After several decades since the last human visit, NASA is planning to return to the Moon, this time not only to visit but also to carry out extensive scientific experiments, establish a habitat occupied by astronauts, and learn lessons that will help in preparations for the eventual establishment of a human presence on Mars. As discussed in detail by the speakers covered in Chapter 2 of this proceedings, coming trips to the lunar surface will be carried out not only by NASA vehicles but also by commercial vehicles built and flown by a wide variety of companies. In particular, the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program (described in Chapter 3), overseen by NASA, will provide transport to the Moon for scientists who want to carry out research on the lunar surface or in orbit around the Moon.
This is a very different approach from what most scientists who have worked with NASA in the past have experienced, as NASA itself was typically responsible for providing the vehicles that carried NASA-funded experiments. Now, while NASA will continue funding much space-related research, commercial vendors will be responsible for transporting many of the projects that it funds. As such, NASA-funded researchers going to the Moon will go through an unfamiliar process as they plan and prepare for their studies.
Recognizing the need to introduce and explain the CLPS program to researchers, the Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a workshop on March 24–25, 2021, during its spring 2021 meeting, to help familiarize the community of space researchers with the program. The committee’s organization of the workshop was guided by the following question:
Looking at the period of time prior to the release of the next decadal survey, how can this community support and utilize Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) to address areas of research identified in the 2011 decadal?
The workshop sessions and speaker directions were organized around obtaining information relevant to, and perspectives on, the above question. As a supporting activity, and at the request of the committee, NASA organized a January 14, 2021, public seminar to help educate the relevant science community on CLPS plans and opportunities in advance of the workshop.
This workshop, titled “Using Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) to Achieve Lunar Biological and Physical Science Objectives,” consisted of four program sessions on the first day and a concluding summary session on the second day. The presenters at the workshop included a number of NASA representatives who provided details about participating in CLPS, along with a representative of vendors who will be providing commercial flights to the Moon as part of CLPS. Participants further heard from a number of scientists who offered examples of the sorts of studies that would be valuable to carry out on the Moon.
1 A workshop is a technical meeting of individuals who are brought together to discuss topics of mutual interest and to share their expertise. This convening activity is intended to facilitate exchanges among participants and to
contents of the three Session 1 presentations by NASA representatives who offered an overview of the types of biological and physical sciences research that NASA is interested in carrying out on the Moon as a way of providing context to the CLPS program. Chapter 3 follows the four presentations of Session 2, which described the goals and processes of the CLPS program and offered researchers practical advice on what to expect if they choose to carry out lunar research through that program. Sessions 3 and 4, summarized in Chapters 4 and 5, described a number of biological (Chapter 4) and physical (Chapter 5) science studies that will be or could be carried out on the lunar surface, with the goal of both triggering ideas for other lunar research studies and providing an indication of what is required to carry out such research on the Moon through the CLPS program. Chapter 6 covers Session 5, in which session moderators from Day 1 summarized the information from their sessions and presented their overall impressions.
The opinions expressed by workshop attendees and reproduced here are those of the individual speakers and do not represent the position of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The workshop presenters and audience members were not asked to come to any consensus opinions. Any suggestions voiced were those of individuals, not the group as a whole, although there were various areas in which there was general agreement among a number of participants at the workshop, and those areas are noted, as appropriate.
solicit opinions without reaching consensus judgments on findings, conclusions, or recommendations. The type of workshop represented in this report is organized by a planning committee and results in a “Proceedings of a Workshop” written by a rapporteur. A rapporteur-authored proceedings is a reasonably detailed and objective summary of what occurred at the workshop, prepared in a style and format that is more accessible than a transcript.