NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    26th Sep, 2019

Context

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) helped to search India's lost moon lander Vikram.

About

  • Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a robotic mission that set out to map the moon's surface and, after a year of exploration, was extended with a unique set of science objectives.
  • LRO entered lunar orbit on June 23, 2009 and after spacecraft commissioning, the Exploration Mission began on September 15, 2009.
  • The Exploration Mission completed on September 15, 2010 when responsibility for LRO was transferred to NASA's Science Mission Directorate for a two-year Science Mission with a new set of science goals. The LRO mission has been extended to continue lunar science and exploration.

Focus of the exploration Mission:

  • The Exploration Mission was focused on supporting the extension of human presence in the solar system.
  • LRO continues to help identify sites close to potential resources with high scientific value, favourable terrain and the environment necessary for safe future robotic and human lunar missions.
  • LRO observations have enabled numerous ground-breaking discoveries, creating a new picture of the moon as a dynamic and complex body. These developments have set up a scientific framework through which to challenge and improve our understanding of processes throughout the solar system.

Some of the LRO exploration and science results:

  • In polar shadowed regions found the coldest spots measured (below 30 K) in the solar system.
  • Discovered significant subsurface hydrogen deposits in regions cold enough for water ice to survive, as well as in additional hydrogen deposits in warmer areas where surface water ice is not thermally stable.
  • New (<5 years old) impact craters and are found to be widespread across the lunar surface, with a surprising abundance of related surface changes.
  • Developed an improved catalogue of lunar craters larger than 20 km in diameter, thus providing constraints on the ancient impactor population that affected the inner solar system.
  • First radar measurements of the lunar far side.
  • Characterized relatively young volcanic complexes, such as Ina, and revealed first direct evidence of the presence of highly silicic volcanic rocks on the Moon.
  • Measured galactic cosmic ray interactions with the Moon during a period with the largest cosmic ray intensities observed during the space age.
  • Created the first cosmic ray albedo proton map of the Moon.
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