NASA'S LRO completes exploration mission phase

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Washington Sept 16 (ANI): The exploration phase of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft's mission is set for completion on Sept. 16, following a number of successes that transformed our understanding of Earth's nearest neighbour.

LRO completed a one-year exploration mission in a polar orbit approximately 31 miles above the Moon's surface.

It produced a comprehensive map of the lunar surface in unprecedented detail; searched for resources and safe landing sites for potential future missions to the Moon; and measured lunar temperatures and radiation levels.

The mission is turning its attention from exploration objectives to scientific research, as program management moves from NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate to the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington.

"LRO has been an outstanding success. The spacecraft has performed brilliantly," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. "LRO's science and engineering teams achieved all of the mission's objectives, and the incredible data LRO gathered will provide discoveries about the Moon for years to come."

The LRO team will continue to send data gathered during the last year to the Planetary Data System, which archives and distributes scientific information from NASA planetary missions, astronomical observations and laboratory measurements.

By the time LRO achieves full mission success in March, and its data is processed and released to the scientific community, it will have sent more information to the Planetary Data System than all other previous planetary missions combined. During its new phase of discovery, LRO will continue to map the Moon for two to four more years.

"The official start of LRO's science phase should write a new and intriguing chapter in lunar research," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. "This mission is one more asset added to NASA's vast science portfolio."

The spacecraft launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying a suite of seven instruments on June 18, 2009.

LRO formally began its detailed survey of the Moon in September 2009. (ANI)

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