Neal, Clive - Using the Moon to go to Mars: Why Lunar Exploration Should Not be Ignored

Abstract: 
The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) was tasked by the NASA Advisory Council in 2007 to developed a comprehensive Lunar Exploration Roadmap (LER; [1]) as part of the Vision for Space Exploration. The LER is comprised of three themes: Science, Feed Forward, and Sustainability. It is the Feed Forward theme that is the subject of this presentation.
The purpose of the Feed Forward theme is to establish mission risk reduction technologies, systems, and operational techniques that could be developed through a lunar exploration program using 2 criteria: Mars/Small Body Risk Reduction Value:  How well do the candidates address the key risk reduction areas identified through NASA’s robotic and human Mars/Small Body mission planning studies; and, Lunar Platform Value:  Do candidates leverage the unique attributes of a lunar program to achieve success – or – would other platforms be more effective from a technical/cost perspective.
There are two goals under this theme that are focused on Mars (with the third focused on asteroids): Goal FF-A addresses hardware (Identify and test technologies on the Moon to enable robotic and human solar system science and exploration); Goal FF-B addresses operations (Use the Moon as a test-bed for missions operations and exploration techniques to reduce the risks and increase the productivity of future missions to Mars and beyond).
The LER presents a foundation upon which to develop a long-term plan that will enable humans to explore Mars. The Moon’s vicinity and environment make it the logical place to retire risk through the development of systems and operations for human activities off planet. Having the Moon in the critical path to Mars has a number of important and critical advantages that are focused on the low gravity lunar environment, as well as the Moon’s close proximity to Earth:
• Testing bioregenerative technologies that are needed to support wastewater processing, air revitalization and food production.
• Perform long-duration testing of an integrated surface life support system that is needed to simulate Mars surface stay times exceeding 500 days.
• Testing countermeasure technologies that need to be tested so as to assure human performance remains at an acceptable standard.
• Testing surface mobility systems (range, duration, terrain, time).
• Testing surface fission power system technologies that should be capable of being autonomously deployed and able to initiate/sustain power generation without human interaction.
• Testing monolithic habitat technologies on the lunar surface that incorporate the capability for autonomous deployment and operations without human intervention.
• Testing radiation shielding technologies outside of the Earth’s magnetosphere.
• Testing dust mitigation technologies to prevent dust from interfering with mechanical systems and causing health problems for astronaut crews.
• Testing forward and backward planetary protection technologies to prepare for human and robotic operations on Mars.
• Conduct a Mars surface mission simulation on the Moon.
• Develop cost effective surface systems that can be developed in a relatively short period of time.
[1] Lunar Exploration Roadmap (2013) http:// www.lpi.usra.edu/leag/ler_draft.shtml