NASA recently awarded a $41.6-million project to build, fly and operate a deployable lunar hopper lander on the moon.
In connection to this, an Arizona State University report said ASU is partnering with Intuitive Machines on a "mini extreme mobility lunar vehicle," which they call Micro-Nova, that will hop around the surface of the moon and take the first-ever pictures inside a crater near the lunar south pole.
For this particular mission design, Micro-Nova has the capacity to carry a one-kilogram payload of more than 2.5 kilometers to enter lunar craters and allow high-resolution surveying of the lunar surface beneath the flight path.
The Micro-Nova of Intuitive Machine, according to the mission science lead Mark Robinson of the School of Earth and Space Exploration of ASU, is the first-ever chance for the company to explore from within a lunar permanently shaded region or PSR.
He added, they will be able to take very high-resolution color images close to the hopper and black and white images of approximately half the PSR. What will be seen, continued Robinson, "that is the question!"
Micro-Nova will be equipped to offer high-resolution stereo images in sites that are in direct sunlight, which will allow detailed engineering and science planning for future missions.
This fast trip into PSR will provide crucial engineering information for designing larger-scale exploration over the next 10 years.
More so, valuable insight will be gained into the distribution and migration of volatiles in the lunar environs. Essentially, the hopper will measure the PSR as well, which, this report specified, will be very cold.
Approximations range between -388 Degrees Fahrenheit to 316 Degrees Fahrenheit. Hopper measurements will give a test of the current temperature models of these sites, which is crucial information for other forthcoming missions planned to enter PSRs, as explained on the NASA website.
Micro-Nova, with landing gear, is roughly 76.2 centimeters in length, width, and height, which is approximately the size of five one-dollar bills.
Entering the Lunar South Pole in 2022
Engineers at Intuitive Machines will mount Micro-Nova on an almost four-meter Nova-C lander, roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. In relation to this, Nova-C will send Micro-Nova to the lunar south pole in December 2022.
According to Tim Crain, chief technology officer and co-founder of Intuitive Machine, there are world-class scientists at the School of Earth and Space Exploration of ASU.
Their expertise and knowledge of scientific questions and the manner of getting data to answer such questions on the moon, paired with the company's understanding of engineering systems, not to mention how to put instruments in place to gather that data.
Complete Lunar Program
The complete lunar program of Intuitive Machines unlocks the lunar economy for the exploration of the solar system further and acquire knowledge for humanity's progress.
As the leading provider of space technologies and services, Intuitive Machines is regenerating the dominance of the United States on the moon, the so-called "ultimate high ground."
Designed by the spaceflight's greatest minds, the lunar program of IM will send the first American spacecraft to the moon's surface since the Apollo program and deliver the first spacecraft ever to reach the lunar south pole.
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