NASA launches Lunar Lantern mission

(ORDO NEWS) — NASA‘s Lunar Lantern contacted mission controllers and confirmed it was operational after launch.

The mission launched on Sunday, December 11, from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The satellite will search for surface water ice in permanently shadowed craters at the Moon‘s south pole.

“It was a great launch,” said John Baker, Lunar Lantern Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

“The whole team is excited that in a few months this little spacecraft will do something important for science.”

Those who wish can follow the journey of the spacecraft. The digital version of Lunar Lantern made its debut in NASA’s recently updated Eyes on the Solar System visualization tool.

The system uses real mission trajectory data so it can know where Lunar Lantern is currently located.

To get closer to the lunar surface, the spacecraft will use a near-rectilinear halo orbit designed to be more energy efficient.

The Lunar Lantern will be 15 kilometers above the Moon’s south pole at its closest point and 70,000 kilometers at its furthest point.

The Lunar Flashlight will use a reflectometer equipped with four lasers that emit near-infrared light at wavelengths easily absorbed by surface water ice.

If the lasers hit bare rock or regolith, the light will bounce back. But if the target absorbs light, it indicates the presence of water ice. The greater the absorption, the more ice can be.

The Lunar Lantern will use a new kind of “green” fuel that is safer to transport and store than fuel normally used in space.

It will be the first interplanetary spacecraft to use this propellant, and one of the goals of the mission is to demonstrate this technology for future use.

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