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Moonbound, via BU

Lunar orbiter launches astronomer Harlan Spence’s payload

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In the video above, Harlan Spence explores the ingenious components of a space explorer known as LRO, including an instrument called CRaTER.

NASA is seeking opportunities for humans to boldly go where we have gone before —  to the moon. The goal is to return for another small step for man in 2020, half a century after Neil Armstrong’s pioneering mission. This time, however, NASA scientists are preparing for a longer-term stay.

That means astronauts will be exposed to more of the solar radiation that flows through deep space. A team of Boston University researchers led by Harlan Spence (CAS’83), a College of Arts & Sciences professor of astronomy, has been helping to prepare for that danger, and last month their creation — part telescope, part synthetic human tissue — launched at the tip of a rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

The instrument developed by Spence and company is called CRaTER (cosmic ray telescope for the effects of radiation), one of two LRO instruments responsible for collecting data on the moon’s radiation environment. It’s outfitted with a substance called tissue-equivalent plastic (TEP), meant to mimic the way human tissue absorbs energy (and radiation).

The LRO satellite will hover over the moon for at least a year, getting an extraterrestrial suntan while mapping the lunar surface with high-resolution images and collecting other information necessary to help lay the groundwork for a sustainable human presence there.

Devin Hahn can be reached at dhahn@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on Moonbound, via BU

  • Anonymous on 07.14.2009 at 10:42 pm

    I love Professor Spence and his space-themed ties! I took his AS 101 last semester; I came in knowing next to nothing about the universe, and came away feeling I had learned a great deal. And it’s always wonderful to learn that there are more important things yet to be discovered, and Professor Spence always showed us that this is the case in the field of astronomy.

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