Ocean Optics spectrometer confirms presence of water on moon

Nov. 24, 2009
Spectrographic data taken from an Ocean Optics (Dunedin, FL) spectrometer has helped NASA confirm the presence of water ice on the moon. The spectrometer, custom re-engineered for space duty by Aurora Design & Technology (Palm Harbor, FL) and dubbed "ALICE," was part of the scientific payload on NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission.

Spectrographic data taken from an Ocean Optics (Dunedin, FL) spectrometer has helped NASA confirm the presence of water ice on the moon. The spectrometer, custom re-engineered for space duty by Aurora Design & Technology (Palm Harbor, FL) and dubbed "ALICE," was part of the scientific payload on NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission.

The LCROSS spacecraft carrying ALICE made spectroscopic measurement of the permanently shadowed crater Cabeus, near the lunar south pole, as the spacecraft's Centaur upper rocket stage impacted the floor of Cabeus. The instruments on board the craft monitored the emission caused by the Centaur impact, as well as the resulting two-part debris plume created by the impact.

NASA scientists announced Friday (November 13) that the signature of water was seen in both near-infrared and ultraviolet spectroscopic measurements taken during the mission. Ocean Optics' ALICE provided the ultraviolet measurements, confirming the findings of the near-infrared spectroscopic measurements. From the data gathered, NASA scientists were able to estimate that roughly 220 pounds of water were found by the instruments in the material excavated from the 20-30 m wide crater form by the Centaur impact. It is hoped that water on the moon could set the stage for further space exploration by providing drinking water or even rocket fuel derived from its hydrogen and oxygen molecules.

Ocean Optics' QE65000 Spectrometer was adapted to withstand the rigors of space--extreme temperature ranges, radiation, shock and vibration. With a wavelength range of 270-650 nm and an optical resolution of less than 1.0 nm, ALICE was designed to identify, with a high degree of accuracy, ionized water (visible at 619 nm), OH radicals (visible at 308 nm) and other organic molecules containing carbon. Though the measurements were made from the ejecta reflecting sunlight scattered off of the crater walls, the unit's back-thinned detector was able to make the most of the available light.

ALICE was developed in partnership with Aurora Design & Technology, which played a significant role in the mission, developing the optics that collected light from the impact and resulting ejecta plume for the mission.

For more information, go to www.oceanoptics.com.

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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