One of the future challenges of human space exploration is the creation of a Moon village, where man can live in a safe and controlled environment and perform relevant research. The first step towards this goal is to assess wether the lunar environment can support such a mission. This can be accomplished by means of a long-term rover mission aimed at monitoring the most influential parameters:
- Radiation: the lack of an atmosphere on the Moon means that no shielding from the solar and cosmic radiation is provided on the surface, resulting in a hostile environment for man;
- Water ice: water ice has been found in craters surrounding the lunar poles as they are always in shadow; exploiting this resource could go a long way towards making man's stay on the Moon easier;
- Lunar dust: dust particles found on the Moon are exceptionally sharp as, once again, no atmosphere is there to smooth it; this poses a very serious threat to astronauts as it can easily damage space suits.
ARMSTRONG (A Rover for Moon SeTtlement Reconnaissance ON Ground) is a rover mission aimed at studying the aforementioned parameters that could impact a future manned settlement on the Moon.
The main aspects that have been analysed are:
- Landing site: the selection of the landing site is of paramount importance in order to fulfil the required tasks, as all the relevant phenomena must be observable in the mission location; in addition, the geography of the area must allow for easy landing and rover manoeuvering;
- Payloads: the necessary instruments to measure the mission parameters must be installed on-board the rover:
- Ionising Radiation Detector: particles detector to measure the radiation on ground;
- Mass spectrometer: to determine the presence of water;
- Drill: to reach beneath the surface and perform the relevant studies;
- Microscope: to measure the damage caused by the lunar dust on a sacrifical sample both actively and passively;
- Solenoid: provides active shielding to the sample.
- In situ experiments: studies must be properly devised to obtain the data necessary to assess the properties of the environment.
- Radiation: study the effect of the Earth's orbit around the Sun and the crossing of the Moon through the Earth's magnetosphere on the surface radiation profile, as well as the shielding effect of the Moon's regolith
- Water ice: establish the presence of surface and underground ice;
- Lunar dust: determine the long-term damage of test samples caused by lunar dust
- moontrek.jpl.nasa.gov: used for the selection of the landing site;
- moon.nasa.gov: used to evaluate the geography of the landing site;
- quickmap.lroc.asu.edu: used to evaluate temperature and water distributions at the landing site;