NASA has issued a project tender for a lunar samples freezer capable of safely preserving materials collected on the Moon during the Artemis missions. According to a request for information, the primary use of the freezer will be to transport scientific and geological samples from the Moon to Earth.
However, the lunar freezer could also be used to store and transport human biological/physiological samples. During the missions, it will be necessary to analyze how spaceflight to the Moon affects astronauts. NASA clarifies that it wants the samples freezer to be ready by the end of 2027, to be launched on the planned Artemis 5 mission.
To make the return trip to Earth, the freezer should be transportable aboard vehicles, structures, and spacecraft that future Artemis astronauts will use. These include the future lunar rover, potential habitats, the Human Landing System (HLS), the Orion Crew Module, and the lunar Gateway outpost. The latter is a planned space station that will remain in orbit around the Moon.
Lunar freezer must, therefore, be able to withstand a series of physical forces encountered during launch and landing, such as vibrations and impacts. Total volume of the freezer’s cold interior should not be less than 25x25x66 centimeters. The overall system should weigh less than 55 kilograms and be capable of maintaining a temperature below 85 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 30 days.
A freezer with all the extras
The freezer must also have an onboard display that Artemis crews can use to monitor and control the module. It should also have both wireless and wired internet connectivity that can provide telemetry to Artemis vehicles and stations on Earth. Finally, the lunar freezer should be able to record data on its temperature, overall health, and when its door is opened.
The planned debut mission of the lunar freezer, Artemis 5, will be the third mission of the Artemis program. It will involve the launch of humans to the Moon, if all goes according to plan, though not for the first time. Artemis 3 will mark the first human return to the Moon since 1972 and is currently scheduled for 2025. The launches of Artemis 4 and Artemis 5 are planned for 2028 and 2029, respectively.