MEMS-based Lightweight Sensitive Autonomous Lunar Seismometer Devlopment

Project: Research project

Project Details


Strategic sub-goal 3C (Advance scientific knowledge of the origin and history of the solar system, , and the hazards and resources present as humans explore space): Seismometers open the window into the interior of a planetary body, and hence are an essential tool for advancing the knowledge of the origin of that body, as well as the parent Solar System. Seismometers are also required to study current seismic activity, from both internal and external sources, and hence are critical to assess hazards on these bodies. A modern lunar network of seismometers is essential for unraveling the Moons uncertain internal structure, which is a necessary stepping stone towards understanding the Moons origin. The currently favored hypothesis for the origin of the Moon involves a Mars-sized bolide impacting the newly formed Earth about 4.5 billion years ago [Hartmann 1986]. A portion of the ejected mantle material of both the impactor and the proto-Earth rapidly coalesced and formed the Moon. The clarification of the existence, state and composition of a lunar core will give new input for the origin discussion [Wieczorek 2006]. A better understanding the origin of the Moon is in turn essential for improving our knowledge of the history of Earth and the entire Solar System. If the impactor theory can be upheld, questions of the origin of the impactor and orbital dynamics in the early Solar System need to be addressed. Finally, a seismic network on the Moon will provide vital information for characterizing hazards associated with shallow moonquakes, which can be of magnitude (M) 5 and greater [Oberst 1992]. A magnitude 7-7.5 quake is estimated to occur with a 1-2 % chance each year [Nakamura 1980]. On Earth, ground motions from nearby M > 5 earthquakes cause structural damage to buildings. On the Moon, a structural breach of an inhabited structure can cause catastrophic decompression and loss of lives. Furthermore, sensitive scientific equipment might be damaged beyond repair. Strategic goal 6 (Establish a lunar return program having the maximum possible utility for later missions to Mars and other destinations): Returning to the Moon will eventually involve human and robotic exploration of the surface. From sub-goal 3C, we assume that a new generation of seismic sensors will eventually be deployed, either by dedicated robotic or human missions, since seismic sensors are the most direct avenue towards learning about the Moons interior, seismic activity, and hazards. The miniaturized sensors proposed here are ideal for this application, since they will be lightweight, low-power, high-quality, impact tolerant, easy to install, and easy to utilize in a network array configuration. This application will lay the foundation for deployment on other planetary bodies. For example, a seismic network on Mars parallels rationale for re-instrumenting the Moon, since the internal structure and seismic activity on Mars are even less known
Effective start/end date5/27/105/26/15


  • NASA: Goddard Space Flight Center: $893,228.00


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