SPIDER: Seismographs of Artemis Missions

Fleet Space is developing a network of seismographs, named SPIDER, to detect earthquakes on the Moon during the Artemis missions
A rendering of Fleet Space’s SPIDER, a three-component seismic station intended to be deployed at the South Pole of the Moon. Credit: Fleet Space

Australian company Fleet Space has received funding to develop a network of seismographs called SPIDER to detect earthquakes on the Moon during the Artemis missions. The initial contract of 4 million 2.65 million dollars is not for an imminent landing mission but for technological development. The ultimate goal is to bring a trio of seismic monitors for a lunar “day” (14 Earth days) to help locate valuable resources beneath the lunar surface.

Commitment of the Australian space agency

SPIDER aims to continuously record lunar earthquakes for up to 14 days. It will be launched “onboard a commercial lander” that has not been selected yet. The test of compact geophysical equipment will be useful not only for the Moon but also for remote environments on Earth or Mars. “We are explorers with a mission to revolutionize mining exploration from Earth to the Moon and Mars” the company wrote in a statement.

Fleet Space CEO Matthew Pearson stated that the funding from the Australian space agency will be crucial in helping his country support the NASA-led Artemis lunar program. “We are ready to be the first Australian technology to land on the surface of the Moon. We want to support humanity’s efforts towards lunar exploration by aligning ourselves with the Artemis program” Pearson said in a note.

Australia was one of the first signatories of the Artemis Accords. NASA has been very committed to establishing international peaceful norms for space and lunar exploration. The addition of India and Ecuador in recent weeks has brought the number of participating nations to 27.

Use in Artemis missions

NASA aims to take humans to the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026 with the Artemis 3 mission. It has also funded numerous robotic payloads under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which could see its first mission land as early as this year. Artemis 2 will be a test around the Moon with a crew already in training and a scheduled launch date at the end of 2024.

The SPIDER seismographs fleet is funded under the Australian government’s Moon to Mars initiative with 26.45 million dollars, aiming to help countries prepare for lunar exploration with Artemis. It is similar to NASA’s CLPS or the Canadian Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP).

The first lunar seismographs were deployed by astronauts of the Apollo program between 1969 and 1972 during many of the six successful landing missions. All the remaining functional seismometers were turned off in 1977 to save money, despite having a modest annual cost of 5 million dollars, according to the New York Times.

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