Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11: Lunar Prospector

Lunar Prospector entered lunar orbit on January 11, 1998.

The Lunar Prospector mission was the third selected by NASA for full development and construction as part of the Discovery Program. At a cost of $62.8 million, the 19-month mission was designed for a low polar orbit investigation of the Moon, including mapping of surface composition and possible polar ice deposits, measurements of magnetic and gravity fields, and study of lunar outgassing events. The mission ended July 31, 1999, when the orbiter was deliberately crashed into a permanently shadowed area of the Shoemaker crater near the lunar south pole in an unsuccessful attempt to detect the presence of water.

Data from the mission allowed the construction of a detailed map of the surface composition of the Moon, and helped to improve understanding of the origin, evolution, current state, and resources of the Moon. Several articles on the scientific results were published in the journal Science.

Lunar Prospector was managed out of NASA Ames Research Center with the prime contractor Lockheed Martin. The Principal Investigator for the mission was Dr. Alan Binder. 

The probe also carried a small amount of the remains of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker (April 28, 1928 – July 18, 1997), astronomer and co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, to the moon for a space burial.

January 11: William Tyler Olcott
The Astronomy Compendium: January 11

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