Ball Aerospace Part of Team Chosen to Investigate Unique Silicic Lunar Volcanic Domes
Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team
BROOMFIELD, Colo. — July 21, 2022 — Ball Aerospace was selected by the University of Central Florida to contribute four imaging instruments for a lunar exploratory investigation awarded by NASA under its Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon (PRISM) program.
The Lunar Vulkan Imaging and Spectroscopy Explorer (Lunar-VISE) investigation, led by principal investigator Dr. Kerri Donaldson Hanna at the University of Central Florida, will study the Gruithuisen Domes, a previously unexplored and mysterious geological feature of the lunar surface.
“This investigation and the others within the PRISM program are one part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration efforts, which will include sending humans back to the lunar surface,” said Dr. Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace. “We are excited to be contributing to science studies that will help lay the groundwork for those missions and what eventually could be a sustained human presence on the Moon.”
The Gruithuisen Domes (Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
Scheduled to launch in 2026, Lunar-VISE will land and dispatch a rover to study the mineralogical composition of the domes, which are thought to have formed from silica-rich volcanic magma. Lunar-VISE will also be examining the geotechnical properties of the lunar regolith near the domes and how it interacts with the landing spacecraft and the rover.
“Not only do the Gruithuisen Domes morphologically standout from their surroundings, but it is also puzzling how silica-rich magmas could form domes like these on the Moon since similar magmas on Earth form in the presence of water and plate tectonics,” Donaldson Hanna said. “We are excited that Lunar-VISE measurements will be used to help understand how these unique volcanic features formed.
Ball Aerospace will be providing four imaging instruments for the mission, two on the landing craft and two on the rover:
- Descent Camera – This lander-mounted camera looks downward during descent, capturing a video of the impact of landing on the lunar surface, expected to include dust and regolith ejection.
- Context Camera – Once on the lunar surface, this landing vehicle camera will provide a panoramic view of the landing site and help characterize the rover’s impact on the lunar surface.
- Visible/Near Infrared (VNIR) Imaging Camera – Situated on the rover, the Vis/NIR multispectral camera will map variations in composition and morphologies at high spatial resolution.
- Compact Infrared Imaging System – Also on the rover, the thermal infrared multispectral imaging radiometer will map variations in silicate composition, surface temperature and thermophysical properties of rocks and regolith at high spatial resolution.
This investigation marks Ball Aerospace’s second contribution to help support NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration efforts. Ball is building the Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS) instrument, which will be used to map mineral composition, temperature and other surface and sub-surface characteristics of the Moon for a mission expected to launch in late 2023. L-CIRiS is the basis for the Lunar-VISE Compact Infrared Imaging System. The context and descent cameras, as well as the rover’s VNIR camera represent advancements of Ball Aerospace’s GeoSpace Camera, built for operation in the harsh environment of space.
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