image title
ShadowCam will observe seasonal changes, measure terrain inside lunar craters.
ShadowCam mission will launch next year from South Korea.
April 28, 2017

Instrument from Mark Robinson of School of Earth and Space Exploration and Malin Space Science Systems will explore permanently shadowed regions

NASA has selected an instrument developed by Mark Robinson of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) to map the terrain and search for evidence of frost or ice deposits in the moon’s permanently shadowed regions (PSRs).

The instrument, named ShadowCam, will be a U.S. contribution to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s (KARI) first lunar exploration mission, Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO).

The ShadowCam optical camera is based on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Narrow Angle Camera also developed by Mark Robinson and MSSS. It is, however, significantly more sensitive, allowing the camera to obtain high-resolution, high signal-to-noise imaging of the moon’s PSRs.

“The telescope and much of the electronics will be identical,” said Robinson, ShadowCam's principal investigator. “The big difference is swapping out the current image sensor for one that is 800 times more sensitive, allowing high resolution imaging within permanently shadowed regions, something the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera cannot accomplish.”

For those familiar with digital cameras, this sensitivity gain is like going from ISO 100 to ISO 80,000.

New ShadowCam Instrument
The ShadowCam instrument will acquire images of shadowed regions of the moon using a high-resolution camera, telescope, and highly sensitive sensors. Credits: Arizona State University / Malin Space Science Systems

 Launching in 2018, ShadowCam will observe PSRs on the moon monthly to detect seasonal changes as well as measure the terrain inside these enigmatic craters, including the distribution of boulders. Eventually ShadowCam images will be merged with the Lunar Reconnaissance Obiter Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) images to make complete maps of inside and outside of craters that host PSRs. While the NAC provides coverage of illuminated areas, ShadowCam will provide images of the shadowed areas.

“These merged maps will put us one step closer to enabling landers and rovers to investigate the mysterious lunar PSRs,” Robinson said.

ShadowCam will address what NASA calls, “Strategic Knowledge Gaps,” or information the agency would like to gather in order to reduce risk, increase effectiveness, and improve the designs of future human and robotic missions in deep space. ShadowCam joins four other instruments on KPLO.

KARI, headquartered in Daejeon, South Korea, provided NASA with 15 kg (about 33 pounds) of payload space aboard the KPLO, which is scheduled to launch into lunar orbit in December 2018. ShadowCam was selected as a result of NASA seeking science instruments that could increase our understanding of the distribution of volatiles, such as water, including the movement of such resources toward permanently shadowed regions and how they become trapped there.

“Permanently shadowed regions have been a mystery because the perpetually dark interiors are difficult to image and existing research offers varying interpretations regarding the distribution of volatiles within these cold regions,” said Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Future missions in deep space will be safer and more affordable if we have the capability to harvest lunar resources, and ShadowCam has the potential to greatly increase our understanding of the quality and abundance of those resources in these regions.”

The KPLO spacecraft will carry a total of five instruments to lunar orbit—four from South Korea and one from NASA (developed by Arizona State University and Malin Space Science Systems). Credits: Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)

 Robinson and his team, including ShadowCam’s deputy principal investigator Prasun Mahanti and co-investigators Nicholas Estes and Robert Wagner, plan to run joint operations with ShadowCam and LROC from ASU’s Tempe campus. “There is much synergy having the experiments run jointly both in terms of operational efficiency and science return,” Robinson said.  

NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division (AES) led the payload solicitation and selection for the NASA instrument on KPLO. A division of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, AES uses innovative approaches and public-private partnerships to rapidly develop prototype systems, advance key capabilities and validate operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit. Through this partnership opportunity with KARI, AES is addressing key lunar SKGs while complementing KARI’s primary mission objectives and instruments. 

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager , School of Earth and Space Exploration


image title
ASU's online engineering students present capstones remotely for first time.
April 28, 2017

ASU’s undergraduate degree in electrical engineering is the first accredited program that's completely web-based

Capstone presentations — the culmination of four years’ education in a project that demonstrates the breadth of hard-earned knowledge — are always nerve-wracking. Getting the display right, the demonstration without a hitch and the tie in a perfect Windsor knot all strain student nerves.

Now try doing it from 2,000 miles away.

Arizona State University’s undergraduate degree in electrical engineering is the first accredited program that is completely web-based. The first cohort of online students gave their capstone presentations Friday, along with all the other seniors.

The onliners (as they’re calling themselves) were easy to spot in the crowded room. Nobody stood around their display tables. Seventy-inch screens presented their projects. Team members interacted with visitors via videochat on laptops.

While hearing them over the hubbub in the room was difficult, their audio and video feeds worked well. (Next year, the onliners will be in a separate room.)

Team Cavalry presented the Calvary Band, a wearable device for police officers that detects the sound of a gunshot and automatically initiates a call for backup. Team members were in Seattle, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Lancaster, New York.

Heather Green, in Seattle, with her black cat on her lap, explained how they brought the project together literally coast to coast.

“Our team has met twice a week on Google Hangouts to update each other on our progress, issues and upcoming tasks to keep us on schedule,” Green said. “It's worked out really well! When we were fielding project ideas, our locations were something we kept in mind. (Team member) Rob (Crowe, in New York) thought of this idea initially, and it's been almost no issue to implement our design, even though the team is scattered. Companies do this sort of thing all the time now, and I think now that's going to be part of the college experience.”

Brennan Hallows, a senior in Price, Utah, was part of a team that built a greenhouse turbine generator. It uses direct sunlight to heat up air, which rises, spins a turbine and creates power. His team was spread between Iowa, Utah and two members in Surprise, Arizona.

The project was difficult, Hallows said, but they powered through it.

“We met multiple times a week,” Hallows said. “The project was constructed in Arizona. Me and Brad (Fritz, in Iowa) worked really hard on the design and calculations while the other two members did the construction and testing. It was a team effort that turned out successful.”

Because it is the first year remote electrical engineering majors presented their projects, there were hiccups.

“There have been a lot of challenges with today's presentation, but we expected the unexpected, because we're the first group of fully online engineering students to do this,” Green said. “There haven't been any real surprises; it seems unclear that the video embedded explains our project, and that the video needs to be played in order to get that explanation. I know (organizers) are talking about putting onliners in a separate room next time, so the background noise isn't so overwhelming to communication.”

Hallows said he realized his sales acumen dims with distance.

“The presentation is very difficult remotely,” Hallows said. “I am a much better salesman in person! It would be much easier to talk about the project in person, but ASU has done a very good job of making it as good as it can be from a remote location.”

The 120-credit-hour degree program includes core engineering courses and a minimum of 45 upper-division credit hours in specialty courses — including analog and digital circuits, electromagnetic fields, microprocessors, communications networks, solid-state electronics and electric power and energy systems. Lab work is done at home with mailed kits.


Top photo: Attendees listen to the presentation of Project Phoenix at the end-of-the-year Capstone Electrical Engineering Senior Design Projects on Friday. Project Phoenix designed a CubeSat system that can produce thermal images of major cities, to study their heat-island effect. Sixteen teams, half in the morning, presented their senior projects, with six of them being done by online students. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now