A Look at NASA’s Plans to Explore the Moon

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Statement of Jason Crusan
Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

before the

Subcommittee on Space
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
U. S. House of Representatives

SELECTED EXCERPTS

Lunar CATALYST: Promoting Private Sector Robotic Exploration of the Moon

As part of the Agency’s overall strategy to conduct deep space exploration, NASA is also supporting the development of commercial lunar exploration. In 2014, NASA introduced an initiative called Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST). The purpose of the initiative is to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities.

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Space 2013: Space Agencies Head for Moon, Mars

moon_wires
Space agencies around the world are planning to launch four missions to other worlds this year, evenly split between the moon and Mars. NASA will orbiters to each destination, while China will attempt to become only the third nation to soft land on the moon. India also looks to make history with its first mission to Mars.
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Rao: Chandrayaan-2 to Obtain Full Coverage of the Moon This Time

ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter

The Times of India has an interesting Q&A interview with U.R. Rao, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Space Sciences that chose the instruments for ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and lander. He explains why the U.S. and Europe have been shut out of this mission and describes the failures by its predecessor, Chandrayaan-1, that require a follow-up mission.

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India Prepares to Launch GSLV With New Cryo Engine Amid Controversy

GSLV Mark III engine test (Photo: ISRO)
GSLV Mark III engine test (Photo: ISRO)

A bit more on India’s planned April 15 test of an indigenous cryogenic upper stage, which is proceeding along with some controversy:

Later this month, if the Indian space agency’s attempt to launch its largest rocket, the GSLV-D3 with an indigenous cryogenic engine succeeds, then India will join the elite club of five nations in the world to have successfully developed such technology.

For the country’s rocket scientists, the yet-to-be-achieved breakthrough is significant on two fronts–one, they will achieve self reliance and confidence in space technology. Two, India will emerge as a serious player in the $4 billion global satellite launch market.

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Massive Ice Deposits Discovered at Moon’s North Pole

Mini-SAR map of the Circular Polarization Ratio (CPR) of the north pole of the Moon. Fresh, “normal” craters (red circles) show high values of CPR inside and outside their rims. This is consistent with the distribution of rocks and ejected blocks around fresh impact features, indicating that the high CPR here is surface scattering. The “anomalous” craters (green circles) have high CPR within, but not outside their rims. Their interiors are also in permanent sun shadow. These relations are consistent with the high CPR in this case being caused by water ice, which is only stable in the polar dark cold traps. We estimate over 600 million cubic meters (1 cubic meter = 1 metric ton) of water in these features.

Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon’s north pole. NASA’s Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it’s estimated there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice.

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Chandrayaan-1 Project Director Receives Science Award for Moon Mission

ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter
ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter

Chandrayaan-1 Project Director M Annadurai has been honored with the H.K. Firodia award for his contribution to India’s first lunar mission. Scientist Yash Pal also was honored for his work in promoting science communication and education.

The awards, which recognize Indian scientific achievements,  are named after the late H.K. Firodia, a leader of the country’s auto industry. Yash Pal was given a cash award of Rs two lakh ($4,298) while Annadurai received Rs one lakh ($2,149).

Senior Indian Scientist on Chandrayaan-1: Meh!

ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter
ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter

Why fundamental scientific research has not caught on in India (Comment)
Thaindian News

Even as the nation continues to celebrate the success of Chandrayaan, the country’s first space mission to moon, this is not something one of the seniormost scientists in India, Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao, is particularly thrilled about….

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Nozette’s Missing Thumb Drives Have Pakistan Nervous

Accused spy Stewart David Nozette in India.
Accused spy Stewart David Nozette in India.

An update on the Stewart David Nozette spy case from Talking Points Memo:

The spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington tells TPMmuckraker that it is watching the espionage case of Stewart Nozette closely following a report that the high-level U.S. government scientist traveled to India with two computer thumb drives in January.

“Definitely we have interest in the news,” said spokesman Nadeen Kiani. “The concerned desk officer is watching [developments].”

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Nozette Guilty of Defrauding Government, Had Threatened to Flee to India

Accused spy Stewart David Nozette in India.
Accused spy Stewart David Nozette in India.

More pieces of the Stewart David Nozette spy case are falling into place, and they’re revealing a twisted and disturbing picture. The Washington Post reports that Nozette:

  • Pleaded guilty in January to over billing NASA and the Department of Defense by more than $265,000 for contracting work between 2000 and 2006;
  • Sought to avoid a two-year jail term by cooperating with government officials on unrelated corruption investigations;
  • Allegedly told a colleague that he would flee to Israel or India and reveal all the secrets he had if the government put him in jail on his fraud conviction.

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ISRO Clams Up on Spy Case, Declares Nozette Info “Classified”

Accused spy Stewart David Nozette in India.
Accused spy Stewart David Nozette in India.

The Indian space agency has began to clam up about accused spy’s Stewart David Nozette’s visits to the country as part of his work on the Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe. The Deccan Herald reports that ISRO is now stonewalling requests for more information:

When contacted, agency spokesperson S Satish said: “I have consulted the concerned department but that information cannot be divulged as it is classified.”

The silence comes amid speculation that India is the “Country A” named in the government’s indictment against Nozette. Although Nozette was arrested for allegedly trying to sell secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a representative of the Mossad, there are suspicions that he might have been already spying for “Country A.”

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How the Moon Produces Its Own Water

Chandrayaan-1 SARA measurements of hydrogen flux recorded on the Moon on 6 February 2009.  Credits: Elsevier 2009 (Wieser et al.), ESA-ISRO SARA data
Chandrayaan-1 SARA measurements of hydrogen flux recorded on the Moon on 6 February 2009. Credits: Elsevier 2009 (Wieser et al.), ESA-ISRO SARA data

ESA PRESS RELEASE

The Moon is a big sponge that absorbs electrically charged particles given out by the Sun. These particles interact with the oxygen present in some dust grains on the lunar surface, producing water. This discovery, made by the ESA-ISRO instrument SARA onboard the Indian Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, confirms how water is likely being created on the lunar surface.

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Lunar Water Announcement Pulled ISRO Out of the Fire

ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter
ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter

There’s an interesting piece in the Huffington Post by Pinaki Bhattacharya about how the recent announcement about lunar water helped to restore ISRO’s damaged reputation:

For weeks before this, ISRO was being pilloried for the failure and eventual abandonment of the Chandrayaan 1. On 29 August. 2009 the Indian Deep Space Network in Byalalu near Bangalore, lost total contact with Chandrayaan 1. The end was not sudden, nor unexpected. The final failure was a culmination of a number of technical glitches that started to surface soon after the launch of the lunar vehicle.

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Chandrayaan-1’s Early Failure Precluded High-Resolution Data on Lunar Water

ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter
ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter

Scientists would have gathered higher quality data about lunar water if India’s Chandrayaan-1 had fulfilled its full mission at the moon, Aviation Week reports:

M3 managed to map 90 percent of the lunar surface at low resolution before Chandrayaan-1 stopped transmitting signals from lunar orbit on Aug. 29, having completed 10 months of a planned two-year mission.

Had the mission continued, M3 would now be gathering high-resolution data.

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