A LUNAR ODYSSEY: From Clementine to a Micro Science Lunar Lander


Clementine was a technology demonstration mission jointly sponsored by the Department of Defence and NASA that was launched on January 25, 1994. Its principal objective was to use the Moon, a near earth asteroid, and the spacecraft’s Interstage Adapter (ISA) as targets to demonstrate lightweight component and sensor performance. As a secondary mission, it returned valuable data of interest to the international civilian scientific sector. From initial approval until launch the Clementine project took only 22 months, far less than usual for spacecraft programs of comparable complexity. Clementine entered lunar orbit on 19 February, 1994. For over two months Clementine mapped the Moon, producing the first multispectral global digital map of the Moon and making several important scientific discoveries. One of the most important was the discovery of what is probably water ice at the South Pole of the Moon. This particular discovery was the result of an experiment that was not even conceived until during the systematic mapping operations. Clementine was also the first mission to conduct an in-flight autonomous operations experiment. During the two months of lunar orbit, Clementine returned nearly two million images of the Moon as well as gravity field, topographical, and other measurements. Clementine was the first of a new class of small, low cost, and highly capable spacecraft that fully embrace lightweight technologies to enable a series of long duration deep space missions. NASA and the Department of Defence took some of the lessons learned from the Clementine mission and applied them to later missions, such as Stardust. Clementine has set the standard against which new small spacecraft missions are measured. The Clementine data set also represents the current level of knowledge of the Moon’s topography and mineralogy, which current and future lunar missions are planning to improve. More than any other mission, the Clementine mission is having the most influence on the lunar missions being planned for the next decade.

Since Clementine a number of lunar missions using small spacecraft have flown (or soon will), including Lunar Prospector, SMART-1, Selene-A, Chang’e-1, and Chandrayan-1. Despite the increase in knowledge of lunar science provided by these all these missions, there is still some valuable science that can be performed by very small spacecraft, especially landers. This talk will conclude by examining such a candidate mission that would be suitable for a collaboration between the Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Hawaii and the Surrey Space Centre, with a SSC-built spacecraft bus carrying UH instruments and launched on a HSFL launch vehicle.