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Piggyback NASA experiment on the Moon Lander Israel can help in the future Lunar landing


The Israeli spacecraft sent to the moon, is scheduled to land on April 11 in the north Sea Clarity hemispheres & # 39; and the near side of the Moon. On board the experiment, less than a computer mouse, which may allow a landing spot for future robotic and human carriers descent.

Take a spaceshipWhose name means "genesis" or "at the beginning" in Hebrew, was launched February 21 researcher & # 39 is a joint project of the nonprofit group SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries company. From the start, it was take performs methodical series of orbital maneuvers around the Earth means to put yourself in the lunar orbit, and then seedlings.

In addition to the hop to the moon with a & # 39 is a NASA laser Reflective array consists of eight mirrors, made of quartz elbow, which are installed in a domed aluminum frame. This array has a low weight, the radiation-hardened and durable.

related: Israel first Moon Lander take in pictures

precision landing

When you take to successfully puts himself on the Moon April 11, NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (MPO), eventually use its laser altimeter shoot laser pulses to the light reflecting. Using this technique, take a moonlit accommodation can be pinpointed to within 4 inches (10 cm), team members said.

NASA is interested in dotting the month with many of these reflectors in the future. They will serve as a permanent "fiducial markers" on month, That is, in the future, the ship could use them as a reference point to landing accuracy.

NASA instrument is located on the take, called / MIT Laser Reflective array of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (LRA) for the Lunar Landers, located on the upper side of the Israeli lander, so that you can see above.

The laser array Reflective before installation on the moon lander take.

(Image: © SpaceIL / Courtesy Xiaoli Sun / GSFC)

laser beams

LRA with & # 39 is a passive tool. It will be used in conjunction with the MPA's Lunar Orbiter Laser AltimeterOr LOLA. laser beams, in altimeter punch and backscattering from the surface of the Moon. For each of the laser beam, LOLA measures their time of flight or range.

There will be no attempt Var & # 39; iravatstsa from the reflector to the MPO, as long as you take longer to & # 39 is active on the moon. This ensures that the laser LRO sun damage sensitive detectors on the Israeli boat, said Massachusetts Institute of Technology David Smith, LOLA principal investigator and honorary researcher at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland.

After, LOLA will attempt to conduct measurement in the range of MPO boat.

"This is an experiment to determine if it will be possible to continue to make measurements in an array for an indefinite time, or as long as the LOLA instrument on LRO continues to operate, which is close to 10 years, in June 2019," Smith told

related: Last month Pictures from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

NASA experiment after installation of the array is mounted on top of the spacecraft; it can be seen in the lower left, about 7:00 position.

(Image: © SpaceIL / Courtesy Xiaoli Sun / GSFC)

lighting spot

The laser array was designed and developed by Smith and Sun Xiaoli at NASA Goddard about 15 years ago for NASA Phoenix Mars Lander.

"It was assumed that it would work with a laser altimeter that we have on the Mars Global Surveyor, NASA space vehicle. By the time the lander arrived at Mars, however, the instrument is no longer active, "Smith said. The purpose of Mars and the Moon sets to try to find the position of descent from an orbiting spacecraft with a laser system, he said.

In principle, up to a maximum reflector array many times will allow NASA to determine the location of the lander. However, the accuracy of this method is limited by the size of the laser spot on the surface covered, Smith said.

Laser generating spot of 16.5 feet (5 meters) on the surface requires very precise laser guidance, Smith said. It will be easier for the laser beam is widely to discover the many reflectors, but the knowledge of an array of locations on the surface will be more uncertain, he said.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will use an onboard laser system to determine its distance from the lunar lander take.

(Image: © NASA / GSFC)

Lone lunar laser

"A well-designed lemetry system can solve this problem," said Smith. "LOLA has been designed to make altimeters do not fluctuate in a small reflector array. But it is the only laser on the moon in the near future."

Pictures taken by high-flying MPO can pinpoint where you take Israel sitting on the moon. Thus, the laser retro-reflector array is an experiment to see how difficult it will be for the @ LRO @ to make the measurement of distance in a boat, Smith said.

"A small group of these small arrays arranged around the landing site, for example, can help in the boat to return to a place at some point in the future," Smith said. "No requiring no power arrays can be used for many decades, possibly longer . "

Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument, which is carried on board NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. LOLA will range laser retro-reflector array mounted atop BERESHAT lunar landing module of Israel.

(Image: © NASA)

future applications

Smith said that there is also the possibility of applying for these little reflectors on other celestial bodies such as asteroids, Location – may fall – number of smaller arrays on the surface of the body will allow about Probes for rotation control and position of the object & # 39 as well as to determine its shape.

"Since the reflectors can last for many decades, a & # 39; the object can be controlled by other spacecraft at the next visit, and, of course, will assist in the landing at about & # 39 object, if desired," added Smith .

Of course, the small size of the reflector restricts the range from which they can be detected. Modern concepts of workable laser at NASA Goddard can allow measurement with more than 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers) away, Smith said.

"These small reflectors only weigh about 20 grams [0.7 ounces] but can be much more, and can be detected with even greater range, "Smith said." But most will mean difficult, and one of the attractions of these small reflectors with & # 39 is that they are very low mass, so that almost any lander could carry them. "

Leonard David wrote the forthcoming book «Moon Rush: The New Space Race», which will be published on the National Geographic in May 2019 Downey writer for, David reported on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or facebook.

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