Support for a return to the Moon.
Photo Credit: NASA/GSFC

A letter signed by 72 leading lunar researchers from academia and the private sector has been sent to key congressional lawmakers in support of President Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1. That policy document refocuses NASA to rekindle human Moon exploration to enable eventual footprints on Mars.

“The U.S. lunar community is excited not only about the return to the Moon, but the new paradigm of private sector involvement that will begin to bring the Moon into our economic sphere of influence, while producing extremely significant lunar and Solar System science results,” Clive Neal, Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering & Geological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, told Inside Outer Space.

Credit: NASA

Budget request

The grass roots effort is tied to gaining support for the FY 2019 Budget Request for NASA’s Lunar Exploration and Discovery Program.

Also advocated in the April 10 letter is a request to fully fund the ongoing Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, and restore America’s technical capability to access the lunar surface and to once again lead lunar exploration.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the Space Policy Directive – 1 after signing it, directing NASA to return to the Moon, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, NASA, and commercial space companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017.
Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

“With the proposed Lunar Exploration and Discovery Program, NASA, in coordination with American universities, research institutions, and commercial companies will be empowered to address decades-long objectives on the Moon,” the letter, in part, explains.

Prospect for resources

“The new Lunar Exploration and Discovery program will give the United States the chance to, at long last, systematically prospect for resources on the Moon’s surface,” the letter continues, “gather comprehensive new samples from all over the surface, explore lunar lava tubes, investigate magnetic anomalies, and address a long list of unanswered geophysical questions whose answers have deep implications for understanding formation of the Solar System and planetary science.”

China’s Chang’e 3 Moon lander, imaged by Yutu lunar rover.

Lunar lander market

The start of a new lunar program could not be more timely for the United States, the letter notes.

“China has ramped up its lunar science and exploration program as a precursor to human missions, and the U.S. must move quickly, starting with missions in 2020, to regain its historic lead in lunar science and exploration. Other countries, like Japan, have committed nearly $1 billion towards the development of a commercial lunar lander to compete with emerging American systems. It is vital for our future in space that we not cede the lunar lander market and leadership to other countries,” the letter explains.

Among the over 70 individuals signing the letter, Apollo 17’s Harrison Schmitt, as well as Bob Richards, head of the commercial Moon Express and Dan Hendrickson, vice president of business development for Astrobotic that is also offering lunar lander services.

To take a view of the actual letter, go to:

https://www3.nd.edu/~cneal/Community-Support-Letter-NASA-Moon.pdf

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