Lunar Orbiter En Route To KSC
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft was
loaded on a truck Wednesday to begin its two-day journey to NASA's
Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Launch is targeted for April
The spacecraft was built by engineers at Goddard, where it
recently completed two months of tests in a thermal vacuum chamber.
During its time in the chamber, the spacecraft was subjected to hot
and cold temperatures it will experience as it orbits the moon.
The satellite's mission is one of the first steps in NASA's plan
to return astronauts to the moon. LRO will spend at least one year
in a 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.
The orbiter will carry seven instruments to provide scientists
with detailed maps of the lunar surface and enhance our
understanding of the moon's topography, lighting conditions,
mineralogical composition and natural resources. Information
gleaned from LRO will be used to select safe landing sites,
determine locations for future lunar outposts and help mitigate
radiation dangers to astronauts. The polar regions of the moon are
the main focus of the mission because continuous access to sunlight
may be possible and water ice may exist in permanently shadowed
areas of the poles.
"This is the culmination of four years of hard work by everyone
on the LRO Project," said Cathy Peddie, LRO deputy project manager
at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. "LRO now
begins its launch site processing, where it will be prepped for
integration with our sister mission LCROSS, and eventually
encapsulated in the Atlas V for its journey to the moon."
LRO's instruments have considerable heritage from previous
planetary science missions, enabling the spacecraft to transition
to a research phase under the direction of NASA's Science Mission
Directorate one year after launch.
Accompanying LRO on its journey to the moon will be the Lunar
Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, a mission that
will impact the lunar surface in its search for water ice. The
LCROSS mission is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett
Goddard manages the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.