Lunar Prospector was launched to the Moon, Jan 6th, 1998. Within a month it will begin returning answers to long-standing questions about the Moon, its resources, its structure and its origins. Prospector will accomplish these goals during its primary one-year polar orbiting mission. Using a complement of five instruments, the mission will yield important science results at an unprecedented low cost. The first and most exciting data returned will answer the question first raised in the early seventies and underscored by the 1994 Clementine mission: Is there water in the form of ice in some polar craters? The significance of this information for further exploration of the Moon and future utilization of Moon resources is great.
Prospector is a NASA Discovery Mission. This new kind of mission places an emphasis on science and "Faster, Better, Cheaper" mission design and development. Lunar Prospector exemplifies these goals. It is a small, spin-stabilized craft that uses flight-qualified, modern technologies and instrumentation to ensure results and minimize risk. The design is simple: a small, graphite-epoxy drum (1.4m x 1.2m) with surface mounted solar cells and three 2.5m masts which carry the instruments and isolate them from the bus.