Ames scientists support planning for possible Herschel spacecraft lunar impact

The European Space Agency (ESA)$1.4B Herschel space telescope is slated to be decommissioned next March as the observatory’s supply of cryogen runs out. Lunar scientists have proposed repurposing the spacecraft to impact the Moon to search for lunar polar volatiles and to further understand the nature of polar regolith and impact processes. Ames scientists are supporting the ESA planning efforts based on our expertise and experience with LCROSS and the upcoming LADEE mission. On 8 November 2012 a planning workshop was held where presentations were delivered from several ARC scientists:

Tony Colaprete (LCROSS experience relevant to Herschel);

Jennifer Heldmann (LCROSS observation campaign and lessons learned);

Diane Wooden (LCROSS ground-based instrumentation and observatories);

Rick Elphic (LADEE mission overview).

The Herschel lunar impact concept is currently under review at ESA. The other option for disposing of the spacecraft is to guide Herschel into a solar orbit where it would not collide with Earth for several hundred years. A final decision from ESA is expected in the coming months.