MoonLITE 'Mole' Penetrators For Lunar Exploration
The MoonLITE (Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecoms Experiment) project is a proposed collaboration by the British government and NASA. A satellite would be placed in orbit around the Moon carrying penetrator probes. These probes would be dropped from orbit, penetrating the lunar crust. Readings from shock-resistant instruments would be sent back to the orbiter, and then back to Earth.
(MoonLITE Lunar Orbiter working design [pdf])
The orbiting platform would consist of a large, high thrust propulsion system and associated support structure, including communications and navigation capabilities. Power would be provided by a single solar array. The platform would communicate with the penetrators at data rates ranging from 200 bps to 3kbs.
According to the UK Space Board's Professor Keith Mason:
"This joint report represents a milestone... The [plans] provide an opportunity to harness the UK’s world-class expertise in small satellite, communication and robotic technologies focused on exploration of the Moon... the UK is fully exploiting and strategically maximising its technological and scientific strengths in space exploration."
The primary science goals of the program are summarized as follows:
- Constraining the origin, differentiation, internal structure, and early geological
evolution of the Moon.
- Gaining a better understanding of the origin and history of the volatile flux in the
- Collecting of “ground truth” geochemical data for the calibration of orbiting
- Collecting in situ surface data that would help in the planning of future lunar
Initially, the platform would enter a 100 kilometer altitude circular orbit; it would come within 40 kilometers of the surface for deployment of penetrators. Following deployment, the orbiter would move into a higher orbit to increase long-term orbit stability.
The penetrator deployment sequence is shown below. After a free-fall of about 3.5 minutes, the penetrator realigns itself to assure a near-vertical impact. The final impact velocity is estimated at about 350 meters per second.
(MoonLITE penetrator impact launch sequence [pdf])
The Penetrator Delivery System is shown below in a conceptual sketch.
(MoonLITE Lunar penetrator delivery system design concept [pdf])
The penetrator instrument package would include the following capabilities:
- Accelerometer/tilt assembly
- Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS)-
- Pressure sensors, impedance spectrometer, compact mass spectrometer
- Sample collection and thermal control system is based on the drill and the pyrotechnic sample volume sealing device based on NASA Deep Space 2.
- Thermal sensors
- Geochemical analysis
- Radiation sensor
- Descent camera
The group believes that by deploying instruments to a variety of carefully chosen locations never before explored (including the poles and the lunar farside), MoonLITE penetrators have the potential to make major
contributions to lunar science. The mission would also provide knowledge essenial to future human missions to the Moon, and demonstrate technology that could be used elsewhere in the solar system.
In his 1958 novel The Mechanical Monarch, EC Tubb writes about asteroid miners who want to know the composition of asteroids prior to actually landing on them. They use a projectile to blow some material into vapor, and then use spectral analysis to determine composition.
From Joint Working Group Report on Lunar Cooperation via The Register.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/20/2008)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 5 )
Related News Stories -
NASA's LADEE Enters Lunar Orbit
'... dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.' - Hal Clement, 1956.
Nuclear Interceptors Designed For Planetary Protection
See NASA's concept for a nuclear interceptor.
SpaceX Grasshopper Divert Video
Isn't this the way that rocket ships were meant to land?
Ultrasonic Noise Betrays ISS Leaks
Gentlemen, Be Seated!
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Haute Cuisine On International Space Station
'The gas gave sufficient heat for the culinary apparatus...'
Tongue Mouse Created By Valve Engineer
'He pressed hard with his tongue against his right upper first molar.'
K5 Autonomous Data Machine The Future Of Mall Security
''Halt!' A robot guard appeared...'
RF Safe-Stop Shuts Cars Off
'...a police control-override.'
Army's New Bird-Like Surveillance UAV
'The prototype blue-bellied, gray-backed tracer-bird with the wide-angle eye...'
Honda's Tumblebug - The UNI-CUB beta
'A tumblebug does not give a man dignity...'
NASA's LADEE Enters Lunar Orbit
'... dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.'
3D Printing An Entire Car
"... Almost as good as the original it was printed from."
Aldebaran Robot Talks Like C3PO - Almost
'See Vee Threepio - Vee for versatility - at your service...'
Google's Skin Tattoo Lie Detector
'Three and a half centimetres in diameter, permanently fixed in the centre of his forehead.'
inFORM Dynamic Shape Output Device
Like that pushpin device you remember, but supercharged.
Owlet Vitals, The Future Of Baby Monitoring
'In every diaper there is a fine copper wire...'
Robert Heinlein, Your Personal Electric Helicopter Will Be Ready In 2016
"They were half way home when a single flyer, hopping free in a copter harness, approached the little parade."
WildCat Runs Faster Than You, Untethered
'...moving with such drifting ease that it was like a single solid cloud of black-grey smoke blown at him in silence.' Almost.
HiBot's ACM-R5H Robot Video Shows Graceful Terminator-Style Swimming
'No! No! Aaaaaaarrrrrrgh!'
tDCS Jumpstarts Your Future
'We invented a scanner that can change the labyrinthine neural connections of the brain by tiny electronic impulses...'.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories