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A NASA piggyback experiment may have survived the April 11 crash of Israel's Beresheet moon lander, experts said..
The NASA payload, known as the Lunar Retroreflector Array (LRA), is a technology demonstration composed of eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners that are set into a dome-shaped aluminum frame. These mirrors are intended to serve as markers for other spacecraft, which can use them to orient themselves for precision landings.
Instrument - Computer - Mouse - LRA - Beresheet
The entire instrument is smaller than a computer mouse and lightweight. But it's tough, radiation-hardened and designed to be long-lived, so the LRA may not have been destroyed by Beresheet's hard landing.
"Yes, we believe the laser reflector array would have survived the crash, although it may have separated from the main spacecraft body," said David Smith of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.
Course - Orientation - Array - Smith - Emeritus
"Of course, we do not know the orientation of the array," Smith, who's also an emeritus researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told Inside Outer Space. "It could be upside down, but it has a 120-degree angle of reception, and we only need 1 of the 0.5-inch cubes for detection. But it has certainly not made it any easier."
The LOLA team will begin planning LRA-hunting observations soon, he added.
NASA - LRA - Technology - Demonstration - Installation
NASA's LRA technology demonstration after installation on Beresheet. The array is mounted on the top of the spacecraft — seen here at lower left, at about the 7 o'clock position.
Laser beams generated by LOLA hit the lunar surface and bounce back to the instrument. For each beam that returns, LOLA measures its time of flight, or range.
LOLA - LRA - Reflector - Team
And if LOLA manages to bounce some light off the LRA reflector, the team should know about it.
NASA is interested in dotting the moon...
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