NASA's Piggyback Experiment on Israeli Moon Lander Could Aid Future Lunar Touchdowns | 3/31/2019 | Leonard David
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An Israeli spacecraft is headed for the moon, slated to touch down April 11 within Mare Serenitatis on the northern hemisphere of the moon's near side. Onboard is an experiment, smaller than a computer mouse, that could enable spot-on touchdowns of future robotic and human-carrying landers.

The Beresheet spacecraft, whose name means "genesis" or "in the beginning" in Hebrew, launched on Feb. 21. The explorer is a joint project of the nonprofit group SpaceIL and the company Israel Aerospace Industries. Since liftoff, Beresheet has been performing a methodical series of orbit-raising maneuvers around the Earth to place itself into lunar orbit, then attempt a landing.

Hop - Moon - NASA - Laser - Retro-reflector

Along for the hop to the moon is a NASA laser retro-reflector array comprised of eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners that are set into a dome-shaped aluminum frame. That array is lightweight, radiation-hardened and long-lived.


Beresheet - Plants - Moon - April - NASA

If Beresheet successfully plants itself on the moon on April 11, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will eventually use its laser altimeter to shoot laser pulses at the retro-reflector. Using this technique, Beresheet's lunar location can be pinpointed to within 4 inches (10 centimeters), project team members have said.

NASA is interested in dotting the moon with many such retro-reflectors in the future. These would serve as permanent "fiducial markers" on the moon, meaning future craft could use them as points of reference to make precision landings.

Instrument - NASA - Beresheet - NASA - Goddard

The instrument NASA placed on Beresheet, called the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/MIT Laser Retro-reflector Array (LRA) for Lunar Landers, is located on the top side of the Israeli lander so it can be seen from above.

The laser retro-reflector array before being installed on the Beresheet moon lander.

LRA - Instrument - Conjunction - LRO - Lunar

LRA is a passive instrument. It will be used in conjunction with LRO's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA. That altimeter's laser...
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