The Clementine mission profoundly influenced the space program in several ways over the last 20 years.
Engineering model of the Clementine spacecraft in the Lunar Exploration Vehicles exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum. Interstage and solid rocket motor (bottom half) was discarded before insertion into lunar orbit.
The first spacecraft to globally map the Moon left lunar orbit on May 3, 1994. Clementine, a joint Department of Defense-NASA mission, had systematically mapped the Moon’s surface over 71 days, collecting almost 2 million images. For the first time, scientists could put results of the Apollo lunar sample studies into a regional, and ultimately, a global context. Clementine collected special data products, including broadband thermal, high resolution and star tracker images for a variety of special studies. But in addition to this new knowledge of lunar processes and history, the mission led a wave of renewed interest in the processes and history of the Moon, which in turn, spurred a commitment to return there with both machines and people. We peeked into the Moon’s cold, dark areas near the poles and stood on the edge of a revolution in lunar science.
Prior to Clementine, good topographic maps only existed for ...