Artist’s concept of an Artemis astronaut deploying an instrument on the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

One of the first devices selected by NASA for deployment on the moon’s surface by Artemis III astronauts will be built by a team of scientists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The Lunar Environment Monitoring Station is a compact, autonomous seismometer suite that will conduct continuous, long-term monitoring of ground motion from moonquakes in the lunar south polar region. The instrument will characterize the regional structure of the moon’s crust and mantle to add valuable information to lunar formation and evolution models.

LEMS, led by Mehdi Benna, previously received four years of NASA’s Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation funding for engineering development and risk reduction. It is intended to operate on the lunar surface from three months up to two years, and may become a key station in a future global lunar geophysical network.

Two other devices were also selected for deployment during the first crewed lunar landing mission. Lunar Effects on Agricultural Flora, led by Christine Escobar of Space Labe Technologies in Boulder, Co., will investigate the lunar surface environment’s effects on space crops. The Lunar Dielectric Analyzer, led by Hideaki Miyamoto of the University of Tokyo and supported by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will measure the regolith’s ability to propagate an electric field which will be helpful in the search for ice and other volatiles.

“With these innovative instruments stationed on the moon’s surface, we’re embarking on a transformative journey that will kick-start the ability to conduct human-machine teaming – an entirely new way of doing science,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “These three deployed instruments were chosen to begin scientific investigations that will address key Moon to Mars science objectives.”

The instruments will address three Artemis science objectives: understanding planetary processes, understanding the character and origin of lunar polar volatiles, and investigating and mitigating exploration risks. They were specifically chosen because of their unique installation requirements that necessitate deployment by humans during moonwalks.

All three payloads were selected for further development to fly on Artemis III, targeted to launch in 2026, although final manifesting decisions about the mission will be determined at a later date. Members of these payload teams will become members of NASA’s Artemis III science team.

“These three scientific instruments will be our first opportunity since Apollo to leverage the unique capabilities of human explorers to conduct transformative lunar science,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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