Wednesday, April 17, 2019

NASA's Lunar Retroreflector Array instrument may have survived the April 11 crash-landing of Israel's Beresheet moon probe.

The NASA payload, known as the Lunar Retroreflector Array (LRA), is a technology demonstration composed of eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners that are set into a dome-shaped aluminum frame. These mirrors are intended to serve as markers for other spacecraft, which can use them to orient themselves for precision landings.
The entire instrument is smaller than a computer mouse and lightweight. But it's tough, radiation-hardened and designed to be long-lived, so the LRA may not have been destroyed by Beresheet's hard landing.
The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft will begin planning LRA-hunting observations soon.
Laser beams generated by LOLA hit the lunar surface and bounce back to the instrument. For each beam that returns, LOLA measures its time of flight, or range.
And if LOLA manages to bounce some light off the LRA reflector, the team should know about it.
NASA is interested in dotting the moon with many such retroreflectors in the future. These would serve as permanent "fiducial markers" on the moon, meaning future craft could use them as points of reference to make precision landings.
In addition, LRO is attempting to image Beresheet's crash site with its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera system

No comments:

Post a Comment