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Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
File:LRO 2006.jpg
LRO spacecraft, artist's rendering
Mission type Lunar orbiter
Operator NASA
COSPAR ID 2009-031A
SATCAT № 35315
Mission duration Elapsed: 6 years, 7 months and 22 days

Primary mission: 1 year
Extended mission 1: 5 years
Extended mission 2: under assessment[1]
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer GSFC
Launch mass Script error: No such module "convert".
Power 1,850 watts
Start of mission
Launch date June 18, 2009, 21:32:00 (2009-06-18UTC21:32Z) UTC
Rocket Atlas V 401
Launch site Cape Canaveral SLC-41
Contractor United Launch Alliance
Orbital parameters
Reference system Selenocentric
Periselene Script error: No such module "convert".
Aposelene Script error: No such module "convert".
Template:Infobox spaceflight/IP

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric Script error: No such module "convert". polar mapping orbit.[2][3] The LRO mission is a precursor to future human and robotic missions to the Moon by NASA. To this end a detailed mapping program will identify safe landing sites, locate potential resources on the Moon, characterize the radiation environment, and demonstrate new technology.[4][5]

The probe will make a 3-D map of the Moon's surface and has provided some of the first images of Apollo equipment left on the Moon.[6][7] The first images from LRO were published on July 2, 2009, showing a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).[8]

Launched on June 18, 2009,[9] in conjunction with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), as the vanguard of NASA's Lunar Precursor Robotic Program,[10] this is the first United States mission to the Moon in over ten years.[11] LRO and LCROSS are the first missions launched as part of the United States's Vision for Space Exploration program.

The total cost of the mission is reported as US$583 million, of which $504 million pertains to the main LRO probe and $79 million to the LCROSS satellite.[12]


Developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, LRO is a large (Script error: No such module "convert".[12]) and sophisticated spacecraft planned to fly in a lunar polar orbit for a mission of one Earth year. An extended phase of the mission of five years provided a communications relay to other lunar missions. A second extended mission is under consideration.[1]

After completing a preliminary design review in February 2006 and a critical design review in November 2006,[13] the LRO was shipped from Goddard Space Flight Center to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on February 11, 2009.[14] Launch was planned for October 2008, but this slid to April as the spacecraft underwent testing in a thermal vacuum chamber.[15] Launch was rescheduled for June 17, 2009, because of the delay in a priority military launch,[16] and happened one day later, on June 18. The one-day delay was to allow the Space Shuttle Endeavour a chance to lift off for mission STS-127 following a hydrogen fuel leak that canceled an earlier planned launch.[17]

Areas of investigation include selenodetic global topography; the lunar polar regions, including possible water ice deposits and the lighting environment; characterization of deep space radiation in lunar orbit; and high-resolution mapping, at a maximum resolution of 50 cm/pixel (20 in/pixel), to assist in the selection and characterization of future landing sites.[18][19]

In addition, LRO has provided some of the first images and precise locations of landers and equipment from previous American and Russian lunar missions, including the Apollo sites.[6]


File:LRO payload.jpg
Onboard instruments.

The orbiter carries a complement of six instruments and one technology demonstration:

  • CRaTER—The primary goal of the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation is to characterize the global lunar radiation environment and its biological impacts.[20]
  • DLRE—The Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment measures lunar surface thermal emission to provide information for future surface operations and exploration.[21]
  • LAMP—The Lyman Alpha Mapping Project peers into permanently shadowed craters in search of water ice, using ultraviolet light generated by stars as well as the hydrogen atoms that are thinly spread throughout the Solar System.[22]
  • LEND—The Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector provides measurements, create maps, and detect possible near-surface water ice deposits.[23]
  • LOLA—The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter investigation provides a precise global lunar topographic model and geodetic grid.
  • LROC—The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera addresses the measurement requirements of landing site certification and polar illumination.[24] LROC comprises a pair of narrow-angle push-broom imaging cameras[25][26] (NAC) and a single wide-angle camera (WAC). LROC has flown several times over the historic Apollo lunar landing sites at Script error: No such module "convert". altitude; with the camera's high resolution, the lunar rovers and Lunar Module descent stages and their respective shadows will be clearly visible, along with other equipment previously left on the Moon. The mission is returning approximately 70–100 terabytes of image data. It is expected that this photography will boost public acknowledgement of the validity of the landings, and further discredit Apollo conspiracy theories.[6]
  • Mini-RF—The Miniature Radio Frequency radar demonstrated new lightweight SAR and communications technologies and located potential water-ice.[27]
File:Microchip panel for Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).jpg
The microchip panel containing 1.6 million names.

Names to the Moon

Prior to the LRO's launch, NASA gave members of the public the opportunity to have their names placed in a microchip on the LRO. The deadline for this opportunity was July 31, 2008.[28] About 1.6 million names were submitted.[28][29]

Mission progress

File:Goddard Spaceflight Center Laser Ranging Facility.jpg
In this image, the lower of the two green beams is from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's dedicated tracker.

On June 23, 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter entered into orbit around the Moon after a four and a half day journey from the Earth. When launched, the spacecraft was aimed at a point ahead of the Moon's position. A mid-course correction was required during the trip in order for the spacecraft to correctly enter Lunar orbit. Once the spacecraft reached the far side of the Moon, its rocket motor was fired in order for it to be captured by the Moon's gravity into an elliptical lunar orbit.[30] A series of four rocket burns over the next four days put the satellite into its commissioning phase orbit where each instrument was brought online and tested. On September 15, 2009, the spacecraft started its primary mission by orbiting the Moon at about Script error: No such module "convert". for one year.[31] After completing its one-year exploration phase, in September 2010, LRO was handed over to NASA's Science Mission Directorate to continue the science phase of the mission.[32] It will continue in its 50 km circular orbit, but eventually will be transitioned into a fuel-conserving elliptical orbit for the remainder of the mission.

NASA's LCROSS mission culminated with two lunar impacts at approximately 4:30 a.m. PDT on October 9.[33] The goal of the impact was the search for water in the Cabeus crater near the Moon's south pole,[34] and preliminary results indicated the presence of both water and hydroxyl, an ion related to water.[35][36]

LOLA data provides three complementary views of the near side of the Moon: the topography (left) along with maps of the surface slope values (middle) and the roughness of the topography (right). All three views are centered on the relatively young impact crater Tycho, with the Orientale basin on the left side.

On January 4, 2011, the Mini-RF instrument team for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) found that the Mini-RF radar transmitter had suffered an anomaly. Mini-RF has suspended normal operations. Despite being unable to transmit, the instrument is being used to collect bistatic radar observations using radar transmissions from the Earth. The Mini-RF instrument has already met its science mission success criteria by collecting more than 400 strips of radar data since September 2010.[37]

In January 2013 NASA tested one-way laser communication with LRO by sending an image of the Mona Lisa to the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument on LRO from the Next Generation Satellite Laser Ranging (NGSLR) station at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.[38]


On August 21, 2009, the spacecraft, along with the Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, attempted to perform an bistatic radar experiment to detect the presence of water ice on the lunar surface.[39][40][41]

On December 17, 2010, a topographic map of the Moon based on data gathered by the LOLA instrument was released to the public.[42] This is the most accurate topographic map of the Moon to date. It will continue to be updated as more data is acquired.

On March 15, 2011, the final set of data from the exploration phase of the mission was released to the NASA Planetary Data System. The spacecraft's seven instruments delivered more than 192 terabytes of data. LRO has already collected as much data as all other planetary missions combined.[43] This volume of data is possible because the Moon is so close and because LRO has its own dedicated ground station and doesn't have to share time on the Deep Space Network. Among the latest products is a global map with a resolution of 100 meters per pixel from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC).


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Tycho crater‍‍ '​‍s central peak complex casts a long, dark shadow near local sunrise.

See also


  1. ^ a b Foust, Jeff (18 March 2015). "Culberson Pledges Protection for Lunar Orbiter, Mars Rover Missions". Space News. Retrieved 2015-03-22. 
  2. ^ Petro, N. E.; Keller, J. W. (2014). Five Years at the Moon With the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO): New Views of the Lunar Surface and Environment (PDF). Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group. October 22-24, 2014. Laurel, Maryland. Lunar and Planetary Institute. 
  3. ^ "The Current Location of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter". Arizona State University. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  4. ^ LRO Mission Overview, retrieved October 3, 2009 
  5. ^ "Mission design and operation considerations for NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter" (PDF). Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved February 10, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c Koczor, Ron (July 11, 2005). "Abandoned Spaceships". NASA. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  7. ^ Garner, Robert (July 17, 2009). "LROC images of Apollo sites". NASA. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  8. ^ Garner, Robert (July 2, 2009). "LRO's First Moon Images". NASA. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Launch". Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved March 22, 2008. 
  10. ^ Mitchell, Brian. "Lunar Precursor Robotic Program: Overview & History". NASA. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  11. ^ Dunn, Marcia (June 18, 2009). "NASA launches unmanned Moon shot, first in decade". ABC News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on August 20, 2009. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  12. ^ a b Harwood, William (June 18, 2009). "Atlas 5 rocket launches NASA Moon mission". CNET Networks. Retrieved June 18, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Successfully Completes Critical Design Review". December 7, 2006. Retrieved February 6, 2007. 
  14. ^ "NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Spacecraft Ships South In Preparation For Launch". February 11, 2009. Retrieved February 13, 2009. 
  15. ^ NASA (October 23, 2008). "NASA's Next Moon Mission Begins Thermal Vacuum Test". Retrieved August 9, 2009. 
  16. ^ Ray, Justin (April 1, 2009). "NASA's robotic return to the Moon delayed to June". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved August 9, 2009. 
  17. ^ Jim Loney, Sandra Maler, ed. (June 13, 2009). "Gas leak postpones space shuttle launch". Reuters. Retrieved August 9, 2009. 
  18. ^ Savage, Donald; Gretchen Cook-Anderson (December 22, 2004). "NASA Selects Investigations for Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter". NASA. 04-407. Retrieved May 18, 2006. 
  19. ^ Klotz, Irene (June 18, 2009). "NASA launches probes to scout the Moon". Reuters. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation". Boston University. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  21. ^ "Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment". UCLA. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  22. ^ Andrews, Polly. "The Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project : Seeing in the Dark". Southwest Research Institute. Retrieved December 13, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Russian neutron detector LEND for NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter space mission". Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  24. ^ "The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera". Arizona State University. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  25. ^ Neal-Jones, Nancy (2014-01-29). "NASA's LRO Snaps a Picture of NASA's LADEE Spacecraft". NASA. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Burns, K.N.; Speyerer, E.J.; Robinson, M.S.; Tran, T.; Rosiek, M.R.; Archinal, B. A.; Howington-Kraus, E.; The LROC Science Team (25 August – 1 September 2012). "Digital Elevation Models and Derived Products From LROC NAC Stereo Observations" (PDF). International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume XXXIX-B4, 2012 XXII ISPRS Congress. p. 483. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  27. ^ Yan (June 19, 2009). "Backgrounder: Introduction to LRO's instruments". Xinhua. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  28. ^ a b Spires, Shelby G. (May 3, 2009). "We can't all go to Moon, but our names can". The Huntsville Times. Archived from the original on July 2, 2010. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  29. ^ Jenner, Lynn (June 9, 2009). "1.6 Million Names to the Moon". NASA. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  30. ^ "NASA Lunar Mission Successfully Enters Moon Orbit". NASA. June 23, 2009. Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  31. ^ Tooley, Craig (August 14, 2009). "Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter". Retrieved August 22, 2009. 
  32. ^ Missions - Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter - NASA Science
  33. ^ Crotts, Arlin (October 2011). "Water on The Moon, I. Historical Overview". Astronomical Review 6 (8): 4–20. Bibcode:2011AstRv...6h...4C. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  34. ^ "A Flash of Insight: LCROSS Mission Update". NASA. August 11, 2008. 
  35. ^ "Astrobiology Top 10: LCROSS Confirms Water on the Moon". January 2, 2010. 
  36. ^ "Water and More: An Overview of LCROSS Imapct Results" (PDF). December 2009. 
  37. ^ NASA press release. "LRO Instrument Status Update - 01.11.11". Retrieved April 12, 2011. 
  38. ^ NASA Beams Mona Lisa to Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at the Moon
  39. ^ "NASA And ISRO Satellites Perform In Tandem To Search For Ice On The Moon". NASA. Retrieved August 22, 2009. 
  40. ^ "ISRO-NASA Joint Experiment To Search for Water Ice on the Moon". ISRO. August 21, 2009. Retrieved August 22, 2009. 
  41. ^ Atkinson, Nancy (September 11, 2011). "Joint Experiment with Chandrayaan-1 and LRO Failed". Universe Today. Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  42. ^ "NASA's LRO Creating Unprecedented Topographic Map of Moon". December 17, 2010. 
  43. ^ NASA press release. "NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Delivers Treasure Trove of Data". Retrieved April 12, 2011. 

External links