A tiny NASA lunar probe failed to perform a crucial maneuver as planned on Monday (November 21), but the cubesat may still be able to salvage its water-hunting mission.
The LunaH-Map spacecraft is one of 10 cubesats that launched as transportable payloads last Wednesday (November 16) during NASA’s Artemis 1 mission.
LunaH-Map was designed to map the distribution and abundance of hydrogen – and, by extension, water ice – near the moon’s south pole. Such data is of great interest to NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to build a crewed research outpost in this region.
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The cubesat was supposed to perform an engine ignition during its moon flyby on Monday, but failed to do so, likely due to a stuck valve in its propulsion system, NASA officials said.
But all is not necessarily lost. LunaH-Map’s other systems appear to be functioning normally, and heating the valve could release it, also bringing the propulsion system online.
“If the propulsion system is able to achieve thrust within the next few months, the mission could still recover some or all of the original LunaH-Map science mission,” NASA officials said in an update on Tuesday. up to date. (opens in a new tab) (Nov 22). “Along the spacecraft’s current trajectory, alternate trajectories are available to reach lunar orbit – including orbits that could allow low-altitude measurements of the lunar surface.”
And LunaH-Map could still find work further afield if it takes even longer to solve the current problem, NASA officials explained in the update: “Trajectory solutions outside the Earth-Moon system may exist to fly close to certain asteroids and characterize their hydrogen. contents.”
LunaH-Map, which is led by researchers at Arizona State University, isn’t the only Artemis 1 cubesat to have trouble after being deployed by the mission’s Space Launch System rocket. For example, Japan’s OMOTENASHI spacecraft encountered communication problems and failed to drop a tiny lander on the moon.
NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout probe has apparently been silent since the Nov. 16 launch, as have the citizen science cubes of Team Miles. And the LunIR spacecraft may also encounter problems.
Artemis 1, the first mission of the Artemis program, sends an uncrewed Orion capsule on a nearly 26-day journey to lunar orbit and back.
Orion is expected to slip into a distant retrograde orbit around Earth’s natural satellite on Friday, November 25. The capsule will spend about a week there and then return to Earth, arriving here in an ocean splash on December 11.
If all goes according to plan, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts around the moon in 2024, and Artemis 3 will land boots near the lunar south pole about a year later.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Where Facebook (opens in a new tab).