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Lunar Prospector
03.23.07
 
Launched on Jan. 6, 1998, Lunar Prospector mapped the moon’s surface composition and looked for possible deposits of polar ice, measure magnetic and gravity fields, as well as study lunar 'out gassing.' On March 5, 1998, scientists announced that Lunar Prospector's neutron spectrometer instrument had detected hydrogen at both lunar poles, which scientists theorized to be in the form of water ice.

Overview:

Following a nearly flawless launch on a three-stage Athena II rocket from Spaceport Florida, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Jan. 6, 1998, Lunar Prospector made a four-day journey to the moon. Then the tiny spin-stabilized Lunar Prospector spacecraft entered lunar orbit and sent valuable data back to Earth. Carrying five scientific instruments, Lunar Prospector was designed to map the moon’s surface composition and look for possible deposits of polar ice, measure magnetic and gravity fields, as well as study lunar 'out gassing.'

On March 5th, 1998, scientists announced that Lunar Prospector's neutron spectrometer instrument had detected hydrogen at both lunar poles, which scientists theorized to be in the form of water ice. The data indicated that a large quantity of water ice, possibly as much as 330 million short tons (300 million metric tons), was mixed into the regolith at each pole. This was the first direct evidence of the presence of water ice at the moon's frigid poles.

The mission ended on July 31, 1999, after scientists deliberately aimed Lunar Prospector to crash into a permanently shadowed area of a crater near the lunar South Pole. Researchers hoped that the impact would release water vapor from the suspected ice deposits and that the plume would be detectable from Earth, but no plume was observed.

For more information about the related 2008 – 2009 Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission to the moon to look for water, please visit:

http://lcross.arc.nasa.gov

Media contact:
John Bluck
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650-604-5026
Email: jbluck@mail.arc.nasa.gov

Related links:

Lunar Prospector Mission

About the Moon - Lunar Prospector Mission

No Water Ice Detected from Lunar Prospector Impact