NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter On Deck for Artemis Mission

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With An Insane Deadline Just Four Years Away, NASA Officials Comb Through Old Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Data for Possible Landing Sites.

Interest in the Moon has waxed and waned over the last decade or so. Under the George W. Bush Administration, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter showed promise regarding human spaceflight. The orbiter, LRO for short, launched in 2009. And during its first year, its mission was to find potential landing sites for humans on the lunar surface. After that, however, NASA re-tasked it to gather other scientific data. So it hasn’t really been scouting for spots in nearly a decade. Now NASA has to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, though. That means the sites that the LRO found may be just what Artemis needs.

In fact, when President Bush announced the program, he said, “The moon is a logical step toward further progress and achievement.” Clearly, he grasped what his current successor can’t seem to. It’s a notch in the belt of Jim Bridenstine’s argument that were it not for politics we’d already have been back to the Moon. Bush realized that we need to have a human presence in space beyond low Earth orbit. As such, he launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter as part of an effort to make that a reality. Under the Obama administration, however, the focus on returning to the Moon fell away, and the LRO was tasked with different scientific missions.

A Decade Later…

It’s time for the LRO to get back in the game, though.  According to Noah Petro, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist, “There’s this renewed interest in LERO and this renewed interest in what we can do.” He continued, “It makes us all stand up a little straighter and sharpen our pencils and make sure we continue to do the right thing.”

Despite the lack of funding and interest under the Obama Administration, scientists working on LRO kept the original mission in mind, Petro also said. “LRO was envisioned as this necessary precursor mission to say, well, where are we going to go, and where are the safe landing spots on the moon? As that went away, there was still this recognition that the moon was woefully understudied as an object.” 

Now we’re back to its original purpose. NASA scientists working on the Artemis project will soon start combing through that initial landing site data. And you can bet, they’ll use the LRO for a lot of other Artemis related tasks as well. 

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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