United States - NASA
Lunar Prospector: Lunar Orbit

Mission Details

Mission Name: Lunar Prospector
Mission Type: Lunar Orbiter
Operator: NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
Launching State: United States
Location: Shoemaker Crater
Latitude: -87.7
Longitude: 42.35
Launch Date: 7 January 1998, 02:28:44 UT
Landing Date: 31 July 1999, 09:52:02 UT
Objects on or Related to Site:
Lunar Prospector
Image Source: NASA


NASA’s Lunar Prospector orbited the Moon for almost 19 months to map its surface composition and to look for polar ice. The probe found evidence suggesting water ice at both poles. The mission ended with the spacecraft impacting the lunar surface, creating a dust cloud that was studied from Earth.

Heritage Consideration

The spacecraft carried part of the cremated remains of geologist Eugene Shoemaker, making his the first human remains to be deposited on another celestial body other than Earth.

Object on or Related to Site

Object Name: Lunar Prospector
Cospar: 1998-001A
Norad: N/A
Location: Precise location unknown or undisclosed.
Launch Date: 7 January 1998, 02:28:44 UT
Landing Date: 31 July 1999, 09:52:02 UT
Deployment: N/A
End Date: N/A
Function: Map the Moon.
Image Source: NASA


The spacecraft was shaped like a drum and made of epoxy graphite material. It was approximately 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall and 1.4 meters (4.5 feet) in diameter. Total mass, when fully fueled, was about 295 kilograms (660 pounds). It was spin stabilized and maneuvering capability was provided by six thrusters.

The power system consisted of body-mounted solar cells and storage batteries. There were three radial booms approximately 2.5 meters (8 feet) long for the instruments. These were located equidistantly around the perimeter of the spacecraft. There was no onboard computer and only minimal onboard data storage capability. This was done primarily as a cost-cutting measure. Instead, the mission was controlled from the Earth and data from the experiments were downloaded continuously. A small solid-state memory was used to store data temporarily when the spacecraft made a pass over the lunar farside and was out of contact with Earth. An array of two transponders and two antennas was used for communications and data return.

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