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NASA Returning to the Moon with First Lunar Launch in a Decade

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Old June 19th 09, 01:53 AM posted to sci.space.news
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Default NASA Returning to the Moon with First Lunar Launch in a Decade

June 18, 2009

Grey Hautaluoma/Ashley Edwards
Headquarters, Washington

Nancy Neal Jones
Goddard Space Flight Center, Md.

George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

RELEASE: 09-142


GREENBELT, Md. -- NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched at
p.m. EDT Thursday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station in Florida. The satellite will relay more information
about the lunar environment than any other previous mission to the

The orbiter, known as LRO, separated from the Atlas V rocket carrying
it and a companion mission, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing
Satellite, or LCROSS, and immediately began powering up the
components necessary to control the spacecraft. The flight operations
team established communication with LRO and commanded the successful
deployment of the solar array at 7:40 p.m. The operations team
continues to check out the spacecraft subsystems and prepare for the
first mid-course correction maneuver. NASA scientists expect to
establish communications with LCROSS about four hours after launch,
at approximately 9:30 p.m.

"This is a very important day for NASA," said Doug Cooke, associate
administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in
Washington, which designed and developed both the LRO and LCROSS
missions. "We look forward to an extraordinary period of discovery at
the moon and the information LRO will give us for future exploration

The spacecraft will be placed in low polar orbit about 31 miles, or
kilometers, above the moon for a one year primary mission. LRO's
instruments will help scientists compile high resolution
three-dimensional maps of the lunar surface and also survey it at
many spectral wavelengths. The satellite will explore the moon's
deepest craters, exploring permanently sunlit and shadowed regions,
and provide understanding of the effects of lunar radiation on

"Our job is to perform reconnaissance of the moon's surface using a
suite of seven powerful instruments," said Craig Tooley, LRO project
manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "NASA
will use the data LRO collects to design the vehicles and systems for
returning humans to the moon and selecting the landing sites that
will be their destinations."

High resolution imagery from LRO's camera will help identify landing
sites for future explorers and characterize the moon's topography and
composition. The hydrogen concentrations at the moon's poles will be
mapped in detail, pinpointing the locations of possible water ice. A
miniaturized radar system will image the poles and test communication

"During the 60 day commissioning period, we will turn on spacecraft
components and science instruments," explained Cathy Peddie, LRO
deputy project manager at Goddard. "All instruments will be turned on
within two weeks of launch, and we should start seeing the moon in
new and greater detail within the next month."

"We learned much about the moon from the Apollo program, but now it
time to return to the moon for intensive study, and we will do just
that with LRO," said Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist at

All LRO initial data sets will be deposited in the Planetary Data
System, a publicly accessible repository of planetary science
information, within six months of launch.

Goddard built and manages LRO. LRO is a NASA mission with
international participation from the Institute for Space Research in
Moscow. Russia provides the neutron detector aboard the spacecraft.

The LRO mission is providing updates via @LRO_NASA on Twitter. To
follow, visit:


For more information about the LRO mission, visit:




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