A team of British scientists led by Dr. Simeon Berber, of the Open University (OU), is developing ProSPA, a miniature chemical laboratory for extracting and analyzing water and ice on the Moon South Pole. The chemical laboratory will be a component of the PROSPECT drilling rig, which is being developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of the joint Luna-27 mission with Roscosmos
PROSPECT is a complex unit for drilling regolith and on-site research of samples, consisting of two main components - a drilling rig (PROSPECT Samples Excavation and Extraction Device: ProSEED) and a chemical laboratory (PROSPECT Sample Processing and Analysis system: ProSPA).
ProSEED will drill regolith to a depth of 2 meters and extract samples that are expected to contain ice and other chemicals. Samples can be identified at extremely low temperatures typical for the Moon South Pole: from -150° C below the surface and down to -200° C in some locations.
Selected samples will be transferred to the ProSPA chemical laboratory, where they will be heated to a temperature of 1000° C to extract the volatile substances contained in cold-trapped volatiles. Accurate and thorough isotopic measurements of basic elementary chemicals, such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen, will allow for understanding the origin, evolution, and substitution processes for these chemicals. The data will indicate the viability of volatile substances as resources that could be used in the future to supply lunar bases, such as portable water or water for rocket fuel. Also, the data obtained will give an idea of the origin of volatile substances entering the Earth-Moon system.
According to Dr. Simeon Baber, the British scientists are collaborating mainly with their at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKI) to ensure effective cooperation.
“For instance we have a pipe connecting our instrument ProSPA to the Russian instrument Gas Analytical Complex.This allows us to exchange gases that have been evolved from the same sample of lunar soil, so that we can each make measurements and then compare results to enhance the science,” stated Dr. Baber in the letter to Asgardia Space News.
The press service of the Lavochkin Association (the key developer of the Luna-27 mission, part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) could not provide any prompt comment on this issue. However, the company has never previously voiced detailed information about the scientific component of the Luna-27 mission.
ProSPA is being developed by the OU and supported by Airbus Defense and Space (UK), RAL Space (UK), Dynamic Imaging Analytics (UK), Fluid Gravity Engineering (UK), Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany), Technical University of Munich (Germany), Media Lario Technologies (Italy). PROSPECT is led by Leonardo S.p.A. under a program of and funded by ESA.
Luna-27 is a joint project of Roscosmos and ESA on the development of the Earth natural satellite. The main objective of the mission is to study samples of regolith and iced water in the area of the Moon South Pole. The launch of the heavy landing station is scheduled for 2025.