CU-Boulder to build $6 million instrument for NASA lunar orbiter

January 10, 2009

The University of Colorado at Boulder has been awarded a $6 million grant from NASA to build a high-tech lunar dust detector for a 2011 mission to orbit the moon and conduct science investigations of the dusty lunar surface and its atmosphere.

Known as the Lunar Dust Experiment, or LDEX, the instrument will be designed and built at CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The instrument will fly on the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Experiment Explorer mission, or LADEE, an orbiting satellite that will assess the lunar atmosphere and the nature of dust lofted above the moon's surface.

The LASP instrument is expected to provide new information on the physical characteristics of lunar dust, from its interactions with the moon's atmosphere and the solar wind to astronaut safety issues, said LASP Professor Mihaly Horanyi, principal investigator of LDEX. "We are pleased to have been selected for this exciting mission, and look forward to launch," said Horanyi, also a professor in the physics department.

LADEE will launch in 2011 -- before NASA's moon exploration activities accelerate in the coming decade -- and will gather information on lunar surface conditions and environmental influences on lunar dust. The mission should help shape future manned exploration in the lunar environment, according to NASA.

LDEX will be the first instrument to be tested and calibrated for flight by the Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies, or CCLDAS, one of seven initial members of NASA's Lunar Science Institute announced today. Scientists at the CU-Boulder headquartered CCLDAS, which will be funded by a four-year, $5 million NASA grant, will conduct science and astronaut safety investigations on the lunar surface, said Horanyi, also principal investigator on the CCLDAS proposal.

"I find it especially exciting that we not only received funding to build a dust accelerator facility and perform science experiments as part of CCLDAS award, we also will be able to use this facility to test and calibrate space instruments," said Horanyi. "Our own lunar dust detector will be our first customer."

LADEE is a cooperative effort with NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The spacecraft cost is expected to be about $80 million.

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder

Explore further: Moon dust heading to auction after galactic court battle

Related Stories

Hubble sees martian moon orbiting the Red Planet

July 20, 2017

The sharp eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured the tiny moon Phobos during its orbital trek around Mars. Because the moon is so small, it appears star-like in the Hubble pictures.

New Neliota project detects flashes from lunar impacts

May 25, 2017

Using a system developed under an ESA contract, the Greek NELIOTA project has begun to detect flashes of light caused by small pieces of rock striking the moon's surface. NELIOTA is the first system that can determine the ...

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.