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In Situ Instrumentation Development

Assignment 1 - In Situ Instrumentation Development

Published onFeb 24, 2021
In Situ Instrumentation Development

In Situ instrumentation will play a key role in maximizing scientific return for Artemis III science investigations. In Situ instrumentation supporting sampling, volatile monitoring, geophysics objectives, down hole monitoring, and geotechnical characterization will provide for real-time data transmission to science support teams for assistance with site characterization and EVA decision making. The demand for in situ instrumentation introduces novel technical and operational challenges. Major technical challenges to in situ instrumentation include establishing high bandwidth communication and developing instruments capable of addressing multiple scientific investigations at once in order to achieve predicted total instrument mass allocation. Operational planning will be required to maximize crew efficiency and achieve a proper balance between crew exploration/sampling and the use of instrumentation. Given the "proliferation of science data" expected from Artemis EVA, it has also been recommended a new flight control position be introduced to provide more direct contact between the mission  control center and the geology backroom. 

Current planned missions to support in situ instrumentation for Artemis III include NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). VIPER will  take advantage of on board in situ instrumentation to characterize the distribution of lunar polar water and other volatiles and provide NASA with the required data to assess the potential for future lunar in-situ resource utilization. The in situ volatile measuring techniques onboard VIPER are carried out by three instruments working in conjunction with the onboard drill, and achieve efficiency in addressing multiple Artemis III primary science investigations (2a-1, 2a-2, 2a-3, 2a-4, 2a-5, 2a-6, 2a-7, 2b-1, 2c-1, 2c-3, 2d-1, 2f-1). The three instruments onboard VIPER in addition to its drill are the Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS), the Near-Infrared Volatiles Spectrometer System (NIRVSS), and the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo). NSS can detect water in soil up to 3ft below the surface through measuring the changes in number and energy of lunar neutrons. These measurements can be used to infer the amount of hydrogen present in the soil. NIRVSS will be used after soil drillings in order to determine whether the origin of the hydrogen in the soil. The spectrometer will differentiate between potential soil compositions, and two other tools will allow for color imaging and small-scale temperature measurements. MSolo is a modified commercial instrument that will help VIPER differentiate between gases the lander  is emitting itself, and those that are coming from the lunar surface. These three instruments will test the capabilities of in situ instrumentation and provide insight to the capabilities of future in situ resource utilization. VIPER will be the first step in testing in situ instrumentation capabilities for volatile monitoring, and key technological developments are required to fulfill the in situ instrumentation requirements for Artemis III. Primarily, design developments must be made to adapt instrumentation to be used by astronauts on EVA’s. Additionally, in situ instrumentation must be designed to support sampling, geophysics objectives, down hole monitoring, and geotechnical characterization among other science investigations. 

The VIPER mission will also provide a unique opportunity to assess lunar mission operations given real-time rover control and scientific data analysis. Science mission operations will include a mission science center, in addition to the MOC, which will listen to MOC and analyze data and images sent back from the rover. The instrument teams operating out of either Ames or the Kennedy Space Center will also be listening to MOC and providing feedback to inform science activities. These operations will provide important insights to real-time remote science team decision making, and should be carefully studied and documented to understand future operational design adjustments that should be made for future Artemis missions.


[1]Feist, B. F., Miller, M. J., Petro, N. E., Barry, W. P., & Mavridis, C. (2021). LUNAR EXTRA VEHICULAR ACTIVITY (EVA) SCIENCE SUPPORT OPERATIONS - LEARNING FROM APOLLO AND SHUTTLE FOR APPLICATION TO ARTEMIS. Lunar Scurface Science Workshop, 5–6.


[3]VIPER: The Rover and Its Onboard Toolkit | NASA

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