NASA developing technology for exploring lunar caves and volcanic tunnels

Periscope is an instrument and mission concept with the goal of investigating and mapping lunar skylights from an orbiting platform using photon time-of-flight imaging. This project has received phase 2 NASA NIAC funding.

A spacecraft in a very low orbit would direct laser pulses into the lunar skylights, detect light returning to the spacecraft after multiple reflections in the cave, and transmit a summary of those data back to the Earth. A team on the ground would process that data to develop a 3d map of the interior void of the skylight that was at all times beyond the direct line of sight of the spacecraft. In phase I they showed the theoretical feasibility of this mission concept with a variety of simulations and analytical tools. In phase II they intend to bring this concept to a level capable of supporting a full mission proposal. We will perform more detailed trade studies, analyses, and experiments using real world materials as analogous to expected lunar subsurface material as possible.

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