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Thursday, September 17, 1998 Published at 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK


Sci/Tech

2001: A Lunar Odyssey

Many nations are planning a return to the Moon

Scientists are drawing up plans to explore our nearest neighbour in space after years of neglect. Our science editor Dr David Whitehouse reports:

Earlier this year the Moon again became the object of interest after the Lunar Prospector satellite found ice trapped in the dirt in its polar regions.

Now many teams of scientists are planning lunar missions.

The US space agency Nasa plans a follow-up and Japanese scientists have proposals for an unmanned lunar lander.

Now European scientists are designing a small, low-cost satellite to go to the Moon. It may be launched in 2001.

It is being designed by Surrey Satellite Technology, a company that specialises in small satellites, working in collaboration with scientists in Sweden.

Education

Initial research in a small lunar satellites goes back to 1996 when a group of 52 students from 15 European countries attended a scientific workshop called Mission to the Moon.

Whilst all other lunar missions have focused on science and technology, the primary role of the LunARSat mission is education.

If it goes ahead then students throughout the world will be able to follow and take part in the mission via the Internet.

The mission aims to concentrate its study on the south polar regions of the Moon, especially a mysterious area of mountain peaks bathed in perpetual sunlight but surrounded by regions of eternal darkness. It is thought the ice is there.

LunARSat may be able to produce the most detailed images of this region.





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