A Look at NASA’s Plans to Explore the Moon

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Statement of Jason Crusan
Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

before the

Subcommittee on Space
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
U. S. House of Representatives

SELECTED EXCERPTS

Lunar CATALYST: Promoting Private Sector Robotic Exploration of the Moon

As part of the Agency’s overall strategy to conduct deep space exploration, NASA is also supporting the development of commercial lunar exploration. In 2014, NASA introduced an initiative called Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST). The purpose of the initiative is to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities.

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Russian Instrument on LRO Finds High Hydrogen Concentrations in Unexpected Areas

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

PRESS RELEASE
(Via Roskosmos based on RAS Institute of Space Reseach press statement)

Russian LEND — Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector – installed on NASA`s LRO -Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – was switched into active mode on Sept. 15, after LRO reached Lunar 50-km polar orbit, which is to be the operational orbit for the initial stage of the mission.

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Water on the Moon? Maybe Lots of It…

Earth Rise

Leonard David has an interesting piece over at the Space Coalition’s blog about recent discoveries about the moon:

There’s growing chatter on the lunar grapevine that exciting news is in the offing regarding the finding of water ice on the Moon – some suggesting there’s loads of it.

Still, in tight-lipped scientific circles there appears to be heightened excitement that data from both India’s Chandrayaan-1 as well as from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) appear to have struck paydirt. Both spacecraft carry gear that can probe darkened lunar craters.

Scientists were dropping hints of major discoveries on the moon during the recent lunar conference here at Ames. There are scientific papers that are under review but would be released soon.

Read Leonard’s story.

LRO Returns First Photos From the Moon

These images show cratered regions near the moon's Mare Nubium region, as photographed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's LROC instrument. Impact craters feature prominently in both images. Older craters have softened edges, while younger craters appear crisp. Each image shows a region 1,400 meters (0.87 miles) wide, and features as small as 3 meters (9.8 feet) wide can be discerned. The bottoms of both images face lunar north.
These images show cratered regions near the moon's Mare Nubium region, as photographed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's LROC instrument. Impact craters feature prominently in both images. Older craters have softened edges, while younger craters appear crisp. Each image shows a region 1,400 meters (0.87 miles) wide, and features as small as 3 meters (9.8 feet) wide can be discerned. The bottoms of both images face lunar north.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has transmitted its first images since reaching lunar orbit June 23. The spacecraft has two cameras — a low resolution Wide Angle Camera and a high resolution Narrow Angle Camera. Collectively known as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, they were activated June 30. The cameras are working well and have returned images of a region a few kilometers east of Hell E crater in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium.

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NASA’s LRO to Prepare for Human Landings on Moon

lroinorbit

Popular Mechanics compares NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter with Japan’s Kaguya spacecraft, which was intentionally crashed into the moon last week:

The Kaguya orbiter, launched by the Japanese space agency (JAXA) in late 2007, had strictly scientific objectives. The agency set out to answer some of the moon’s remaining unsolved mysteries, not to mention be the first to map the moon using the latest in digital imaging technology. “LRO is not a science mission,” Jim Garvin, chief scientist at the Goddard Space Center and one of LRO’s founding fathers, told Popular Mechanics. “It has high science value, but it was conceived to provide engineering parameters for our eventual manned return to the moon.”

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LRO & LCROSS on Their Way to the Moon

lrolcrosslaunch 

LAUNCH!!

An Atlas Centaur rocket carrying the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LCROSS spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 5:32 EDT in a perfect launch.

NASA UPDATE:

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has separated from the Centaur upper stage and LCROSS spacecraft. LRO is on its way to the Moon. The trip will take about four days.

Meanwhile the LCROSS spacecraft will stay connected to the Centaur upper stage and enter into a long orbit around the moon and Earth that will terminate in their planned impact into the lunar south pole.

OFFICIAL PROJECT SITES

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
LCROSS

Backgrounders after the jump.

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Endeavour to Launch Wednesday, LRO/LCROSS on Thursday

NASA MISSION UPDATES

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Endeavour is set to launch on its STS-127 mission at 5:40 a.m. EDT Wednesday, June 17.

Endeavour’s planned June 13 liftoff was postponed because of a leak associated with the gaseous hydrogen venting system outside the shuttle’s external fuel tank. The system is used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad. Technicians have removed and replaced the ground umbilical carrier panel and seal, and repair work should be complete by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“Our teams have been working very hard over the last couple of days to get this piece of equipment fixed,” said NASA Test Director Steve Payne during a briefing Monday afternoon. “Endeavour is in good shape and the teams are excited to be back to working toward a launch on Wednesday morning.”

According to Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters, the weather is expected to cooperate with NASA’s launch plans, with an 80 percent chance of favorable weather expected.

As a result of the rescheduling of space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-127 mission for June 17, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite are now set to lift off together aboard an Atlas V rocket on Thursday, June 18.

There will be three launch opportunities from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:12 p.m., 5:22 p.m. and 5:32 p.m. EDT.


Has America’s Enthusiasm for the Moon Waned?

moon

After four decades, is America over the moon?
The Arizona Republic

The unmanned $504 million Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launches Wednesday along with another satellite, is designed to take high-resolution photos to find safe future landing sites. Other instruments will examine radiation levels and identify natural resources on the moon, such as ice, for possible use by future human outposts.

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LRO/LCROSS Launch Set for Wednesday, June 17

Technicians completed connections between the LRO and LCROSS spacecraft and the Atlas V rocket at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Technicians completed connections between the LRO and LCROSS spacecraft and the Atlas V rocket at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

 

NASA MISSION UPDATE

Liftoff of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Spacecraft (LCROSS) is currently is scheduled for June 17 at 3:51 p.m. EDT. There are two more launch opportunities that day at 4:01 p.m. and 4:11 p.m.

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NASA Heads Back to the Moon in June

Artist Impression of LRO

NASA MISSION UPDATE

NASA’s return to the moon will get a boost in June with the launch of two satellites that will return a wealth of data about Earth’s nearest neighbor. On Thursday, the agency outlined the upcoming missions of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS. The spacecraft will launch together June 17 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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