As part of Russia’s Luna-27 mission, the first European device to land on the Moon this decade will be a drill and sample analysis.
The main goal of the Luna-27 lander is to study the composition of the soil near the lunar south pole and to analyse concentrations of frozen water.
Prospect, a European contribution to the mission, is a robotic drill and a miniature laboratory with a suite of scientific instruments designed to penetrate the Moon’s soil to depths of up to one meter, acquire lunar samples, and deliver them to the mini labs hosted by the lander.
The Luna-27 lander is to study the composition of the soil near the lunar south pole. Water is a key target: there may be concentrations of frozen water at or below the surface. Answering questions such as how much water is present and how accessible it is will help plan future missions involving the use of local resources.
“Prospect will allow scientists to better understand the terrain and prepare missions in which lunar soil can be used to create oxygen or fuel for example,” said ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker.
“Prospect is part of a pioneering new wave of lunar science and exploration,” says Richard Fisackerly, Prospect project manager, after completion of the preliminary design phase.
His confidence was reaffirmed yesterday following the signature of a €31.5m contract with European industry that paves the way for ESA to start working on the detailed design, further tests and final integration of the drill and instrument package that will fly to the Moon on the Russian spacecraft.
“This signature opens up the path to the delivery of the drill to Russia and operations on the lunar surface,” adds Richard. The signing took place yesterday at the Leonardo premises in Milan, Italy.
Luna-27 will land on the Moon using a European system called Pilot to support its main navigation system for high accuracy landing and hazard avoidance.