July 17, 2012 – GPR for Lunar Exploration
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July 17, 2012 – GPR for Lunar Exploration

Sensors & Software has been actively involved in the development of a GPR prototype for autonomous rovers for potential exploration of the Moon and Mars as well as other bodies in the solar system. 

Lunar-GPR

GPR for Lunar Exploration

Sensors & Software’s research team have a long history of association with space exploration. Many of the GPR advances seen today stem from involvement with the Apollo program with senior members of our research group having played key roles in the Surface Electrical Properties experiment carried on Apollo 17.

More recently, Sensors & software have partnered with MDA, McGill University, University of Toronto, and Western on a Canadian Space Agency project to develop  a GPR for deployment on autonomous rovers planned for exploration of the Moon and Mars as well as other bodies in the solar system.

The challenges are many and require definition of the mission requirements and the operational deployment needs as well as the roadmap for building light-weight space qualified instrumentation. The design concept illustrations show how antennas can be packaged and deployed from a rover to address a wide range of mission needs. The current mission requirements are shown below and provide the impetus for focusing the instrumentation needs.

Lunar GPR goals

Science/Technology goal Science Investigation Specific Lunar GPR goal
Understand the lunar polar environment and processes Investigate bedrock geology in polar regions. Explore local geological features in the polar regions using 2D and 3D grid surveys
Investigate volatile sources and transport retention Conduct surveys to detect ice signatures in the regolith; determine shallow radar wave velocities, test ground-ice detection methods in lunar analog settings; (e.g.: operation of GPR in cross-polar configuration).
Understand the physical structure, stratigraphy and geotechnical properties of the regolith. Characterize regolith structure and layering, including contact with underlying bedrock. Characterize regolith at landing sites using 3D grid surveys. determine regolith depth, subsurface block abundance, and the relationship between surface and subsurface block abundance. Investigate dependence of reflectivity on surface roughness.
Investigate the effects of space weathering on regolith physical properties. Investigate variation in regolith layering/vertical structure and on reflectivity as a function of age.
Investigate regolith geotechnical properties, including size, distribution and shape of surface and subsurface blocks. Determine regolith depth, subsurface block abundance, and the relationship between surface and subsurface block abundance.
Understand the nature and style of lunar volcanism; investigate sources of mare volcanism and pyroclastic deposits. Investigate pyroclastic deposits and look for source vents. Measure pyroclastic deposits thickness using 2D surveys in ground mode.
Investigate mare volcanism and look for evidence of empalcement mechanism. 2D and 3D grid surveys to image lava tubes. determine flow thickness, search for evidence of paleoregoliths between successive mare lava flows.
Construct long-term lunar outposts suitable for human habitation. Investigate regolith geotechnical properties, including size, distribution and shapes of surface and subsurface blocks. Determine regolith depth, subsurface blocks abundance, and the relationship between surface and subsurface block abundance.
Develop protocols for outpost site selection.
Develop methods and protocols for operation of robotic investigations. Test field instrumentation for geological and geotechnical investigations. Conduct field tests of rover-based Lunar GPR in all modes of operation; test data fidelity via ground-truthing.

 

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