L-DART: A Penetrator Mission for Lunar Permanently Shadowed Regions

Barber, S. J.; Sargeant, H.; Sheridan, S.; Wright, I. P.; Ballard, A.; Church, P. D.; Gould, P.; Gupta, M.D.; Hussain, S.; Griffiths, A.; Jones, G. H.; Derz, U. and Perkinson, M. (2018). L-DART: A Penetrator Mission for Lunar Permanently Shadowed Regions. In: Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, 19-23 Mar 2018, The Woodlands, Houston, Texas, USA.


Lunar Direct Analysis of Resource Traps (L‐DART) will address many current knowledge gaps concerning lunar volatiles and permanently shadowed regions (PSRs), providing in-situ ground truth data to calibrate numerous existing remote datasets. It builds on UK expertise in developing and testing penetrator system concepts for the Moon and Europa (e.g. MOONLITE). Following release of a Penetrator Descent Module in lunar orbit (Figure 1), its Penetrator Delivery System performs de-orbit and orientation before releasing the instrumented Penetrator to penetrate a few meters into target lunar surface at ~300 m/s. The penetrator itself serves as the sampling tool and an on-board mass spectrometer analyses in-situ the volatiles released both in the impact and in the subsequent thermal soak from lander to surrounding regolith. A pair of 3‐axis accelerometers measure regolith structure during the landing event and constrain penetrator final location. Temperature sensors enable regolith thermal properties to be deduced. Pre-and post impact imagery is obtained for context. Science is complete and data relayed to Earth within 1-2 hours, minimizing system mass and lifetime requirements. Possible landing sites include Cabeus (for comparison with LCROSS) or Shoemaker which exhibits excess hydrogen, or areas indicated by LRO to exhibit putative surface frost. Alternatively, L‐DART could target the hypothesised ancient (paleo) south pole and hence potentially ancient volatiles.

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