Sep 17, 2009 | 2
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), launched in June to survey the moon with an eye toward a human return there, is already hard at work. At a news conference from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., NASA presented preliminary results from the spacecraft's instruments, which have just finished a transition from the commissioning to operational phases.
In its one-year primary mission, LRO will seek to map the moon in great detail, measure the radiation that human tissue would be subjected to during a lengthy lunar stay, and search for traces of water ice on the lunar surface. Water would be an invaluable resource for future lunar explorers—astronauts could save enormous amounts of launch weight if they did not have to carry their own water supply.
Jul 2, 2009 | 7
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which reached its destination just last week, is already showing its stuff.
The space agency switched on the LRO's cameras two days ago and today released the first images from the orbiter's mission, which is intended to pave the way for the return of astronauts to the moon.
The LRO snapped surface images near the Sea of Clouds (Mare Nubium) in the moon's southern hemisphere as day gave way to night. The intense shadowing caused by the sun's low angle makes for a dramatic moonscape that exaggerates the contours of the surface features.
Jun 23, 2009 | 7
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), launched last week to survey the moon with an eye toward future human exploration, has reached lunar orbit. The spacecraft entered orbit today at 6:27 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), placing a NASA probe around the moon for the first time in nearly 10 years.
From its orbit 31 miles (50 kilometers) above the moon, LRO will make detailed maps of the lunar surface, including its poles, where astronauts would have access to consistent solar power and possibly even stores of water ice. A companion spacecraft launched with LRO, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, will make two lunar impacts this fall to seek out evidence of that water. LRO will contribute to that water hunt while also studying the moon's radiation environment and its potential health effects, among other investigations.
Jun 19, 2009 | 5
After failing to get the shuttle Endeavour off the launch pad this week, NASA had better luck with its mission to map the moon.
An Atlas V rocket lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). The spacecraft are expected to reach lunar orbit Tuesday morning, and NASA has been tweeting about mission as it unfolds.
Within hours of blastoff, NASA established communication with the LRO to power up the systems needed to control the spacecraft, which will circle the moon at an orbit of 31 miles (50 kilometers) for at least one year to study the lunar surface and scope out potential landing sites for a possible manned moon mission in 2020.
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