NASA Repurposes Two Spacecraft for Lunar Research

NASA Repurposes Two Spacecraft for Lunar Research

NASA is getting extra bang for its buck these days by relocating existing spacecraft and using them for additional research above and beyond their primary missions.

ARTEMIS has joined the ranks of Stardust-NExT and EPOXI as recent examples of “repurposed” spacecraft. Launched in 2007, the two ARTEMIS probes are now in orbit around the Moon after completing their research to study the Sun’s interaction with Earth’s magnetic field.

The two were originally part of a set of five spacecraft in the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) program. The other three THEMIS spacecraft are continuing their solar-terrestrial physics studies.

These two — renamed Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynaimcs of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun (ARTEMIS) — were moved from their previous locations at Lagrange points to lunar orbit through a complex set of orbital maneuvers. The first reached lunar orbit on June 27 and the second on July 17. Their orbits will take them within 60 miles of the lunar surface where they will collect data about the Moon’s core, surface composition, and magnetic properties. The probes are expected to return data from their new locations for seven to 10 years.

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