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Exploring the Lunar Environment Brian Day LADEE Mission NASA Lunar Science Institute. A new generation of robotic lunar explorers is revolutionizing our understanding of the Moon. We now recognize the Moon as a dynamic world with surficial and internal

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Exploring the Lunar Environment

Brian DayLADEE Mission

NASA Lunar Science Institute


A new generation of robotic lunar explorers is

revolutionizing our understanding of the Moon.

We now recognize the Moon as a dynamic world with surficial and internal

volatiles, active geology, and complex interactions with space weather. All

of these could contribute to a fascinating lunar atmospheric environment.


lcross mission concept
LCROSS Mission Concept
  • Impact the Moon at 2.5 km/sec with a Centaur upper stage and create an ejecta cloud that may reach over 10 km about the surface
  • Observe the impact and ejecta with instruments that can detect water


what did we see1
What did we see?

What did we see?

Schultz, et al (2010)


(Observed expanded ejecta cloud 10-12 km in diameter at 20s after impact. Visible camera imaged curtain at t+8s through t+42s, before cloud dropped below sensitivity range).


what did we see2
What did we see?

What did we see?


so how much water
So... How Much Water?
  • We sampled only one area, created a 20-30m diameter crater, at few meters depth.
  • We excavated ~250,000 kg (250 metric tons) regolith
  • Of that only 2200-4400 kg material got into sunlight.
      • Of that only 1300-2500 kg were within the 1° FOV of the spectrometers
        • Band depths of H2O 1.4 & 1.8um features indicate 145 kg H2O vapor+ice
        • OH emission strength at 308-310nm indicate 110 kg H2O vapor+ice
        • “29-38 gallons of water”
          • mean water concentration 5.6 wt% ± 2.9 wt% (by mass)


M3 “0.25 gal H2O/1 ton soil”; LCROSS “10 gal H2O/1 ton soil”


Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

  • LROC – image and map the lunar surface in unprecedented detail
  • LOLA – provide precise global lunar topographic data through laser altimetry
  • LAMP – remotely probe the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions
  • CRaTER - characterize the global lunar radiation environment
  • DIVINER – measure lunar surface temperatures & map compositional variations
  • LEND – measure neutron flux to study hydrogen concentrations in lunar soil


you can help explore the moon
You Can Help Explore the Moon!

Visit to see how you can help explore the images from LRO.


the moon s permanently shadowed craters are the coldest places we have found in the solar system
The Moon’s Permanently Shadowed Craters are the Coldest Places We have Found in the Solar System
  • LRO has measured temperatures as low as -248 degrees Celsius, or -415 degrees Fahrenheit
  • This is colder than the daytime surface of Pluto! (-230 Celsius)


lro s diviner indicates widespread ice at lunar poles
LRO’s DIVINER Indicates Widespread Ice at Lunar Poles
  • In South Pole permanently-shadowed craters, surface deposits of water ice would almost certainly be stable.
  • These areas are surrounded by much larger permafrost regions where ice could be stable just beneath the surface.



Water at the North Pole Too!

  • On March 1, 2010, NASA scientists announced that they have detected water ice deposits at the Moon’s North Pole.
  • Discovery was made with the NASA Mini-SAR instrument aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1.
  • More than 40 permanently shadowed craters were estimated to contain a total of at least 600 million metric tons of water ice!


water in the soil
Water in the Soil
  • Chandrayann-1 and two other robot explorers found small amounts of water away from the poles.


Deep Impact



where did the water come from
Where Did the Water Come From?
  • We’re not sure, but we have some clues.


moonquakes a whole lot of shaking going on
Moonquakes – A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On
  • Deep moonquakes about 700 km below the surface, probably caused by tides.
  • Vibrations from the impact of meteorites.
  • Thermal quakes caused by the expansion of the frigid crust when first illuminated.
  • Shallow moonquakes 20 or 30 kilometers below the surface. Up to magnitude 5.5 and over 10 minutes duration!



Gravity Recovery and Interior LaboratoryGRAIL

  • Launched Sept 10, 2011.
  • Microwave ranging system will precisely measure the distance between the two satellites.
  • Use high-quality gravity field mapping to determine the Moon's interior structure.
  • Determine the structure of the lunar interior, from crust to core and to advance understanding of the thermal evolution of the Moon.




  • Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun
  • Consists of two orbiters, ARTEMIS-P1 & ARTEMIS P2, formerly part of the THEMIS mission.
  • Moved to lunar L1 and L2 points in 2010 and lunar orbit in 2011.
  • Studying the solar wind and its interaction with the lunar surface, the Moon’s plasma wake, and the Earth’s magnetotail.



Mission will study how solar wind electrifies, alters and erodes the Moon's surface.

  • Could provide valuable clues to the origin of the lunar atmosphere.



Lunar Atmosphere?

  • Yes, but very thin! A cubic centimeter of Earth's atmosphere at sea level contains about 1019 molecules. That same volume just above the Moon's surface contains only about 100,000 molecules.
  • It glows most strongly from atoms of sodium. However, that is probably a minor constituent. We still do not know its composition.



Lunar Exosphere

  • An exosphere is a tenuous, collisionless atmosphere.
  • The lunar exosphere is bounded by the lunar surface – a surface boundary exosphere.
  • Consists of a variety of atomic and molecular species – indicative of conditions at the Moon (surface, subsurface).
  • Wide variety of processes contribute to sources, variability, losses.



A Dusty Lunar Sky?

In 1968, NASA's Surveyor 7 moon lander photographed a strange "horizon glow"

looking toward the daylight terminator. Observations are consistent with sunlight

scattered from electrically-charged moondust floating just above the lunar surface.



A Dusty Lunar Sky?

More possible evidence for dust came from the Apollo missions.



The Lunar Exosphere and Dust:

Sources & Sinks


Solar photons

Solar Energetic Particles

Solar wind

Meteoric influx

Large impacts

Dayside: UV-driven photoemission, +10s V

Nightside: electron-driven

negative charging -1000s V


Impact vaporization

Interior outgassing

Chemical/thermal release

Photon-stimulated desorption




Lunar Exosphere

Cold-trapping in

Polar regions

Formation of

Lunar volatiles

Vondrak and Crider, 2003

Mendillo et al, 1997

Stern, 1999;Smyth

and Marconi, 1995


exospheres and dust
Exospheres and Dust

Surface Boundary Exospheres (SBEs) may be the most common type of atmosphere in the solar system…

  • Large Asteroids & KBOs
  • Mercury
  • Moon

Evidence of dust motion on Eros and the Moon....

  • Europa & other Icy satellites
  • Io


  • Eros

Delory, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 12-16-09



The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer

  • Determine the global density, composition, and time variability of the fragile lunar atmosphere before it is perturbed by further human activity.
  • Determine the size, charge, and spatial distribution of electrostatically transported dust grains.
  • Test laser communication capabilities.
  • Demonstrate a low-cost lunar mission:
    • Simple multi-mission modular bus design
    • Low-cost launch vehicle



Neutral Mass Spectrometer (NMS)

MSL/SAM Heritage

UV Spectrometer (UVS)

LCROSS heritage

SMD - directed instrument

SMD - directed instrument

In situ measurement of exospheric species

P. Mahaffy


Dust and exosphere measurements

A. Colaprete


150 Dalton range/unit mass resolution

Lunar Dust EXperiment (LDEX)

HEOS 2, Galileo, Ulysses and Cassini Heritage

Lunar Laser Com Demo (LLCD)

Technology demonstration

SOMD - directed instrument

SMD - Competed instrument

High Data

Rate Optical Comm

D. Boroson



M. Horányi, LASP

51-622 Mbps

spacecraft configuration
Spacecraft Configuration
  • 330 kg spacecraft mass
  • 53 kg payload mass


modular common spacecraft bus
Modular Common Spacecraft Bus
  • LADEE is NASA’s first mission using the MCSB.
  • Usually space missions require unique spacecraft that are custom built for hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • By using a modular platform NASA will no longer need to “reinvent the wheel” for each mission and leveraging previous R&D further reduces design cost.
  • Could be used to land on the Moon, orbit Earth, or rendezvous with asteroids.


ladee mission profile
LADEE Mission Profile
  • Launch in 2013 from Wallops using a Minotaur launch vehicle.
  • 2-3 phasing orbits to get to Moon.
  • Insertion into retrograde orbit around Moon.
  • Checkout orbit (initially 250km) for 30 days.
  • 100-day science mission at ~20-75km.



Provide Background Science Data: LADEE and Lunar Impacts

  • NASA Meteoroid Environment Office
  • Lunar Impact Monitoring Program
  • Help lunar scientists determine the rate of meteoroid impacts on the Moon.
  • Meteoroid impacts are an important source for the lunar exosphere and dust.
  • Can be done with a telescope as small as 8 inches of aperture.

Also planning to work with AAVSO Lunar Meteoritic Impact Search Section.



Phase Matters

  • Impact flashes are observed in the unilluminated area of the Moon.
  • Near 1st Qtr, the Moon’s leading hemisphere faces Earth – generally best for observing impact flashes.
  • Near 3rd Qtr, the Moon’s trailing hemisphere faces Earth – generally less favorable for observing impact flashes.
  • A large gibbous phase results in lots of glare from illuminated lunar surface, small unilluminated area for observing flashes, and diminished Earth shine on unilluminated area making localizing impacts difficult.
  • Thin crescent phase results in restricted observing time in dark sky.



Lunar Meteoroid Impact Monitoring

  • Minimum System Requirements
  • 8" telescope
    • ~1m effective focal length
    • Equatorial mount or derotator
    • Tracking at lunar rate
  • Astronomical video camera with adapter to fit telescope
    • NTSC or PAL
    • 1/2" detector
  • Digitizer - for digitizing video and creating a 720x480 .avi
    • Segment .avi to files less than 1GB (8000 frames)
  • Time encoder/signal
    • GPS timestamp or WWV audio
  • PC compatible computer
    • ~500GB free disk space
  • Software for detecting flashes
    • LunarScan software available as a free download



Meteor Counting

  • The vast majority of meteoroids impacting the Moon are too small to be observable from Earth.
  • Small meteoroids encountering the Earth’s atmosphere can result in readily-observable meteors.
  • Conducting counts of meteors during the LADEE mission will allow us to make inferences as to what is happening on the Moon at that time.
  • Much more simple requirements: a dark sky, your eyes, and log sheet. (a reclining lawn chair is very nice too!)
  • International Meteor Organization (
  • American Meteor Society (


Image credit:NASA/ISAS/Shinsuke Abe and Hajime Yano


Lunar Phases for Major Meteor Showers in 2013

Jan 3 Quadrantids Last Qtr 61%

Apr 22 Lyrids Waxing Gibbous 90%

May 5 Eta Aquariids Waning Crescent 15%

July 27 Delta Aquariids Waning Gibbous 66%

Aug 12 Perseids Waxing Crescent 35%

Oct 21 Orionids Waning Gibbous 90%

Nov 19 Leonids Waning Gibbous 94%

Dec 14 Geminids Waxing Gibbous 95%

Dec 22 Ursids Waning Gibbous 73%


Lunar Phase Aug 12, 2013