NASA presented the detailed design of the spacecraft Lunar Flashlight and using a laser will search for ice deposits for future missions. The article is about how there is a camera, and how to pass the mission, published in IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine.
Today, scientists find a lot of evidence that, in permanently dark areas near the lunar poles may contain water ice and other compounds that have been listed there, fallen to the surface by comets or asteroids, or were formed due to the interaction of the solar wind with the regolith. Deposits of water ice are of particular interest to researchers because they can be used as rocket fuel for future missions that will significantly reduce the potential costs. Today, however, astronomers it is not clear how much ice is hidden in the dark areas near the poles, as the data obtained by different space probes differ.
To find out, NASA in the framework of the first phase of the program “Artemis” in April 2021, will send to the moon the device, called Lunar Flashlight. Developed at the jet propulsion Laboratory cubesat 12×24×36 inches in two months will fly in a low orbit over the South pole of the moon and scan the surface, mapping of deposits of ice in cold traps — forever dark areas where it is so cold that the water molecules, getting there, just can’t escape.
For this the probe will use the method of infrared reflective spectroscopy: using the four lasers Lunar Flashlight illumine the lunar soil, and then analyzes the spectrum of reflected radiation indicating the presence or absence of water. The researchers note that the new probe can detect the presence of deposits of water ice on the surface, but not underneath it.
Lunar Flashlight will be the first device that will use lasers to search for deposits of water, as well as the first device on the “green” fuel (which, NASA has not yet been reported, but notes that it will be less toxic and carcinogenic). The power source for the apparatus will serve two solar panels and the communication with Earth will be via radio Iris, which previously was successfully used on Mars Mars Cube One. It is planned that in space the apparatus will NASA develop a super-heavy carrier rocket Space Launch System: it will raise Lunar Flashlight on rasteenie 36 thousand kilometers above the Earth’s surface, after which the researchers will calibrate the equipment. Then the device will go to a six-month journey to the moon and will be released on halo-orbit over the South pole of the satellite with a period of 7 days. All this will help scientists to test the technology and prepare for future stages of the program “Artemis” return to the moon.
The moon is not the only celestial body where there are deposits of water ice, it also has, for example, on Mars. Last year NASA approved the project of mapping the subsurface water ice on the red planet.