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Clementine 1 - Lunar Polar Ice Discovery

Clementine 1 was a low budget probe built by the US Department of Defense's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and launched in 1994. It became the first probe to discover ice at the lunar probes, and had great influence in the funding of subsequent NASA probes to further analyze the lunar polar craters.

Clementine 1 entered a polar orbit around the Moon in order to map its entire surface, both visually and spectrally to get a general assessment of the Moon's minerology. Clementine 1 orbited the Moon for more than two months, totaling over 300 orbits, from February 19 to May 5, 1994. Clementine 1 left lunar orbit to rendezvous with near Earth asteroid 1620 Geographos, but a computer malfunction caused the spacecraft to fail before the asteroid rendezvous mission could get underway.

In addition to the valuable data it collected on the Moon as a result of being the first probe to map the Moon using modern instruments, Clementine 1 was a fantastic sociopolitical success on its lunar leg because it discovered ice at the lunar south pole, the first indication of any concentration of water on the Moon.

As a result of the ice discovery, there was greatly renewed interest in the Moon, resulting in the subsequent funding of additional probes, including the NASA Lunar Prospector, followed by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and LCROSS Polar Crater Impactor.

What is less known, indeed what seems to have been kept very low profile, is that some of the key people responsible for the promotion and success of Clementine 1 were advocates of lunar and asteroidal resources utilization, to say the least. It seems that it was feared that the mission would get ridiculed and canceled if the mission was associated with prospecting of lunar and asteroidal resources (and indeed Clinton line item vetoed Clementine 2). As Clementine 2 is now long dead, together with the Clementine series, we can roll out some history.

Below is an unofficial logo, which highlights the Clementine rhyme about "a miner, 49er, and his daughter Clementine ... his shoe was #9". Note that the asteroid is in the logo, and the #9 is on the asteroid. Clementine also has a miner's pick shovel on her shoulder.

All of this was obscured by the official name of the mission, "Deep Space Program Science Experiment" (DSPSE), which some people seemed to adamantly want to make clear to correct people when the name "Clementine" was spoken -- no, it's not Clementine, it's DSPSE. Also, it was sometimes said that the only reason the mission was called Clementine was because in the end, the probe would be "lost and gone forever" like his daughter Clementine. (Well, aren't all space probes lost and gone forever?) I find the pick shovel and the #9 shoe of the 49er miner to be more convincing in context.

You can draw your own conclusions from the logo below.

BMDO = Ballistic Missile Defense Organization
NRL = Naval Research Laboratory
LLNL = Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories

Sorry, a photo of the above paper copy is all I have, and all I've been able to find on the web thus far is a very low resolution but color variation of this with just DOD and NASA at the bottom of the same logo, on the U.S. government's Geological Survey website which has Clementine data, at

It was remarkable that in the 20th century, professionals working in the Defense Department thought it was best to hide their advocacy of space resources, and that the idea we could shoot down ballistic missiles from the Soviet Union and that they couldn't adapt and find countermeasures to defeat such an expensive and difficult task ... was somehow reasonable ... while mining the Moon as asteroids (which are not against us, and do not adapt) was deemed unreasonable by the old guard.

It's also remarkable that nobody still seems interested in "defense" against extinction of the human species against biotechnology and nanotechnology, which can only be done by mining the Moon and/or asteroids near Earth for space industrialization and colonization.

Noooo.... Trillions of dollars must be spent on military contractors so we can fight for the limited resources in the Middle East, and it's preferred to spend untold additional trillions creating new weapons.

In that way, the human species will become like the daughter Clementine -- lost and gone forever!

... unless Clementine did indeed start an ice rush to the lunar poles ...

External links:

Clementine on Wikipedia > Lunar Resources (Mining The Moon) > Probes, History and Future > Clementine 1

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