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NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts

PERISCOPE: PERIapsis Subsurface Cave OPtical Explorer

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Lunar sub-surface exploration has been a topic of discussion since the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter identified openings (cave skylights) on the surface of the moon in 2009. NASA's participation in the UK's MoonLITE mission shows the wide appeal of this phenomenon. NASA has focused internally on two distinct architectures to explore the lunar sub-surface: robotic (rover based) or human (astronaut based). Both are unfortunately beyond the limits of NASA's conceivable near- and mid-term resource allocation. We present a third option: mapping and characterization of lunar subsurface structures with an orbiting platform performing photon time-of-flight imaging. A tabletop demonstration of the imaging technique, 'seeing around corners' was led by one of the authors and we assert that this concept can be extended to a lunar orbiting platform architecture.

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