NASA probe receives instrument to search for water on the Moon

Lockheed Martin specialists installed the LTM (Lunar Thermal Mapper) instrument on the Lunar Trailblazer probe. It will be used to search for water on the Moon.

NASA’s Problematic Project

Lunar Trailblazer is one of three projects selected for implementation in 2019 as part of the SIMPLEx (Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration) program. It is a 200-kilogram spacecraft, which main task will be the search and mapping of water ice deposits on the Moon, as well as determining the mineralogical composition of its surface. 

The Lunar Trailblazer spacecraft is in a clean room. Source: Lockheed Martin Space

The creation of Lunar Trailblazer turned out to be fraught with a number of difficulties. Initially, the contract for the construction of the spacecraft was received by Ball Aerospace. But after it ran into technical difficulties, its implementation was transferred to Lockheed Martin. However, it failed to meet the allocated budget, because of which NASA had to audit the project to determine its future fate. Fortunately, it was decided to continue the creation of the spacecraft.

Another serious problem was the search for a carrier for the mission. Initially, it was planned to launch it on a Falcon 9 rocket, along with an IMAP spacecraft. However, after the postponement of the launch date, NASA began to search for a faster “ride” to the Moon. As a result, it was decided to launch the Lunar Trailblazer together with the private IM-2 mission.

Instruments for finding water on the Moon

Despite all the difficulties described, the construction of the Lunar Trailblazer has already reached the finish line. Recently, JPL engineers installed the LTM instrument on the spacecraft. It was provided by the UK Space Agency. The instrument will carry out high-precision measurements of the temperature of the lunar surface. The analysis of these data will allow scientists to determine its properties and composition.

Lunar Trailblazer in a vacuum chamber. Source: Lockheed Martin Space

Previously, an HVM3 spectrometer was also installed on the Lunar Trailblazer. This spacecraft was built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It is designed to produce “spectral prints”. By analyzing the characteristics of sunlight reflected from the lunar surface, HVM3 will determine the presence of various forms of water in the regolith. 

Now that the Lunar Trailblazer has received all the scientific instruments, it will undergo a series of tests designed to certify its ability to withstand the conditions of space flight. After that, the spacecraft will be ready for launch. At the moment, it is scheduled for 2024.

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