Thursday, December 08, 2022

NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer will launch in 2023; will hunt for water for future colonies on the moon

NASA, in its recent announcement, revealed that its Lunar Trailblazer mission is one step closer to launch. Scheduled for liftoff in 2023, the mini orbiter will map water on the lunar surface and determine its abundance, location and how it changes over time. Scientists are looking to locate and secure water on the Moon as it could be a huge asset to a long-term human presence on the lunar surface.

In the latest update, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is developing the Trailblazer, said that one of the orbiter’s instruments has passed an important milestone in completing what is called a “cold alignment.” Currently, in JPL’s cleanroom, the High Resolution Lunar Volatiles and Minerals Mapper (HVM3) is experiencing temperatures common in outer space. The JPL team also made fine adjustments to properly detect and measure infrared light absorbed by water.

“Mounted in a thermal vacuum chamber with the detector cooled to -240°F (120K), the Trailblazer team ensured that light of different wavelengths reached the correct parts of the detector through repeated adjustments until it was perfectly aligned.” , said the JPL. in a statement.

More about the lunar orbiter

In addition to the HVM3, the orbiter will be equipped with a radiator to ensure the instrument maintains optimal operating temperatures while the Trailblazer is in orbit around the Moon. Measuring 3.5 meters wide, the spacecraft will also be equipped with two solar panels. According to NASA, the Lunar Trailblazer was selected as part of the SIMPLEx (Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration) program in 2019.

Before that, NASA will launch another mission to study water trapped under the Moon’s south pole. Dubbed Lunar Flashlight, the mission involves a small follow-up satellite that will use near-infrared lasers to determine whether the lunar pole has liquid water and whether it is enough to support future lunar colonies. “The mission will demonstrate our ability to use powerful and compact CubeSats thrusters for a variety of science missions to the Moon and across the solar system,” Daniel Cavender, project manager, said in a statement.

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