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  • Writer's picturebidyut gogoi

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight Ready to Search for the Moon’s Water Ice




Although it is known that there is water ice beneath the lunar regolith (broken rock and dust), it is unknown if surface ice frost covers the floors of these chilly craters. NASA is launching Lunar Flashlight, a tiny satellite (or SmallSAT ) that is little bigger than a suitcase, to find out.

It will use lasers to illuminate these dark craters as it soars low over the lunar South Pole, much like a prospector searching for lost wealth by flashing a spotlight into a cave. Mid-November will see the launch of the mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.


Fuel-Efficient Orbits:

Mission navigators will direct the spacecraft past the Moon after launch. After that, gravity from Earth and the Sun will gradually draw it back, causing it to enter a broad, looping, science-gathering orbit.

The satellite's almost rectilinear halo orbit will bring it within 42,000 miles (70,000 kilometers) of the Moon at its furthest point and within 9 miles (15 kilometers) of the lunar South Pole at its closest position.

SmallSATs are unable to achieve orbits requiring a lot of fuel because of their small propellant capacity. Lunar Flashlight will be the second NASA mission to employ a near-rectilinear halo orbit, which uses far less fuel than conventional orbits.


Lunar Water Cycle :

The collision of comet and asteroid material on the lunar surface and the interactions of the solar wind with the lunar regolith are assumed to be the sources of water molecules. Inside "cold traps," the molecules may have collected over time as a coating of ice.


For the first time, according to Cohen, "we are going to perform conclusive surface water ice observations in permanently shaded places."

We will be able to compare Lunar Flashlight's findings with those of previous lunar missions to determine how much water there is on the moon and whether or not it may be tapped for resources by humans in the future.

Source : https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasas-lunar-flashlight-ready-to-search-for-the-moons-water-ice

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