Satellites’ launch to give boost to NASA’s ‘return to Moon’ mission

May 22nd, 2009 - 1:53 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 22 (ANI): NASA’s return to the moon will get a boost in June with the launch of two satellites that will return a wealth of data about Earth’s nearest neighbor.

On May 21, the agency outlined the upcoming missions of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS.

The spacecraft will launch together June 17 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Using a suite of seven instruments, LRO will help identify safe landing sites for future human explorers, locate potential resources, characterize the radiation environment and test new technology.

LCROSS will seek a definitive answer about the presence of water ice at the lunar poles.

It will use the spent second stage Atlas Centaur rocket in an unprecedented way that will culminate with two spectacular impacts on the moon’s surface.

“These two missions will provide exciting new information about the moon, our nearest neighbor,” said Doug Cooke, associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.

“Imaging will show dramatic landscapes and areas of interest down to one-meter resolution. The data also will provide information about potential new uses of the moon. These teams have done a tremendous job designing and building these two spacecraft,” he added.

LRO’s instruments will help scientists compile high resolution, three-dimensional maps of the lunar surface and also survey it in the far ultraviolet spectrum.

The satellite’s instruments will help explain how the lunar radiation environment may affect humans and measure radiation absorption with a plastic that is like human tissue.

LRO’s instruments also will allow scientists to explore the moon’s deepest craters, look beneath its surface for clues to the location of water ice, and identify and explore both permanently lit and permanently shadowed regions.

High-resolution imagery from its camera will help identify landing sites and characterize the moon’s topography and composition.

A miniaturized radar will image the poles and test the system’s communications capabilities.

“LRO is an amazingly sophisticated spacecraft,” said Craig Tooley, LRO project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Its suite of instruments will work in concert to send us data in areas where we’ve been hungry for information for years,” he added. (ANI)

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