The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) at the Dynamic Moon: Five Years of Operations in Lunar Orbit – An Overview of the Mission, Key Science Results, Data Products, and Future Measurements

Monday, 15 December 2014
Noah E Petro, NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States and John W Keller, Code 691 SSED, Greenbelt, MD, United States
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been orbiting the Moon for over five years. In that time, data from the seven instruments onboard the spacecraft have made significant advances in our understanding of the Moon and its environment. In September 2014 LRO completed its first Extended Science Mission (ESM) and began a second ESM (pending NASA approval). During the ESM and the second ESM, LRO has been in a quasi-stable, eccentric orbit of ~30 x 180 km with a periapse near the South Pole. This orbit enabled high-resolution measurements around the South Pole. LRO’s seven instruments are operating nominally, and have experienced no significant degradation since beginning the ESM. The spacecraft has performed exceptionally well, with 98.4% uptime during the mission. LRO retains sufficient fuel so that its current orbit can be maintained for at least 8 years.

LRO’s science teams have been extremely productive, focusing on the distribution of volatiles, evidence for early differentiation, measuring the lunar impact record, and the Moon’s interactions with its external environment. Three of the most exciting findings by LRO have been the identification of LRO-era impacts, global tectonic features, and the transient nature of some volatiles at the surface. These findings are areas of study for future LRO measurements.

LRO’s data is released to the PDS every 3 months, as of Aug. 2014 528.75 TB of data have been delivered by LRO. Many of the teams have delivered higher-level data products as part of their routine PDS deliveries (e.g., mosaics, maps, derived products). These products are intended to act as useful resources for the science community. Some higher-level LRO data products are of interest for future lunar landers. These products include illumination maps, meter-scale digital elevation models, roughness maps, and 50cm per pixel images of a range of possible landing sites. All of these products are available either from the PDS [1] or individual teams websites [2-5]. If members of the community require assistance finding and/or using data from LRO, they are invited to contact the authors of this abstract.

[1] http://pds-geosciences.wustl.edu/missions/lro/default.htm

[2] http://imbrium.mit.edu/

[3] http://diviner.ucla.edu/

[4] http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/

[5] http://lro.gsfc.nasa.gov/