Launch Date January 25, 1994
Launch Site Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, USA
Destination Earth's Moon, Asteroids
Type Flyby, Orbiter
Status Partial Success (Unsuccessful on Asteroid Flyby)
Nation United States
Alternate Names 1994-004A, Deep Space Program Science Experiment (DSPSE), Clementine 1, 22973


Clementine was designed to test sensors and spacecraft components under extended exposure to the space environment and to make scientific observations of the Moon and the near-Earth asteroid 1620 Geographos.


The mission succeeded in its lunar objectives, but a malfunction caused cancellation of the asteroid flyby. Clementine provided our first complete look at the lunar surface, including the poles. And it found evidence suggesting that a crater at the south pole, with a floor that is permanently shielded from the Sun, harbors water ice. The spacecraft obtained multi-spectral imaging of the entire lunar surface, assessed the surface mineralogy, and obtained altimetry from 60 degrees N to 60 degrees S latitude and gravity data for the near side.

Key Dates

Jan. 25, 1994: Launch

Feb. 19, 1994: Lunar Orbit Insertion

May 3, 1994: Departure for Asteroid

June 1994: Contact Lost

In Depth

Clementine was the first U.S. spacecraft launched to the Moon in over 20 years (since Explorer 49 in June 1973). Also known as the Deep Space Program Science Experiment (DSPSE), the spacecraft was designed and built to demonstrate a set of lightweight technologies, such as small imaging sensors, for future low-cost missions to be flown by the Department of Defense. Clementine carried 15 advanced flight-test components and 10 science instruments.

After launch, the spacecraft remained in Earth orbit until 3 February 1994, at which time a solid-propellant rocket ignited to send the vehicle to the Moon. After two subsequent Earth flybys on 5 February and 15 February, Clementine successfully entered an elliptical polar orbit on 19 February with a period of 5 days and a perilune (closest approach to the Moon) of 400 kilometers. In the following two months, it transmitted about 1.6 million digital images of the lunar surface; in the process, it provided scientists with their first look at the total lunar landscape, including polar regions.

After completing 297 lunar orbits, controllers fired Clementine's thrusters on 3 May to inject it into a rendezvous trajectory in August 1994 with the asteroid 1620 Geographos. Due to a computer problem at 14:39 UT on 7 May that caused a thruster to fire and use up all propellant, the spacecraft was put into an uncontrollable tumble at about 80 rpm with no spin control. Controllers were forced to cancel the asteroid flyby and return the vehicle to the vicinity of Earth. A power supply problem on 20 July further diminished the operating capacity of the vehicle.

Eventually, lunar gravity took control of Clementine and propelled it into heliocentric orbit. The mission was terminated in June 1994 when falling power supply levels no longer allowed clear telemetry exchange.

On 3 December 1996, the Department of Defense announced that Clementine data indicated that there was ice in the bottom of a permanently shadowed crater on the lunar south pole. Scientists estimated the deposit to be approximately 60,000 to 120,000 cubic meters in volume, comparable to a small lake that is 4 football fields in surface area and 5 meters deep. This estimate was very uncertain, however, due to the nature of the data.


Launch Vehicle: Titan IIG (no. 23G-11)

Spacecraft Mass: 424 kilograms

Spacecraft Instruments

  1. ultraviolet/visible camera
  2. near-infrared camera
  3. long-wave infrared camera
  4. high-resolution camera
  5. two star-tracker cameras
  6. laser altimeter
  7. bistatic radar experiment
  8. gravity experiment
  9. charged-particle telescope

Additional Resources

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog: Clementine

Clementine Lunar Images

Naval Research Laboratory Clementine Page

Selected References

Siddiqi, Asif A. Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, NASA, 2002

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