The far side of the moon has been getting more popular than a Pink Floyd album lately. A variety of missions are planned to visit the previously overlooked side opposite Earth. Recently NASA announced a few more, including two landers which will measure properties of the Moon’s interior.
One mission, known as the Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite (LITMS) is sponsored by by the Southwest Research Institute, and will like on the far side of the moon in Schrödinger basin and deploy two specialized instruments – LISTER, or the Lunar Instrumentation for Thermal Exploration with Rapidity, and LMS, or the Lunar Magnetotelluric Sounder.
LISTER was designed by Texas Tech University and uses a drill to measure subsurface heat flow by drilling a hole 3m into the lunar surface. LMS, on the other hand, will concentrate on monitoring the electromagnetic spectrum and attempt to map the Moon’s natural magnetic and electric fields.
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LITMS itself combines these two measurement methodologies to attempt to map the thermal and physical properties of the material being monitored. With a separate thermal and electrical measurements, researchers would be able to differentiate between some of those material properties such as thermal and electrical conductivity of the lunar material.
But LITMS won’t be alone in its endeavors. A similar package is launching to the near side of the moon in Mare Crisium, and is expected to arrive about a year before LITMS itself. It also won’t be the only resident in Schrödinger basin, where it will be joined by another NASA mission built around two sensitive seismometers. Similarly to the LISTER / LMS synergy, the seismometers’ data will also help inform an interior picture of the lunar surface that LITMS is attempting to build.
These are only some of the first steps in the NASA Commercial Payload Launch Services program, which intends to utilize commercial rocket launches to deliver payloads to the Moon. Since those launches only have to travel to our nearest neighbor, things like launch windows are less of a concern in project development timelines. LITMS is on track for a 2024 launch and landing date, where it will start providing more data about the interior of the moon, and maybe inspire a Pink Floyd reunion tour.
SwRI – SwRI Awarded Lunar Lander Investigation Contract
NASA – NASA Selects New Science Investigations for Future Moon Deliveries
Space.com – NASA picks 3 new science experiments for commercial moon missions
Image of Schrodinger’s basin on the far side of the moon, where the new missions will land
Credit – LPI / USRA / NASA