Space History Yesterday — Clementine

A day late and a dollar short, as my Dad says, but I couldn’t leave out a launch I actually saw, could I?

Yesterday — January 25, 2009 — was the 15th anniversary of the launch of the Clementine mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. In 1994 I was stationed at Vandy as part of the Titan (launch vehicle) System Program Office, and we watched the Titan-II launch from the parking lot of our building. One of my office-mates — Deb Fort, with whom I was stationed years earlier at the Rocket Lab — worked facilities support for the mission.

Clementine, for those who don’t remember it, was also known as the Deep Space Program Science Experiment, and was “designed to test lightweight miniature sensors and advanced spacecraft components by exposing them, over a long period of time, to the difficult environment of outer space.” So says this Naval Research Lab page, and they should know since they built the thing.

The Clementine mission plays an important role in my novel, MARE NUBIUM, as it was the first mission to return data that indicated ice in craters at the lunar south pole. Even though subsequent data show the ice probably isn’t as plentiful as once thought, it still makes (in my opinion) a good prop for a story.

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