The Lunar Prospector with solar panels attached
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA

Another Giant Leap for Mankind...
News story originally written on January 7, 1998

The Lunar Prospector is on its way to the Moon after a perfect launch yesterday aboard the Lockheed Martin Athena 2. The launch of the Lunar Prospector had been delayed one day because of a radar failure in the system needed to track the Athena rocket.

It will take the Prospector four and a half days to reach the Moon. This mission is NASA's first lunar mission since Apollo 17, 25 years ago. This lunar mission will complete the mapping of the Moon that was done by the Apollo program (so this really is a giant leap for mankind!). Apparently, 75% of the Moon is mapped incompletely.

The Prospector spacecraft carries with it one ounce of Gene Shoemaker's ashes. They were placed in a polycarbonate cylindrical container, wrapped with brass foil on which is a laser-engraved inscription honoring Shoemaker's life. Shoemaker, who died on July 18, 1997, discovered (with the help of his wife Carolyn and colleague David Levy) the Shoemaker-Levy comet that collided with Jupiter in 1994.

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