NASA’s Lunar Flashlight mission to the Moon has come to an end, but the suitcase-sized spacecraft will soon fly across Earth before heading out into deep space. On Tuesday, May 16 at 9:44 p.m. PT (Wednesday, May 17 at 12:44 a.m. EST), the CubeSat satellite will pass within about 40,000 miles (65,000 km) of our planet’s surface. .
NASA’s eyes on the solar system The 3D visualization tool will track Space ship in real time, giving users a front row seat on the flight. (The tool also provides a lot of information about the spacecraft, including orbit In addition, the CubeSat satellite may be accessible to amateur astronomy telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere.
As the lunar flash approaches, it may reflect enough sunlight Solar Panels It can be seen through a modest telescope, said Barbara Cohen, principal investigator for the Lunar Flashlight at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Depending on its orientation and location, it can be as big as 5 or 6 moving points.”
While still tens of thousands of miles away, sunlight reflecting off the CubeSat’s solar panels may be visible to those with clear, dark skies. The brightness of an astronomical object can be measured as its apparent magnitude. As an object of magnitude 5 or 6, the CubeSat may be visible to backyard telescopes when it passes at its closest point on Brazil’s eastern coast. Observers should use NASA Horizons to check where the Lunar Flashlight is in the sky.
After launch on December 11th, the Lunar Flashlight was sent on a long, looping trajectory far beyond Earth’s orbit. Now it has returned to the proximity of our planet, having been pulled back by the combined gravity of the Earth and Moon.
The spacecraft is designed to test new technologies and address knowledge gaps by exploring permanently shadowed craters on the moon’s south pole. But shortly after the launch of the Lunar Flashlight, the operations team discovered that the CubeSat’s four thrusters were underperforming. After months of troubleshooting to fix the situation, the spacecraft ran out of time to perform crucial maneuvers that would put it into Earth orbit with monthly flybys of the moon’s south pole.
When it became clear that Lunar Flashlight could not reach the orbit required to observe the Moon, NASA called for the rest of its mission to end. The spacecraft’s other systems are working fine and are still communicating with mission operators. NASA is now studying options for the future of the Lunar Flashlight.
After passing the Earth, the CubeSat will continue to orbit the Sun. The lunar lamp’s orbit will bring it close to Earth again in November 2037.
the quote: NASA Lunar Flashlight for Fly by Earth (2023, May 16) Retrieved May 16, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-nasa-lunar-flashlight-fly-earth.html
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