Lunar scientists in code SST are involved in a multi-center effort to design and build a payload that would locate valuable resources at the lunar poles. The LCROSS mission has revealed that some locations at the lunar poles are unexpectedly rich in water and other volatiles. These cold-trapped volatiles could be useful for human exploration and settlement, and represent a scientific treasure trove as well. The Regolith & Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) project aims to demonstrate the utility of “in situ resource utilization”. In situ resource utilization is a way to rebalance the economics of spaceflight by reducing or eliminating materials that must be brought up from Earth and placed on the surface of the Moon or Mars for human use. RESOLVE is developing a rover-borne payload that (1) can locate near subsurface volatiles, (2) excavate and analyze samples of the volatile-bearing regolith, and (3) demonstrate the form, extractability and usefulness of the materials.
Ames is on tap to provide two instruments, a near-infrared spectrometer with LCROSS & LADEE heritage, and a neutron spectrometer with Lunar Prospector heritage, to use as prospecting and site characterization instruments. This effort is supported by both HEOMD/Advanced Exploration Systems and by HEOMD/Office of Chief of Technology. This is a short-fuse project whose purpose is to provide high-heritage instruments for use aboard a near-term mobile mission landed at the lunar poles.
Graphic illustrates a notional RESOLVE traverse plan, exploring locations illuminated by low sun but with cryogenic temperatures just below the surface. The rover-borne RESOLVE payload can prospect for, localize, extract and chemically characterize the volatile components of the frozen lunar regolith