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The Clementine Satellite: To the Moon on Only $80 Million

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“The Clementine Satellite: To the Moon on Only $80 Million” by Daniel Parry Eric Eliason
Published in Quest Volume: 30 #4 (2023)


Clementine, in 1994, was the first US spacecraft launched to the Moon in over 20 years—since Explorer 49 in June 1973. Also known as the Deep Space Program Science Experiment (DSPSE), it was designed and built to demonstrate a set of lightweight technologies such as small-imaging sensors and lightweight gallium arsenide solar panels for future low-cost missions flown by the Department of Defense. Specifically, it was a technology proving mission for the DoD’s Brilliant Pebbles program that was used to test spacecraft components during extended exposure to space and to study the Moon and an asteroid. Clementine provided our first complete look at the lunar surface, including the poles and found evidence of ice in the bottom of a permanently shadowed crater at the Moon’s south pole. The mission succeeded in its lunar objectives, but a malfunction forced the asteroid flyby to be canceled.

Clementine is considered a model for the “faster, better, cheaper” philosophy. A joint program of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and NASA; several other agencies played major roles including the US Naval Research Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore, yet overall, the mission cost just $80 million.

This article combines elements of two papers written by the authors for the US Geological Survey and the Naval Research Laboratory, respectively.


Eliason, Eric and Parry, Daniel. “The Clementine Satellite: To the Moon on Only $80 Million.” Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly 30, no. 4 (2023): 63-66.

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More Information

  • Archive ID # G301235
  • Format: Document (PDF)
  • Author/Creator:
  • Publication Year: 2023
  • Publisher: Quest
  • Copyright Status: Copyrighted
  • Copyright Holder: SPACE 3.0
  • Language: English
  • Number of Pages: 4
  • Type: History
  • Subject:
  • Collection: Quest
  • Availability: Digital Download

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