NASA's New Moon Missions Seek Answers about Lunar Environment


NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, began their journey to the moon rolled out to launch complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Center at about 1:30 a.m. EDT on May 28.

The missions are scheduled to launch together aboard an Atlas V rocket on June 17. The satellites will help to set the stage for future lunar exploration and scientific research.

Since the moon is only four days away, we want to use Earth’s closest neighbor to explore before we take bigger steps into the solar system for longer-term exploration.

Just as a scout finds the safest ways for expedition on Earth, NASA will send a robotic scout, LRO, to gather crucial data on the moon’s topography, composition and environment. LRO follows in the footsteps of Ranger, Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor. These predecessors to the Apollo missions searched for the best possible landing sites.

LRO and its seven instruments are designed to find possible landing sites, locate potential resources, characterize the lunar radiation environment, and test new technology. It will create a comprehensive atlas of the moon’s features. After launch, LRO’s journey to the moon will take approximately four days. After about sixty days, LRO will enter its operational circular polar orbit, about 31 miles above the moon’s surface. The data sets gathered by LRO will enable a safe and productive human return to the moon.

LCROSS is a spectacular mission will attempt to determine if water ice occurs in areas of permanent shadow near the lunar poles. LCROSS uses the spent second stage of the Atlas rocket, the Centaur, as an SUV-sized kinetic impactor that will excavate a small crater on the floor of a permanently shadowed lunar crater. The Centaur has never been used in this way before. The LCROSS spacecraft will fly through the Centaur impact plume to search for signs of water ice before impacting the lunar surface and creating a second debris plume. Both plumes and their resulting craters will be observed closely by LCROSS mission scientists and astronomers around the world.

LCROSS represents a new generation of fast development, cost-capped missions that use off-the-shelf hardware and flight-proven software to achieve focused mission goals. Whatever the mission discovers about the presence of water will increase our knowledge of the mineral makeup of the most remote areas of the moon, the deep polar craters where sunshine never reaches.

More pictures: http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/search.cfm?cat=201
More about LRO: https://www.nasa.gov/lro
More about LCROSS: https://www.nasa.gov/lcross

50 thoughts on “NASA's New Moon Missions Seek Answers about Lunar Environment”

  1. Check the drawer of the desks in your office. We sent several missions to the moon where we actually landed on the surface, took pictures, and brought back samples. There should be notes around somewhere.

  2. It will be great to see new, high resolution images of the moon. Most importantly let’s hope water ice is found in significant quantities, which will really open up long stays on the moon.
    It’s fascinating that with no atmosphere, a stable orbit is safe even as low as 31 miles (about 50Km).

  3. @guest: The implication being what? “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt”? So since it’s been done once, nobody should do it again? Good think we didn’t take that attitude after Lewis and Clark.

    Apollo blazed a great trail, but if nobody follows, then it only served to trumpet our greatness. Building on Apollo makes the investment really worthwhile for future generations, not just those that were involved.

    And no, I’m not associated with the project in any way.

  4. You know or now know that I used to enjoy watching the Apollo flights to the Moon. I know the subsequent Shuttle Missions were done to see the effects weightlessness, and development of knowledge of working in orbit were designed to create better dexterity in space. So, now I am looking forward to the next Steps taken to reach further into Space. Even though I am a bit more curious about our Sun, and what Secrets to the Universe are hidden there. High Sierra Hotel Junior Birdmen. God’s Speed reviseted.

  5. Very excited 2 watch DREAMS, powered by years of HARD WORK, ascend 2 the heavens! Congrats LRO team! A part of me goes with you. (ibmlucia-GSFC retired family)

  6. Moon is ownerless or it is owned by all of us … Who gave Americans the right to bomb the moon? Since when is the surface of the Moon a U.S. territory? Why, for example, no one asked me if he could send the racket towards the moon? It seems to me that the moon is equally owned by every person on this planet, Americans didn’t buy it, didn’t raise it themselves. I am opposed to any activity on the moon, its surface appears to be a neutral zone so why anyone would have anything to do with it? Hundreds of thousands of people die of ordinary flu, AIDS or hunger each year, and NASA wants to bomb the moon to determine whether somewhere in nook there is a little water, which for one hundred years would help in maintaining a modern super colonies on the surface of the moon. Let’s launch rockets in yourselves to search for more sensible ideas, NASA. OPEN YOUR EYES! Help your brother and sister, don’t break harmony of our nature and Mother Earth.
    Let’s focus on real problems.

  7. Thanks for publishing my Opinion. Looking forward to more Lunar Exploration. We may not make it to the next star in Our Lifetime, but the Endeavour to go is natural for the Curious… Sincerely, Nezer

  8. This is SHOCKING! Since when does America have the right to bomb the surface of the moon? I am among many opposed to this stupid and utterly selfish and egotistical decision. HOW DARE YOU – the moon is not owned by you! There is absolutely no reason why you should do this!You are exploiting our resources to do this and exploiting the moons possible water source. It just makes no sense. The money is better spent here on our planet in an effort to save it for future generations! Please do not go ahead with this.

  9. Although I find space research incredibly interesting, this does seem a somewhat absurd concept, especially given the number of much more immediate, relevant issues on earth.
    Surely the vast amounts of money being spent on these missions could be better spent on developing and promoting cleaner energy production, consumer education and sustainable design and manufacture?
    Where is the benefit of discovering the presence of water on another planet if we can’t even preserve those resources entrusted to us on our own? Perhaps the USA should take a look a little closer to home before staking its claim elsewhere.

  10. Hello,

    I just learned than NASA was preparing to drop a bomb on the Moon ( with a 6 miles high explosion ) for finding underground ice?
    I wanted to say than this is a very bad idea. people won’t like it at all. Don’t you believe than human kind already destroyed enough things on Earth? I’m not fan of this project. Reminds me Space 1999 first episode. The Moon must be respected, that’s all.
    If this happens, it will be the most stupid thing than we’ll ever do around.
    To be positive, I would recommend a new engine system to trust space ships and any kind of vehicles anywhere.
    We won’t need fuel, atomic and powder rockets any more.
    There is a greater thing to do now. ANTI-G ENGINES! They can be made with the DESERT sand. Fire rockets and petrol engines are dangerous and retarded. They’re from stone age. There are loads of things to say about this subject so… later may be.

    But please, no bombs on OUR Moon. Population will be very upset about that AND it will be completely useless for 6.856.691.321 people around here.

    Yours

    Juan Trip’

  11. There was some talk before launch that LRO would attempt to image the Apollo-11 landing site in time for the 40th anniversary celebrations on 20 July 2009.

    Is that going to happen or will it be done – perhaps more realistically – after the evnt ?

    Phill Parker
    UK
    (Covered Apollo-11 and other Apollo missions live!)

  12. STOP LYING TO THE WORLD, was not sufficient with the ridiculous that you mounted in 1969???!!!

  13. Congrats to the LRO Team! To all you poo pooers, who say why do this or why spend all this money. It’s actually something just like this that people need to lookup at, to look away from their own stuff for a moment. You talk about spending money on better things like cleaner energy, consumer ed., or sustainable design. We already have all of that but get the government to release all that. It behooves them to keep things the way they are so taxes can stay high.

  14. Guess I should have explained myself.

    I’m a former Xerox digital photo tech and trainer.

    The original infrared image only comes up grey; but if you bring up light, contrast and proportional hues, you get a complete picture, details and all.

    Fully one percent of hits to my web-site is the US Government because they know what I’m doing is right.

    Emily Cragg

  15. For all the ignorant comments so far suggesting the U.S. government should turn our focuses inward (e.g. on the planet Earth), all you need to do is look in a history book to see how well that worked for China. At one point, China was hands down the biggest and most wealthy empire on the face of the Earth…bigger than the Roman Empire, more powerful than the Greek empire, etc. They lead expedition after expedition, setting up trade routes to the “new” world centuries before the Europeans did. However, a new emperor decided to turn the focuses inward. Fleets were burned, trade stopped, and China began to focus on “its own problems”. What did it do? It DESTROYED their society. It took CENTURIES for the Chinese to make up for that short-sighted and ignorant approach, the approach our European “friends” are fighting for here.

    Just take a look at ISS. The U.S. and Russia are carrying everyone else (like usual), but the internatioal cooporation has been astounding. ISS has greatly increased our knowledge of long duration space missions. Why is this important? If Humans want to beat history (i.e. not become extinct like every other species to have existed) being in more than one place (Earth) greatly increases those odds. Not to mention the economical advantage of being able to “farm” the mineral rich asteroids that exist not far from our planet.

    No one “owns” the Moon, but America can make a claim where every other country cannot. Hate to tell you, but discovering if sustainable resources exist on the Moon will allow us to further explore long-duration missions, evaluate new technology, and develop mew software and hardware that will take the Human race beyond Earth.

    Therefore, for all the European and “guest” contributions to this blog, please buy a clue.

  16. NASA/The US do not have the right to send explosives to the moon. This concept is completely off base and rooted in sheer lunacy. It must be stopped. Do we want to be known among future beings of the seventh generation, that we are the ancestors that allowed such a desecration to occur?

  17. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it seems that now that all the lies that have been created by this government defense company are starting to come to light a good way to be able to deny every single conspiracy theory regarding the moon would be to blow it right out of existence so that no one will ever be able to point the finger. I wonder if that movie The Time Machine was meant to be allegorical? SAVE THE MOON!

  18. I’m sure you will not post my previous post so I will just say don’t do this…and leave it at that.

  19. Seriously this is insane. We have already screwed up the Earth and now we are going to screw up the moon as well? NASA needs to use there ginormous brains and money to conserve our Earth. This is ridiculous. If the Moon controls the tides and rumor has it woman’s menstrual cycles then god help us all. 2012 is not to far away.

    So whats the plan? Chew threw the Earth then move onto the moon?? Ignorant statement.

  20. Although this news has not been advertised at all in Italy, many people know about this mission and, in my own opinion and according to other informed italians, this is a real mistake mainly beacuse NASA is doing as it likes with moon without asking to americans neither to all human beings on earth who surelly wouldn’t approve this.

    Moon isn’t property of anyone!
    I just wanted you to know.

    Best Regards

  21. Every journey we undertake begins with the first step, if the first step is correct, every subsequent step is awarded the best opportunity to be successful. If the first step is wrong every subsequent step is a correction that is vulnerable to errors and misinterpretation.

    Fortunately our bad decisions mostly result in fairly insignificant consequences, unless say you are a pilot, most air accidents very rarely result from one error or failure, most are a cumulation thereof, the results of which can prove fatal.

    Our moon, the closest celestial body to earth is a major influence on our planets evolution and the life that exists on it. The very thought or concept of blowing holes in our moon is the wrong first step.

  22. Don’t bomb the moon!!! Please, for the love of God, do not do this. The moon is not a toy for anyone to tinker with. It is a cornerstone of every single person’s relationship to earth and it is condemnable to consider destroying that relationship. Please reconsider this abominable act that is planned for Friday, and think of the likely negative effect that the whole world may suffer.

    Don’t bomb your moon, the very beauty that you probably gazed at when you were little, dreaming of you future at NASA.

  23. I think the LCROSS mission shows how very, very misguided America and its government have become. The moon has always been a symbol of beauty and spirituality, a symbol that belongs to everyone. It is shocking that NASA, an oganization of scientists who must in some way love nature, have chosen to deface one of nature’s most precious gifts.

    Beyond these very meaningful aesthetic issues, there are also practical. Is this really a good use of funds in a time when our Earth needs so much help? Does the US have the right to damage the moon, which belongs to the world?

    I just heard about LCROSS tonight. But I will surely be phoning my elected officials tomorrow to lend my voice to the chorus who want this cancelled.

  24. What is the matter with you all?
    Bombing the Moon? Is nothing in this universe sacred any more?
    Mans ego and arrogance will be the undoing of us all.
    I am appauled, that such an idea has actually come to fruition.
    This is insanity, and as a citizen of this country I am totally opposed to this act and feel ashamed and repulsed that such a thing would be happening in our country by so called intelligent men!!!

  25. Wow humans are so very extremely self-centered. Good job NASA for being the perfect representation of this 🙂

  26. This is completely crazy! What if something goes wrong and the whole moon is blown up. The whole idea is still science fiction because we dont have the to move to another planet when the moon is destroyed which would cause alot of our own enviroments on earth to be destroyed too. They need to run multiple simulations to make sure if something goes wrong they can fix it but they need to run all possible outcomes and not just do a few.

  27. This is a wonderful event for the future of mankind hangs in the balance, some people cannot see the importance of this mission but our future generations will appreciate every effort we make now to preserve the human species. I wish i was their as the coordinator because i would ensure the future space missions to every galaxy and even propose to use diamond technology instead of silicon chips. Congratulations NASA and affiliate’s JPL etc. Everyone needs to tune in to this historic event. Thank You, Danita Moore, Lake Panasoffkee, Florida

  28. How does this effect anyone? let’s settle down. The moon is a giant rock, and it will still be there after the crash.

  29. As you can see , once again, the peanut gallery does not have a clue about the scientific community. The outrage ahahahah. I suppose this was done on a back lot of a Hollywood set too

  30. I am so very sad and at the point of tears. How can NASA take it upon itself to put the entire planet at risk? Global warming does not even compare to this insane level of destruction. We are concern about nuclear weapons getting in the hands of terrorist, what could be more deranged than our intentional action of bombing the moon? As Americans, how can we be so callous?

  31. Here is my problem with this. They say we landed on the moon in the 60s, planted our flag, left our footprints, and physical evidence that our lunar lander and other machines HAVE actually been there. Would’nt this site be considered extremely HISTORICAL? Is NASA not worried about disturbing this site? Or is this really a plot for a very conveniant future explanation of why the landing sitte cannot be found? “In the year 2009 we launched a rocket that accidently and coincidently destroyed and erased all traces of the 1960s moon landing”. BTW, do’nt we have powerful and sophisticated telescopes theese days? It kind of bothers me that no one is even attempting to take modern pictures of the site or get some sort of view of it.

  32. Here is my problem with this. They say we landed on the moon in the 60s, planted our flag, left our footprints, and physical evidence that our lunar lander and other machines HAVE actually been there. Would’nt this site be considered extremely HISTORICAL? Is NASA not worried about disturbing this site? Or is this really a plot for a very conveniant future explanation of why the landing sitte cannot be found? “In the year 2009 we launched a rocket that accidently and coincidently destroyed and erased all traces of the 1960s moon landing”. BTW, do’nt we have powerful and sophisticated telescopes theese days? It kind of bothers me that no one is even attempting to take modern pictures of the site or get some sort of view of it.

  33. Here is my problem with this. They say we landed on the moon in the 60s, planted our flag, left our footprints, and physical evidence that our lunar lander and other machines HAVE actually been there. Would’nt this site be considered extremely HISTORICAL? Is NASA not worried about disturbing this site? Or is this really a plot for a very conveniant future explanation of why the landing sitte cannot be found? “In the year 2009 we launched a rocket that accidently and coincidently destroyed and erased all traces of the 1960s moon landing”. BTW, do’nt we have powerful and sophisticated telescopes theese days? It kind of bothers me that no one is even attempting to take modern pictures of the site or get some sort of view of it.

  34. PLEASE don’t tell me YA’LL are sending people to see if we could live on the moon
    It’s PROBABLY NOT GOING TO WORK

  35. What is the main purpose of this mission? How is this going to help us human beings? And also how does this connect to the concept of metaphysics and computer science? PLEASE reply with details.

  36. What is the main purpose of this mission? How does this impact on us humans? and also how is this connected to the concept of metaphysics and computer science? PLEASE reply with a detailed answer ASAP!!

  37. is d conspiracy theory true…has man ever landed on moon….frgt the apollo 11 flight…many say dat none of the apollo series has ever been succesfull in landing man on moon…i have also seen d documentary about dat theory in the channel “FOX HISTORY”…they say it was shot in area 51

  38. Here’s a thought. What about beginning a project on the moon to essentially transform it into a deep space exploration vehicle. You could dig an extremely large bellow within the moon for water storage transported from Earth. On the moon’s surface, build an 200 ft high ceiling to cover most of the moon and pressurize it, fill it with air and transport soil from Earth to make a large greenhouse for living. Underground, make all the living quarters. For propulsion, develop engines based on future technology and fuel solutions. So the moon would practically be Noah’s ark to escape the doomed Earth 5 billion years or so from now.

  39. NASA is bombing the moon to see what is inside of it.Astronauts from the Apollo missions could not penetrate deep into the soil.Perhaps the moon is hollow or solid “who knows?” Maybe it is a UFO.Blasting the surface of the moon is a good idea.I don’t think there is any danger,it has has been hit before.Maybe it will move 1/4 of a mm out of it’s orbit.What do i know… GO NASA!

  40. What on Earth, was Georgie too many bombs jnr Bush, doing throwing a car bomb at OUR MOON ?????
    Come clean or apologise!

    Did it RING LIKE A GONG?

    Gis a job, I can do better than that!

  41. wow, to everyone below me who had something negative to say about this, you are all MORONS. i mean you act like NASA had plans to actually BLOW UP the moon. come on people that dropped a (considering the size of the moon) small rocket on to it. big freakin deal.!.!.

  42. Hi, is that true that you bombard the moon because of the proof of old civilization ruins?

    Is that true all he said by J.J Benitez?
    In the past exist live on the moon and why try to keep in secret?

    Why you don’t go anymore to the moon recently?

    Greetings.

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