Malapert massif (lower left), thought to be a remnant of the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin rim, was selected as one of the Artemis III candidate landing regions. The South Pole-Aitken Basin is a study target of the APL-led Research Activities Supporting Science and Lunar Exploration team.Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel has been selected to lead an effort to support exploration of the Moon as part of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. The effort will provide information key to mapping out next steps in lunar exploration.

Headed by Space Exploration Sector planetary scientist Dana Hurley, the Research Activities Supporting Science and Lunar Exploration team will focus on the cooling and crystallization of the upper mantle as well as sources and redistribution of water and other chemicals across the Moon’s surface.

RASSLE scientists and engineers will investigate the surface chemistry and geology of the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin. They will also research permanently shadowed regions that harbor water ice that could be used as resources for drinking water and rocket fuel on future missions.

“Our research will address one of the highest priority areas in lunar science, guided by the questions and considerations NASA needs to plan the robotic and human missions that will establish a permanent presence on the Moon,” said Hurley.

The RASSLE team, which starts work in September, will include representatives from 15 institutions around the world. The team will conduct impact experiments at NASA’s Ames Research Center, analyze the geological units of South Pole-Aitken Basin, interpret radar data for evidence of ice in lunar Permanently Shadowed Regions, model volatile sources to PSRs, create and analyze samples of lunar-like minerals in the lab, and coordinate mission concept studies in APL’s Concurrent Engineering Laboratory.

The team will work with the University of Puerto Rico, Bowie State University, and other minority-serving institutions to create a course for undergraduate and graduate science and engineering students, who will develop and test out a spacecraft mission concept with APL scientists and engineers.

“[O]ur program will not only lay the groundwork for missions back to the Moon, but we’ll [also] have a role in building and diversifying the STEM workforce,” said SES’s Ed Rivera-Valentín, who leads the student project.