NASA To Crash Impactor into Moon in Water Search

Apr 10, 2006
NASA To Crash Impactor into Moon in Water Search
In this artist's concept, the upper stage and a "sheparding spacecraft" (left) approach the moon before impacting at the south pole (right). Credit: NASA/John Frassanito and Associates.

NASA will send a second impactor spacecraft to the moon with the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scheduled for October 2008. The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite will travel independent of the orbiter to search for water ice.

The spacecraft, proposed by NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., will fly as a secondary payload on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle that will launch the orbiter from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

First, the craft will direct the upper stage used to leave Earth orbit to crash into a permanently-shadowed crater at the lunar south pole, creating a plume visible to Earth-based observatories. Next, the satellite will observe the plume and fly through it using several instruments to look for water. Then the satellite will itself become an impactor, creating a second plume visible to lunar-orbiting spacecraft and Earth-based observatories.

"This type of payload is not new to NASA," said Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Scott Horowitz, who made the selection. "We are taking advantage of the payload capability of the launch vehicle to conduct additional high risk/high payoff science to meet Vision for Space Exploration goals. It also signals to our workforce that innovative and competitive, low-cost approaches will be rewarded," he said.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is the first of many robotic missions NASA will conduct between 2008 and 2016 to study, map, and learn about the lunar surface to prepare for the return of astronauts to the moon. These early missions will help determine lunar landing sites and whether resources, such as oxygen, hydrogen, and metals, are available for use in NASA's long-term lunar exploration objectives.

NASA's requirements for the secondary payload were that it benefits the robotic lunar program, cost no more than $80 million and not exceed 2,205 pounds (1000 kilograms).

On January 10, 2006, NASA issued a request for information to industry to allow businesses to provide secondary payload concepts to NASA. NASA encouraged its field centers to team with industry to develop proposals. Each NASA center reviewed ideas from industry, as well as secondary payload concepts developed internally. Several proposers, such as the winning spacecraft, took advantage of a new secondary payload adapter developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirkland Air Force Base, N.M.

NASA asked that the concepts advance the Vision for Space Exploration by advancing lunar science, characterizing the lunar environment, and identifying of sites for future human missions NASA was also looking for missions that would advance commercial opportunities and collect engineering data to support the Constellation program, which is developing NASA's new spaceship, the Crew Exploration Vehicle.

Source: NASA

Explore further: The source of the sky's X-ray glow

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Peas, other edibles grow in experimental space greenhouse

Feb 03, 2014

(Phys.org) —Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station have grown a crop of peas, wheat, and Japanese leafy greens in the ISS greenhouse. The report comes from a researcher with the Russian Academy ...

Recommended for you

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

11 hours ago

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

End dawns for Europe's space cargo delivery role

20 hours ago

Europe will close an important chapter in its space flight history Tuesday, launching the fifth and final robot ship it had pledged for lifeline deliveries to the International Space Station.

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

Jul 26, 2014

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

Jul 26, 2014

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

Jul 25, 2014

For the first time, Spanish researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water and is left to dry, b ...

How do we terraform Venus?

Jul 25, 2014

It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?

User comments : 0