, if successful, will be the first time NASA science has landed on the far side of the Moon. (This is the eighth CLPS contract announced and also the first CLPS mission to target the far side.)
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Only one country has successfully completed a mission to the far side of the Moon, and relatively recently, China’s Chang’e-4 lander carrying the Yutu-2 rover arrived at Von Karman Crater on January 1. 2, 2019. Difficulties in landing on the far side of the Moon arise due to the fact that this side is out of direct radio communication with the Earth, which means that all information must be transmitted to our planet through a satellite relay.
NASA said the long-range uncrewed mission will collect science data in a region very different from the crewed Artemis lunar missions, providing valuable context. (Instead, the astronauts will work near the south pole on the near side of the Moon.)
“Understanding geophysical activity on the far side of the Moon will give us a deeper understanding of our solar system and provide information to help us prepare for Artemis astronaut missions to the lunar surface,” Joel Kearns, Associate Associate Administrator for Research at NASA. Mission Office in Washington, the agency said in a statement.
CLPS is an agency program that aims to study the history and environment of the Moon using private landers and rovers that bring experiments and equipment to and from the lunar surface.
Draper’s lander design is based on the work of American subsidiary ispace, based in Tokyo, which unveiled the Series 2 robotic moon lander in 2021. To stay in touch with Earth, Draper said in a statement. (will open in a new tab) said the company plans to award a contract with Blue Canyon Technologies for two satellites to be deployed just prior to landing.
Advanced Space, operator of the CAPSTONE lunar mission currently on its way to the Moon, will “support the team in mission planning and satellite operations,” the statement said.
The lunar science payload that Draper will deliver in 2019 and 2021 includes three packages to explore the Schrödinger crater.
One package is the Farside Seismic Suite (FSS), which will have two seismometers to measure moonquakes, allowing scientists to know how often the far side is hit by small meteoroids.
The Lunar Internal Temperature and Materials Suite (LITMS) will explore how the Moon’s interior can conduct heat and electricity, while the Lunar Surface ElectroMagnetics Experiment (LuSEE) will look for the electrostatic properties of the strange “dancing dust” on the Moon’s surface. LuSEE will also study how the solar wind, or the constant flow of charged particles from the Sun, interacts with the lunar surface and magnetic fields, among other studies.
Artemis aims to land humans on the moon no earlier than 2025 for crewed scientific research. The program’s first unmanned test mission, Artemis 1, could begin as early as August. 29, as the team continues to work on challenges from the launch’s “wet clothes rehearsal” earlier this year.
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