NASA has created four small cameras, each about the size of a computer mouse, to figure out what happens underneath a lunar lander when it lands on the moon. The small cameras are dubbed Stereo Camera for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies or SCALPSS. NASA’s cameras are expected to head to the moon this year as a payload aboard the Intuitive Machines Nova-C lunar lander spacecraft.
Intuitive Machines is one of the two companies that will deliver technology and science experiments to the moon’s surface late this year as part of the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. SCALPSS cameras are designed to provide NASA with data about the crater formed by the lander’s rocket plume as it makes its final descent and landing on the lunar surface.
Data on crater formation underneath the lunar lander is needed as NASA gears up to send humans to the moon as part of the Artemis program. Multiple commercial landers will be sent to the moon to build up the Artemis Base Camp for the lunar South Pole. NASA says the landers will be delivering multiple payloads and landing near each other. Data gathered from SCALPSS is needed to aid in developing computer models for subsequent landings.
NASA says is it gears up to send larger and heavier payloads landing in close proximity to each other on the moon, and later at Mars, the ability to predict landing impacts is essential. The quartet of SCALPSS cameras will be placed around the base of the commercial lander. Cameras. They will begin monitoring crater formation from the moment the lander’s engine plume interacts with the moon’s surface.
NASA researchers note that if they can’t see the crater as it starts to form, they can’t model it. The cameras will continue to capture images until after landing is complete. Captured stereo images will be stored locally in a small amount of storage inside the cameras before being sent to the lander to be transmitted to Earth. NASA says knowing how the crater starts and how it ends is required to model what happened in between during formation.