The Moon is the only Solar System body humans have visited, and a likely future human destination. In this Theme, we use spacecraft data of the Moon and modeling techniques to characterize lunar grain size, mineralogy, thermal attributes, space weathering effects, and geologic features of interest to future exploration – with an overall goal of assessing potential resources for human exploration and future instrument development needs.
Digging in Deeper
In this TREX Theme, we utilize the lab data from the TREX spectral library in concert with spacecraft data and modeling techniques, as tools to understand the Moon scientifically and as a target for future human and robotic exploration. Our tasks address current outstanding questions including the distribution of fine grains across the lunar surface (useful for resources), and provide further insight into how we interpret data collected by our orbiting spacecraft, especially as relevant to fine grained materials and the UV spectral range (to understand what the surface materials are composed of and how they may be useful as future resources). Our lunar investigations not only further our understanding of the geology of the Moon and its geologic processes, but also use the Moon as “ground truth” to enable the development of tools that can be used to understand other airless bodies and moons.
The Moon is a unique and strategic target. We have more high-resolution images and spectral data of the Moon than for asteroids, and as such, these lunar data can be used to more easily and thoroughly test techniques and interpretations. Results from this Theme will be used to address ISRU and future instrument development needs relevant to other airless bodies.
Because the Moon has been richly studied on the surface, from orbit, and telescopically, it can also serve as a test of how well our TREX lab results compare with actual lunar data. We strive to understand the spatial distribution, characteristics and possible origins of materials of different grain sizes. As we investigate select areas of interest to future lunar exploration, we combine observations from our spacecraft with results from our grain size evaluations and our laboratory investigations. We strive to learn more about the ISRU potential of lunar surface materials and determine locations of and strategies for accessing these resources such as OH and water ice.