Sustainable Space Research Grand Challenge

Charles Shearer, Maryam Hojati, Kristina Yu

Space exploration has entered a renaissance with spacecraft reaching out to the edge of our Solar System and beyond and a renewed effort to explore and develop the Earth-Moon system. The United States, through NASA and the Department of the Air Force, will continue to invest significantly in the human exploration of the Moon and Mars. NASA's human plans under the Artemis Program call for establishing a sustainable, crewed presence on the Moon by the end of this decade. With U.S. companies and international partners, NASA expects to uncover new scientific discoveries that will lay the foundation for private companies to build an Earth-Moon space economy. What we learn on the Moon will prepare us for humanity's next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

The "Sustainable Space Research Grand Challenge" will support a broad university, commercial, and national laboratory collaborative effort to enable New Mexico and New Mexicans to participate in this scientific, exploration, and economic adventure. Immediately (2022), UNM will compete for NASA lunar funding through NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), the Space Technology Research Institute, and the Artemis Science Team. Current and future endeavors with the UNM team of experts will build the capacity of new experts in New Mexico. Participation in all will be highly visible.

UNM-commercial opportunities exist in Commercial Payload Services (CLPS) to deliver instrumentation to and conduct experiments on the lunar surface. Establishing a sustainable presence through habitable construction on the Moon, in cis-lunar space, and beyond will provide opportunities in such UNM disciplines such as Earth and planetary sciences (planetary materials, environmental systems), biology ("space farming"), engineering, architecture (supplying the building blocks for infrastructure, identifying and utilizing space resources, evaluating accesses to cis-lunar space, national security), physics and astronomy (radio astronomy observatory), medicine (health and safety in a hostile and dusty lunar environment), law (advancing the development of space policy) and education, journalism, art, and music (providing critical educational opportunities, reaching out to diverse communities).