On January 25, 1994, the Deep Space Program Science Experiment was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a mission designed to test lightweight miniature sensors and advanced spacecraft components by exposing them, over a long period of time, to the difficult environment of outer space. The experiment is better known as Clementine. In addition to testing the various sensors, Clementine was given the complex task of mapping the moon. The mission results were spectacular.

By implementing the "faster, cheaper, better" management approach, Clementine was able to move from conceptual design to launch in only 22 months and at a cost of 80 million dollars (including the launch and mapping operations). This was the first time this particular approach was used in a space program. The costs of previous deep space missions had been significantly higher and took a great deal more time to develop.

Clementine launched on a Titan IIG expendable launch vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in January 1994. During its two month orbit of the Moon it captured 1.8 million images of the Moons surface.

Between February 26 and April 22, 1994, Clementine was able to deliver more than 1.8 million digital images of the moon back to the Clementine ground network, including the NRL satellite ground-tracking station located in Maryland. These images were quickly accessible to the general public because of the burgeoning Internet technology of the time.

Ice on the Moon

When scientists reviewed the data from Clementine, they made a major scientific discovery: the possible existence of ice within some of the moon's craters. This discovery was confirmed in early 1998 by NASA's Lunar Prospector. The Pentagon announced on December 3, 1996, that radar data acquired by the Clementine spacecraft indicated ice in the bottom of a crater on the South Pole of the Moon. Although it is never lit by the Sun, there are a few images of the South Pole available for viewing.

Awards and Recognition

In 1994, President Bill Clinton cited Clementine as one of the major national achievements in aeronautics in space. He stated "The relatively inexpensive, rapidly built spacecraft constituted a major revolution in spacecraft management and design; it also contributed significantly to lunar studies by photographing 1.8 million images of the surface of the Moon." The President was not alone in his praise of Clementine. In addition to the President's comments, Clementine and the people associated with the program were presented with the following awards:

  • Popular Science magazine: Best of 1994's Top 100 Technologies
  • Aviation Week and Space Technology: 1994 Laureate Award
  • National Space Club: Nelson P. Jackson Award
  • Rotary National Award for Space Achievement
  • Navy Award for Group Achievement
  • Discover magazine: 1994 Award for Outstanding Technological Innovation
  • 1996 Induction into the Space Hall of Fame