The 2013 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference is about to start in The Woodlands, Houston, Texas. The weather is rather better than it is in Manchester and it is good to be out of the lab for a bit to hear about ongoing exciting science missions and new sample discoveries. Before the meeting proper I have spent two days at the Brown-Vernadsky Microsymposium listening to a series of talks about understanding the poles and farside of the Moon and potential future exploration of these regions.
The full meeting programme is available at http://www.planetary.brown.edu/html_pages/micro54.htm
The meeting consisted of 30 minute talks covering a wide range of topics from satellite observations of the Moon, to sample analysis and modelling of impact cratering and the Moon’s formation. The science discussions fed forward to people talking about future targets for sending robotic landers and human missions to address important lunar and planetary science questions. There is still a lot we need to know about our nearest planetary neighbour, and one of the main themes that surfaced from the meeting was just how many science questions we have about the Moon’s geological history and the record it contains of wider Solar System processes.
The meeting concluded today (Sunday 17th) with an excellent presentation by Commander David Scott, who walked on the Moon on the Apollo 15 mission to the edge of the Imbrium impact basin (see http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a15/ for all you ever wanted to know about Apollo 15). Scott discussed how the interaction between scientists and engineers led to the success of the mission, and helped maximise its scientific return. He related his experience training for conducting geological field work, and recalled some of the successes sampling lunar samples that have helped unlock the Moon’s volcanic and crustal history (such as the 15415 genesis rock collected close to Spur crater). He made the point that ‘photographs don’t show you what is sitting on the Moon’ at the small scale, and how critical it is have the real-time human decision making ability to collect a diverse suite of geological material. His talk led onto discussions of planned human exploration architectures to return to the lunar surface following the Apollo model of many human landings, but using up to date technology and computing power in a short time scale and at an affordable price. As Scott put it ‘all roads to Mars will go through the Moon’ so it is time to start working out how to develop the means to make this exploration goal a reality.
The Brown-Vernadsky symposium has been a great way to kick off what looks to be a fantastic week of science talks and discussion at LPSC!