Saturday, November 26, 2016

How does NASA operate the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter?

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. 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.

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. The first images from LRO were published on July 2, 2009, showing a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium.

Launched on June 18, 2009, in conjunction with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), as the vanguard of NASA's Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, this is the first United States mission to the Moon in over ten years. 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.