ASI W9800026r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#104 April 1997

Section the Artemis Data Book

Lunar Prospector: Preview of the Mission

MMM #104 Article 1 - Lunar Prospector

LUNAR PROSPECTOR: Spacecraft Construction Complete: Preview of the Mission

[Edited copy of NASA NEWS RELEASE: 97-38]

[Editor Note: A Lunar Prospector web site has been set up by NASA which will enable the public to view user-friendly visualizations of science data transmissions from the spacecraft at the same time they are first seen by mission scientists. The web site is located at the following URL: ]

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 1997 launch.

Functional and environmental spacecraft tests will be conducted over the next several months, according to project manager Tom Dougherty of Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, Sunnyvale, CA. Once this activity is successfully completed, current plans call for the spacecraft to be shipped to Spaceport Florida in late August for launch on Sept. 24th.

The total cost of the mission to NASA, including launch, mission operations and data analysis, is $63 million.

Mission Goals

Despite a high level of scientific and public interest, major gaps remain in scientific knowledge about Earth's nearest planetary neighbor. 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.

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. The probe also should directly determine the existence or absence of water ice in the polar regions, suggested by analysis of indirect, radar-based data from the Clementine mission.

[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.

The mission has already made history in terms of management style, technical approach, cost management and focused science. Technical insight rather than detailed programmatic oversight was used to ensure innovation and maximum return on investment. The Ames program office paid close attention to the progress of the project and its schedule, cost and science return, but provided no detailed specifications. The Principal Investigator was given the flexibility to implement the best available approach.]

The 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). 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.

A gamma-ray spectrometer will provide global maps of the elemental composition of the surface layer of the Moon. Improved knowledge of the concentrations of such elements as uranium, thorium, potassium, iron, titanium, oxygen, silicon, aluminum, magnesium and calcium will aid in understanding the composition and evolution of the lunar crust.

An alpha particle experimentwill provide information on the level of tectonic and volcanic lunar out-gassing activity. It will map the locations and frequency of radon gas release events on the Moon, a body thought to be tectonically and volcanically dead until Apollo provided evidence that it may still have some limited activity.

A magnetometer and electron reflectometer will map local lunar magnetic fields, known to be weak compared to Earth's global magnetic field. This will help determine the origin of such fields and may provide information on the size and composition of the lunar core.

The Doppler gravity experiment will provide the first global gravity map of the Moon, needed for follow-on robotic and human exploration missions. It also will provide data on density differences in the crust, internal densities and the nature of the core.

Mission Profile

Lunar Prospector will take five days to reach the Moon, with two midcourse maneuvers, deploying booms, and collecting calibration data via its science instruments en route. Once it 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. After the fuel needed for orbital maintenance is depleted, the spacecraft will eventually impact on the lunar surface.

Further information on Lunar Prospector, including still imagery, is available on the Internet.

The Lunar Prospector mission is being implemented for NASA by Lockheed Martin, Sunnyvale, CA, with important contributions from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of California-Berkeley Space Science Laboratory, the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.


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