New NASA Moon Mission Begins Integration of Science Instruments

April 17, 2008

Several instruments that will help NASA characterize the moon's surface have been installed on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. The powerful equipment will bring the moon into sharper focus and reveal new insights about the celestial body nearest Earth.

Engineers and technicians on the LRO Integration and Test Team work almost around the clock in a clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to ready the spacecraft for testing and eventual launch later this year. "The spacecraft really is coming together now," said Cathy Peddie, LRO deputy project manager at Goddard. "We are in the space assembly homestretch and making solid progress. You can begin to see what LRO will look like in all of its glory."

Four of six instruments have been mated to the spacecraft, with one to be installed soon and one to arrive in the near future. The instruments are:

The Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project was built and developed at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The instrument will map the entire lunar surface in the far ultraviolet spectrum and search for surface ice and frost in the polar regions. It will provide images of permanently shadowed regions that are illuminated only by starlight.

The Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation, or CRaTER, was built and developed by Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. CRaTER will characterize the lunar radiation environment, allowing scientists to determine potential impacts to astronauts and other life. It also will test models on the effects of radiation and measure radiation absorption by a type of plastic that is like human tissue. The results could aid in the development of protective technologies to help keep future lunar crew members safe.

Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment was built and developed by the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Diviner will measure surface and subsurface temperatures from orbit. It will identify cold traps and potential ice deposits as well as rough terrain and other landing hazards.

The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter was conceived and built by scientists and engineers at Goddard. The instrument will measure landing site slopes and lunar surface roughness and generate high resolution three-dimensional maps of the moon. The instrument also will measure and analyze the lunar topography to identify both permanently illuminated and shadowed areas.

The Russian-built Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector has arrived from the Institute for Space Research in Moscow. The detector will create high-resolution maps of hydrogen distribution and gather information about the neutron component of lunar radiation. Its data will be analyzed for evidence of water ice near the moon's surface.

The remaining instrument, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera from Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., will provide high resolution imagery to help identify landing sites and characterize the moon's topography and composition. It should arrive at Goddard in May.

Also on board will be the Mini-RF Technology Demonstration experiment sponsored by NASA's Exploration Systems and Space Operations Mission Directorates. The miniaturized radar will be used to image the polar regions and search for water ice. The communications capabilities of the system also will be tested during the mission.

The satellite is scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., in late 2008 on an Atlas V rocket. It will spend one year in low polar orbit on its primary exploration mission, with the possibility of three more years to collect additional detailed scientific information about the moon and its environment. That information will help ensure a safe and productive human return to the moon.

The spacecraft is being built and managed by Goddard for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. It will transition to the Science Mission Directorate in 2010.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Electric sparks may alter evolution of lunar soil

Related Stories

Electric sparks may alter evolution of lunar soil

August 21, 2014

The moon appears to be a tranquil place, but modeling done by University of New Hampshire and NASA scientists suggests that, over the eons, periodic storms of solar energetic particles may have significantly altered the properties ...

NASA releases first interactive mosaic of lunar north pole

March 18, 2014

Scientists, using cameras aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), have created the largest high resolution mosaic of our moon's north polar region. The six-and-a-half feet (two-meters)-per-pixel images cover an ...

NASA Goddard joins new virtual research institute

December 2, 2013

Researchers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. have joined a new NASA virtual institute that will focus on questions concerning space science and human space exploration. Nine research teams from seven ...

Lunar orbiters discover source of space weather near Earth

September 26, 2013

(Phys.org) —Solar storms—powerful eruptions of solar material and magnetic fields into interplanetary space—can cause what is known as "space weather" near Earth, resulting in hazards that range from interference with ...

Recommended for you

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

Exoplanets 20/20: Looking back to the future

July 31, 2015

Geoff Marcy remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck. Paul Butler remembers being dead tired. The two men had just made history: the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star.

Earth flyby of 'space peanut' captured in new video

July 31, 2015

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.

Binary star system precisely timed with pulsar's gamma-rays

July 31, 2015

Pulsars are rapidly rotating compact remnants born in the explosions of massive stars. They can be observed through their lighthouse-like beams of radio waves and gamma-rays. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.