Lunar Discovery and Exploration

In the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), the Exploration Science Strategy Integration Office (ESSIO) ensures science is infused into all aspects of lunar exploration. Through researching the Moon and its environment, and by using the Moon as an observation platform, NASA strives to gain a greater understanding of the Moon itself, the solar system, the universe, and the deep space environment. ESSIO integrates goals of the National Academy’s Decadal Surveys as well as other scientific community documents with the priorities of the Agency into a comprehensive strategy for lunar science. Our office is tasked with the integration of science into Artemis and the Moon to Mars architecture. 

ESSIO leads integration between SMD Divisions, NASA Mission Directorates, other government agencies, international partners, as well as the broad scientific and commercial communities.

This integration is accomplished through development of instruments/payloads, leading cross-directorate activities, fostering international partnerships, and creating innovative methods of sending payloads to the lunar surface with commercial entities.  

A ridge that is comprised of lunar rock is grey in color with silver highlights. A large dark shadow reaches out behind the central peak of Tycho. The foreground is comprised of smaller mounds of the crater that are similarly illuminated by sunlight.

On June 10th, 2011, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured this striking image of the Tycho crater. The crater is in the southern lunar highlands and is approximately 82km in diameter. The crater’s notable feature is how steep it is which is due to the fact is a relatively young crater (110 million years old). 

The Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) aims to build a sustainable lunar economy that will produce rapid, frequent, and affordable access to the lunar surface and cislunar space.

The payloads we are sending to the Moon have instruments that will produce new and complementary lunar datasets to aid in scientific research and exploration of the Moon and beyond. These payloads will help us answer high priority science questions, allow us to test new technologies, and help us prepare and reduce risk for human surface exploration.

The towering Artemis I rocket is illuminated against a black background. The rocket is lit up by the launchpad lights surrounding it around the bottom. The rocket stand with its bright orange and white body is in front of the grey launch mount.

Orion spacecraft is pictured here aboard NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on top of the mobile launcher. This launch attempt in August 2022, pushed back due to engine temperatures, was later followed by a successful launch of Artemis I in November 2022, which was the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky


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