Rationale and concept for a lunar pit reconnaissance probe

Dorrington, G 2018, 'Rationale and concept for a lunar pit reconnaissance probe', The Aeronautical Journal, vol. 122, no. 1250, pp. 666-691.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Rationale and concept for a lunar pit reconnaissance probe
Author(s) Dorrington, G
Year 2018
Journal name The Aeronautical Journal
Volume number 122
Issue number 1250
Start page 666
End page 691
Total pages 26
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Abstract Speculation on near-term scientific reasons for the exploration of lunar pits is offered alongside comments on possible longer-term human exploitation. It is proposed that in order to determine whether or not one or more of the pits offer access the large subsurface voids e.g. a non-collapsed lava tube, a preliminary reconnaissance mission solely focused on obtaining lateral images (and/or LiDAR maps) is needed. Possible concept options for such a preliminary reconnaissance mission are discussed. It is suggested that one of the best possible strategies is to employ a micro-sized probe (∼0.3 m) that would hop from a nearby main landing spacecraft to the selected pit. After the surface position of the main lander is determined accurately, the probe would perform a ballistic hop, or hover-traverse, a distance of ∼3 km over the lunar surface using existing propulsive and guidance technology capability. Once hovering above the pit, the probe or a separate tethered imaging unit would then be lowered into the pit to acquire the necessary subsurface void topology data. This data would then be transmitted back to Earth, directly, via the lander, or via a store-and-forward orbiting relay. Preliminary estimates indicate that a probe of ∼14 kg (dry mass) is viable using a conventional hydrazine monopropellant system with a propellant mass fraction of less than ∼0.2 (20%) including margins, suggesting a piggyback architecture would be feasible.
Subject Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services not elsewhere classified
Engineering not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) lava tube
lunar base
Marius Hills
Moon
sinkhole
skylight
speleology
sublunarean
subselenean
DOI - identifier 10.1017/aer.2017.139
Copyright notice © 2018 Royal Aeronautical Society
ISSN 0001-9240
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