NEXT STEPS IN EXPLORING THE LUNAR MANTLE
Orbital missions in the 1990s and this century have now given us an unprecedented new view of the lunar surface that will allow targeted surface exploration to answer remaining and new questions about the interior of the Moon. These datasets can be used to target sampling the oldest and youngest basalts (from crater counts), as well as sampling the compositions not represented in the current collections. Maybe the most important issue is that a Lunar Geophysical Network (LGN) is a named mission in NASA’s decadal survey for the New Frontiers program and will be proposed in the next call for proposals. This network will be long-lived and global in nature and the data returned will significantly enhance data from the recent GRAIL mission.
The longevity of the 3 LGN nodes will allow others to be added thus allowing the International Lunar Network concept to finally be realized. Addition of nodes is possible through international partnerships, and with the Commercial Lunar Payload Services call from NASA there could be other ways to supplement the LGN. Such a network is also important for human exploration because shallow moonquakes have magnitudes >5 and could threaten any long-term surface assets.
The current US space policy coupled with strong international interest in the Moon affords an opportunity to explore the lunar mantle in more sophisticated ways thanks to the data from Apollo and subsequent orbital missions. The presentation will present rationale for site selection of the LGN and sample return to further our knowledge of the lunar mantle.