Thursday, January 1, 2009

The ALHAT Project and the next lunar landings

Few know the Apollo lunar module descent stages were, indeed, equipped with lasar altimeters. In fact, everything about the design of these advanced remnants of the Apollo Era, now still (quite literally)collecting dust and otherwise bearing an invaluable record of the affects of very long-term exposure to the lunar exosphere, are still sitting where they came to a rest at six well-selected landing sites, four decades ago.

As hairy as those first landings were, nothing taught engineers more about how really complex and unpredictable the surface of the Moon is, upclose and personal. No weather aside from the 20 million year cycle of obliteration from meteorites, cosmic rays, solar wind and Solar Particle Events - unless you count the constant Terminator-driven, submicron electro-static dust cloud. (I suppose the Moon does have weather, after all.)

Back to the future of lunar landings, SpaceRef has reposted a JPL release about the automated landing designs for Altair and beyond, about which we also posted a report last October. It's worth the read, HERE.

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