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Man-Made Debris In and From Lunar OrbitDuring 1966-1976, as part of the first phase of lunar exploration, 29 manned and robotic missions placed more than 40 objects into lunar orbit. Whereas several vehicles later successfully landed on the Moon and/or returned to Earth, others were either abandoned in orbit or intentionally sent to their destruction on the lunar surface. The former now constitute a small population of lunar orbital debris; the latter, including four Lunar Orbiters and four Lunar Module ascent stages, have contributed to nearly 50 lunar sites of man's refuse. Other lunar satellites are known or suspected of having fallen from orbit. Unlike Earth satellite orbital decays and deorbits, lunar satellites impact the lunar surface unscathed by atmospheric burning or melting. Fragmentations of lunar satellites, which would produce clouds of numerous orbital debris, have not yet been detected. The return to lunar orbit in the 1990's by the Hagoromo, Hiten, Clementine, and Lunar Prospector spacecraft and plans for increased lunar exploration early in the 21st century, raise questions of how best to minimize and to dispose of lunar orbital debris. Some of the lessons learned from more than 40 years of Earth orbit exploitation can be applied to the lunar orbital environment. For the near-term, perhaps the most important of these is postmission passivation. Unique solutions, e.g., lunar equatorial dumps, may also prove attractive. However, as with Earth satellites, debris mitigation measures are most effectively adopted early in the concept and design phase, and prevention is less costly than remediation.
Document ID
20000112917
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Johnson, Nicholas L. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX United States)
McKay, Gordon A.
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Subject Category
Astronautics (General)
Report/Patent Number
IAA-99-IAA.7.1.03
Meeting Information
50th International Astronautical Congress Meeting(Amsterdam, Holland)
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 478-80
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.