Nav: Home

SwRI flips switch on LAMP in lunar orbit

November 01, 2016

San Antonio -- Nov. 1, 2016 -- A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) team successfully opened a "failsafe" door on the Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) instrument in lunar orbit, improving the quality of ultraviolet (UV) data it collects. The door, one of LAMP's few moving parts, operated flawlessly, even after orbiting the moon for seven years onboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), providing LAMP more UV exposure for LRO's extended mission.

"Opening this door gives us six times better quality data when mapping the lunar dayside," said SwRI's Dr. Kurt Retherford, principal investigator of LAMP. Lyman-alpha emissions are produced by nearby space and stars and bathe all bodies in a soft glow of UV light. UV frequencies are invisible to human eyes and cameras, but visible to LAMP as they reflect off the moon. On the nightside, LAMP "sees" the moon's surface using this soft UV glow. On the dayside, LAMP measures light reflected from the Sun as well.

"With its enhanced data collection capabilities, LAMP is like a brand new instrument," said SwRI's Dr. Thomas Greathouse, LAMP deputy principal investigator. "After seven years of near continuous operations in the previous mode, now is a good time to change our science emphasis for the next two years of LRO's extended mission."

Key results that LAMP has made in the past include discovering water frost in the permanently shaded craters near the lunar south pole. The instrument also collected evidence that a surprising number of water molecules travel across the moon's surface on the dayside. It is these dayside measurements that are most affected by the new operating parameters. Prior to opening the "failsafe" door, scientists have averaged the data collected over multiple orbits to characterize the dayside surface.

"The amount of water measured appears to be influenced by the time of day," said SwRI Senior Research Scientist Dr. Kathleen Mandt. "In this new mode, we will get much higher resolution data from every orbit, allowing us see how water on the surface increases and decreases over shorter time periods than before."

Space instrument designers minimize the number of moving parts to increase reliability. LAMP has an "aperture door," which opens during use and closes when not in use, to protect sensitive components. The instrument also has a failsafe door, originally intended to remain closed during normal operations.

"If the aperture door failed to open, the failsafe door was designed to be opened to allow 10 percent of the light to get through, allowing the science to continue, but at reduced sensitivity," said SwRI's Michael Davis, LAMP instrument scientist. "The flawless performance of the LAMP instrument over the seven years aboard LRO is a testament to the engineering quality."

"We've never had to use this door in its backup capacity," added Maarten Versteeg, who developed LAMP's software. "However, when looking at the LAMP data, we realized that having the door open could enhance the extended mission, so we sent up commands to flip it open."

The LRO mission was recently extended to September 2018, in part to allow LAMP to further investigate changes in UV signatures of hydrated minerals with the local time of day. Initially discovered by infrared instrumentation, these molecular layers of water are supported by LAMP UV measurements. However, the discovery is not well understood with regard to their ultimate source and influence.
LRO is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, under NASA's Discovery Program. The Discovery Program is managed by NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Editors: Image to accompany this story:

Southwest Research Institute

Related Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Articles:

Research helps people, lunar rovers, get there on time
Illinois graduate student Pranay Thangeda relies on the bus system in Champaign-Urbana to get to class.
ESA/NASA's solar orbiter returns first data, snaps closest pictures of the sun
The first images from ESA/NASA's Solar Orbiter are now available to the public, including the closest pictures ever taken of the Sun.
New research sheds light on the ages of lunar ice deposits
The discovery of ice deposits in craters scattered across the Moon's south pole has helped to renew interest in exploring the lunar surface.
Study suggests ice on lunar south pole may have more than 1 source
New research sheds light on the ages of ice deposits reported in the area of the Moon's south pole -- information that could help identify the sources of the deposits and help in planning future human exploration.
Reconstructing the first successful lunar farside landing
A research team, headed by Prof. LI Chunlai from the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences has published a full reconstruction of the Chang'E-4's landing.
Quick reconnaissance after 2018 Anchorage quake reveals signs of ground failure
A day after the Nov. 30, 2018, magnitude 7 earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska, US Geological Survey scientists Robert Witter and Adrian Bender had taken to the skies.
NASA's LRO sheds light on lunar water movement
Scientists using an instrument aboard LRO observed water molecules moving around the dayside of the moon.
First look: Chang'e lunar landing site
On Jan. 30, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter caught views of the Chinese Chang'e 4 lander on the floor of the Moon's Von Kármán crater.
Scientists explain formation of lunar dust clouds
Physicists from the Higher School of Economics and Space Research Institute have identified a mechanism explaining the appearance of two dusty plasma clouds resulting from a meteoroid that impacted the surface of the Moon.
SwRI team makes breakthroughs studying Pluto orbiter mission
A Southwest Research Institute team using internal research funds has made several discoveries that expand the range and value of a future Pluto orbiter mission.
More Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter News and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.