II OF TEXAS Mission - Abstract
full text

Joe Enzminger, et. all

May 5, 1995

Executive Summary

Public interest in space has declined steadily since the first landing on the moon in 1969. The public has taken the attitude that the conquest of space will take nothing more than time to achieve. This attitude, combined with a general lack of knowledge regarding the contributions of the space program to society, has led to a general funding decrease for NASA and other space related agencies.

NASA, recognizing the need to recapture the same spirit of public interest that sustained the Apollo program, is seeking to develop low-cost space missions that will serve as both scientific and technical advancements and as a means of captivating public interest. NASA¹s response to this need was their solicitation for proposals under the Discover Mission Guidelines.

The Discovery class missions are small-scale space programs, funded by NASA, that achieve a tangible and important scientific or technical result. However, these missions are to be designed as ³showcase² missions. Therefore, the probability of success should be high, yet the mission must be sufficiently novel to capture public interest. This project presents a mission concept and preliminary design for a space mission that will meet these objectives.

Public research shows that most Americans find a manned return to the moon to be the most interesting aspect of the space agenda. In response, this document outlines an unmanned mission to the moon to prove that the basics of life, oxygen and water, do exist and can be extracted from lunar resources. It is suggested that by proving that the resources required to establish a viable working environment are present on the lunar surface, public interest in returning men to the moon will be sparked. The mission will serve as a technology demonstrator for methods of lunar oxygen extraction and will help verify or disprove theories regarding the existence of water beneath the lunar surface. From a technical standpoint, such a mission would provide tangible benefits for future space exploration. Oxygen is both a major component of spacecraft fuel and is required for life support systems. Furthermore, if water is found on the moon, it likewise could be utilized both for spacecraft fuel requirements and life support. The ability to produce fuel on the moon, rather than transporting it from Earth, will drastically reduce the cost of future space missions and pave the way for eliminating this barrier to human space travel.

This document contains a preliminary design for carrying out this mission. This project will be supported by universities throughout the State of Texas, and the final proposal will be developed from individual contributions from each university. In this way, the vast aerospace resources of the State of Texas can be exploited. This semester, the University of Texas has focused on the subsystem design and systems integration for the lander portion of the total mission concept. In order to accomplish this, a small corporate entity named SAE, Inc. was formed.

The mission plan calls for the launch of a small spacecraft into trans-lunar orbit. Arriving at the moon, the spacecraft will maneuver into a polar lunar orbit. A small lander, carrying oxygen production and water detection equipment, will separate from the spacecraft and land on a predetermined site on the lunar surface. The unit will operate on the lunar surface for approximately 2 weeks, carrying out its science and technology objectives. Meanwhile, the orbiter will continue to orbit, serving as a communications relay and as a platform for remote sensing of the lunar surface. It will release small penetrators near the lunar poles to conduct a search for water.

The Apollo missions established the moon as a desolate, barren landscape with no ability to provide the needs for human life. There will be strong public appeal in the notion that while the moon cannot support life alone, human work and innovation can transform even this barren landscape into a habitable home for future generations. NASA¹s role, through this program, in bringing this notion into being will position the agency to pursue much more aggressive programs in the future.