Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

    Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

    NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is an unmanned (robotic) mission to the Moon that will help to prepare for future human lunar missions. LRO will also help to answer fundamental questions about the Earth-Moon system.

    By making a high-resolution map of the composition of the lunar surface, LRO will seek out sources of water ice that may exist at the bottom of polar craters that never see sunlight. Water, if found, could be used by astronauts to make fuel, air, and perhaps grow plants and food. Scheduled to launch onboard an Atlas V401 rocket, LRO will settle into a polar orbit 50 kilometers (31 miles) above the surface in order to view the entire surface of the Moon in high detail. To carry out it's mission of mapping the composition of the Moon's surface in high resolution, LRO will carry six scientific instruments and one technology demonstrator.

    The LRO Camera will retrieve high-resolution 1 meter per pixel (3.3 feet) images of the Moon's entire surface -- from pole to pole -- in the visual and ultraviolet spectrum. These images will provide information about polar lighting conditions, identify potential resources and hazards, and enable safe landing sites to be chosen for future robotic and human missions.

    Other instruments aboard LRO will create a high-resolution 3-D map of the entire Moon's surface, using laser altimeters, radio and ultraviolet imagery, temperature maps, and will also characterize the radiation levels on the Moon.

    Engineer Cathy Peddie is the Deputy Mission Manager for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. She says that LRO will help NASA mission planners to figure out, "Where to go on the Moon, where to [put] the safe landing sites, and where to put things like lunar outposts, in the hopes of having human exploration in the near future."

    LRO is the first of NASA's Vision for Space Exploration missions.

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