LROC coordinates of robotic spacecraft 2013 update

Sep 25, 2013
A selection of spacecraft impact sites imaged by LROC, all images to same scale. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Repeat imaging of anthropogenic (human-made) targets on the Moon remains a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) priority as the LRO Extended Science Mission continues. These continuing observations of historic hardware and impact craters are not just interesting from a historical standpoint - each image adds to our knowledge of lunar science and engineering, particularly cartography, geology, and photometry.

Making sure that the lunar cartographic network is accurate is a critical component for planning future lunar missions for both human and of the Moon. The historic spacecraft serve as benchmarks (especially the laser retroreflectors ). When new images arrive and final ephemeris is in hand we can check if the hardware has moved - well, actually we see the level of uncertainty in computing latitude/longitude coordinates (currently about ± 15 meters (yards)).

Currently the United States has no near-term plans to land humans or on the Moon, however China is scheduled to launch the Chang'e 3 mission in December. If we are lucky, the LROC team might have a before picture to compare to any after pictures of the Chang'e 3 landing site (the exact planned landing coordinates have not yet been released). Currently all LROC Narrow-Angle Camera (NAC) investigations must rely solely on "after" images of landing sites. Obtaining a before and after set of images of the Cheng'e 3 will facilitate a much better understanding of the delicate processes involved in regolith (dust and rock) redistribution due to lander rocket plumes.

Luna 17, the Soviet Union spacecraft that carried the Lunokhod 1 rover to the surface. You can make out the rover tracks around the lander. This is LROC NAC image M175502049RE. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

When a spacecraft lands on the Moon in a powered descent, exhaust gases from the descent engine disrupt the surface resulting in visible changes around the landed vehicle. These changes can be better understood with photometric studies using using LROC NAC images taken with different illumination geometries. Close to (or right under) the lander the soil is most disrupted, leading to reduced reflectance. Interestingly a zone of increased reflectance surrounds the lander. This "blast zone" ranges from a few meters for the Surveyor spacecraft, to a few tens of meters for Luna, and a few hundred meters for Apollo. Photometric modeling indicates possible causes for the increased reflectance zones from smoothing of the surface by the exhaust flow, the destruction of micro-scale regolith structure, and/or the redistribution of fine particles from the area beneath the lander to its surroundings. Modeling the dynamics of rocket exhaust plumes and studying the exhaust plume effects of previous landed spacecraft on the Moon are defining safe operational practices for future landing sites and outposts.

Careful retracing of the Lunokhod 2 traverse dramatically improved our understanding of the surface activities of that intrepid rover. In addition, by accurately determining the locations of the Luna 23 and Luna 24 landers, the LROC team determined not only how the Luna 23 failed, but also that the Luna 24 sample was collected on the rim of a small impact crater, providing an explanation for the discrepancies that existed for the past three decades between samples and remote sensing of the Mare Crisium surface.

Explore further: Full lunar eclipse delights Americas, first of year

More information: wms.lroc.asu.edu/lroc_browse/view/lander_locations

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Europe's plans to visit the Moon in 2018

Jul 27, 2012

The European Space Agency is aiming for the Moon with their Lunar Lander mission, anticipated to arrive on the lunar surface in 2018. Although ESA successfully put a lander on the surface of Titan with the ...

A new, automatic 3-D moon

Sep 25, 2012

Who doesn't love 3-D images, especially of objects in space? But creating them can be a bit time-consuming for scientists, especially for images from orbiting spacecraft like the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter ...

LROC's first look at the Apollo landing sites

Jul 17, 2009

The imaging system on board NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently had its first of many opportunities to photograph the Apollo landing sites. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) imaged ...

Space image: The Moon's North pole

Sep 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Earth's moon has been an endless source of fascination for humanity for thousands of years. When at last Apollo 11 landed on the moon's surface in 1969, the crew found a desolate, lifeless ...

Recommended for you

Vegetables on Mars within ten years?

21 hours ago

The soil on Mars may be suitable for cultivating food crops – this is the prognosis of a study by plant ecologist Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen UR. This would prove highly practical if we ever decide to ...

NASA Cassini images may reveal birth of a Saturn moon

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet's known ...

Meteorite studies suggest hidden water on Mars

23 hours ago

Geochemical calculations by researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology to determine how the water content of Mars has changed over the past 4.5 billion years suggest as yet unidentified reservoirs of water ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...

NASA Cassini images may reveal birth of a Saturn moon

(Phys.org) —NASA's Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet's known ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.