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Robotics Institute Special Seminar, Thursday, September 10, 1998
Robotics Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213-3891
412/268-8525 . 412/268-5576 (fax)

This page is provided for historical and archival purposes only. While the seminar dates are correct, we offer no guarantee of informational accuracy or link validity. Contact information for the speakers, hosts and seminar committee are certainly out of date.

Latest Results from the Lunar Prospector Satellite and their Implications for Lunar Rover Exploration

Dr. Alan Binder, Principle Investigator
Lunar Prospector Mission
Lunar Research Institute
NASA Ames Resarch Center

Place and Time
Adamson Wing, Baker Hall
Talk 4:30 pm

Latest results from Lunar Prospector indicate that the Moon's poles may contain up to six billion tons of water ice, a more than ten-fold increase over previous estimates. Growing evidence now suggests that water ice deposits of relatively high concentrations are trapped beneath the soil in the permanently shadowed craters of both lunar poles.

In March, mission scientists reported a water signal with a minimum abundance of one percent by weight of water ice in lunar soil corresponding to an estimated total of 300 million metric tons of ice. These conservative numbers were based on graphs of neutron spectrometer data, which showed distinctive dips over the poles, a telltale signature of the presence of water ice. Subsequent analysis, combined with improved lunar models, shows conclusively that there is hydrogen at the Moon's poles. Though other explanations are possible, this data has been interpreted as an indication of significant quantities of water ice are located in permanently shadowed craters in both lunar polar regions.

Dr. Binder, joint with Carnegie Mellon University, has an active proposal to NASA to send a robot to the surface of the Moon which would definitively confirm or refute the existence of lunar ice. The robot, equipped with a cryogenic drill and a Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA), would venture into permanent shadow to acquire soil samples for onboard analysis. The drill, would be able to acquire soil samples in cryogenic conditions down to one meter below the surface. The TEGA, which is scheduled to fly on the upcoming Mars 98 lander, would accept samples from the drill and detect whether they contain traces of ice. The TEGA is capable of unambiguously detecting water and other volatiles in very small concentratations.

Speaker Biography
Dr. Alan Binder is Principal Investigator for the Lunar Prospector mission. He is also responsible for the Alpha Particle Spectrometer instrument on board the spacecraft, as part of the Spectrometer Group (headed by Dr. William Feldman). Dr. Binder earned a bachelors degree in physics in 1961 from Northern Illinois University, and in 1967, earned a doctorate in geology and lunar and planetary science from the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. His main research interests center around the origin, petrological and structural evolution of the Moon, as well as its possible economic utilization. Dr. Binder has 35 years of experience in the fields of planetary astronomy and planetary geosciences. He was a Principal Investigator on the 1976 Viking Mars Lander Camera Team. For 10 years, he both taught and conducted lunar research in Germany and served as an advisor to the European Space Agency in its studies of a lunar polar orbiter mission. While in Germany, Dr. Binder also developed the proposed German and American lunar exploration program, Selene, which was to be a series of lunar landers used to set up a geophysical station network and return samples to Earth. Selene was the forerunner to NASA's proposed Common Lunar Lander (Artemis), a project on which Dr. Binder also worked. He has authored or co-authored some 60 scientific papers, mainly in the areas of lunar and Mars geology, geochemistry, petrology and geophysics.

Speaker Appointments
For appointments, please contact the host, Mike Montemerlo, at mmde@ri.cmu.edu.

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