Space agency aiming to launch rocket carrying instruments to detect moonquakes and measure lunar mineral abundance
NASA is aiming to launch a lunar rocket in February, in the first attempt to return material from the moon since the Apollo missions.
The Schiaparelli probe, a part of the ExoMars rover mission, will be blasted to the moon in a risky mission due to test the systems that could be used on the next big phase of interplanetary exploration, called the Europa mission.
Schiaparelli is the Italian word for doughnut, and includes the “o” followed by an o to form the word “Mars” – the name NASA chose for the ExoMars orbiter and lander.
It will deliver an instrument to the lunar surface called Faint Object Analyzer, which will help scientists compare the moon with Europa, a Jupiter moon that has the potential to be the world’s next big drilling site.
The engine-powered vehicle, known as a small Lander, will drop the mission components to the moon’s surface in late November in a risky launch mission to a moon before it can investigate Europa.
“There are a lot of unknowns. So what we are doing is trying to test out the systems that are designed to take us from point A to point B,” said Valerio Giacomelli, project manager for the ExoMars project at the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany.
Last week, the European Space Agency’s agency board decided to launch the unmanned ExoMars rover in December 2020, a year ahead of schedule, in a bid to beat the Russian-led ExoMars mission in 2022.