Small satellite to study resources needed for sustained lunar presence | 10/28/2019 | Staff
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As we venture forward to the Moon and establish a sustained lunar presence, finding and understanding water on the lunar surface becomes increasingly important. Lunar water is largely in the form of, but not necessarily limited to, water ice. Astronauts on the Moon could use this ice for various crew needs, potentially including rocket fuel. The Lunar IceCube mission, led by Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, will study water distribution and interaction on the Moon. The mission will carry a NASA instrument called Broadband InfraRed Compact High-Resolution Exploration Spectrometer (BIRCHES) to investigate the distribution of water and other organic volatiles. NASA scientists will use this data to understand where the water is on the Moon, its origins and how we can use it.

"Lunar IceCube will help pave the way for human missions through significantly less expensive robotic missions and by addressing water dynamics on the Moon," said Mark Lupisella, exploration research and development manager. "This is not only important for science, but it could also be important for reducing the cost of human missions over the long-term."

BIRCHES - Instrument - Distribution - Dynamics - Water

The BIRCHES instrument will not only help map the distribution and dynamics of water on the Moon's surface, but also in the exosphere—a very thin atmosphere-like volume surrounding the Moon. Scientists are interested in understanding the absorption and release of water from the Moon's regolith, which is comparable to soil on Earth's surface. By studying the absorption and release of water, scientists can start to map changes occurring on the Moon. Finding and understanding water on the lunar surface is vital to establishing a sustained presence on the Moon.

Lunar IceCube plans to have a seven-hour elliptical orbit around the Moon, where it will observe the lunar surface for an hour of that time. This limited observational time is due to BIRCHES' view of...
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