Moon Mapping Extended

Lunar Clementine mission shows the South Pole of the Moon. The permanently shadowed region center showed earlier evidence of meteor cratering and ice never exposed to direct sunlight, but Arecibo radar reveals dust.
Credit: NASA/DOD Clementine

The SMART-1 mission was extended by one year, pushing back the mission end date from August 2005 to August 2006. Europe’s Space Agency Science Programme Committee endorsed unanimously the proposed one-year extension of SMART-1 on 10 February 2005.

The extension by one year of the mission will provide opportunities to extend the global coverage, compared to the original six-month mission, and to map both southern and northern hemispheres at high resolution. The new orbit will also be more stable and require less fuel for maintenance.

The extension also gives the possibility to perform detailed studies of areas of interest by performing stereo measurements for deriving topography, multi-angle observations for studying the surface ‘regolith’ texture, and mapping potential landing sites for future missions.

Implementation of this mission extension will be in two periods of six months that correspond to different orbital parameters and illumination conditions. During the first period, the southern survey study is to be completed and dedicated pointings made for multi-angle, stereo and polar illumination studies.

In the second period, high-resolution coverage of the Moon on the equator and part of the northern hemisphere will take place due to the favorable illumination conditions. High resolution follow-up observations of specific targets will also be made, as well as observations relevant for the preparation of future international lunar exploration missions. The SMART missions – Small Missions for Advanced Research and Technology – are designed to test new spacecraft technology while visiting various places in the solar system. SMART-1 is now at the moon, mapping the surface mineralogy. Future missions can use the technology being tested by SMART-1 to go to Mars, Venus, Mercury, comets, and the sun.

smart solar
Electrical solar energy for SMART probe.
Credit: ESA

Between 10 January and 9 February, SMART-1’s electric propulsion system (or ‘ion engine’) was not active. This allowed mission controllers to accurately determine the amount of fuel remaining, as well as ensure accurate planning for a mission extension, and obtain reconnaissance data from an orbit at 1000-4500 kilometers above the lunar surface.

All the instruments have been performing well from this orbit. As the ion engine is now active again, SMART-1 will spiral down to arrive at the lunar science orbit by the end of February.

The cruise and lunar approach has permitted the demonstration of a number of technologies, such as spacecraft, navigation, operations and instruments, which will be useful for future missions. The SMART-1 mission has now fulfilled its primary objective – to demonstrate the viability of solar electric propulsion, or ‘ion drives’.

Earth and Moon
Distance view of road travelled. Image of the Earth and Moon taken by Galileo spacecraft.
Credit: NASA

Future missions that will rely on technologies now being tested with SMART-1 include the BepiColombo mission to Mercury and the Solar Orbiter, which will study the sun close-up. ESA is also planning astrophysics and fundamental physics missions, such as LISA, a gravitational wave detector. LISA will rely on a micropropulsion thruster to maintain, within nanometric accuracy, the positions of three spacecraft separated by a million kilometers.

Recent Lunar Timelines

– Japanese Hiten, Lunar Flyby and Orbiter
– Michael Rampino and Richard Strothers propose Earth could be periodically struck by comets dislodged from orbits when the solar system passes through galactic plane
– US Dept. Defense/NASA Clementine mission, Lunar Orbiter/Attempted Asteroid Flyby
– First commercial lunar mission, AsiaSat 3/HGS-1 , Lunar Flyby
Lunar Prospector launches and enters lunar orbit
Lunar Prospector tries to detect water on the Moon (polar impact)
– Lunar soil samples and computer models by Robin Canup and Erik Asphaug support impact origin of moon

ion engine
Mosaic of lunar images from SMART-1. Moon image using AMIE’s clear filter
Credit: ESA

SMART 1, launched lunar orbiter and test solar-powered ion drive for deep space missions
– Japanese Lunar-A, Lunar Mapping Orbiter and Penetrator, to fire two bullets 3 meters into the lunar soil near Apollo 12 and 14 sites
– Japanese SELENE Lunar Orbiter and Lander, to probe the origin and evolution of the moon





Related Web Pages

Lunar Prospector
Impact origin of moon
Review of Theories of Moon-Forming Impact (Planetary Science Institute)
Moon Meteor Truly Extraterrestrial
Moon Written in Stone
SMART-1: Chips Off the Terrestrial Block
Treasures from the Lunar Attic
Lunar Scarface
End of an Era, Dawn of Another?
Making the Moon