(ORDO NEWS) — NASA sends the Lunar Flashlight, a small briefcase-sized satellite, to search for water on the moon.
The spacecraft will use special lasers to illuminate dark craters to see if there is water inside. The mission will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in mid-November.
The satellite will enter a near-rectilinear halo orbit to collect scientific data. At its furthest point, it will be 70,000 kilometers from the moon, and at its closest approach, the satellite will be 15 kilometers above the south pole of the moon. Lunar Flashlight will be the second NASA mission to use this type of trajectory.
The first was the NASA CAPSTONE mission, which will arrive in its orbit on November 13th. An almost rectilinear halo orbit will allow the satellite to save on fuel.
Lunar Flashlight will be the first interplanetary spacecraft to use a new type of “green” fuel that is safer to transport and store than conventional fuel used in space. The new fuel burns with the help of a catalyst and does not require a separate oxidizer.
Lunar Flashlight will also be the first mission to use a four-laser scatterometer to search for water ice. The reflectometer works using near-infrared wavelengths, which are readily absorbed by water.
If the lasers hit bare rock, their light will be reflected back, signaling the absence of ice. But if the light is absorbed, then these dark craters do indeed contain ice.
“This is an exciting time to explore the moon. The launch of Lunar Flashlight, along with the many small satellite missions aboard Artemis I, could lay the foundation for scientific discovery as well as support future missions to the lunar surface,” said Roger Hunter, program manager for small spacecraft technology at NASA Ames Research Center in California.
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