Credit: JAXA/NHK

 

It is called Great Lunar Expedition for Everyone (GLEE) – hundreds of tiny circuit boards to carry out local and distributed science missions on the Moon.

The concept stems from team work at Cornell University that developed a tiny spacecraft called ChipSat, a way to radically reduce the costs of spaceflight and exploration in low Earth orbit.

LunaSats are based on the ChipSat design. The leaf-sized LunaSats are the brainchild of Mason Peck, a professor at Cornell University.

Each LunaSat – weighing approximately 5 grams — will work as a fully-capable spacecraft, an electronic board outfitted with a small solar panel, several environmental sensors, and a radio for communicating with other LunaSats and relaying data gathered back to Earth.

LunaSat mock-up: What the device may look like on the lunar surface.
Credit: COSGC/NYSGC

LunaSats, for example, can gather temperature, GPS, magnetometer, humidity and accelerometer measurements. Their mission on the Moon will last two lunar days or approximately 56 Earth days.

GLEE goal

The GLEE goal: By December 14, 2022, 500 LunaSats, built by students from every nation on Earth, will land on the Moon to conduct multiple distributed science and technology missions.

The GLEE space mission is led by NASA’s New York and Colorado Space Grant Consortium. Peck is director of the New York Space Grant Consortium. More than 20 other space grant organizations have also signed onto GLEE.

The space grant consortium is funded by NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement under the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.

Prototype LunaSat next to ruler to show size of electronic circuit board.
Credit: Chris Koehler/Mason Peck

Moon dispersal plan

Each LunaSat is projected to cost less than $200, explains Chris Koehler, director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, which is based at CU Boulder.

Groups of high school and college students can apply to get involved in GLEE starting early December of this year. Participation will be free for all teams. Koehler and other “GLEEmers” are seeking out supporters from universities and private companies around the world.

Koehler told Inside Outer Space that there is no confirmed launcher as yet. “We hope to share a ride to the surface. We understand that we likely will have to pay for the ride,” he explained.

As now envisioned, the plan is to deploy the LunaSats from a lander firmly planted on the lunar terrain. “Using a simple device, the LunaSats would be spread out roughly 65 to 130 feet (20-40 meters) around the landing site,” Koehler notes.

Credit: GLEE Announcement Video/glee2023.org/Inside Outer Space Screengrab

Team building

Individual LunaSats carry an integrated sensor suite that can be programmed by teams of students, from every member country of the United Nations, to a mission of their own design.

These teams will be mentored by GLEE program staff through the entire design, build, test, launch, and data gathering process.

Koehler underscores part of the GLEE mission statement: “From hands-on activities to a global citizen science network, GLEE is the next step in inspiring and engaging the world in a truly global mission to the Moon.”

For more information, go to:

https://www.glee2023.org/home

Also, go to this informative video at:

https://youtu.be/24ujpW5nN5Q

Lastly, visit this personal message from Chris Koehler, founder of GLEE, at:

https://youtu.be/VzzRsrbILu4

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