Lunar Gravity Field Modeling: A Critical Survey

M. Sinha, A. Halder, R. Garhwal, A. K. Ghosh, N. S. Gopinath and N. K. Malik

Conference on Advances in Space Science and Technology, IIT Kharagpur, India, Jan. 2008.

Abstract: This paper summarizes and provides a critical analysis of the historical developments of lunar gravitational models from the earliest use of ground based tracking systems of the Lunar Orbiter to the Lunar Prospector mission. This encompasses a comprehensive and critical analysis of the various methods used in the estimation of the gravity coefficients and the processing of large batches of diverse measurements and data types. It has been shown that weakness exists in the current models of the lunar gravity field, which is primarily due to the lack of far side lunar tracking data information, which makes the lunar potential modeling difficult but expected to be overcome as data from SELENE satellite-to-satellite tracking becomes available. Comparisons of various lunar models reveal an agreement in the low order coefficients of the spherical harmonics. However, substantial differences in the models exist in the higher-order harmonics. A numerical comparison has been presented showing the performance of all the contemporary lunar gravitational models used within the astrodynamics community and available in public domain. Improvements to the current models are part of a continuing process and the recent model improvements and future possibilities in lunar gravity modeling are discussed. A brief review of the recent missions has been presented. It is hoped that this critical review will benefit the researchers by presenting the historical as well as state of the art in this field.