Arne - Exploring the Mare Tranquillitatis Pit

Monday, 15 December 2014: 8:12 AM
Mark Southwick Robinson1, Jekan Thangavelautham1, Robert Wagner2, Victor A Hernandez1 and James Finch1, (1)Arizona State University, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Tempe, AZ, United States, (2)Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States
Lunar mare “pits” are key science and exploration targets. The first three pits were discovered within Selene observations [1,2] and were proposed to represent collapses into lava tubes. Subsequent LROC images revealed 5 new mare pits and showed that the Mare Tranquillitatis pit (MTP; 8.335°N, 33.222°E) opens into a sublunarean void at least 20-meters in extent [3,4]. A key remaining task is determining pit subsurface extents, and thus fully understanding their exploration and scientific value. We propose a simple and cost effective reconnaissance of the MTP using a small lander (<130 kg) named Arne, that carries three flying microbots (or pit-bots) [5,6,7]. Key measurement objectives include decimeter scale characterization of the pit walls, 5-cm scale imaging of the eastern floor, determination of the extent of sublunarean void(s), and measurement of the magnetic and thermal environment.

After landing and initial surface systems check Arne will transmit full resolution descent and surface images. Within two hours the first pit-bot will launch and fly into the eastern void. Depending on results from the first pit-bot the second and third will launch and perform follow-up observations. The primary mission is expected to last 48-hours; before the Sun sets on the lander there should be enough time to execute ten flights with each pit-bot.

The pit-bots are 30-cm diameter spherical flying robots [5,6,7] equipped with stereo cameras, temperature sensors, sensors for obstacle avoidance and a laser rangefinder. Lithium hydride [5,6] and water/hydrogen peroxide power three micro-thrusters and achieve a specific impulse of 350-400 s. Each pit-bot can fly for 2 min at 2 m/s for more than 100 cycles; recharge time is 20 min. Arne will carry a magnetometer, thermometer, 2 high resolution cameras, and 6 wide angle cameras and obstacle avoidance infrared sensors enabling detailed characterization of extant sublunarean voids.

[1] Haruyama et al. (2010) 41st LPSC, #1285. [2] Haruyama et al. (2010) GRL, 36, dx.doi.org/ 10.1029/2009GL0406355. [3] Robinson et al (2012) PSS, 69, dx.doi.org/ 10.1016/j.pss.2012.05.008 [4] Wagner and Robinson (2014) Icarus, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2014.04.002. [5] Thangavelautham et al. (2012) IEEE ICRA [6] Strawser et al. (2014) J. Hydrogen Energy. [7] Dubowsky et al. (2007) Proc. CLAWAR.