- Press Release
- Dec 9, 2022
SwRI Instrument Selected for NASA Lunar Orbiter Mission
NASA has selected
a scientific instrument called LAMP (or Lyman Alpha Mapping Project)
to be developed by Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) and flown
on its upcoming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission. LRO is the
first space mission in NASA’s planned return of robots and humans to
the Moon. LRO will carry six instruments when it launches in 2008.
LRO’s primary goals are to identify useful deposits of lunar
resources such as ice in the Moon’s polar regions, to characterize
future landing sites and to document radiation hazards to future lunar
LRO will be the first spacecraft built as a part of the Vision for
Space Exploration articulated by President Bush. “We are extremely
excited about the innovative (LRO) payload, and we are confident it
will fulfill our expectations and support the Vision for Space
Exploration,” said NASA Associate Administrator for the space agency’s
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Craig Steidle.
LAMP is a compact ultraviolet mapping spectrometer. Its primary
job will be to search for and map exposed deposits of water frost near
the lunar poles. It will also make maps of permanently shadowed
regions deep in the Moon’s polar craters, which are of interest for
future landing sites. In addition, LAMP will study the tenuous, but
fascinating, lunar atmosphere and demonstrate a lunar polar night
vision system with important application to future robotic and human
Many of LAMP’s investigations will exploit ultraviolet star-shine
and the unique, ultraviolet “Lyman alpha” glow of the sky. This new
and innovative technique will allow LAMP to peer into dark polar
craters and valleys where sunshine is eternally absent.
“According to our model calculations, this technique could allow
future human and robotic exploration missions to literally see in the
dark without the need for power-hungry artificial lighting,” says LAMP
Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern. Stern is executive director of
the SwRI’s Space Science and Engineering Division.
LAMP will be an adaptation of the highly sensitive, lightweight
ALICE imaging ultraviolet spectrometer, built with NASA funding for
the ESA/NASA Rosetta comet orbiter and NASA New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper
Belt missions. “This reduces the cost to NASA and leverages the
investment NASA has already made in SwRI ultraviolet spectrometers for
planetary exploration,” said John Scherrer, LAMP project manager and a
group leader within SwRI’s Space Science and Engineering Division.
The LAMP science team includes investigators from SwRI, Johns
Hopkins University and Catholic University.
“Our team is very excited to take part in LRO by contributing LAMP
to the mission,” said LAMP Project Scientist, Dr. David Slater, a
principal scientist at SwRI. Stern echoed his enthusiasm. “LRO is
going to be a groundbreaking NASA mission, with the potential to make
historic discoveries about the nature of the Moon and its potential
for renewed exploration by astronauts.”
The LRO mission is managed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight
SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and
development organization based in San Antonio, with more than 2,800
employees and an annual research volume of more than $355 million.
Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio