Who isn't planning a lunar mission these days?
- By Tony Reichhardt
- Air & Space magazine, January 2007
(Page 2 of 2)
India is building the spacecraft and furnishing the launcher, although it invited international scientists to join in proposing instruments. Among the foreign contributions are a German-built infrared spectrometer modeled after one that flew on Europe’s recently ended SMART-1 lunar mission, and the NASA-supplied Moon Mineralogy Mapper, which has an even higher resolution. Between them, they will do a thorough job of mapping rock types on the lunar surface. India excels at Earth observation from space, and its homegrown Terrain Mapping Camera will return high-resolution stereo pictures that can be converted into digital terrain maps. Another U.S. instrument, called Mini-SAR, similar to the synthetic aperture radars used to explore Earth and Venus, will search for signs of water ice at the poles.
LUNAR RECONNAISSANCE ORBITER
Country: United States
Launch: Fall 2008
In a Nutshell: NASA wants better maps of the lunar surface before astronauts arrive in 2020, and LRO will discern details only a foot or two across.
The LRO’s main purpose is to pave the way for future human explorers, and that preparation includes taking extremely high-resolution images of potential landing sites. To do that, the spacecraft will orbit much closer than any of the others—only 31 miles above the surface. Details less than three feet should show up in the images, meaning that 40 years after the Apollo astronauts walked on the moon, we’ll once again see pictures of their equipment and vehicles dotting the lunar landscape. LRO will use a laser-ranger to measure landscape elevations, and will train its instruments on the lunar poles, looking for water and other potentially useful resources. Helping in the search for water is an add-on experiment called LCROSS: An upper-rocket stage will be sent crashing to the surface and scientists will study what flies up from the impact.