After 25 years, NASA is returning to the Moon with the Lunar Prospector spacecraft, scheduled for launch at 8:31 p.m. EST on Jan. 5, 1998, from Spaceport Florida's new Launch Complex 46 in Cape Canaveral, FL. Within a month, the small robotic mission will begin returning answers to long-standing questions about the Moon, its resources, its structure and its origins.
Prospector will accomplish these goals during its primary one-year polar orbiting mission. Using a complement of five instruments, the mission will yield important science results at an unprecedented low cost.
The first and most exciting data returned will answer the question first raised in the early seventies and underscored by the 1994 Clementine mission: Is there water in the form of ice in some polar craters? The significance of this information for further exploration of the Moon and future utilization of Moon resources is great.
Prospector is a NASA Discovery Mission. This new kind of mission places an emphasis on science and "Faster, Better, Cheaper" mission design and development. Lunar Prospector exemplifies these goals. It is a small, spin-stabilized craft that uses flight-qualified, modern technologies and instrumentation to ensure results and minimize risk. The design is simple: a small, graphite-epoxy drum (1.4m x 1.2m) with surface mounted solar cells and three 2.5m masts which carry the instruments and isolate them from the bus.
A Web site will enable the public to view user-friendly visualizations of science data transmissions from the spacecraft as they are first being seen by mission scientists. For more information, visit the Lunar Prospector Web site at http://lunar.arc.nasa.gov/.
Materials provided by National Aeronautics And Space Administration. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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