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The LRO Mission

At 5:32 p.m. EDT, June 18, 2009, an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket roared off the launch pad at Launch Complex 41 to begin the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite missions to the moon.

The LRO instruments return global data, such as day-night temperature maps, a global geodetic grid, high resolution color imaging and the moon's UV albedo. However there is particular emphasis on the polar regions of the moon where continuous access to solar illumination may be possible and the prospect of water in the permanently shadowed regions at the poles may exist. Although the objectives of LRO are explorative in nature, the payload includes instruments with considerable heritage from previous planetary science missions, enabling transition, after one year, to a science phase under NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

With a comprehensive data set focused on supporting the extension of human presence in the solar system, LRO helps identify sites close to potential resources with high scientific value, favorable terrain and the environment necessary for safe future robotic and human lunar missions. All LRO initial data sets are deposited in the Planetary Data System (PDS), a publicly accessible repository of planetary science information, within six months of primary mission completion. Thereafter, the data sets will be deposited in the PDS every three months. The processed data sets will help the world develop a deeper understanding of the lunar environment, paving the way for a safe human return to the Moon and for future human exploration of our solar system.

LRO is collecting detailed information about the Lunar environment. The LRO payload, comprised of six instruments and one technology demonstration, provide key data sets.

Find out what is happening with LRO →