“THEMIS-ARTEMIS has been a pioneer in technologies that will be important to NASA’s new Artemis program,” said Jasper Halekas, THEMIS-ARTEMIS scientist and researcher at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “Some of the work we have done in terms of navigation and operations will be used by future missions. A mission in two
The five THEMIS spacecraft were sent into carefully designed orbits that lined them up every four days. After two productive years of discoveries about radiation and particles in the near-Earth environment, the orbits of spacecraft had either precessed or drifted considerably. Precession of the orbit is a natural and expected phenomenon for spacecraft that does not generally affect scientific studies. But in the case of THEMIS, that meant the spacecraft would no longer line up every four days. “THEMIS-ARTEMIS is NASA’s only long-term monitor of conditions in and around the lunar environment,” said David Sibeck, THEMIS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
This is how the THEMIS-ARTEMIS mission was born. The acronym for the mission was created to reflect her science and her position on the Moon, as in Greek mythology, Artemis was the moon goddess. Artemis was also Apollo’s twin. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine recently named the new lunar program Artemis for these reasons, in addition to the fact that the agency will send the first woman to the moon as part of the program. The spaceship reborn
“NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center came up with a wonderful orbit navigation design for us and came up with these very smart orbits that got us to the moon,” Halekas said. “And we’re still here. Knowing that orbits would eventually precede, THEMIS scientists, in a joint effort coordinated by NASA and the University of California, Berkeley Space Science Lab, decided in advance to do something new with two spaceships. Instead of spending the remaining fuel to reset the orbits, they would send them in a radically new direction – towards the Moon.
“Before THEMIS-ARTEMIS was on the Moon, most people had the idea that the Moon was just a big boulder in the sky and didn’t interact much with its surroundings,” Halekas said. . “The understanding we have gained over the past eight years is that the Moon is truly connected to the space environment around it. The space environment affects the Moon and vice versa. With the same instruments it used to research events around Earth, the new mission uses the two spaceships to learn how the Moon interacts with the space around it.
In addition to deepening our understanding of the Moon, the measurements made by THEMIS-ARTEMIS will be useful for future missions, including the Artemis program. Over the years, scientists have made discoveries about the solar wind and its impact on the surface of the Moon, interplanetary electromagnetic fields, the structure of the lunar interior, and particles of the thin lunar atmosphere and the ionosphere. Work together
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