NASA Experiment Aboard Beresheet Lunar Lander To Help With Future Precision Landings On The Moon

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The Moon is the destination of the first Israeli lunar lander, Beresheet, which is supposed to touch down on 11th of April within Mare Serenitatis, on the northern hemisphere of the near side of the Moon. Onboard, there is also a NASA experiment which is not larger than a computer mouse, and which might be able to enable future robotic and human-carrying landers to perform precision landings on the Moon.

Israel’s spacecraft, called Beresheet which means “in the beginning” or “Genesis” in Hebrew, launched on the 21st of February. The nonprofit group SpaceIL is operating this lunar lander which is also the first mission of a private space company to land on the Moon. Beresheet has been performing, since liftoff, a methodical series of orbit-raising maneuvers that have been performed around the Earth to place itself into lunar orbit and only then a landing has been attempted.

A NASA laser retro-reflector array is along for the hop to the moon which is comprised of eight mirrors that are made of quartz cube corners. Those are forming a dome-shaped aluminum frame. The array we mentioned is radiation-hardened, lightweight and long-lived.

NASA experiment aboard Beresheet, Israel’s first lunar lander, would help in future precision landings on the Moon

If on 11th of April Beresheet successfully plants itself on the Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of NASA will eventually shoot laser pulses at the retro-reflector using its laser altimeter. When this technique is used, the lunar location of Beresheet can be pinpointed to within 4 inches (10 centimeters), according to the project team members.

Dotting the Moon in the future using many such retro-reflectors is something NASA is interested in. On the Moon, these would serve as permanent “fiducial markers.” With that being said, these could be used by the future craft as points of reference when it comes to making precision landings on the Moon.

The instrument that has been placed on Beresheet lunar lander by NASA is called the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/MIT Laser Retro-reflector Array (LRA) for Lunar Landers.


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