National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Missions
Lunar Prospector
 By Target   By Name   By Decade 
Search all Missions Between:      and      Search
1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979 1980-1989 1990-1999 2000-2009 2010-2019 2020+
Lunar Prospector
Lunar Prospector Mission to Earth's Moon

Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: Athena-2 (LM-004)
Launch Site: WSMC / SLC-46
NASA Center: Ames Research Center
Spacecraft Mass: 300 kg
Spacecraft Instruments:
1) MAG magnetometer
2) ER electron reflectometer
3) GRS gamma-ray spectrometer
4) NS neutron spectrometer
5) APS alpha particle spectrometer
6) DGE Doppler gravity experiment (using S-band antenna)
References:
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, by Asif A. Siddiqi, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24


Lunar Prospector was designed to create the first complete compositional and gravity maps of the Moon during its one-year mission. This mission was the first competitively selected and the third to launch in a series of missions in NASA's Discovery program. This program was developed to produce frequent, low-cost missions to explore the solar system.

Lunar Prospector was a simple and reliable spin-stabilized spacecraft. It rotated around its own central axis in order to control its orientation en route to the Moon. Prospector was small -- when full of fuel, the spacecraft weighed only 295 kg (650 lb). That's about a quarter as heavy as an average-sized car!

After two midcourse corrections, Lunar Prospector entered orbit around the Moon 105 hours after launch. Initial parameters were 92 x 153 km. After two further corrections on 13 and 15 January, the spacecraft entered its operational 100- x 100-km orbit at 90ý inclination.

Perhaps of most interest to scientists was continued investigation into the signs of water ice on the Moon as found by the Clementine probe. Lunar Prospector's data showed an estimated six billion tons of water ice trapped in the shadows of the lunar polar regions. The spacecraft also detected strong localized magnetic fields; mapped the global distribution of major rock types; and discovered signs of a tiny, iron-rich core.

On 10 December 1998, Lunar Prospector's orbit was lowered to 40 km to perform high resolution studies. A subsequent maneuver on 28 January 1999 changed the orbit to 15 x 45 km and ended the space probe's primary mission.

Lunar Prospector was deliberately landed on a shadowed crater on the lunar surface at 09:52:02 UT on 31 July 1999. During the descent, the spacecraft failed to find any observable signature of water. The vehicle carried the cremated remains of geologist Eugene Shoemaker to the lunar surface.

Editor's Note: This mission profile was adapted from an originally published mission profile in Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, by Asif A. Siddiqi, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24.


Key Dates
6 Jan 1998:  Launch (02:28:44 UT)
11 Jan 1998:  Arrival at Moon
31 Jul 1999:  Moon Impact (09:52:02 UT)
Status: Mission complete
Fast Facts
Lunar Prospector Facts Lunar Prospector was the first mission to be competitively selected and the third to launch in a series of missions in NASA's Discovery program.

The vehicle carried the cremated remains of geologist Eugene Shoemaker (right) to the lunar surface.

When full of fuel, Lunar Prospector weighed only 295 kg (650 lb). That's about a quarter as heavy as an average-sized car!
Science & Technology Features
People Spotlight
Charles Hall Charles Hall
"Charlie Hall's Pioneer 10 craft may be billions of miles from Earth, but his spirit will always be with us at NASA." Read More...
Headlines
Links
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 13 Dec 2010