A lunar L2-Farside exploration and science mission concept with the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and a teleoperated lander/rover
A novel concept is presented in this paper for a human mission to the lunar L2 (Lagrange) point that would be a proving ground for future exploration missions to deep space while also overseeing scientifically important investigations. In an L2 halo orbit above the lunar farside, the astronauts aboard the Orion Crew Vehicle would travel 15% farther from Earth than did the Apollo astronauts and spend almost three times longer in deep space. Such a mission would serve as a first step beyond low Earth orbit and prove out operational spaceflight capabilities such as life support, communication, high speed re-entry, and radiation protection prior to more difficult human exploration missions. On this proposed mission, the crew would teleoperate landers/rovers on the unexplored lunar farside, which would obtain samples from the geologically interesting farside and deploy a low radio frequency telescope. Sampling the South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the oldest impact basins in the solar system, is a key science objective of the 2011 Planetary Science Decadal Survey. Observations at low radio frequencies to track the effects of the Universe's first stars/galaxies on the intergalactic medium are a priority of the 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey. Such telerobotic oversight would also demonstrate capability for human and robotic cooperation on future, more complex deep space missions such as exploring Mars.