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An Investigation of the Moon’s Silicic Volcanism

Lunar-VISE will use a multi-instrument payload on a lander and rover to determine the composition and physical properties of pristine rocks and regolith comprising the Gruithuisen domes, which will be critical to understanding their formation. The 10-day science investigation will use the rover and lander operations to collect surface spectral and imaging measurements at high spatial resolutions on the dome summit. These observations will provide a critical link to existing orbital data sets, extending what we learn at Gruithuisen to other similar lunar non-mare, or terrestrial, silicic spots, building an understanding of late-stage silicic volcanism on the Moon.

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About the Gruithuisen Domes

Located in the western portion of the Imbrium basin rim, the domes remain a mystery to scientists. Flyover data from previous missions indicate that they are made of silicic minerals — rock hardened from cooled magma. On Earth, the closest comparison may be Mount St. Helens. The volcanic features appear to have large concentrations of heat producing elements, which could potentially be used for resources for long term exploration of the moon.

Image of the moon with Lunar VISE landing site circled

Lunar VISE Landing Site

Lunar VISE landing site with lobes highlighted.

Gruithuisen Landing Site

The team has done some early work to pick the landing site on the Moon for the Lunar-VISE mission! We’re landing at a region near an impact crater that spread boulders of excavated material, so we can explore a wide range of the history of the region.

The Lunar-VISE investigation has two main goals:

Science goal: to understand how late-stage lunar silicic volcanism works, as typified by the Gruithuisen Domes.

  • Science Objective 1: Map local variations in composition, and correlate to rock and regolith properties, surface features, and dome morphology.
  • Science Objective 2: Provide context for orbital measurements of composition and thermophysical properties.

Maps of the Gruithuisen Region

Exploration goal: to understand the geotechnical properties of the lunar regolith on the Gruithuisen Domes.

  • Exploration Objective 1: Characterize spatial variations in lunar regolith properties at the Gruithuisen domes.

Gruithuisen domes with marked areas for yutu, lander and rover tracks.
Image Credit: Clegg-Watkins et al 2016


To achieve our science goals, we will use roving capabilities to perform in-situ measurements of visible to near infrared (VNIR) and thermal infrared (TIR) radiance as well as gamma ray and neutron spectroscopy (GRNS) of the Gruithuisen domes to determine composition and thermal physical properties.

VNIR Imaging Camera
VNIR Imaging Camera (LV-VIC)
Rover VNIR multispectral camera used to map variations in composition and morphologies at high spatial resolution. Heritage from Ballʼs GeoSpace Camera (BGSC).
Compact Infrared Imaging System LV-CIRiS
Compact Infrared Imaging System (LV-CIRiS)
Rover TIR multispectral imaging radiometer used to map variations in silicate composition and thermophysical properties of rocks and regolith at high spatial resolution. Heritage from Ballʼs L-CIRiS instrument.
ASU Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (LV-GRNS)
Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (LV-GRNS)
Rover GRNS used to measure major elemental abundances. Heritage from Arizona State University’s Mini-NS on LunaH-Map.
VNIR Imaging Camera
Context and Descent Cameras (LV-CC and LV-DC)
Lander camera suite will characterizes the geology of the landing site, regolith properties of the landing site, and the roverʼs impact on regolith properties. Heritage from Ballʼs GeoSpace Camera (BGSC).

Mission Partners

USGS logo
University of Maryland
UCLA logo
UCF logo
Planetary Science Institute logo
University of Oxford logo
CU LASP logo
Ball Logo
Arizona State University logo
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