White Papers

Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032

Exploring end-member volcanism on the Moon at the Aristarchus Plateau

Authors: Erica R. Jawin*, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; Timothy Glotch, Stony Brook University, Ryan Watkins*, PSI; Lauren Jozwiak*, JHU APL; Sarah Valencia*, University of Maryland College Park/NASA GSFC; Heather Meyer*, JHU APL; R. Aileen Yingst, PSI; Brett Denevi, APL; Daniel Moriarty*, NASA GSFC/USRA; Debra Needham*, NASA Marshall; Sebastien Besse, European Space Astronomy Centre; Shashwat Shukla, Faculty ITC, University of Twente; Brad Jolliff, Washington University in St. Louis; Lisa Gaddis, USGS; Kristen Bennett*, USGS; Jaclyn Clark*, Arizona State University

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon, Evolution of surface/geological evolution on bodies with and without atmospheres, Interior evolution and volcanism

Summary: Exploration of the Aristarchus region of the Moon would address many exploration goals and numerous SKGs articulated in previous studies. The Aristarchus plateau is an ideal place to explore for fundamental science, in situ resource utilization, and possibly an eventual site for a human outpost. The Aristarchus plateau region should be among the first non-polar targets for CLPS robotic landers and rovers, sample return, and human exploration.

Planetary Science Priorities for the Moon in the Decade 2023-2032: Lunar Science is Planetary Science

Authors: Erica R. Jawin*, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; Brett Denevi, JHU/APL; Barbara Cohen, NASA GSFC; Samuel Lawrence, NASA JSC; Clive Neal, University of Notre Dame; Ryan N. Watkins*, PSI; Ariel Deutsch*, Brown University; Bill Farrell, NASA/GSFC; Cesare Grava, SwRI; Georgiana Kramer, PSI; Parvathy Prem*, JHU/APL; Nicolle Zellner, Albion College

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon, Evolution of surface/geological evolution on bodies with and without atmospheres, Interior evolution and volcanism

Summary: The Moon is an ideal laboratory for the study of planetary processes that occur across the Solar System. This report outlines four big-picture questions that remain in planetary science (developed through an inclusive, community-driven process over several months), and describes how studying the Moon can address them.

Understanding and Mitigating Plume Effects During Powered Descents on the Moon and Mars

Authors: Ryan N. Watkins*, Planetary Science Institute; Philip T. Metzger, University of Central Florida / Florida Space Institute; Manish Mehta, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; Daoru Han*, Missouri University of Science and Technology; Parvathy Prem*, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; Laurent Sibille, NASA Kennedy Space Center / Southeastern University Research Association; Adrienne Dove*, University of Central Florida; Bradley Jolliff, Washington University in St. Louis; Daniel P. Moriarty III*, Univ. of Maryland College Park / NASA GSFC; Donald C. Barker, MAXD, Inc.; Ed Patrick, Southwest Research Institute; Matthew Kuhns, Masten Space Systems; Michael Laine, LiftPort Group; Charles F. Radley, Space Initiatives Inc.

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon; Mars; Entry, Descent, and Landing

Summary: During the powered landing of spacecraft on the Moon or Mars, rocket exhaust plumes interact with the surface, altering the physical state of the surface and creating potential hazards to nearby hardware. All future landed missions must have dedicated measurements of plume-surface interactions, and this data must be made publicly available.

An Ultra-low Altitude Lunar Orbiter

Authors: Elisha Jhoti*, David Paige, and Tyler Horvath*

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon; Theory, computation, and modeling; Technology development

Summary: An ultra-low altitude lunar orbiter presents enhanced science returns with high-resolution data at the meter/cm scale. The orbiter would mitigate perturbations due to lunar mascons and navigate topography to maintain a near circular polar low altitude orbit. Potential instrumentation includes imaging, fields and particles, and thermal mappers.

Probing the geomechanical properties of the south polar (pen)-umbral regolith

Authors: V. T. Bickel*; W. D. Carrier III

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon; Geomechanical properties of lunar polar regolith

Summary: The Artemis missions present a unique opportunity to close some of the strategic knowledge gaps related to regolith properties and trafficability in lunar polar (pen)-umbral regions.

Professional development in the next decade: Supporting opportunities in all career paths and life events

Authors: Ryan Watkins*, PSI; Nicolle Zellner, Albion College; Maggie McAdam*, NASA Ames Research Center; Nicole Whelley, University of Maryland College Park and NASA GSFC; Ingrid Daubar, Brown University; Christine Hartzell, University of Maryland; Kat Gardner-Vandy, Oklahoma State University

Topic(s): State of the Profession

Summary: Planetary Science and Astrobiology need scientists from a variety of backgrounds and institutions. Support is particularly needed for caregivers, people who work at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions and Minority Serving Institutions, and people who choose career paths that do not include research at large universities or NASA centers.

End-Member volcanism in the absence of plate tectonics: Silicic volcanism on the Moon

Authors: Sarah N. Valencia*, Ryan N. Watkins*, Jacob A. Richardson*, Timothy Glotch, Erica E. Jawin*, Srinidhi Ravi*, Brad L. Jolliff

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon

Summary: Here we give an overview of current state of knowledge about silicic volcanism on the Moon and why targeted studies are needed to answer outstanding questions about the evolution of the lunar interior and how silicic magmatism occurs on one-plate planets in our solar system.

High Priority Returned Lunar Samples

Authors: Sarah N. Valencia*, Natalie Curran*, Jessica Flahaut, Juliane Gross, Cameron M. Mercer*, Daniel P. Moriarty III*, Clive R. Neal, Noah E. Petro, Tabb C. Prissel*, Ryan N. Watkins*, and Wajiha Iqbal*

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon

Summary: It has been 50 years since the Apollo and Luna missions returned lunar samples and there are outstanding questions can only be addressed by detailed investigations on new samples returned from the Moon. Here we make the case for new sample return missions to the Moon and detail what samples are most needed to answer outstanding science questions.

The Moon is a Special Place

Authors: Daniel Moriarty*, NASA GSFC/UMCP; Clive Neal, University of Notre Dame; Samuel Lawrence​, NASA Johnson Space Center

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon

Summary: ​The Moon is scientifically rich, readily accessible, and harbors scientifically-interesting and exploration-enabling resources. For these reasons, the Moon provides a critical foundation for achieving fundamental planetary science and exploration goals. The Moon remains a target of the highest priority.

Lunar Sample Return from Multiple Locations is a Critical Capability for Addressing High-Priority Planetary Science Goals

Authors: Daniel Moriarty*, NASA GSFC/UMCP; Noah Petro, NASA GSFC; Sarah Valencia*, University of Maryland College Park/NASA GSFC; Stephen Bailey, Deep Space Systems; Taylor Morton, Deep Space Systems; Clive Neal, University of Notre Dame

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon

Summary: ​High-priority planetary science goals dictate analysis of diverse lunar samples. The most efficient approach is a mission architecture capable of returning materials from multiple sites across the lunar surface. Investment in new samples from diverse locations will yield transformative scientific results for decades to come.

The need for a well-defined modeling pipeline for planetary defense

Authors: Angela Stickle*; Brent Barbee, Paul Chodas, Terik Daly*, Mallory DeCoster*, Jessie Dotson, Rachel Klima, Travis Gabriel*, Dawn Graninger*, Maria Gritsevich, Devanshu Jha, Flora Paganelli, Cathy Plesko, Emma Rainey*, Megan Bruck Syal*, Lorien Wheeler​

Topic(s): Planetary Defense, State of the Profession

Summary: ​A concerted national effort to establish a modeling pipeline, with standardized, well-defined interfaces at every step, would make the USA better equipped to assess and mitigate global Near-Earth Object (NEO) impact threats, and having coherent unified modeling among the US response will facilitate clearer international communication and collaboration (e.g., Yang et al., 2020). The creation of a database to organize and retain modeling and simulation results relevant to a variety of potential threats would enable timely analysis of future hazards, and a deeper understanding of the events that could occur if an impactor hit Earth. Such a pipeline and database framework would provide an invaluable resource to planetary defense and scientific researchers, directly aligns with Goal 2 of the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan (NSTC, 2018), and supports connections between Goal 2 and Goals 1 and 3 of the plan. To achieve this framework, we suggest that resources be allocated within the planetary defense budget for collaboration between modeling teams and developers, including participation in workshops and hackathons. Integrated assessment (across all aspects of the problem) can guide prioritization of research and model development in areas that most affect overall risk mitigation capabilities. Many of the codes and models currently used for planetary defense were initially designed for other applications, and resources are also needed to validate and optimize them for the unique challenges of planetary defense.

Space Weathering Across the Solar System: Lessons from the Moon and Outstanding Questions

Authors: Michelle S. Thompson*, Jessica Barnes*, David Blewett, Joshua Cahill, Brett Denevi*, Kerri Donaldson Hanna, Jeff Gillis-Davis, Tim Glotch, Devanshu Jha*, Georgiana Kramer*, Nandita Kumari*, Carey Legett*, Danieal Moriarty*, Kurt Retherford, Shashwat Shukla*, Morgan Shusterman*, and Indhu Varatherajan​

Topic(s): Mercury and/or the Moon; Primitive bodies (e.g., asteroids, comet, dwarf planets, Kuiper belt objects); Evolution of surface /geological evolution on bodies with and without atmospheres; Other (Space Weathering)

Summary: Understanding space weathering is critically important to our exploration of the solar system and studies of this process are necessary to maximize the science return of past, ongoing, or future missions to any airless planetary body.

Image Credit: NASA/Lunar and Planetary Institute