The Lunar Quest Program (LQP) is a Moon exploration strategic plan whose goals are to conduct lunar science missions and research to address prioritized science objectives. LQP plans to develop small-medium satellites and possibly lunar surface missions. LQP main goals are to provide opportunities to perform lunar science missions and research; re-establish lunar science; facilitate the application of enabling technologies to support flight missions; and develop science opportunities to implement NASA´s Moon exploration goals. The components of NASA´s Lunar Quest Program consist of both flight missions and research.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will apply the capabilities of its instruments to five scientific areas, including the bombardment record of the Moon; the Moon´s geologic processes and consequent effects on the crust and lithosphere; the processes of the Moon´s regolith; the various mechanisms associated with lunar volatiles; and the way in which the space environment interacts with the Moon´s surface to better understand the Moon´s origin and evolution.
Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) addresses high priority science objectives, such as determining the composition, density and time variability of the lunar atmosphere. LADEE´s instruments will also measure the charge, size, and spatial distribution of electrostatically dust grains. LADEE will transport the optical laser communications package that will allow high bandwidth communication to and from the Moon. LADEE is planned to be launched on November 2013.
To develop future lunar science activities, NASA has selected proposals, including the Autonomous Lunar Geophysical Experiment Package and the Lunar Laser Transponder and Retroreflector Science, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Moreover, NASA has implemented new programs that will improve research in space exploration. The proposals and programs are part of NASA´s effort to develop new opportunities to perform relevant science investigations during the human exploration of the Moon. Further proposals will be solicited to gain an increased knowledge of the Moon while at the same time provide useful information for humans to live and work there.
Lunar Research and Analysis will improve the collaboration within the Moon´s scientific community with the participation of NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) which includes researchers and institutions geographically dispersed. The main objective of the Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration research (LASER) will be to support and improve lunar science and exploration. In addition to these research and analysis opportunities, lunar data will be distributed among the science community for analysis.
The Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon (SCEM) has identified a group of science goals and priorities regarding lunar exploration. These goals are significant in our understanding of the solar system. SCEM recognizes four central topics of lunar science, including terrestrial planet differentiation and evolution, early Earth-Moon system; solar system impact record, and lunar environment.
There are eight science concepts, each of which is related to different aspects of the four central topics that address extensive areas of scientific research. The eight science concepts include 35 specific goals, 11 of which are considered high priority. These concepts and goals provide a context from which to consider the scientific exploration and mission strategy for planetary science between 2013 and 2022.
The Moon is the princial focus within NASA´s space exploration purposes. That is the principal reason NASA is defining and implementing a series of robotic orbital and landed missions to the Moon. Since the Moon has been there for 4.5 billion years, it has recorded a great amount of planetary history. This, along with its accessibility, may certainly allow the lunar scientific community to study and interpret more complex worlds.