• LunarLeaper

    An ESA small mission candidate to explore lunar caves

  • Our questions and goals

    Question 1: Is there a lava tube under Marius Hills?

    We use geophysical sounding methods to detect a potential void, i.e. a lava tube connected to the pit hole and map its extent. By comparing to the extent of the rille on the surface, we can give ground truth to orbital measurements.

    Question 2: Is the lava tube stable enough to be used as a human habitat?

    We investigate the fault map on the rim of the pit hole to find out why it collapsed and whether its flanks are stable now. This is necessary before a large rover or even humans might be send for further exploration.

    Question 3: Which volcanic processes formed the tube and the pit?

    The layers along the pit wall have recorded the history of volcanic eruptions in Marius Hills. We investigate characteristics such as thickness and composition of these layers - a window into the lunar past.

    Question 4: What is hidden inside the regolith around the pit?

    Our radar and optical system will detect whether there are ancient pieces of paleoregolith below ground. These could hold traces from the early sun and Earth's atmosphere. Regolith at the surface is more eroded but still imporant because this is the material we need to move in and this is why we will also explore surface mechanical properies.

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    LunarLeaper is based on the SpaceHopper design, the result of 4 years of iteration at ETH's Robotic Systems Lab (RSL). The robot only weighs ~10 kg.

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    Landing site

    We want to explore the Marius Hills pit on the near side of the moon, a pit that is thought to be connected to a subsurface hollow lava tube.

    Our plan is to land outside the hypothesized extent of the lava tube and traverse it twice, while taking some time at the pit itself.

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    We combine geophysical measurements from the surface with imaging from the pit rim. The geophysical instruments are a gravimeter (GRAV) and a ground penetrating radar (GPR). For the imaging we use our dedicated science camera (SCAM) and hopefully a spectrometer (SPEC). The legs of the rover can be used to to dig in the lunar soil to estimate mechanical propoerties.

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    We build on a team from 5 small ESA member states: Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, Poland and Luxembourg.

  • Team

    The proposers

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    Dr. Anna Mittelholz

    Principal Investigator

    - Lead of the Magnetometer Working Group and member of the leadership team for InSight.

    - Involved in mission development for the Mars Helicopter led by JPL.

    - Science focus on interior evolution of planets and their magnetic fields, currently as an SNSF Ambizione Fellow at ETH Zurich.

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    Dr. Simon Stähler

    Deputy Principal Investigator

    - Lead of the Tectonics working group and member of the leadership team for InSight; Co-Investigator of the BELA instrument on BepiColombo.

    - Curriculum director for the new M.Sc. Space Systems at ETH Zürich.

    - Science focus on geophysical investigation of tectonic and subsurface processes on planets.

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    Dr. Hendrik Kolvenbach

    Lead Robotics

    - PI of Team Glimpse (Winning team of ESA/ESRIC Space Resource Challenge), PI of PLATE - Pilot Lunar Abrasion Experiment for Rashid-1 mission.

    - Author of several high-impact publications for legged robots for Planetary Exploration.

    - Principal engineer for several legged robots for Planetary Exploration.

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    Dr. Valentin Bickel

    Lead Geology

    - Mission Co-I and instrument Co-PI on MBRSC’s Rashid 1 and 2 rovers and involvement in multiple missions such as InSight, VIPER, MRO, Mars Express and TGO.

    - Researcher at the Center for Space and Habitability currently as a CSH Fellow.

    - Focus on evolution of planetary surfaces across the solar system.

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    Joe Church

    Lead Engineering

    - 10 years at NASA GSFC with roles such as Robot Joint Control Electronics lead for OSAM-1 Robot arms, Mechanism Control Electronics lead engineer for Lucy L’Ralph.

    - Electrical/Mechanical I&T experience on NASA GEDI, PACE missions.

    - Developed Lunar Hazard Detection Lidar “SPLICE”.

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    Dr. Ozgur Karatekin

    Lead Gravimetry

    - PI of the GRASS gravimeter and Juventas CubeSat on ESA’s Hera mission.

    - Institutional leader on geophysical exploration of small bodies including the Moon.

    - Science focus on gravity and planetary geodesy.

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    Dr. Svein-Erik Hamran

    Lead Ground-Penetrating-Radar

    - Director of the Center for Space Sensors and Systems at UiO.

    - PI of the Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment RIMFAX on NASA’s Perseverance Rover and Co-PI on the WISDOM GPR on ESA’s ExoMars rover.

    - PhD in GPR and more than 30 years of experience in radar science.

  • Mentors

    Our team is young, motivated and experienced and we have additional expertise in the back...

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    Prof. Domenico Giardini

    Co-PI of the NASA InSight mission

    Co-PI of the ESA LISA mission

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    Prof. Thomas Zurbuchen

    Former Associate Administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate

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    Prof. Marco Hutter

    Expert in legged robotic systems

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    Prof. Miguel Olivares-Mendez

    Director of the Space Science Master in Luxembourg, expertise in robotic systems

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    Prof. Nicolas Thomas

    Developed optical instruments for multiple ESA missions (Mars Express, TGO, BepiColombo)

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    Images by Géraldine Zenhäusern

  • News

    Thoughts, musings, and ruminations.

    May 7, 2024 · Media
    Anna, Hendrik, Philip and Valentin discussed our mission with the SwissInfo team. They were so...
    December 12, 2023
    We submitted the mission proposal to ESA's OSIP system for the call "Small Missions for...