Two CubeSats: studying the dark side of the Moon

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected two CubeSats to study some of the secrets hidden on the dark side of the Moon: Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter and Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter. These tiny spacecraft would open the door to future missions that weren't possible before because of the high production and launch costs.

The Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter (Lumio) will circle the Moon's far side to map meteor bombardments. Lumio's sophisticated optical camera would detect impacts on the moon's far side.

Meanwhile, the Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter (VMMO) will search the permanently darkened Shackleton Crater for water ice and other materials that could be useful for establishing future colonies on the Moon.

The selections were recently announced by ESA, which called European companies, universities and research centers in 2017 to build a spacecraft the size of an airline cabin bag. The selected teams now have the chance to work with ESA specialists on mission development during February and March, with no specific date for launch yet.

Miniaturized technology in space

Today nano-technology allows developing and building compact-sized satellites that open a world of opportunities for the future of space exploration because of their low production and launch costs.

"CubeSats have operated solely within Earth orbit. However, opportunities should open up to piggyback to the moon in the coming decade, with circumlunar flights of the NASA–ESA Orion spacecraft and planned commercial flights," said Roger Walker, ESA’s technology CubeSat manager.

OPENSPACE 24: THE FUTURE OF SPACE EXPLORATION