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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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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Fly Me to the Moon….

ISRO to launch Chandrayaan-I in September
DailyIndia.com

India will launch its first lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-I, in September. The spacecraft will map the moon with a high-resolution high-resolution stereo camera with a resolution of 16 feet. The orbiter’s other instruments include near-infrared and X-ray spectrometers and a laser altimeter.

LRO Launch Delayed to 2009

Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

NASA will delay the launch of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) from November to late February or early March 2009 because of a launch conflict with the Department of Defense.

The orbiter will map the moon and collect mineralogy data. The mission has a piggyback payload, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which is designed to send the rocket’s spent upper stage crashing into the moon to search for evidence of water ice.

Scientists Find Evidence of Water on the Moon

New scans show evidence of water on the moon
Maggie Fox
Reuters

“Tiny green and orange glass balls brought back from the moon nearly 40 years ago by astronauts show evidence that water existed there from the very beginning, scientists reported on Wednesday….

“Their study, published in the journal Nature, could support evidence that water persists in shadowed craters on the moon’s surface — and that the water could be native to the moon and not carried there by comets.”

Brown-Led Team Finds Evidence of Water in Moon’s Interior

Brown University Press Release

“A Brown-led research team has for the first time found evidence of water deep within the Moon. In a paper published in the July 10 issue of the journal Nature, the researchers believe the water was contained in lunar magmas ejected more than 3 billion years ago. The discovery strongly suggests that water has been a part of the Moon since its early existence – and perhaps since it was first created…

“NASA plans to send its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter later this year to search for evidence of water ice at the Moon’s south pole. If water is found, the researchers may have figured out the origin.”

Send Your Name to the Moon with NASA

Artist Impression of LRO

NASA PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON — NASA invites people of all ages to join the lunar exploration journey with an opportunity to send their names to the moon aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft.

The Send Your Name to the Moon Web site enables everyone to participate in the lunar adventure and place their names in orbit around the moon for years to come. Participants can submit their information at http://www.nasa.gov/lro, print a certificate and have their name entered into a database. The database will be placed on a microchip that will be integrated onto the spacecraft. The deadline for submitting names is June 27, 2008.

“Everyone who sends their name to the moon, like I’m doing, becomes part of the next wave of lunar explorers,” said Cathy Peddie, deputy project manager for LRO at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The LRO mission is the first step in NASA’s plans to return humans to the moon by 2020, and your name can reach there first. How cool is that?”

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Moon Exploration: NASA Assembles LRO, ESA Ponders Robotic Lander

NASA reports that it has mated four of six scientific instruments on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Meanwhile, ESA is considering building a robotic lunar lander to ferry cargo to crews on the surface.

The LRO instruments include:

  • Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project. The instrument will map the entire lunar surface in the far ultraviolet spectrum and search for surface ice and frost in the polar regions. It will provide images of permanently shadowed regions that are illuminated only by starlight.
  • Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation. CRaTER will characterize the lunar radiation environment, allowing scientists to determine potential impacts to astronauts and other life. It also will test models on the effects of radiation and measure radiation absorption by a type of plastic that is like human tissue. The results could aid in the development of protective technologies to help keep future lunar crew members safe.
  • Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment. Diviner will measure surface and subsurface temperatures from orbit. It will identify cold traps and potential ice deposits as well as rough terrain and other landing hazards.
  • The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter. The instrument will measure landing site slopes and lunar surface roughness and generate high resolution three-dimensional maps of the moon. The instrument also will measure and analyze the lunar topography to identify both permanently illuminated and shadowed areas.

Two other instruments – the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera and the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector – remain to be installed. LRO is set for launch late this year.

In other lunar news, Flight Global reports that ESA is considering a robotic lander capable of delivering 1,700 kilograms (3,700 lbs.) of cargo to a human base on the Moon. ESA officials are drafting a proposal for presentation during a ministerial conference in November.