Texas A&M Lunar Surface Experiments Program
The Moon is the new high ground for continued scientific exploration, commerce and security. It has enough water ice and mineral resources to motivate another space race to establish mining operations, a lunar village for permanent habitation, and a site for launching missions to Mars with the LOx/LH2 propellant generated in situ. However, the lunar environment is extremely hostile to life and machines. It has no atmosphere, only 1/6 the gravity of Earth, and temperature swings of several hundred degrees during each lunar day. In addition, plumes of abrasive lunar dust are easily generated, do not readily settle, and pose serious mechanical and health hazards for long-term missions. Successful dust mitigation and construction strategies in these environments depends on closing some critical knowledge gaps in 1) reduced gravity solid-liquid-gas dynamics, 2) power generation, 3) thermal management, and 4) lunar soil consolidation. This X-Grant proposal includes cutting-edge experiments—on Earth and on the Moon—and new computer virtual reality simulations that, together, will generate novel and sought-after knowledge that is needed for in situ construction, dust mitigation, and thermal and power management on the Moon. A key initial phase of this work is a collaboration with Intuitive Machines to develop a set of hosted payloads for their NOVA-C lander which is scheduled to perform the first-ever commercial mission to the Moon’s surface in October 2021.