[CNI News thanks David Watanabe at AUFORA (firstname.lastname@example.org) for forwarding this information from NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/) dated March 13, 1997.]
Construction and assembly of NASA's Lunar Prospector spacecraft, designed to obtain the first complete compositional and gravity maps of the Moon, has been completed in preparation for its scheduled September 24, 1997 launch.
Despite a high level of scientific and public interest, particularly during the Apollo era, major gaps remain in scientific knowledge about Earth's nearest planetary neighbor, according to project scientists. Over 75 percent of the lunar surface is not mapped in detail, and important questions about the Moon's history, composition and internal processes remain unanswered.
During its planned one-year polar orbiting mission, Lunar Prospector will map the Moon's surface composition, gravity and magnetic fields, and try to detect volatile release activity. This information should provide insights into the origin and evolution of the Moon. Lunar Prospector also should directly determine the existence or absence of water ice in the Moon's polar regions, which has been suggested by analysis of indirect, radar-based data from the Clementine mission.
The discovery of water ice in the lunar polar regions would mean that water, necessary for life support and a potential source of both oxygen and hydrogen to produce rocket propellant, could be available for use by future lunar explorers.
The total cost of the mission to NASA, including launch, mission operations and data analysis, is $63 million.
As the first peer-reviewed, competitively selected mission in NASA's "faster, better, cheaper" Discovery Program series, Lunar Prospector is an embodiment of the Agency's new way of doing business. With an emphasis on minimized risk, lowered costs, and rapid turnaround time, and its prime focus on delivery of science data, Lunar Prospector will help usher in a new era of Solar System exploration missions.
The Lunar Prospector spacecraft is a small, spin-stabilized vehicle with a fully fueled mass of 660 pounds. It is 4.5 feet high and 4 feet in diameter, with three 8-foot booms or masts. Solar cells mounted on its outer surface will provide more than 200 watts of power. Five scientific instruments are mounted on the booms to isolate them from the main structure and electronics.
A neutron spectrometer will have the capability to locate as little as one cup of water in about a cubic yard of lunar soil (regolith). A gamma-ray spectrometer will provide global maps of the elemental composition of the surface layer of the Moon. An alpha particle experiment will provide information on the level of tectonic and volcanic lunar out-gassing activity. A magnetometer and electron reflectometer will map local lunar magnetic fields, known to be weak compared to the global magnetic field of the Earth. The Doppler gravity experiment will provide the first global gravity map of the Moon, essential for planning follow-on robotic and human exploration missions.
Lunar Prospector will take five days to reach the Moon, making two midcourse maneuvers, deploying booms, and collecting calibration data via its science instruments en route. Once the spacecraft reaches the Moon, it will be put into a circular, 118-minute, 62-mile altitude, polar-mapping orbit to begin its mission.
If fuel is available at the end of the one-year nominal mission, lunar mapping may be extended at altitudes as low as 6.2 miles over areas of special interest. The spacecraft will eventually impact on the lunar surface.
Further information on Lunar Prospector, including still imagery, is available at: http://pyroeis.arc.nasa.gov/lunar_prospector/home.html
Original file name: CNI - NASA.Back to Moon
This file was converted with TextToHTML - (c) Logic n.v.