NASA LUNAR SPACECRAFT SHIPS SOUTH IN PREPARATION FOR LAUNCH
GREENBELT, Md. -- 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 24.
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 Field,
Goddard manages the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.
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