NASA has selected the first two scientific investigations that will support its upcoming mission to Moon. While one will observe space weather, the other will monitor the Sun’s radiation environment.
The two investigations will fly aboard the Gateway, an orbital outpost which will support “Artemis” lunar operations while demonstrating the technologies necessary to conduct a historic human mission to Mars, NASA said on Thursday.
“Building the Gateway with our commercial and international partners is a critical component of sustainable lunar exploration and the Artemis programme,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“Using the Gateway as a platform for robotic and human exploration around the Moon will help inform what we do on the lunar surface as well as prepare us for our next giant leap – human exploration of Mars,” Bridenstine said.
The radiation instrument package, built by the European Space Agency (ESA), will help provide an understanding of how to keep astronauts safe by monitoring the radiation exposure in Gateway’s unique orbit.
The space weather instrument suite, built by NASA, will observe solar particles and solar wind created by the Sun. As we move deeper into space, human and robotic explorers face greater challenges from the sometimes violent and unpredictable outbursts of the Sun.
The space weather instrument suite will gather data and enhance NASA’s ability to forecast events originating from the Sun that could affect our astronauts on and around the Moon as well as on future missions to Mars.
NASA said additional scientific payloads will be selected to fly aboard the Gateway in the future. These investigations will take advantage of the unique environment in lunar orbit, one that cannot be duplicated on Earth or on the International Space Station.
The Gateway will orbit near the Moon and will be occupied periodically by astronauts as part of NASA’s sustainable lunar exploration plans.