Lessons Learned From the Clementine Mission


The Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX) advises the Space Studies Board (SSB) on the entire range of planetary science studies; these include both ground-based activities and space-based efforts. The disciplinary scope of this advice includes the geosciences, atmospheres, exobiology, particles and fields, planetary astronomy, and the search for planets around other stars.

The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO)/National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Clementine mission was designed to space-qualify advanced, lightweight imaging sensors and component technologies and to test autonomous operation for the next generation of Department of Defense spacecraft. A secondary objective was to perform a 2-month global mapping survey of the Moon at several visible/infrared wavelengths and an imaging flyby of the near-Earth asteroid 1620 Geographos. Because of a software error, the asteroid flyby along with its accompanying test of the autonomous acquisition and tracking of a cold body was aborted. Clementine implemented a streamlined management approach that included a rapid design and development program, with an approval-to-launch time line of 22 months and innovative mission operations and data handling setups. The spacecraft was designed, built, tested, launched, and operated for a reported cost of $80 million.

With a trend toward smaller, focused space science missions (such as those in NASA's Discovery, Mars Surveyor, Earth Probe, Small Explorer, and MidEx programs), the Clementine experience may hold lessons for both the scientific and engineering communities as they enter an era of "smaller, cheaper, faster" missions. As a result, in late summer 1994, the Space Studies Board charged COMPLEX to conduct a study to:

1. Understand the lessons learned from Clementine with regard to its schedule, budget, management approach, technology utilization, mission operations, and data processing procedures;

2. Assess in a preliminary way the scientific return of the Clementine mission in the context of its instrument complement and mission profile; and

3. Make recommendations as to how positive aspects of Clementine can be incorporated into NASA's future small-spacecraft missions.

Although the study formally began at COMPLEX's October 1994 meeting, many of the committee members were already familiar with the outlines of the mission from briefings received from, among others, Eugene Shoemaker,* leader of the Clementine Science Team, during the preparation of a short report on Clementine in 1992 ("Scientific Assessment of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization's Integrated Sensor Experiment (Clementine)," a letter report sent to Simon P. Worden and Wesley T. Huntress, Jr., on August 21, 1992). In addition, COMPLEX was briefed on Clementine by its program manager at BMDO, Col. Pedro Rustan, and also toured the Clementine control center in late 1993 (i.e., prior to launch) during the preparation of its report, The Role of Small Missions in Planetary and Lunar Exploration (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1995). Lastly, shortly after the mission ended, Maria Zuber, a member of the committee and a scientist associated with Clementine's Lidar instrument, briefed COMPLEX on the mission's preliminary science findings.

During the October 1994 meeting COMPLEX received presentations from members of the Clementine science team, including Alfred McEwen, Paul Lucey, and David E. Smith, and from the lunar science community in the person of Roger Phillips (chair of NASA's Lunar Exploration Science Working Group). Details on the operational aspects of Clementine were presented by Paul Regeon (Clementine program manager at the Naval Research Laboratory), Stewart Nozette (BMDO's deputy program manager for Clementine I), Donald Horan (science operations manager), and Trevor Sorensen (lunar mission manager). COMPLEX also received additional input on Clementine's instrumentation, technology, and operations in the form of copies of presentations given at the Clementine Engineering and Technology Workshop (Lake Tahoe, July 18-19, 1994) and follow-up discussions with individual presenters. An initial draft of the report was finalized at COMPLEX's February 1995 meeting and received initial approval by the Space Studies Board in March 1995. The report was updated and extensively revised during the autumn and winter of 1996.

*Although Dr. Shoemaker became a member of COMPLEX in 1995, he played no role in this study.


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