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LRO Science : Achieving Goals

A topographic map of the Moon based on data gathered by the LOLA instrument is the most accurate topographic map of the Moon to date. The final set of data from the exploration phase of the mission was released to the NASA Planetary Data System. LRO has already collected as much data as all other planetary missions combined. This volume of data is possible because the Moon is so close and because LRO has its own dedicated ground station and doesn't have to share time on the Deep Space Network. The science goals that had been set are being met, and questions are being answered.


"Before LRO, we actually knew the shape of Mars better than we knew the shape of the moon, our nearest neighbor. Because of LRO, we now have detailed maps of both the near side and far side of the moon."

- John Keller, LRO Project Scientist




astronaut photo

The Lunar Radiation Environment

A top priority of the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission is the characterization of the global lunar radiation environment and its biological impacts and potential mitigation, as well as investigation of shielding capabilities and validation of other deep-space radiation mitigation strategies involving materials.

The Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER ) instrument characterizes the global lunar radiation environment and its biological impacts by measuring galactic and solar cosmic ray radiation behind a "human tissue-equivalent" plastic. CRaTER discovered a previously unmeasured source of hazardous radiation coming from the moon itself. The radiation reportedly comes from the partial reflection of galactic cosmic rays off the moon surface..


Evaluating the Biological Imacts

CRaTER is able to observe how radiation interacts with a tissue-equivalent plastic known as TEP. The TEP detector is able to mimic radiation doses within humans that would be delivered if a person was on the moon. These findings document, wall-to-wall, different effects and instrument responses with some of the best long-term measurements ever made of radiation in deep space.

Related Features :

UNH Scientists Document, Quantify Deep-Space Radiation Hazards
November 18, 2013 - Scientists from the University of New Hampshire and colleagues have published comprehensive findings on space-based radiation as measured by a UNH-led detector aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The data provide critical information on the radiation hazards that will be faced by astronauts on extended missions to deep space such as those to Mars

The CRaTER Special Issue of Space Weather
February 26, 2013 - Building the observational foundation to deduce biological effects of space radiation

LRO Finds Some Surprises on the Moon
December 15, 2009 - Cosmic rays with enough energy to punch through the whole telescope -- are seen once per second, nearly twice higher than anticipated. Crater radiation measurements taken during this unique, worst-case solar minimum will help us design safe shelters for astronauts...

LRO to Help Astronauts Survive in Infinity
April 16, 2009 - Space seems exotic, forbidding, and remote, but imagine trying to survive winter without a heated shelter or warm clothing. Our ancestors developed these technologies because they needed room to grow; without them, we would still be confined to narrow areas along the equator, but with them, we could live anywhere in the world. With the right technology, space is just another place for people to live.

3d Maps

Providing the first highly accurate 3D Lunar Maps

Anaglyphs are now being used to better understand the 3-D structure of the lunar surface. An "anaglyph" is the stereoscopic 3D effect achieved by means of encoding each eye's image using filters of different (usually chromatically opposite) colors.. These images can be viewed in three-dimensions using red-blue/green glasses.

Scientists using the camera aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are acquiring stereo images of the moon in high resolution (0.5 to 2 meters/pixel) that provide 3-D views of the surface from which high resolution topographic maps are made. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle Camera (LROC NAC) team from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University are currently developing a processing system to automatically generate anaglyphs from most of these stereo pairs.

LROC acquires stereo images by targeting a location on the ground and taking an image from one angle on one orbit, and from a different angle on a subsequent orbit.

The LROC NAC anaglyphs make lunar features such as craters, volcanic flows, lava tubes and tectonic features jump out in 3-D.

Related Features :

LRO Camera (LROC) : 3D Moon!
October 18. 2013 - These featured images are an anaglyph 3D of an LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) mosaic of the lunar nearside taken at low-Sun conditions. You will need 3D stereo glasses to see it pop off your screen!

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Explores the Moon in 3-D
September 25, 2012 - Scientists using the camera aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are acquiring stereo images of the moon in high resolution (0.5 to 2 meters/pixel) that provide 3-D views of the surface from which high resolution topographic maps are made.

LESSON : Making a 3D Model of the Moon's Surface [PDF]
In this activity, students will make estimates about the relative height/ depth of objects from images.The relationship between sun angle and shadow to deter- mine the actual height of objects from images. Create a 3D model using a 2D image and evaluate its accuracy.

Diviner

Mapping Mineralogy Across the Moon

The crust of the Moon is made up of two main types of rock, anorthosite and basalt. Anorthosite is light in color because it is made up of a light-colored mineral called plagioclase feldspar. Basalt is dark in color because it contains the iron-bearing minerals pyroxene, olivine and ilmenite, along with volcanic glass. The iron present in these minerals tend to absorb light, making them appear dark. The light and dark areas on the Moon are composed of these rock types.

The Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment revealed the presence of lunar soils with compositions more sodium rich than that of the typical anorthosite crust. Diviner identifed quartz, silica-rich glass, and alkali feldspar at four of these unique, nearside sites.

The widespread nature of these soils reveals that there may have been variations in the chemistry and cooling rate of the magma ocean which formed the early lunar crust, or they could be the result of secondary processing of the early lunar crust.

Related Features :

LRO Exposes Moon's Complex, Turbulent Youth
September 16, 2010 - All minerals and rocks absorb and emit energy with unique signatures that reveal their identity and formation mechanisms. For the first time, the Diviner instrument is providing scientists with global, high-resolution infrared maps of the moon, enabling them to make a definitive identification of silicate minerals commonly found within its crust.

Color of the Moon
September 10, 2010 - Colors on the Moon are dominantly controlled by variations in iron and titanium content. The mare regions have low reflectance because they contain relatively high amounts of iron oxide (FeO). Some mare basalts contain unusually high amounts of titanium oxide (TiO2) in addition to iron oxide, making for even lower reflectance. TiO2 also shifts the color of the mare from red to blue.

Diviner Data Reveal Complex Lunar Geology
(link to Diviner web site not working...)

Diviner

Searching for Polar Volatiles (Especially Water Ice)

LRO particularly focuses on the moon's poles to search for water or ice that could exist in permanently shadowed craters. A bottle of one of the most expensive brands of water costs $40, and is presented in a frosted glass container decorated with crystal. On the moon, a bottle of water would run about $50,000, and forget about that heavy crystal glass. That's because it costs around $50,000 per pound to launch anything to the moon. Discovering water on the moon would be like finding a gold mine.

In fact, scientists have discovered evidence for water or hydrogen, a component of water, in special places on the moon. Since the moon is not tilted much from its rotation axis, the depths of certain craters in the lunar poles may not have seen the sun for billions of years.

Related Features :

Metamorphosis of Moon's Water Ice Explained
June 19, 2013 - LRO scientists have explained how energetic particles penetrating lunar soil can create molecular hydrogen from water ice. The finding provides insight into how radiation can change the chemistry of water ice throughout the solar system.

Walls of Lunar Crater May Hold Patchy Ice, LRO Radar Finds
August 30, 2012 - Small patches of ice could make up at most five to ten percent of material in walls of Shackleton crater. Scientists using the Mini-RF radar have estimated the maximum amount of ice likely to be found inside a permanently shadowed lunar crater located near the moon's South Pole.

Treasure Hunting on the Moon: The Search for Water
October 2, 2008 - Scientists have discovered evidence for water or hydrogen, a component of water, in special places on the moon.

LRO Showing Us the Moon as Never Before
June 21, 2011 - NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has forever changed our view of the moon, literally bringing it into sharper focus and showing us the whole globe in unprecedented detail.

Diviner

Provide an Assessment of Features for Landing Sites

The continuing observations of historic hardware and impact craters are not just interesting from a historical standpoint - each image adds to our knowledge of lunar science and engineering, particularly cartography, geology, and photometry. Making sure that the lunar cartographic network is accurate is a critical component for planning future lunar missions for both human and robotic exploration of the Moon. The historic spacecraft serve as benchmarks. When new images arrive and final ephemeris is in hand we can check if the hardware has moved.

Currently the United States has no near-term plans to land humans or robotic spacecraft on the Moon.

Related Features :

LROC Coordinates of Robotic Spacecraft
September 25, 2013 - Repeat imaging of anthropogenic (human-made) targets on the Moon remains a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) priority as the LRO Extended Science Mission continues. These continuing observations of historic hardware and impact craters are not just interesting from a historical standpoint - each image adds to our knowledge of lunar science and engineering, particularly cartography, geology, and photometry.


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