In Quest of Mission Success – The Clementine Mission


Clementine was a joint Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA mission with the dual goal of testing small spacecraft, subsystems, and sensors in the deep space environment and also providing a significant science return. Clementine is considered to be one of the first modern-day missions incorporating the philosophy of “faster, better, cheaper,” (FBC). Clementine was launched on January 25, 1994 from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard a Titan IIG rocket. After two Earth fly-bys, lunar insertion was achieved on February 19th. Lunar mapping took place over approximately two months in two systematic mapping passes over the Moon during which nearly two million images were taken. A scheme was devised to obtain virtually 100% lunar coverage despite missed mapping orbits. The lunar phase of the mission resulted in many scientific accomplishments. However, three days after completing the Lunar phase of the mission, Clementine suffered an on-board malfunction on May 7, 1994. This malfunction prevented Clementine from performing the planned close flyby of the near-Earth asteroid Geographos scheduled for August 1994, although the resulting post-failure operations proved the value and robustness of many of the new technologies. The Clementine mission has had an important impact on subsequent NASA and DoD missions, from application of the technologies tested, to the concepts of mission operations and FBC program management.