Status Report

Community Letter regarding NASA’s Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program

By SpaceRef Editor
August 22, 2019
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Community Letter regarding NASA’s Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program

9 August 2019

Dear Chairman Shelby and Ranking Member Leahy, and Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Shaheen:

As we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 human lunar landing this summer, it was painfully apparent to many Americans that the United States has not built upon the historical successes of the 1960s and early 1970s. Subsequently we have learned much in low-Earth orbit over the past two and a half decades with a continuously tended space station; however, exploration of the Moon continued only with orbital robotic missions until China landed a robotic rover on the Moon’s nearside in 2013. Earlier this year, China became the first nation to successfully land a rove on the Moon’s farside. It is now evident that other nations consider the Moon as an important destination not only for robotic exploration, but also for human explorers. As scientists and exploration experts in the broad and growing lunar and planetary science community, we write today to voice our strong support for the FY2020 Budget Request for NASA’s Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program and moving humans forward to the Moon sustainably, this time with long-term objectives for developing a sustained human presence.

As you are aware, the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program (LDEP) is the continuation of a credible plan to re-engage in lunar surface exploration that has evolved and matured in the past few years, and shown significant progress in the last year. After years of planning next steps toward the Moon, we believe this program is designed for both expediency and cost-effectiveness. That is why we urge its full funding in FY2020, thereby ensuring the continued operation of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, and restoring U.S. access to the surface of Earth’s nearest neighbor for the first time in almost five decades.

With the LDEP, NASA, in coordination with American universities, research institutions, and commercial companies, is now empowered to start addressing decades-long lunar science and exploration objectives. These were articulated at length in comprehensive strategic reports such as the 2007 National Research Council’s Report on the Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon, the NASA Planetary Science Decadal Survey, the 2016 Lunar Exploration Roadmap formulated by the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, and the 2017 LEAG Advancing Science of the Moon . In addition, the program will provide opportunities to address Strategic Knowledge Gaps for the Moon Permanent Human Exploration Scenario . We believe that the LEDP is critical to a vibrant space economy that will bring new and exciting employment opportunities to the next generation of scientists and engineers, as well extend beyond to all sectors of society.

The LDEP will give the United States the opportunity to, at long last, systematically prospect for lunar resources, gather comprehensive new samples from many new locations, explore lunar lava tubes, investigate magnetic anomalies, and address a long list of unanswered geophysical questions whose answers have deep implications for advancing our knowledge of the formation of the Solar System and key planetary processes. As the 2017 LEAG Advancing Science of the Moon report stated, “The Moon is a resource-rich, readily accessible target for future United States human and robotic missions that will enable fundamental scientific advances impacting our understanding of the Solar System.” The LDEP has the potential to answer significant questions regarding lunar resources, not least of which is to show the reserve potential (i.e., sufficient quantities of extractable and refineable material that can be utilized at lower cost than being transported from Earth), which is enabling for a sustained human return to the lunar surface, constructively and successfully working in a space environment that would prepare us for sending humans to Mars.

Because of your committee’s leadership in the FY 2019 CJS appropriations bill, NASA has been able to establish a program within the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) to procure transportation and logistics services from private U.S. companies for lunar surface missions. The Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program has nine teams on contract. The teams compete amongst themselves for task orders NASA puts together for delivery of science instruments and experiments to the Moon. To much fanfare, two companies are now delivering on awards from NASA to deliver such payloads beginning in 2021. These companies are currently busy readying their landers for their assigned tasks while lunar scientists anxiously prepare for lunar surface access for the first time since 1972. This program represents the beginning of a new era of US-led lunar exploration and discovery, starting with small robotic landers and leading to sustained human presence on the Moon; a necessary condition to truly harness the economic potential of the Moon an enable a vibrant cislunar economy. By incorporating the Moon into our economic sphere, we will realize the enormous potential to create new wealth, new jobs, new technologies, and new industries for Americans.

The CLPS program leverages NASA’s previous work with commercial entities through the Lunar CATALYST program. There are currently planned missions using these commercial partners that will begin to address key science and exploration objectives on the lunar surface. The CLPS program highlights NASA’s intent to catalyze the science community to gain knowledge and insight on Solar System evolution, while gathering important data for human exploration and sustaining human life off-Earth. It has become very evident that the data needed for science are the same as those needed for exploration. Also, the knowledge we regain about how to operate in the lunar environment will inform future science and exploration missions that are larger in scope with likely extensibility to systems that will be used to return humans to the Moon’s surface. While the CLPS program is within SMD, it has vital cross linkages with the human exploration side (HEOMD) that need to be encouraged. As other countries like China and India continue to mature their own space exploration campaigns – each containing robust plans and capabilities for the Moon – we recognize the importance for the United States to press ahead and demonstrate leadership in this arena. It is vital to our future in space that we not cede leadership in surface exploration of the Moon and in cislunar space, as well as the lunar lander market to other nations. As such, the science and exploration experts represented below strongly support the proposed Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program within the FY2020 budget request and its approach to ensure the fastest possible return to the lunar surface, as well as getting Americans on the surface of the Moon to explore, prospect, and prosper. A sustained American human presence on the Moon is vital to our continued leadership in space and our prestige with our international partners. A new sustained human presence will expand on the legacy of Apollo’s history- changing first forays 50 years ago to explore another world, by continuing our quest for knowledge and its promise to benefit all humanity back on Earth. 

Sincerely [signed by 76 Lunar & Planetary Scientists, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs from 22 states],

Clive R. Neal

Professor, University of Notre Dame, IN

Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt

Apollo 17 Astronaut; Independent Lunar and

Planetary Scientist, Albuquerque NM

Anne Spudis

U.S. Lunar Enthusiast, Houston, TX.

Dr. Gary Lofgren

Original Apollo PI. U.S. Lunar Scientist, TX

James Head III

Original Apollo PI. Professor, University of Rhode

Island, RI

Robert M. Kelso

Founder/CEO, Kelso Aerospace LLC, TX

Scott Hughes,

Texas A&M University in Kingsville, TX

J. B. Plescia

Adjunct Professor University of Maryland, MD

Dr. Peter J. Chi

Research Geophysicist, UCLA, CA

Kirby Runyon

Lunar Geologist and Exploration Planner, MD

Cameron Mercer

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Greenbelt MD

Carle Pieters

Professor (Research), Brown University, RI

Cesare Grave

Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX

Nicolle Zellner

Professor, Albion College, MI.

Ian Garrick-Bethell

Associate Professor, University of California, Santa

Cruz, CA

James Crowell

Founder, Crow Industries, AZ

Timothy Glotch

Professor, Department of Geosciences, Stony Brook

University, NY

Nicholas Schmerr

Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College

Park MD

Youxue Zhang

Professor at the University of Michigan, MI

David A. Williams

Professor, Arizona State University AZ

Andrew Shaner

U.S. Lunar Educator, Houston TX

Dr. Dana Hurley

Planetary Scientist, Laurel MD

Dr. Heidi Haviland

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Huntsville AL

Dr. Ryan N. Watkins

Research Scientist, Planetary Science Institute, MO

Matthew Borden

Undergrad. Student, University of Notre Dame, IN

Hannah O’Brien

Undergrad. Student, University of Notre Dame, IN

Dr. Edward L. Patrick

Sr. Research Scientist, Southwest Research Institute,


Dr. Brett W. Denevi

US Lunar Scientist, Laurel MD

Michael Torcivia

Graduate Student, University of Note Dame, IN

Juliane Gross

Associate Professor, Rutgers University NJ

Donald Welsh

Undergrad. Student, University of Notre Dame, IN

Geoffrey S. Webb

Graduate Student, University of Note Dame, IN

Dr. Karl Cronberger

Research Technician, University of Notre Dame, IN

Kim A. Cone

Graduate Student, Colorado School of Mines, CO

Dr. David Blewett

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Laurel, MD

Dr. Kris Zacny

VP, Honeybee Robotics, Pasadena, CA

Kevin D. McKeegan

Distinguished Professor of Cosmochemistry &

Geochemistry, UCLA, CA

Dr. Charles Wood

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Wheeling WV

Amanda Nahm

U.S. Lunar Scientist, AZ

Jack Burns

Professor, University of Colorado, CO

Dr. Morgan Shusterman

US Lunar Scientist, Tempe AZ

Bradley L. Jolliff

Professor, Washington University in St. Louis, MO

Dr. William Ambrose

Senior Research Scientist, Bureau of Economic

Geology, University of Texas at Austin, TX

Leonard David

Space Journalist, Golden CO

Dr. Lillian R. Ostrach

US Lunar Scientist, Flagstaff, AZ

Craig Hardgrove

Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, AZ

Dr. Alan Stern

New Horizons PI, Southwest Research Institute CO

Dr. Carleton Moore

Original Apollo PI, Founding Director of Center for

Meteorite Studies, ASU, AZ

Farouk El-Baz

Original Apollo Scientist. Professor, Boston

University, MA

Dr. Steve Simon

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Albuquerque NM.

Stephen M. Elardo

Assistant Professor, University of Florida FL

Dr. Joshua Cahill

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Laurel MD

Dr. Kurt Klaus

Boeing- Retired, Houston TX

G. Jeffrey Taylor

Emeritus Research Prof., University of Hawaii HI

Dr. Catherine A. Dukes

Director – Laboratory for Astrophysics and Surface

Physics, The University of Virginia VA

Mark Robinson

PI – Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. Professor

– Arizona State University AZ

Dallas Beinhoff

Founder – Cislunar Space Development Company,

LLC, Annandale VA

Dr. Carolyn Crow

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Boulder CO

Dr. Benjamin T. Greenhagen

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Laurel MD

Abhijit Basu < Singrauli - at ->

Emeritus Professor, U.S. Lunar Scientist, Bloomington IN

Rachel Klima

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Laurel MD

Dr. Julie Stopar

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Houston TX

Nicholas J. Dygert

Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee TN

Dr. Gerald Patterson

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Laurel MD

Dr. Georgiana Kramer

Planetary Science Institute, Houston TX

Dr. Micah J. Schaible

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Georgia Institute of Technology,


Sarah Roberts

Graduate Student, University of Tennessee TN

Dr. Linda Martel

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Honolulu HI

Dan Hendrickson

VP Business Development, Astrobotic

( PA

Dr. Amy Fagan

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Sylva NC

David J. Lawrence

U.S. lunar and planetary scientist, Laurel MD

Dimitri A. Papanastassiou

Visiting Associate, Geological and Planetary Sciences,

Caltech, Pasadena, CA

Dr. Stephen Mackwell

U.S. Lunar & Planetary Scientist, Columbia, MD

Dr. Charles K. “Chip” Shearer

Senior Research Scientist III, University of New

Mexico, Albuquerque NM

Bob Richards

Founder & CEO, Moon Express (

Dr Bradley Thomson

U.S. Lunar Scientist, Knoxville, TN

SpaceRef staff editor.