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


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.


NASA’s Grail Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride

sally_ride_12_middeckPASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut, Sally K. Ride, who was America’s first woman in space and a member of the probes’ mission team.

Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near the moon’s north pole. The formation-flying duo hit the lunar surface as planned at 2:28:51 p.m. PST (5:28:51 p.m. EST) and 2:29:21 p.m. PST (5:29:21 p.m. EST) at a speed of 3,760 mph (1.7 kilometers per second). The location of the Sally K. Ride Impact Site is on the southern face of an approximately 1.5 mile- (2.5 -kilometer) tall mountain near a crater named Goldschmidt.


NASA, Tesla Motors and Red Bull Stratos Make PopSci Best of What’s New List

Four NASA projects, an electric car produced by Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors, and the pressure suit worn by Felix Baumgartner during his record skydiving jump have all made Popular Science‘s Best of What’s New 2012 list.

The following project were recognized in the Aerospace category:

  • Mars Curiosity Sky Crane » Read
  • NASA Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) » Read
  • NASA PhoneSat  » Read
  • NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Asteroid Anchors » Read
  • Red Bull Stratos Pressure Suit » Read

The Tesla Model S sedan won the Grand Prize in the Auto category. The magazine described the electric vehicle in a press release:

The Tesla Model S sets the standard by which all future electronic vehicles will be measured. It is faster than any other street-legal electric vehicle, with a motor that generates a peak 416 horsepower. The family-size sedan can dart from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 130 mph. The Tesla Model S can also drive farther on a charge than any other electric car—up to 300 miles on the optional 85-kilowatt-hour battery.

Tesla’s sedan also captured Motor Trend’s Car of the Year honors this week.

A NASA press release about PhoneSat, in which a smart phone was used to power a satellite, follows after the break.


MoonKAMs Begin Operations Aboard GRAIL Lunar Orbiters

The two MoonKAM systems before attachment to the GRAIL-A (“Ebb”) and GRAIL–B (“Flow”) spacecraft. Each system consists of a Digital Video Controller electronics unit and four separate color video cameras. (Credit: Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation.)

Pasadena, CA – March 22, 2012 – Two four-camera color video systems supplied by Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation to NASA’s dual-spacecraft Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) project have been turned on and are generating stunning video views of the Moon’s surface from a vantage point in low lunar orbit.

The video systems, called Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students (MoonKAM) by the GRAIL project, were designed, built and tested by Ecliptic and benefit from the strong heritage of Ecliptic’s popular RocketCam™ product family.  Over two-dozen similar systems have been launched on rockets and spacecraft since 2005, and all operated successfully, including RocketCam’s first lunar mission:  NASA’s LCROSS lunar impactor in 2009.

Students Name GRAIL Spacraft “Ebb” and “Flow”

PASADENA, Calif. — Twin NASA spacecraft that achieved orbit around the moon New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have new names, thanks to elementary students in Bozeman, Mont. Their winning entry, “Ebb and Flow,” was selected as part of a nationwide school contest that began in October 2011.

The names were submitted by fourth graders from the Emily Dickinson Elementary School. Nearly 900 classrooms with more than 11,000 students from 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia participated in the contest. Previously named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL-A and -B, the washing machine-sized spacecraft begin science operations in March, after a launch in September 2011.


Ecliptic Over the Moon as 2012 Begins

ECLIPTIC PR — Pasadena, CA – January 3, 2012 — The year 2011 was a record year of launch activity for Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation and its RocketCam™ product family, with a total of 17 RocketCam systems successfully launched–12 onboard various rockets and 4 onboard various spacecraft.

The firm closed out the year celebrating the successful Lunar Orbit Insertion maneuvers executed by the twin NASA GRAIL spacecraft, each of which carries a 4-camera RocketCam video system to be used for the project’s education and public outreach program. Both “MoonKAM” systems will begin operating in March this year.


One Down, One to Go! NASA’s GRAIL-A Spacecraft Enters Lunar Orbit

Update: Both GRAIL spacecraft are safely in orbit. A very Happy New Year for NASA.

NASA PR — PASADENA, Calif. — The first of two NASA spacecraft to study the moon in unprecedented detail has entered lunar orbit.

NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)-A spacecraft successfully completed its planned main engine burn at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) today. As of 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST), GRAIL-A is in a 56-mile (90-kilometer) by 5,197-mile (8,363-kilometer) orbit around the moon that takes approximately 11.5 hours to complete.

NASA Launches GRAIL Mission to the Moon

NASA PR — NASA’s GRAIL mission to study the moon from crust to core successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Pad SLC-17B at 9:08 a.m. EDT.

Both GRAIL spacecraft have separated on schedule from the second stage of the Delta II rocket and are now flying to the moon. So far, all systems are working as expected. It will take the two spacecraft until New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to reach the moon.