Homehttps://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/Sciencehttps://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/NASA's Piggyback Experiment on Israeli Moon Lander Could Help Future Lunar Touchdowns
NASA's Piggyback Experiment on Israeli Moon Lander Could Help Future Lunar Touchdowns
An Israeli spacecraft is headed for the moon, slated to touch down April 11 within Mare Serenitatis on the northern hemisphere of the moon's near side. Onboard is an experiment smaller than a computer mouse that could allow spot-on touchdowns of future robotic and human-carrying landers.
The Beresheet spacecraft whose name means "genesis" or "in the beginning" in Hebrew, launched on Feb. 21. The explorer is a joint project of the nonprofit group SpaceIL and the company Israel Aerospace Industries. Since liftoff, Beresheet has been performing a methodical series of orbit-raising maneuvers around the Earth to place itself into a lunar orbit, then try a landing.
Along the hop to the moon is a NASA laser retro-reflector array consisting of eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners that are set in a dome-shaped aluminum frame. Related: Israel's 1
st Moon Lander Beresheet in Pictures
If Beresheet successfully plants itself on the moon on April 11 , NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will eventually use its laser altimeter to shoot laser pulses at the retro-reflector. Using this technique, Beresheet's lunar location can be pinpointed to within 4 inches (10 centimeters), project team members have said.
NASA is interested in dotting the moon with many such retro-reflectors in the future. These would serve as permanent "fiducial markers" on the moon meaning future craft could use them as points of reference to make precision landings
The NASA instrument placed on Beresheet, called the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / MIT Laser Retro-reflector Array (LRA) for Lunar Landers, is located on the top side of the Israeli lander so it can be seen from above.
LRA is a pasive instrument. It will be used in conjunction with LRO's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter or LOLA. That altimeter's laser beams strike and are backscattered from the lunar surface. For each laser beam, LOLA measures its time of flight, or range.
There will not be any attempts to range the reflector from LRO until Beresheet is no longer active on the moon. Doing so ensures that the LRO laser does not damage any sensitive detectors on the Israeli lander, said Massachusetts Institute of Technology's David Smith, principal investigator for LOLA and an emeritus researcher at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Subsequently, LOLA will attempt to make range measurements to the lander from LRO.
"This is an experiment to determine feasibility, and it will be possible to continue making measurements to the array for an indefinite time, or as long as the LOLA instrument on LRO continues to operate, which is approaching 10 years in June 2019, Smith told Space.com
Related: Latest Moon Photos from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter