NASA's new Artemis program involves building several temporary waypoints around and on the moon. One of the side-bonuses for scientists is that this has opened a few new funding avenues for studying the lunar surface and the space environment around it.

High energy cosmic ray particle detectors usually require very large collection areas for the highest energy particles (due to the low occurrence rates) and very large mass detectors for the lower energy particles. In fact, the mass and power of the detector is often a limiting factor as one needs a huge geometric factor (i.e., the optical "viewable" volume for each look direction of the detector) to get enough particle counts for any sensible data product. Thus, most particle instruments that are flown on spacecraft are limited to energies at or below ~1 GeV/nucleon (e.g., the PAMELA detector is one of the highest energy space-based detector of which I am aware).

With the Artemis program, the limitations on mass and power should be much less restrictive as the detector could be placed on the lunar surface and done so with an unobstructed view of the sky. The detector could be physically much larger and heavier as one would not need to worry about the moment of inertia of the spacecraft being dominated by a metal block on one side too.

All that said, are there any plans or proposals to put some really high energy (high energy for me is >1 GeV) particle detectors on the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program?

Side Note: I am aware that proposals for scientific instruments are currently in preparation or under review, so I am clearly not asking anyone to divulge any proprietary information etc. I am just curious if folks are working on some neat high energy particle detectors.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Either Astronomy or Space Exploration might have some folks with info... $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 17:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JonCuster - Perhaps. I put this here as in most physics departments of which I am aware, high energy particle studies are included in the physics departments, not the astro (if they are separate departments). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 19:14

1 Answer 1


No plans for particle studies, page 32 of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Program Overview :

Science Goals

The Moon is a cornerstone for Solar System science. The Artemis science goals will be driven by the U.S. and international science communities’ priorities. The scientific opportunities represented by the Moon, as a research platform or focus, have been captured in a multitude of community input documents. It is important to stress that Artemis enables science in a plethora of disciplines not just lunar and planetary science. Broad lunar-based science themes that can be addressed include:

• Understanding planetary processes

• Understanding volatile cycles

• Interpreting the impact history of the Earth-Moon system

• Revealing the record of the ancient sun

• Observing the universe from a unique location

• Conducting experimental science in the lunar environment

• Investigating and mitigating exploration risks to humans

  • $\begingroup$ Well I would argue that one could say such an instrument would fall under "Observing the universe from a unique location" and "Conducting experimental science in the lunar environment" ;) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ The aims of the experimental science for the project as stated are not ambitious enough for particle physics studies to be planned . It would be more difficult and expensive in the "lunar environment" than on earth afaik . $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ Oh I agree (about the difficulty and expense), but that's no reason to turn down an opportunity for some interesting data/results. With all these things, the trick is to reframe the justification to fit the call, as you well know. I assure you, if framed correct, a high energy particle instrument could definitely fly here. Getting composition in the MeV to TeV energy range would be very interesting indeed (well, I certainly would find it interesting). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 21:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.