January 24, 2022

News

News Network

NASA CubeSat Will Shine a Laser Light on the Moon’s Darkest Craters

8 min read

To support the next wave of human exploration, the Lunar Flashlight mission will look for potential ice hidden at the Moon’s South Pole.


As astronauts explore the Moon during the Artemis program, they may need to make use of the resources that already exist on the lunar surface. Take water, for instance: Because it’s a heavy and therefore expensive resource to launch from Earth, our future explorers might have to seek out ice to mine. Once excavated, it can be melted and purified for drinking and used for rocket fuel. But how much water is there on the Moon, and where might we find it?

This is where NASA’s Lunar Flashlight comes in. About the size of a briefcase, the small satellite – also known as a CubeSat – aims to detect naturally occurring surface ice believed to be at the bottom of craters on the Moon that have never seen sunlight.

“Although we have a pretty good idea there’s ice inside the coldest and darkest craters on the Moon, previous measurements have been a little bit ambiguous,” said Barbara Cohen, principal investigator of the mission at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Scientifically, that’s fine, but if we’re planning on sending astronauts there to dig up the ice and drink it, we have to be sure it exists.”

Managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the spacecraft is a technology demonstration: It will seek to achieve several technological firsts, including being the first mission to look for water ice using lasers. It will also be the first planetary spacecraft to use a “green” propellant, a new kind of fuel that is safer to transport and store than the commonly used spacecraft propellant hydrazine.

“A technology demonstration mission like Lunar Flashlight, which is lower cost and fills a specific gap in our knowledge, can help us better prepare for an extended NASA presence on the Moon as well as test key technologies that may be used in future missions,” said John Baker, Lunar Flashlight project manager at JPL.

Peering Into the Shadows

Over the course of two months, Lunar Flashlight will swoop low over the Moon’s South Pole to shine its lasers into permanently shadowed regions and probe for surface ice. Found near the North and South Poles, these dark craters are thought to be “cold traps” that accumulate molecules of different ices, including water ice. The molecules may have come from comet and asteroid material impacting the lunar surface and from solar wind interactions with the lunar soil.

“The Sun moves around the crater horizon but never actually shines into the crater,” said Cohen, whose team includes scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the University of Colorado. “Because these craters are so cold, these molecules never receive enough energy to escape, so they become trapped and accumulate over billions of years.”

Lunar Flashlight’s four-laser reflectometer will use near-infrared wavelengths that are readily absorbed by water to identify any accumulations of ice on the surface. Should the lasers hit bare rock as they shine into the South Pole’s permanently shadowed regions, their light will reflect back to the spacecraft, signaling a lack of ice. But if the light is absorbed, it would mean these dark pockets do indeed contain ice. The greater the absorption, the more widespread ice may be at the surface.

While the CubeSat can provide information only about the presence of ice on the surface, and not below it, Lunar Flashlight seeks to fill a critical gap in our understanding of how much water ice these regions possess. “We will also be able to compare the Lunar Flashlight data with the great data that we already have from other Moon-orbiting missions to see if there are correlations in signatures of water ice, thereby giving us a global view of surface ice distribution,” added Cohen.

The mission is detailed in a new paper published in the April 2020 issue of IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine.

Lunar Flashlight is funded by the Small Spacecraft Technology program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The program is based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. It will be one of 13 secondary payloads aboard the Artemis I mission, the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Systems, including the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket launching from the newly upgraded Exploration Ground Systems at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Under the Artemis program, astronauts and robots will explore more of the Moon than ever before. Robotic missions begin with commercial lunar deliveries in 2021, humans return in 2024, and the agency will establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade. We will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare to send astronauts to Mars.

To learn more about Lunar Flashlight, visit:

https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/lunar-flashlight/

To learn more about NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/artemis

News Media Contact

Ian J. O’Neill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-2649
ian.j.oneill@jpl.nasa.gov

Clare Skelly
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-4273
clare.a.skelly@nasa.gov

2020-079

News Network

  • Department Press Briefing – August 2, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • The United States Certifies Mexico’s Shrimp Imports
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • State Department Terrorist Designations of HASM and Its Leaders and Maintenance of PIJ FTO Designation
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Management Report: Preliminary Information on Potential Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Receipt of Unemployment Insurance Benefits during the COVID-19 Pandemic
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found As part of ongoing work on unemployment insurance (UI) benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, GAO found potential racial and ethnic disparities in the receipt of UI benefits, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. Specifically, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's COVID-19 Household Pulse Survey, a higher percentage of White, non-Hispanic/Latino applicants received benefits from UI programs during the pandemic than certain other racial and ethnic groups. In addition, our preliminary analysis of data obtained from five selected states in our ongoing review of the PUA program—a temporary program providing benefits to individuals not otherwise eligible for UI—identified some racial and ethnic disparities in the receipt of PUA benefits. In two of the five states, for example, the percentage of White PUA claimants who received benefits in 2020 was considerably higher than the percentage of Black PUA claimants who received benefits that year (both groups consist of non-Hispanic/Latino claimants). This analysis of state-provided data is preliminary and we are continuing to examine these data, including their reliability and potential explanations for disparities. Various factors could explain the disparities we identified in our preliminary analyses, such as differences in UI eligibility that may be correlated with race and ethnicity. However, another potential explanation is that states could be approving or processing UI claims differently for applicants in different racial and ethnic groups. Why GAO Did This Study The UI system provides a vital safety net for individuals who become unemployed through no fault of their own, and this support is essential during widespread economic downturns. During the pandemic, the CARES Act supplemented the regular UI program by creating three federally funded temporary UI programs, including the PUA program, which expanded benefit eligibility and enhanced benefits. As part of our ongoing work on the various UI programs during the pandemic, we analyzed the extent to which there have been differences in the receipt of benefits by race and ethnicity. The purpose of this report is to inform DOL about potential racial and ethnic disparities in the receipt of UI benefits. According to DOL, ensuring equitable access to UI benefits is a top priority for the agency. We recognize that the complexity of these issues may take time to examine in depth. However, given that PUA and the other temporary UI programs are scheduled to expire in September 2021, we are sharing this preliminary information for DOL to consider in determining whether it needs to engage with states at this point to ensure equitable access to the UI system. For more information, contact Thomas M. Costa at (202) 512-7215 orcostat@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Approves Remission of Over $32 Million in Forfeited Funds to Victims in the FIFA Corruption Case
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it will begin the process of remitting forfeited funds to FIFA, the world organizing body of soccer; CONCACAF, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in North and Central America, among other regions; CONMEBOL, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in South America; and various constituent national soccer federations (collectively, the “Victims”). The department granted a joint petition for remission filed by the Victims, recognizing losses and granting remission up to a total of more than $201 million, of which $32.3 million in forfeited funds has been approved for an initial distribution. In total, well over the amount granted has been seized and has been or is expected to be forfeited to the United States in the Eastern District of New York as part of the government’s long-running investigation and prosecution of corruption in international soccer. 
    [Read More…]
  • Law Clerk Hiring Plan Extended
    In U.S Courts
    The Judiciary’s Federal Law Clerk Hiring Pilot Plan, which makes the judicial clerkship hiring process more transparent and uniform, has been extended for two years after getting good reviews from both law school deans and judges.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • The Department of State Breaks Ground on the New U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai, Thailand
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Priority Open Recommendations: Department of the Treasury
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 31 priority recommendations for the Department of the Treasury. Since then, Treasury has implemented 14 of those recommendations by, among other things, developing a cybersecurity risk management strategy that includes key elements identified in federal guidance and by establishing a process for conducting an organization-wide cybersecurity risk assessment. In June 2021, GAO identified 4 additional priority recommendations for Treasury, bringing the total number to 21. These recommendations involve the following areas: Improving payment integrity Improving cybersecurity Improving information technology workforce planning Modernizing the U.S. financial regulatory system Improving federal financial management ( Evaluating the performance and effectiveness of tax expenditures Full implementation of these open recommendations could significantly improve Treasury's operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or sagerm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Military Health Care: Defense Health Agency Processes for Responding to Provider Quality and Safety Concerns
    In U.S GAO News
    The Defense Health Agency (DHA) within the Department of Defense (DOD) has established processes for preventing and responding to quality and safety concerns about individual providers delivering health care in military treatment facilities (MTF). Specifically, DHA's August 2019 policy standardized processes for managing health care quality in the Military Health System, which superseded the policies of each of the military services (Air Force, Army, and Navy). These processes include 1) initial and ongoing monitoring of providers; 2) taking action to deny, limit, or remove individual providers' ability to practice, known as adverse privileging action; and 3) reviewing the care delivered by individual providers involved in certain patient safety events, known as potentially compensable event reviews. For example, DHA policy establishes requirements for taking adverse privileging actions against a provider that either limit the care a provider is allowed to deliver at a facility or prevent the provider from delivering care altogether, when warranted. In particular, DHA policy specifies that the provider's privileges should be placed in summary suspension—a temporary removal of all or a portion of the provider's privileges—while a peer conducts an investigation of the concerns. DHA policy also specifies that summary suspensions lasting greater than 30 days, as well as any final adverse privileging actions, must be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB is an electronic repository that collects and releases information on certain adverse actions and medical malpractice payments related to providers. According to DOD officials, 27 DOD providers were reported to the NPDB for a summary suspension lasting greater than 30 days between February 1, 2020—when this requirement was implemented—and September 30, 2020. DHA supports the delivery of health care to servicemembers and their families throughout the Military Health System. As in all health care delivery settings, concerns may arise about the quality and safety of care delivered by individual health care providers at MTFs. For example, patient safety events—incidents that could have resulted or did result in harm to a patient—may occur during the course of providing health care services and may raise questions about the quality and safety of care delivered. DHA is responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of health care delivered by military and civilian health care providers, including contractors, through its clinical quality management program. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review aspects of DOD's clinical quality management program, including its processes for reviewing the quality and safety of providers' care. This report describes DHA's processes for preventing and responding to quality and safety concerns about individual health care providers at MTFs. In future work, GAO will examine the implementation of these processes at MTFs. GAO reviewed documentation that contains policy and guidance for these processes, including DHA's August 2019 procedure manual for managing clinical quality management in the Military Health System. GAO also interviewed officials from DHA and each of the military services. We provided a draft of this report to DOD for review and comment. DOD concurred with our report and provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at(202)512-7114 or Silass@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • The Election of Todd Buchwald to the UN Committee Against Torture
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press Availability at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • The United States Leads the Fight Against Foreign Bribery and Transnational Corruption
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Cale Brown, Deputy [Read More…]
  • Social Security and Medicare: Improving the Timeliness of Trust Fund Reports
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Treasury took some steps to improve its management of the schedule for developing the Social Security and Medicare Trustees reports but the boards of trustees did not meet the statutory deadline of April 1 for the reports due in 2020 and 2021. In 2019, GAO issued two recommendations to try to improve the timeliness of the reports. Consistent with GAO's first recommendation in 2019, Treasury developed schedules for preparing the annual reports that included the planned and actual dates for meeting intermediate goals and the statutory deadline of April 1. Other than tracking the planned and actual dates of each reporting cycle, however, Treasury has not told GAO about any other steps it took to better manage the schedule, as GAO recommended. Therefore the recommendation has not been fully implemented. GAO also recommended that Treasury inform Congress of reporting delays. Treasury reported that the working group—agency officials involved in the preparation of the reports— established a policy in December 2020 to notify Congress if the trustees anticipate issuing the reports after the April 1 statutory deadline. The policy states that the chairperson will "assess the need to notify Congress of the reports' timing." The policy does not specify how they would make that assessment, nor does it mention including the reasons for the delay. A Treasury official stated that they did not interpret our recommendation to mean that the policy itself had to address communicating the reasons for delayed reports—only that those reasons be included in the information communicated to Congress. This policy does not fully address GAO's recommendation because it implies that notifying Congress should be discretionary and does not call for any explanation of the delays and updated timeframes. The policy should serve as a prompt for subsequent working groups to provide timely updates and address all of the information we recommended communicating to Congress. There are potential actions Treasury, in consultation with the boards of trustees, could take to help address GAO's prior recommendations. For example, Treasury, in its role as chairperson of the boards, could prioritize meeting the statutory deadline, review progress in developing the reports, obtain buy-in on timeliness goals from key officials, learn from past reporting cycles, and strengthen the policy to inform Congress of delays. In addition, the boards of trustees could amend their bylaws to state explicitly the goal of meeting the April 1 statutory deadline, and require that Congress be informed of report issuance delays, the reasons for delays, and the updated issuance date estimates. Finally, if Congress does not believe sufficient progress has been made to address GAO's recommendations, it could codify GAO's 2019 recommendations to Treasury with explicit requirements for reporting and communication. In commenting on a draft of this report, Treasury emphasized the unique circumstance and challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic presented to completing the modeling underlying the Trustees reports. They explained that the working group made a deliberate decision to take additional time to prepare the reports in order to accurately incorporate the effects of the pandemic and that this was necessary in order to ensure a high-quality report. Why GAO Did This Study Boards of trustees manage the trust funds that largely provide funding for benefits paid under the Social Security and Medicare programs. The Social Security Act requires the trustees to report on the trust funds' financial status to Congress each year by April 1. In 2019, GAO reported that the trustees issued the reports after this statutory deadline in 17 of the 25 years from 1995 to 2019, and were more than 2 months late in 6 years from 2010 to 2019. GAO's report recommended two actions to the Secretary of the Treasury, in their capacity as the chairperson of the boards. The first recommendation was that Treasury work with the other trustees, in consultation with the chief actuaries of Social Security and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, to improve the management of the report development schedules in order to provide the Trustees reports to Congress by the April 1 statutory deadline. The second recommended that Treasury work with other trustees to establish a policy to inform congressional committees of jurisdiction when the reports are expected to miss this deadline; we recommended that this outreach include the factors contributing to the delay and the updated expected dates. Treasury concurred with these recommendations. GAO was asked about additional actions to better ensure the timely issuance of the Trustees reports, including considering changes to the trustees' bylaws and Congressional action. This report (1) describes Treasury's progress in addressing GAO's 2019 recommendations, and (2) offers potential actions, consistent with GAO's recommendations, that could help ensure timely completion of the Trustees reports. GAO reviewed the 2019 report, relevant documentation from the reporting cycles for the 2020 and 2021 Trustees reports, and information Treasury provided about actions it has taken to implement GAO's recommendations from the 2019 report. For more information, contact Elizabeth Curda at (202) 512-7215 or curdae@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Applauds Passage of the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act
    In Crime News
    On Dec. 23, 2020, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act (the “Act”), which prohibits employers from retaliating against certain individuals who report criminal antitrust violations. The Act was sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley, passed the Senate on Oct. 17, 2019, and passed the House of Representatives on Dec. 8, 2020.
    [Read More…]
  • NASA’s Cold Atom Lab Takes One Giant Leap for Quantum Science
    In Space
    A new study describes [Read More…]
  • History, Ambition, and Technology: The Chinese Communist Party’s Challenges to U.S. Export Control Policy
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]
  • Crumbling Foundations: Extent of Homes with Defective Concrete Is Not Fully Known and Federal Options to Aid Homeowners Are Limited
    In U.S GAO News
    As of December 2019, at least 1,600 homes in Connecticut had confirmed pyrrhotite but the total number of affected homes is likely higher. According to one estimate, 4,000–6,000 more homes in Connecticut could develop crumbling foundations due to pyrrhotite. Affected homeowners may face total remediation costs of $150,000 or more and drops in property values of 25 percent or more. Connecticut established funding to provide homeowners with up to $175,000 towards the cost of foundation replacement, but affected homeowners are typically responsible for about one-third of total repair costs (which can include costs for replacing driveways and porches damaged during foundation replacement). Current funding is expected to assist 1,034 homeowners. Pyrrhotite Damage to a Basement and a Home Being Repaired Due to Pyrrhotite Damage GAO found that highly affected towns lost more than $1.6 million in tax revenue in 2018 due to lost assessment value of the houses affected by pyrrhotite, but town officials told us the losses have not yet significantly affected their budgets. However, officials were concerned that pyrrhotite could have long-term effects on their towns if the number of affected homes increased or homes were not remediated. GAO also found that homes located in highly affected towns and built when pyrrhotite-containing concrete was used sold for significantly less, on average, than similar homes in less-affected towns. Stakeholders told GAO that defaults and foreclosures related to pyrrhotite have been limited to date. Some federal funds have already been used for pyrrhotite testing and GAO identified eight additional federal programs that could be used to help mitigate financial impacts on homeowners. However, most of these programs have eligibility or funding restrictions that limit their potential for this purpose. Stakeholders with whom GAO spoke suggested other federal responses—in particular, declaring pyrrhotite damage a major disaster or establishing a federally backed insurance product. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency determined that pyrrhotite damage did not qualify as a natural catastrophe, and a federally backed insurance program may not be feasible since it would serve a small population with high expected costs. Certain homes built in northeastern Connecticut and central Massachusetts between 1983 and 2015 have concrete foundations containing the mineral pyrrhotite. Pyrrhotite expands when it is exposed to water and oxygen and, over time, concrete foundations containing pyrrhotite may crack and crumble. The Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 included a provision for GAO to study the financial impact of pyrrhotite. This report describes (1) what is known about the number of homes affected by pyrrhotite in the region; (2) the financial impact of pyrrhotite on homeowners; (3) the financial effects on towns, local housing markets, and the federal government; and (4) federal options to mitigate pyrrhotite's financial impact on affected homeowners. GAO analyzed data from state, local, and private entities about the extent of pyrrhotite in foundations and associated costs, and federal actions taken in response to pyrrhotite. GAO also interviewed federal, state, and local officials; homeowners; and other stakeholders such as banks and real estate agents. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or pendletonj@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • On Transparency and Foreign Funding of U.S. Think Tanks
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Pompeo to Receive the International Republican Institute’s Freedom Award
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.