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Lunar Recon Orbiter
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission to Earth's Moon

Goals: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was sent to the Moon to make high-resolution maps of the composition of the lunar surface and seek out potential sources of water-ice that may exist in the bottom of dark polar craters. The spacecraft is seeking potential landing sites and resources for future human exploration of the Moon. LRO was launched with the LCROSS lunar impact mission.

Accomplishments: One of the mission's first surprising discoveries was the super-cold temperatures in the permanently shadowed craters of the Moon's south polar region. The temperatures -- -397 degrees Fahrenheit (-238 degrees Celsius) -- are among the coldest surface temperatures measured in the solar system, colder even than Pluto.

The spacecraft also made new observations of the Apollo landing sites; found indications that permanently shadowed and nearby regions may harbor water and hydrogen; provided detailed information about lunar terrain; and discovered the first evidence of thrust faults that indicate the Moon has recently contracted and may still be shrinking.

LRO also took high resolution pictures of the Lunokhod 1 rover that had been lost for almost 40 years. Accurate position data enabled researchers on Earth to bounce laser signals off the rover's retroreflector for the first time ever. It now provides important new information about the position and motion of the Moon.


Key Dates
18 Jun 2009:  Launch (21:32 UT)
23 Jun 2009:  Arrival in Lunar Orbit (09:43 UT)
Status: Success
Fast Facts
Lunar Recon Orbiter Facts LRO data also indicates the Moon may still be shrinking.

LRO found the lost Soviet Lunokhod 1 rover, enabling the 1970 mission to again contribute valuable science data.

LRO's measuremed spots on the Moon even colder than Pluto.

It also found areas of near constant sunlight on the Moon's South Pole.

LRO also took detailed images of the Apollo landing sites. Apollo 11's landing zone is shown above.
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Last Updated: 5 Dec 2012