Mines moon mission may be NASA’s next

From the Rocky Mountain News:

By Jim Erickson, Rocky Mountain News
July 19, 2004

A Colorado School of Mines proposal to collect rocks from the far side of the moon was selected Friday as one of two finalists for a $700 million NASA mission.

The proposed Moonrise mission would send twin robotic spacecraft to execute the first lunar landings since the Apollo program ended in 1972.

Both craft would land in the 1,500-mile-wide South Pole-Aitken Basin. Robotic arms would scrape about 5 pounds of rock and soil into return capsules, which then would head back to Earth.

In January, President Bush outlined a plan to return astronauts to the moon as early as 2015. Robotic missions would pave the way for the manned lunar landings.

“Our mission is consistent with the president’s new vision for exploration,” said Colorado School of Mines geologist Michael Duke, who heads the Moonrise team.

“I think it fits,” he said Friday. “I think we will benefit from the fact that the country’s space program will be focused on the moon for the next few years.”

The South Pole-Aitken Basin soil and rock would be “clearly different from anything we’ve sampled before,” Duke said.

In February, seven proposals were submitted for the next mission in NASA’s New Frontiers program of unmanned solar system exploration flights.

The other finalist announced Friday is Juno, a Jupiter orbiter that would study the giant planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field. The Juno team is headed by Scott Bolton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“It was a very tough decision, but we’re excited at the prospect of the discoveries either of them could make,” said NASA Associate Administrator Ed Weiler.

Each of the New Frontiers finalists will receive up to $1.2 million to complete a detailed “implementation feasibility study” in the next seven months. In May 2005, a winner will be named. The selected mission must be ready for launch by June 30, 2010. Costs will be capped at $700 million.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *