NamesInner SOlar system CHRONogy
Mission typeLunar sample-return
Start of mission
Launch date2025 (proposed)[1]
Moon lander
Landing siteSouth of Aristarchus Plateau[1][2]
Sample mass150 g (5.3 oz)[1]

ISOCHRON (Inner SOlar system CHRONogy) is a proposed lunar sample-return mission that would retrieve samples of the youngest lunar mare basalt.

This robotic mission was proposed in July 2019 to NASA's Discovery Program.[1][2] Finalists will be announced in January 2020.[3]


Aristarchus (center) and Herodotus (right) from Apollo 15.

ISOCHRON would address fundamental questions about the composition of the lunar crust and the time-stratigraphy of lunar volcanic processes, with implications for all of the terrestrial planets.[2] There is a stretch of nearly 2 billion years of lunar history that planetary scientists have not been able to date because the Apollo missions did not retrieve any young rocks.[1] Lunar mare basalts formed through partial melting of the mantle, thus serve as probes of the structure and composition of the interior.[2] The stated scientific objective of the mission is: "[To] make high-precision radiometric age measurements on these relatively young basalts to fill the existing gap in age-correlated crater size-frequency distributions (CSFDs), thereby greatly improving this widely-used tool for estimating the ages of exposed surfaces on rocky bodies."[2]

The proposed ISOCHRON mission concept would have a robotic lander land just south of Aristarchus Plateau and retrieve about 150 g (5.3 oz) of a basalt sample estimated to be 1.5 to 2.0 million years old.[2] The sample would be placed in a small container, launched to Earth, and it would be curated at NASA's Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility.

The Principal Investigator is Dave Draper, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Texas.[1]


Location of the Aristarchus crater and Aristarchus Plateau on the Moon.

The sample would be obtained from the Aristarchus Plateau, located in the midst of the Oceanus Procellarum, a large expanse of lunar mare. This is a tilted crustal block, about 200 km across, that rises to a maximum elevation of 2 km above the mare in the southeastern section.[4]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f NASA Needs Fresh Moon Rocks. This Sample-Return Mission Could Get Them. Meghan Bartels, Space. March 25, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The Inner Solar System Chronology (ISOCHRON) Discovery Mission: Returning Samples of the Youngest Lunar Mare Basalts." D. S. Draper, R. L. Klima, S. J. Lawrenc1, B. W. Denevi, and the ISOCHRON Team. 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 2019 (LPI Contrib. No. 2132)
  3. ^ "NASA Announcement: Release of the 2019 Announcement of Opportunity for Discovery Program". NASA. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Aristarchus Region: Multispectral Mosaic of the Aristarchus Crater and Plateau". Lunar and Planetary Institute. Retrieved 2006-08-08.