Lamar University Professor Joins Japans Kaguya Moon Probe Science Team
Bonnie Cooper, an adjunct professor at Lamar University and an employee of Oceaneering Space Systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, has been invited by Japan's Selene/Kaguya Mission science managers to join the science team of the Lunar Radar Sounder (LRS) instrument, currently in orbit around the moon.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched Selene/Kaguya on Sept. 14, 2007, from the Tanegashima Space Center with the objectives of obtaining scientific data of lunar origin and evolution and to develop technology for future lunar exploration. The Selene mission consists of a 6,000-pound main satellite (Kaguya) orbiting at about 62-mile altitude and two 110-pound probe satellites (the Relay Satellite and VRAD Satellite) in polar orbit.
The Kaguya’s instrument suites will study mineral distribution on the moon’s surface; use cameras, radar and lasers to catalog lunar terrain and subsurface structure; and probe the moon’s ionosphere and magnetic field. A high-definition camera is capturing images of the moon and Earth as a part of the mission.
Cooper's in-depth knowledge of the Apollo Lunar Radar Sounder Experiment and her early collaboration with the Kaguya LRS instrument designers led to the invitation.
Cooper, who holds a Ph.D. in geosciences from the University of Texas at Dallas, researched the Apollo Lunar Sounder ground-penetrating radar system and radar data analysis applied to lunar applications for her dissertation. She has taken additional graduate engineering studies in digital radar fundamentals. Prior to joining Oceaneering Space Systems in 1997, she published a monthly newsletter, Space Resource News, for four years.
In the past 10 years, she has researched diverse topics from analysis of mid-infrared spectra of Mercury to lunar horizon glow using Clementine Star tracker images to system safety and system engineering. Cooper is currently supporting NASA’s lunar projects.
She also co-authored a popular book on lunar exploration and development, which is now in its second edition.
Kaguya’s LRS is designed for radar investigation of surface and subsurface structures of the moon. The equipment operates at a frequency of 5 Mhz—the same frequency at which some of the Apollo radar data were collected. This low frequency allows mapping of the lunar subsurface to a depth of several kilometers with a range resolution of less than 100 meters.
“LRS data will support future lunar exploration by contributing to our knowledge of the subsurface of the moon,” Cooper said. “It provides our first global look at the lunar subsurface with information on faults, regolith layers that are buried beneath lava flows, and the buried features within craters.”
Previously, data from lunar orbital remote-sensing satellites have been limited to the upper few millimeters of material. Knowledge of the deeper structure came only from the location-specific information provided by the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Packages, Apollo lunar radar sounding along two orbital tracks during the Apollo 17 mission, and from global gravity data, Cooper said. This left open questions that Kaguya's LRS instrument will help to answer, Cooper said. “LRS will provide new information about the nature of cratering in various landforms and rock types and help us to understand more about the time scale of lava flows and the regolith surfaces that build on top of the flows after they are
emplaced,” Cooper said. “Because the LRS is in a polar orbit, these data can potentially be obtained for the entire lunar subsurface.
“It is important to know about the subsurface of the moon because it will tell us where to look for lunar resources,” she said. “Although water is absent in lunar rock and there is no atmosphere, there is nevertheless oxygen to be found in some rock formations. Learning about the subsurface helps us find the best places to look for the rocks that will give up their oxygen. The oxygen can be released from the rock by heating it in a variety of chemical processes that
are being developed right now.
“We need to make oxygen on the moon so that we can make rocket fuel (which is about 80 percent oxygen). If we can re-fuel our space ships on the moon or in lunar orbit, we can go on to Mars. We can also build resort hotels on the moon, and it will become affordable for just about anyone to spend a week's vacation on the moon.”
Currently, Cooper supports the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Directorate at NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston under a subcontract arrangement with Oceaneering Space Systems. Her focus areas are lunar In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and dust toxicity research in support of human missions to the moon.
For more information on Japan’s $480-million Selene lunar mission, visit www.selene.jaxa.jp/index_e.htm.