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Dr. Alan Binder

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Lunar Prospector: The Key to Lunar Exploration

LRI's Director, Dr. Alan Binder, was the creator, driving force and Principal Investigator of the Lunar Prospector (LP) Mission which mapped the Moon from a low, polar orbit - the first NASA supported mission to explore the Moon in over 25 years. The LP Spacecraft and Mission were defined and designed by Dr. Binder to demonstrate the utility, cost effectiveness and commercial viability of small, simple spacecraft for conducting Lunar and Planetary exploration. By doing so he expected to open the door to the global scale, commercial exploration of the Moon and its resources with the ultimate goal of returning Humankind to the Moon to develop the first extraterrestrial colony. The spectacular success of the mission met his expectation as follows:

Programmatically - Under Dr. Binder's hands-on management of both the Lockheed Martin team of engineers who built, tested and launched LP and the Mission Operations Team, of which he was the Mission Director, the Spacecraft was flight-ready only 2 years after the start of construction and the total mission cost was only $63 million or about 10% of that of an equivalent NASA defined and managed mission.

Engineering - The Spacecraft was built by a team of about 40 Lockheed Martin engineers, was controlled by a Mission Operations Team of about 20 scientists and engineers and performed flawless during the entire 19 month mission.

Scientifically - The LP science data was a factor of 10 better than promised. All of the nominal 1 year mission objectives were accomplished within the first seven months of the mission, generally at substantially better resolution (60 km) than promised (150 km). Some of the highlights of the scientific results are the discovery of a few billion tons of water ice near the lunar poles - a discovery which opens the door to low cost human activities on the Moon, the first complete mapping of the lunar field, the lunar magnetic fields, and the global elemental compositional mapping of the Moon.

The Lunar Prospector Mission is chronicled in a book entitled "Lunar Prospector: Against All Odds". For an overview of the book along with ordering information click here.

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