Recent Moon Exploration

    No more spacecraft went to the moon until January 1994, when the United States sent the orbiter Clementine. From February to May of that year, Clementine's four cameras took more than 2 million pictures of the moon. A laser device measured the height and depth of mountains, craters, and other features. Radar signals that Clementine bounced off the moon provided evidence of a large deposit of frozen water. The ice appeared to be inside craters at the south pole.

    The U.S. probe Lunar Prospector orbited the moon from January 1998 to July 1999. The craft mapped the concentrations of chemical elements in the moon, surveyed the moon's magnetic fields, and found strong evidence of ice at both poles. Small particles of ice are apparently part of the regolith at the poles.

    The SMART-1 spacecraft, launched by the European Space Agency in 2003, went into orbit around the moon in 2004. The craft's instruments were designed to investigate the moon's origin and conduct a detailed survey of the chemical elements on the lunar surface.

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