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The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon
sified lunar surface research, but also possibly observations of Earth and of the universe beyond the solar system. Eventually, analyses and trade studies on science efficacy and cost benefit will be required in order to understand the value of the Moon as a site for such undertakings.
The current study is intended to meet the near-term needs for science guidance for the lunar component of the Vision for Space Exploration. In the context of the above background, the primary goals of the study are to:
Identify a common set of prioritized basic science goals that could be addressed in the near-term via the LPRP program of orbital and landed robotic lunar missions (2008-2018) and in the early phase of human lunar exploration (nominally beginning in 2018); and
To the extent possible, suggest whether individual goals are most amenable to orbital measurements, in situ analysis or instrumentation, field observation or terrestrial analysis via documented sample return.
Goals and activities oriented toward ESMD requirements, for example, LPRP characterization of the lunar environment of value to human safety and in situ resource utilization (ISRU), should be analyzed, to the extent that these characterization requirements are provided by ESMD. These should be tabulated separately, but areas of overlap between basic science goals and these ESMD requirements should be noted as synergistic opportunities.
It is not intended that the current study address in depth more ambitious future opportunities that would entail assembly of large and complex research apparatus on the Moon. Examples are major lunar astronomical observatories or Earth observation systems that might follow systems currently in formulation or development. Implementation of such systems could become possible after the initial phases of human exploration. Science goals for astronomy and astrophysics are already provided by the NRC reports Astronomy and Astrophysics in the NewMillennium (NRC, 2000) and Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos: Eleven Science Questions for the New Century (NRC, 2003). Earth system science and applications goals will be articulated in the new NRC decadal survey under development for this area and due for completion in late 2006. In these areas, the present study should limit itself to collecting and characterizing longer term possibilities, if any, that deserve feasibility and cost/benefit analysis in a future study.
The science scope of study goals 1 and 2 should encompass:
The history of the Moon and of the Earth-Moon system;
Implications for the origin and evolution of the solar system generally, including the Sun; and
Implications of all of these for the origin and evolution of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the solar system.
Applied laboratory research in life sciences or materials or physical science in the lunar low-gravity environment oriented toward human Mars exploration requirements are not within scope of the task, but could be addressed in a future study.
Where appropriate, activities recommended for implementation within the lunar exploration component of the Vision for Space Exploration should be compared to other means of implementing the same scientific goals. There is a broad spectrum of science ideas being discussed for the lunar program at this time. The intent is that the committee focus on the strongest and most compelling ideas that come before it. There is a broad and expert community of planetary scientists with special interest in the Moon and lunar science. This community will make scientifically persuasive arguments that certain lines of inquiry can be uniquely well-conducted on the Moon. It is anticipated that the goal prioritization requested for this study will differentiate between science investigations that can only be done on the Moon, those that could potentially be competitively conducted on the Moon depend-