37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 18 Future Missions and Instrumentation
Poster, Monday, September 5, 2005, 6:00-7:15pm, Music Lecture Room 5

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[18.11] Identifying water on our Moon and organics in the outer Solar System with active reflectance spectroscopy

C. A. Hibbitts (JHU-APL), G. D. Spiers (JPL), G. B. Hansen (Planetary Science Institute)

Infrared reflectance spectroscopy has successfully characterized H2O and identified organic molecules on many Solar System objects. However, passive reflectance spectroscopy cannot detect water in the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon. Similarly, the mid-IR fingerprints of organics on the surfaces of outer solar system objects cannot be detected passively because the sunlight is too dim and the surfaces are too cold. The strongest absorption band for condensed water and ice is near 3 microns. Organic molecules have strong absorptions near 3.4 microns, with spectral fingerprints necessary for unique identification present from approximately 5 to 10 microns. Given a sufficiently strong source of illumination, water hidden in shadows on the Moon and organic molecules in the outer solar system would be detectable and identifiable. Quantum Cascade (QC) laser technology is now becoming sufficiently capable to support reflectance spectroscopy at some of these wavelengths from orbit. Conceived under the HCIPE program in support of Prometheus missions, this technique is intrinsically very scalable. For instance, water can be detected using only two wavelengths and its physical state can be characterized with only five. Requiring an optical power of ~ 2W per wavelength for sufficient signal-to-noise, the total power consumption by the lasing system would be approximately 80 and 200W, respectively. Currently, a continuous power output at ~ 3 ┬Ám of ~ 200 mWatts has been demonstrated. With beam combining, an optical power of 2 Watts is currently achievable. On the Moon, this would enable the detection of as little as 100ppm water. Radar and neutron spectroscopy measurements suggest there may be > 1000 ppm of water-ice present in permanent crater shadows on the Moon [Feldman et al., 1998; 2000; Nozette et al., 1996] which, if present the surface regolith would stabily exist adsorbed on the grains [Hodges, 2002; Cocks et al., 2002].

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.