HomeWorldYou can view a 3D model of NASA's lunar lantern in the...

You can view a 3D model of NASA’s lunar lantern in the fully interactive Eyes on the Solar System application

You can view a 3D model of NASA‘s Lunar Lantern in the fully interactive Eyes on the Solar System app, including its journey to the Moon and when it reaches orbit to search for surface water ice at the Moon’s south pole. Zoom out and use the fast forward and rewind controls to watch SmallSat. “Once the Lunar Flashlight mission got into space, Eyes began tracking it, as it will throughout the SmallSat science mission,” said Jason Craig, visualization producer at JPL. “The system uses real trajectory data from the mission, so as the Lunar Flashlight’s path unfolds, you can see exactly where SmallSat is.”

The spaceship avatar is an exact model of the real thing, right down to its four solar arrays, science instrument and thrusters. By dragging a finger or mouse, users can change their view of SmallSat and see where it is in space, whether on its long journey to lunar orbit or as it zooms over the lunar surface collecting science data.

To approach the Moon’s surface, SmallSat will use what’s called a near-rectilinear halo orbit — designed for energy efficiency — that will take it just 9 miles (15 kilometers) over the moon’s south pole and 43,000 miles (70,000 kilometers) . at its furthest point. Only one other spacecraft has used this type of orbit: NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission, which launched earlier this year and can also be tracked in NASA’s eyes, including close flybys of the Moon. North Pole.

Lunar Ice Science

The Lunar Flashlight will use a reflectometer equipped with four lasers that emit near-infrared light at wavelengths easily absorbed by surface water ice. It’s the first time multiple color lasers will be used to search for ice inside these dark regions on the moon that haven’t seen sunlight for billions of years. If the lasers hit bare rock or regolith (broken rock and dust), the light will be reflected back to the spacecraft. But if the target absorbs light, that would indicate the presence of water ice. The greater the absorption, the more ice there can be.

Science data collected by the mission will be compared with observations from other lunar missions to help reveal the distribution of surface water ice on the Moon for potential use by future astronauts.

The Lunar Flashlight will use a new type of “green” propellant that is safer to transport and store than commonly used propellants in space, such as hydrazine. In fact, SmallSat will be the first interplanetary spacecraft to use this propellant, and one of the main goals of the mission is to demonstrate the technology for future use. The propellant was successfully tested on a previous NASA technology demonstration mission in Earth orbit.

More about the mission

Lunar Flashlight launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as a companion to ispace’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1. Lunar Flashlight is managed for NASA by JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California. Barbara Cohen, the mission’s principal investigator, is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Lunar Flashlight will be operated by Georgia Tech, including graduate and undergraduate students. The Lunar Flashlight science team is distributed among various institutions, including Goddard, the University of California, Los Angeles, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and the University of Colorado.

The SmallSat propulsion system was developed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, with development and integration support from Georgia Tech. NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program funded component development by small businesses, including Plasma Processes Inc. (Rubicon) for nozzle development, Flight Works for pump development and Beehive Industries (formerly Volunteer Aerospace) for specific 3D printed components. The Air Force Research Laboratory also participated financially in the development of the Lunar Flashlight propulsion system. Lunar Flashlight is funded by the Small Spacecraft Technology program within NASA’s Space Technology Directorate.

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