MEMS to the moon: Polychromix partners with NASA on lunar spectroscopy

Oct. 31, 2006 — Polychromix Inc., a Wilmington, Mass., developer of spectroscopy solutions, announced a collaboration agreement with NASA to provide Digital Transform Spectrometers tools for determining water content on the surface of the moon.

Under the agreement, NASA will outfit the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) with Polychromix near-infrared spectrometers.

The company said NASA chose Polychromix’s technology because of its unique combination of low power consumption, small size, low weight, robust design, lack of moving parts, and high reliability — all essential features for mission-critical measurements. The Polychromix near-infrared spectrometer will be included in the research vehicle to identify the presence of water ice at the moon’s south pole.

The LCROSS mission is slated to send a 2000-kg impactor smashing into a permanently shadowed crater on the moon’s south pole, ejecting a plume of lunar surface material that will be analyzed from lunar orbit by two Polychromix spectrometers, as well as several other instruments and cameras, aboard the LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft.

The intention is to answer an intensely debated question in the astrophysics community, the key goal of NASA’s LCROSS mission is to determine the presence or absence of lunar ice in one of the moon’s coldest locations, a permanently shadowed crater near the south pole. If present at sufficient concentrations, ice could be used in future long-term lunar missions for everything from rocket fuel raw material to human life support. The LCROSS mission, including Polychromix’s technology, will help resolve any ambiguities in recent measurements suggesting the presence of lunar ice.

Polychromix develops material analysis and spectroscopy solutions based on a patented MEMS core technology.


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