Washington, DC [US], August 23 (ANI): Amid the frenzied anticipation in India around its third lunar mission — Chandrayaan-3, American space agency NASA has chosen a geology team that will develop the surface science strategy for the first crewed lunar landing mission in more than 50 years, the agency informed through an official release.
For advancing scientific research and opening the door for extensive lunar exploration, NASA’s Artemis III mission will send humans, including the first woman to set foot on the Moon, close to the lunar South Pole.
Dr Nicky Fox, NASA’s Science Associate administrator, was quoted as saying in the release, “Science is one of the pillars of Artemis,” adding, “This team will be responsible for leading the geology planning for humanity’s first return to the lunar surface in more than 50 years, ensuring that we maximise the science return of Artemis and grow in our understanding of our nearest celestial neighbour.”
Led by principal investigator, Dr Brett Denevi, The Artemis III Geology Team will work with the agency to ascertain the mission’s geological science objectives and design the geology surface campaign that the Artemis astronauts will conduct on the Moon during this historic mission.
These objectives will be defined in accordance with the established Artemis science priorities, the release added.
“Selecting this team marks an important step in our efforts to optimize the science return of Artemis III. This team of well-respected lunar scientists has demonstrated experience with science operations, sample analysis, and operational flexibility, all of which is critical for the successful incorporation of science during Artemis III,” said Dr. Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“With the establishment of the Artemis III Geology Team, we are ensuring that NASA will build a strong lunar science program,” he added.
The Geology Team’s focus will be to plan the Artemis III astronauts’ science activities during their moonwalks, which will include field geology traverses, observations, and the collection of lunar samples, imagery, and scientific measurements. The team will also support the real-time documentation and initial assessment of scientific data during astronaut lunar operations. Members will then evaluate the data returned by the mission, including preliminary examination and cataloguing of the first lunar samples collected by NASA since 1972, according to the NASA release.
“The Artemis III Geology Team will have the unique opportunity to analyze the first-ever samples from the lunar south pole region, helping us not only to unlock new information about the formation of our Solar System, but also with planning for future Artemis missions and establishing a long-term lunar presence,” said Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.
The collection of samples and data from this region, which contains some of the oldest parts of the Moon, estimated to be at least 3.85 billion years old, will help scientists better understand fundamental planetary processes that operate across the solar system and beyond. The resulting analysis from the geology team’s activities could also help yield important information about the depth, distribution, and composition of ice at the Moon’s South Pole. This information is valuable from both a scientific and a resource perspective because oxygen and hydrogen can be extracted from lunar ice to be used for life support systems and fuel.
The team, which was chosen through a dual-anonymous peer review process, will have a budget of $5.1 million to lead the geology for Artemis III.
The members of this geology team are part of the broader Artemis Science Team and will work in coordination with Artemis III project scientist, Dr Noah Petro, and the NASA Artemis Internal Science Team, as well as participating scientists, and deployed payload teams that will be selected from future or ongoing competitive solicitations.
Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, establishing a long-term, sustainable lunar presence to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and prepare for future astronaut missions to Mars. (ANI)
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