Near-Infrared Cameras Indicate Signature of Water on the Moon

InGaAs shortwave infrared (SWIR) cameras
Sensors Unlimited, Goodrich Corp.
Princeton, NJ

Shortwave infrared (SWIR) cameras from Sensors Unlimited were instrumental in NASA’s LCROSS mission to find water on the Moon. The cameras were selected for the mission more than three years ago, and were integrated into the imaging payload of the shepherding spacecraft.


The two Goodrich cameras captured near-infrared (0.9-1.7 μm) images that were compared against the
known near-infrared signature of water. Using indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) technology, the cameras detected moisture contrast amid the dust, smoke, and fog, and accurately recorded the LCROSS crash incident for precise study of the debris cloud. Analysis of these images alongside other data collected from the mission eventually led NASA scientists to officially confirm the presence of water on the Moon.

Goodrich InGaAs-SWIR cameras can detect reflected light at wavelengths invisible to the human eye, in wavelength bands between visible and thermal cameras. The materials and circuitry allow for small and lightweight cameras that are suitable for space travel. They also operate in extreme conditions, ranging from the sub-zero temperatures of space, to firefighting and battlefield environments.

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