New NASA Moon Mission Begins Integration of Science Instruments

Apr 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: Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Goddard joins new virtual research institute

Dec 02, 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 ...

Metamorphosis of moon's water ice explained

Jun 19, 2013

Using data gathered by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, scientists believe they have solved a mystery from one of the solar system's coldest regions—a permanently shadowed crater on the ...

Recommended for you

Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

2 hours ago

This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… ...

Rosetta instrument commissioning continues

2 hours ago

We're now in week four of six dedicated to commissioning Rosetta's science instruments after the long hibernation period, with the majority now having completed at least a first initial switch on.

Astronaut salary

3 hours ago

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

22 hours ago

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

A sharp eye on Southern binary stars

Unlike our sun, with its retinue of orbiting planets, many stars in the sky orbit around a second star. These binary stars, with orbital periods ranging from days to centuries, have long been the primary ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Astronaut salary

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...