2016.A.1.4. Feasibility of a low cost reconnaissance mission for the exploration of Lunar pits


Owain Pryce-Jones (1)
Kate Smith (1)
Graham Dorrington (2)

  1. University of Manchester, United Kingdom
  2. RMIT University, Australia




lunar pits, reconnaissance mission, low cost


Recent lunar missions have brought to light the presence of subsurface voids or pits on the lunar surface [1-3]. However since the scientific case for the exploration of such voids has not been clearly identified they remain a low priority for many lunar scientists. Nevertheless the potential access to sublunarean material through robotic or even manned exploration of these voids could present an opportunity to access a range of key geologic formations that would enrich our understanding of lunar geologic history. Including the identification of stratigraphic sequence of lava flows, identification of deposits trapped between lava flows and identification of volatiles. In addition to the potential for scientific exploration these pits or voids could be used as potential sites for future manned bases to provide some coverage from the harsh radiation environment of the lunar surface [4]. This paper proposes to assess the feasibility of a low cost mission to provide a comprehensive remote survey lunar voids to support future lunar exploration.

Various techniques including LIDAR , stereo image analysis and SARS will be investigated in terms of potential resolution, power requirements and overall mission feasibility. The potential of a dedicated low cost Cubesat mission focused on reconnaissance of these voids will be considered alongside the use of existing data from the lunar reconnaissance orbiter LOLA instrument.

1. Haruyama et al., “Possible Lunar Lava Tube Skylight Observed by Selene Cameras”, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 36, L21206, doi:10.1029/2009GL040625, 2009.

2. Ashley, J.W. et al., “Lunar Pits: Sublunarean Voids and the Nature of Mare Emplacement, Paper 2771, 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, The Woodlands, Texas, USA, March 7-11, 2011

3. Robinson, M.S. et al., “Confirmation of Sublunarean Voids and Thin Layering in Mare Deposits, Planetary and Space Sciences, Vol. 69, 2012, 18-27.

4. Blamont, J., “A Roadmap to Cave Dwelling on the Moon and Mars”, Advances in Space Research, Vol. 54, no. 10 2014, pp. 2140-2149.


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