An artist's concept of an Artemis astronaut deploying experiments on the lunar surface. Credits: NASA

New Artemis III Surface Experiments Revealed By NASA

Artemis III will deploy three experiments to study the local environment. For the first time in 50 years, astronauts will set up scientific stations on the Moon

NASA just announced three scientific instruments that astronauts will deploy during the Artemis III mission. The experiments will study the lunar environment, the structure of our satellite, and the challenges of long-duration human spaceflight.


Science goals

The crew of Artemis III, due to fly in 2026, will deploy the experiments at the lunar South Pole. NASA chose them because they have unique installation requirements that require the presence of an astronaut. The scientific equipment will investigate planetary processes, look for volatiles, and assess and mitigate exploration risks.

An artist's concept of an Artemis astronaut deploying experiments on the lunar surface. Credits: NASA
An artist’s concept of an Artemis astronaut deploying experiments on the lunar surface. Credits: NASA

“These three scientific instruments will be our first opportunity since Apollo to leverage the unique capabilities of human explorers to conduct transformative lunar science”, declared Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.


The instruments

The Lunar Environment Monitoring Station (LEMS) is a long-duration seismometer experiment. It is designed to operate for up to two years, and in this period it will constantly monitor moonquakes in the region. Measuring ground motion will also help assess the local structure of the crust and mantle. Additionally, the data will be precious for refining theories on how our satellite formed. LEMS is led by the University of Maryland.

Lunar Effects on Agricultural Flora (LEAF) will study plant growth on the Moon. The experiment will analyze the development of crops, observe photosynthesis, and assess the response to radiation. Additionally, it will closely monitor the parameters of the growth environment. Growing crops on the Moon or beyond might be a key part of long-duration crewed missions, helping with food and life support.

A cotton sprout onboard the Chinese Chang'e 4, which landed on the Moon in 2019. The plant growth experiment was cut short by a failure to properly heat the small ecosystem. Credits: South China Morning Post
A cotton sprout onboard the Chinese Chang’e 4 spacecraft, which landed on the Moon in 2019. Shortly thereafter, a failure to properly heat the small ecosystem cut short the experiment. Credits: South China Morning Post

The Lunar Dielectric Analyzer (LDA) will look for volatiles, especially water ice. It will do so by measuring the dielectric constant of the soil, a parameter that defines how much electric fields propagate in a material. Such a parameter is essential in the search for volatiles, and on Earth sensors use it to measure moisture content in the soil. LDA will also measure dielectric changes in relation to temperature excursions and use the data to probe the Moon’s subsurface. LDA is an internationally contributed experiment, led by the University of Tokyo.


Future perspectives

Artemis III will be NASA’s first crewed mission to the Moon in over 50 years. The crew will launch to lunar orbit using the Orion capsule and the SLS rocket from KSC’s LC-39B. After that, they will land on the Moon using a version of SpaceX’s Starship.

The mission won’t fly before September 2026, after delays hit both Artemis II and III. Nonetheless, preparations for surface activities continue. In August 2023, NASA selected the geologists that will characterize the geology of the landing site. Despite launch dates slipping, the return of astronauts to the Moon is slowly getting closer.

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Riccardo Dipietro

Riccardo Dipietro

Second-year aerospace engineering student at the Polytechnical School of Turin. Creator and admin of gourmet_space_memes on Instagram

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