Initiatives

Beyond their extensive systems engineering expertise in space mission and technology development for NASA, the Department of Defense and other government agencies, beyond performing cutting-edge research with innovative and often built-in-house tools, scientists and engineers in APL's space sector are leading and developing initiatives that will facilitate the exploration of the Moon and could define the future of space exploration. 

Technology for Exploring the Lunar Surface

Image of astronaut David Scott from Apollo 15 on the Moon
Image from 1971 of astronaut David R. Scott, Apollo 15 commander, standing on the slope of Hadley Delta on the lunar surface. Credit: NASA/JSC

As the United States sets a course to return people to the Moon, APL, with sponsorship from NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, is leading an effort that brings the nation's most creative innovators from universities, nonprofit organizations, commercial companies and government agencies to catalyze the development of technology that will enable future robotic and human exploration of the Moon. As part of NASA’s Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative (LSII), the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) will help NASA keep the United States at the forefront of lunar exploration. 

Click below to find out more about how APL is helping prepare the nation and the world for the future human presence on the Moon.

Photo of Mike R, Head, Space Exploration Sector

We’re excited that NASA continues to trust APL to help it overcome science, engineering and technology challenges and seize opportunities supporting a sustained human presence on the Moon.

Mike Ryschkewitsch, APL Space Exploration Sector head

Conceptual Missions for the Decadal Surveys

Every decade, NASA's Science Mission Directorate turns to the scientific community to identify and prioritize the most compelling research topics, scientific questions, and notional missions for the next 10 or more years. These Decadal Surveys, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, offer scientists and engineers across scientific disciplines a rare opportunity to help inform and potentially shape the next decade's scientific endeavors. 

APL is a proud contributor to that effort. Our scientists and engineers have been awarded NASA funding to leverage their expertise, leadership and creativity to develop some of these innovative conceptual missions that could push the boundaries of space exploration capabilities and return unparalleled discoveries about our solar system. 

Scroll down to explore these conceptual missions and see what space exploration between 2023 and 2032 may have in store.

Planetary Science

Enceladus Orbilander

Saturn's moon Enceladus checks every box for what scientists believe is necessary to support life. But is life there? The conceptual Enceladus Orbilander mission aims to find out and uncover why or why not.  

Persephone: Pluto-System Orbiter & Kuiper Belt Explorer

Building on New Horizons' revolutionary discoveries about the Pluto system and Kuiper Belt Objects, the conceptual Persephone mission proposes to fly far afield yet again, this time staying longer to explore and answer questions about the bizarre, primitive worlds of the Kuiper Belt.

Mercury Lander

Proposing to be the first spacecraft to land on Mercury's surface, the conceptual Mercury Lander mission would closely study the razor-thin atmosphere, surface and inner workings of the planet closest to the Sun from a vantage point we've never had before.

Neptune Odyssey

In response to a growing push to return to the Ice Giants, the conceptual Neptune Odyssey mission would provide unparalleled scientific data about Neptune and its moon Triton that could help researchers understand Neptune-like planets around other stars and the geophysics of a Pluto-like moon.