Dimple: The New Scientific Payload To Explore Volcanic Terrain on the Moon

NASA has selected a new scientific payload called DIMPLE (Dating an Irregular Mare Patch with a Lunar Explorer) to study the age and composition of hilly terrain created by volcanic activity on the near side of the Moon. The DIMPLE instrument suite will specifically investigate the Ina Irregular Mare Patch, which was discovered in 1971 by Apollo 15 orbital images. By learning more about this mound, scientists hope to gain insights into the evolution of the Moon and the history of the entire solar system.

DIMPLE is the result of NASA’s third annual proposal call for PRISM (Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon), which is part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. This PRISM call was unique because it allowed proposers to choose and justify a specific landing site for conducting high-priority lunar science investigations.

The cost cap for the DIMPLE payload suite is $50 million, and it is scheduled to be delivered no earlier than the second quarter of 2027. NASA plans to issue a CLPS task order in 2024 to determine the launch services that will deliver DIMPLE to the Moon.

The DIMPLE mission aims to determine whether Irregular Mare Patches formed from recent or ancient volcanic processes. It will utilize a CLPS-provided rover, a collection gripping instrument, and a spectrometer to analyze the age and composition of samples collected from the surface of Ina. The mission will collect and analyze multiple samples to learn more about the timing of the volcanic activity that formed this feature.

The findings from DIMPLE will have significant implications for understanding the geochemical state of the Moon over time and reevaluating the age and evolution of craters on the Moon. This information will also contribute to our understanding of the history of Earth and other planets in the solar system.

The principal investigator for the DIMPLE mission is F. Scott Anderson from Southwest Research Institute’s Solar System Science and Exploration Division. The CLPS initiative is an important part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration efforts, allowing the agency to perform cutting-edge science on the Moon in a more cost-effective way. The science and technology payloads sent to the Moon’s surface as part of the initiative will help pave the way for future human missions.

© Nasa

Overall, DIMPLE represents another step forward in NASA’s exploration of the Moon through the Artemis program, utilizing advanced robotics and eventually astronauts to uncover the scientific mysteries of our closest celestial neighbor.