High-spatial (<10-m/pixel) resolution orbital instruments are only capable of detecting surficial ice and subsurface ice estimates for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) are ambiguous and remain controversial. Orbiting neutron spectrometer instruments are capable of measuring hydrogen within the top 10s of cms of regolith but are limited to spatial resolution in the 100’s of km^2. Reducing the spatial resolution of such an instrument via collimation is technically challenging. Alternatively, a neutron spectrometer instrument on a lunar rover would be able to measure hydrogen and He-3 within the top meter of regolith with a spatial resolution of ~1-m^2, similar to the cancelled RESOLVE mission. The RESOLVE rover was a large rover capable of prospecting for lunar ice, drilling into such ice, and determining the actual ice content. Thus, the area at which RESOLVE could prospect was hampered by the objectives of the other instruments. Therefore, this work aims to resurrect the prospecting part of the RESOLVE rover by allowing a small size and low cost of the micro-sized detector/rover package “the NeuRover” that will allow for a single mission to disperse numerous micro-rovers over a much wider range than is possible with a single rover. The high-resolution data will be invaluable for future lunar exploration as it would allow future in-situ exploration to of highly concentrated locations of hydrogen. Additionally, such a mission could revolutionize our understanding of trapped volatiles on planetary bodies (e.g., Moon, Mercury, Ceres), as it will better map the heterogeneity vertically and laterally of hydrogen deposits. The innovation proposed is a small-mass, low-power, Neutron Energy Spectrometer (NES) for Mapping of Sub-Surface Lunar water content that can be supported by a micro-sized rover. The Team has previously developed an instrument that can measure the hydrogen content (water) of soil by stacking alternating layers of neutron absorber, moderator, and detectors.
Provide a viable semiconductor-based neutron energy spectrometer (NES) for remote lunar soil moisture determination CONOPS. A compact, low-power NES/NeuRover would yield benefits to the NASA mission beyond the search for hydrogen below the lunar surface as proposed. A major hurdle to overcome to ensure the success of the human exploration of space and extraterrestrial bodies is to limit the radiation dose to astronauts. A commercially-available NeuRover system could inexpensively map unknown areas before human astronauts arrive for missions.
An application for a roving (autonomous), robust neutron energy spectrometer would be in the field of nuclear waste monitoring and mapping. It is possible that with the increase in nuclear fuel and waste storage, and along with the unfortunate radiological accidents at various sites, e.g., Hanford, Fukushima Daiichi, NeuRover’s remote roving capability may be beneficial for inspecting these sites.