BOULDER, Colo.. Jan. 18 -- NASA has chosen an ultraviolet mapping spectrometer called LAMP (Lyman Alpha Mapping Project) to be developed by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and flown on the upcoming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission.
LAMP's primary job will be to search for and map exposed deposits of water frost near the lunar poles. It will also make maps of permanently shadowed regions deep in the moon's polar craters, which are of interest for future landing sites. In addition, LAMP will study the lunar atmosphere and demonstrate a lunar polar night-vision system with important applications to future robotic and human missions.
LRO, the first space mission in NASA's planned return of robots and humans to the moon, will carry six instruments when it launches in 2008. Its primary goals are to identify useful deposits of lunar resources such as ice in the moon's polar regions, to characterize future landing sites and to document radiation hazards to future lunar explorers. The LRO will be the first spacecraft built as a part of the Vision for Space Exploration articulated by President Bush.
Many of LAMP's investigations will exploit ultraviolet star-shine and the unique, ultraviolet "Lyman alpha" glow of the sky. This new and innovative technique will allow LAMP to peer into dark polar craters and valleys where sunshine is eternally absent.
"According to our model calculations, this technique could allow future human and robotic exploration missions to literally see in the dark without the need for power-hungry artificial lighting," says LAMP Principal Investigator Alan Stern, executive director of the SwRI's Space Science and Engineering Division.
LAMP will be an adaptation of the highly sensitive, lightweight ALICE imaging ultraviolet spectrometer, built with NASA funding for the ESA/NASA Rosetta comet orbiter and NASA New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt missions.
The LAMP science team includes investigators from SwRI, Johns Hopkins University and Catholic University. The LRO mission is managed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
For more information, visit: www.swri.org