Science

    Mini-RF data can be used to produce high-resolution topography. This map of Jackson crater was produced by combining two Mini-RF radar images to determine the heights of features.

    Permanent shadows on the moonLooking for ice in the permanent shadows of the lunar poles.
    Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL

    In sending Mini-RF over the same areas covered by the high-resolution Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, scientists combined radar and optical imaging to create more complete pictures of lunar geology. The radar can pick up features “hidden” because of lighting conditions or subsurface location—down to 1 meter beneath the lunar surface. Mini-RF has proven especially helpful in spotting materials ejected from impact craters.

    A goal of the LRO mission is to map potential exploration sites. Mini-RF has imaged all these areas of interest, including the polar regions. Mini-RF data indicate that inside some of the permanently shadowed polar craters are radar signatures consistent with the presence of water ice, making them ideal sites for missions to the lunar surface.

    Mini-RF’s global coverage of the moon included the far side, which can be seen only from orbit.

    In the Mini-RF operations center, located on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Maryland, scientists plan and command Mini-RF using the APL-developed “SciBox” tool. Once data are collected and returned to Earth though a ground station at White Sands, New Mexico, they are sent to APL and processed into radar images and other science products.

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