Science-rich Sites for In Situ Resource Utilization Characterization and End-to-end Demonstration Missions
Within the European Space Agency’s “Commercial In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) Demonstration Mission Preparation Phase,” we examined two types of lunar sites in preparation for an ISRU demonstration mission. First, we considered poorly characterized potential resource sites. For these so-called characterization sites, precursor missions would investigate the material properties and address strategic knowledge gaps for their use as ISRU feedstock. Regions of interest for characterization missions include the Aristarchus plateau, Montes Harbinger/Rimae Prinz, Sulpicius Gallus, and Rima Bode. Regional pyroclastic deposits at the Aristarchus plateau and adjacent Montes Harbinger/Rimae Prinz exhibit remotely sensed low-Ti, high-Fe2+ compositions. They differ from the high-Ti pyroclastics at Rima Bode and Sulpicius Gallus, which are similar to the pyroclastics northwest of the Taurus Littrow valley (Apollo 17 site). Thus, exploration of the Aristarchus plateau would allow investigation of previously uncharacterized materials, whereas Rima Bode or Sulpicius Gallus would allow comparison to Apollo 17 pyroclastics. Any of these sites would enable evaluation of reported H2O/OH in these deposits. Second, we examined a possible site for a direct ISRU demonstrator mission. For a stand-alone end-to-end (E2E) ISRU demonstrator, a fuller understanding of the physical and compositional characteristics of potential feedstock is required for mission risk reduction. In this case, locations near preexisting sites would allow extrapolation of ground truth to nearby deposits. Because a Ti-rich pyroclastic deposit appears advantageous from beneficiation and compositional perspectives, we examine an example E2E demo site northwest of the Taurus Littrow valley. Hydrogen and methane reduction, as well as the Fray–Farthing–Chen Cambridge process, could be tested there.
Published in: The Planetary Science Journal, 10.3847/PSJ/abedbb, IOP