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June 22-28, 2015 / Vol 34, No 25 / Hawai`i Island, USA

19 Jun 2015, 20:31 UTC
June 22-28, 2015 / Vol 34, No 25 / Hawai`i Island, USA
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LRO Cruising into 7th Year of Cislunar Operations
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the flagship NASA lunar mission of the 21st Century so far, is one of the most sophisticated robotic craft to study the Moon. The 1,900-kg, US$504M mission is entering year 7 in progressively lower orbits over the South Pole of our nearest celestial neighbor. Flying within 20 km of the surface, it is carrying 7 power instruments that generate data of increasingly higher spatial resolution. Release 22, the latest data set from LRO, is being poured over by scientists around the world after its publication June 15 via the Planetary Data System at the Geosciences Node. One of the primary LRO objectives is to scout safe landing sites for future human and robotic missions. Scientists can highlight areas suitable for landing from an engineering standpoint by layering topographical data from LOLA (Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter), temperature data from Diviner showing prevalence of small boulders and detailed stereographic data from LROC to refine the characterization and pick out larger obstacles. Then of course, many other variables will be taken into consideration in choosing the most interesting and viable location to achieve various government and independent mission priorities in terms ...

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