mantle, as well as the Moon’s thermal and magnetic history. Measurements from a globally distributed network of seismometers, augmented by electromagnetic sounding and precision laser tracking of variations in lunar rotation, will be necessary to characterize the lunar core.

  • 3b. Inventory the variety, age, distribution, and origin of lunar rock types. After the formation of the primary products of the lunar magma ocean, the Moon continued to produce a rich diversity of rocks by numerous geologic processes. Erupted basalts, emplaced plutons, and remelted impact-melt sheets all contain clues to continued geologic activity on the Moon and the processes that enabled this activity. Understanding when and how the diversity of lunar rocks formed and how they are at present distributed allows the prediction of where else on the Moon they may be located, even if they are not expressed at the surface. Laboratory analysis of returned samples from diverse locations on the Moon enables complete, high-precision geochemical, mineralogical, and isotopic characterization of diverse lunar rocks. Higher-resolution geochemical and mineralogical remote sensing databases are also crucial in providing geologic context for unusual lithologies.

  • 8b. Determine the size, charge, and spatial distribution of electrostatically transported dust grains and assess their likely effects on lunar exploration and lunar-based astronomy. Lunar dust is an important constituent of the lunar environment. Because of illumination by sunlight and the impact of the solar wind, the dust is electrostatically charged and is levitated and transported by electric fields produced by the solar wind. The transport of the dust and its deposition on surfaces will place important limitations on human activities and on astronomical observations that may be planned for the Moon. Surface measurements of dust, which can be made robotically and later with astronaut assistance, are needed to characterize the dust environment and its effects on deployed systems and instrumentation.


In arriving at the priority science concepts presented in Chapter 3 and the specific goals presented in Chapter 3 and above, the committee found that there were a number of larger integrated issues and concerns that were not fully captured either in the discussion of the science concepts or in the science goal priorities and their implementation. The committee therefore developed a group of integrating findings and recommendations that envelop, complement, and supplement the scientific priorities discussed in the report:

Finding 1: Enabling activities are critical in the near term.

A deluge of spectacular new data about the Moon will come from four sophisticated orbital missions to be launched between 2007 and 2008: SELENE (Japan), Chang’e (China), Chandrayaan-1 (India), and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (United States). Scientific results from these missions, integrated with new analyses of existing data and samples, will provide the enabling framework for implementing the VSE’s lunar activities. However, NASA and the scientific community are currently underequipped to harvest these data and produce meaningful information. For example, the lunar science community assembled at the height of the Apollo program of the late 1960s and early 1970s has since been depleted in terms of its numbers and expertise base.

Recommendation 1a: NASA should make a strategic commitment to stimulate lunar research and engage the broad scientific community2 by establishing two enabling programs, one for fundamental lunar research and one for lunar data analysis. Information from these two recommended efforts—a Lunar Fundamental Research Program and a Lunar Data Analysis Program—would speed and revolutionize understanding of the Moon as the Vision for Space Exploration proceeds.

Recommendation 1b: The suite of experiments being carried by orbital missions in development will provide essential data for science and for human exploration. NASA should be prepared to recover data lost due to


See also National Research Council, Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement