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 -
ADEPT Heat Shield Works For Mars
'...A synthetic which air-friction would erode away...' - EE Doc Smith, 1934.
Nuke Mars To Terraform It, Says Elon Musk
'... Mars could not be made habitable without first being stocked with air and water...' - Olaf Stapledon, 1930.
Texas-Sized Ice Slab Found On Mars
'That's okay, still ice in The Rock and a miner expects to sound for it...'- Robert Heinlein, 1966.
NASA Turns To Museum Space Shuttles For Parts
Tropes true to life.
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.
Harvard's Robobees Now 'Fly' Underwater
'...the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might, and sought the security of a shadowed corner.'
ADEPT Heat Shield Works For Mars
'...A synthetic which air-friction would erode away...'
Ultralight Origami Crane UAV Flexes Its Wings
'They began to flex their wings.'
UM Solar Car Now Also With IBM Research Power
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
Robot-Based Trash Collection
'Robots pick up the garbage and junk and load it in there...'
Warrior Web Exoskeleton For Soldiers Undergo Tests
'The real genius in the design is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it...'
Tesla Promises Fully Autonomous Cars By 2018
'It's been a criminal offense for at least a hundred years to drive manually on a public highway.'
Light Molecules (And Maybe Light Sabers, Someday)
'It will be matter, matter made of light...'
Telepresence In The Office
'That led to his development of robot probes; small devices with cameras and sound equipment which could move freely... under direct control.'
Piper, Google's 2 Billion Line Code Repository, Needs A Cool Display
'The student pointed a finger and as he did so, the line of equations marched down the wall...'
WEpod Driverless Vehicle On The Netherlands Roads
'The car moved smoothly away. Mirelly-Lyra half relaxed; she was not steering.'
Computer Predicts Psychosis Better Than Psychiatrists
'The mechanism which was the portable extension of Dr. Smile...'
Robot Evolution Needs Mass Extinction Events
'It was small, one of the baby ones.'
Lab-Grown Kidneys Implanted Successfully - In Animals
'For a while your colonists will have to come up to the Hospital to get treatment with the ramrobot symbiots...'
Korean Lab Ready To Clone Your Dog
Man's best friend, cloned.
DARPA NeuroTech Hand With Natural Sensation
'Take care, sir.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories