Moon Mappers has been very fortunate to partner up with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team to provide you with some of the most spectacular images of the Moon since the Apollo missions close-up views.
The LROC is one of several instruments aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The LRO was launched on June 18, 2009 and is currently in a polar orbit around the Moon, collecting data.
Other instruments on the spacecraft include:
as well as several others.
To learn more about the spacecraft and its instrument payload, please visit NASA’s LRO site.
The LROC actually consists of 3 separate cameras.
The Wide Angle Camera (WAC) is designed to provide images of the entire Moon at a resolution of 100 meters per pixel (a small city block would show up as roughly 1 pixel at this resolution). The main goal of this camera is to gather repeated images of the lunar poles over a full lunar year to find out which areas remain in constant shadow. Because of the curvature of the Moon, a person standing at the poles would always have the sun at the horizon. If they happen to be standing in a crater, it is possible that the sun would never shine into the bottom of that crater. These kinds of craters are interesting because they provide a place for water ice to be stable on the Moon, shielded from the sun, which would evaporate it into space.
The other two cameras are Narrow Angle Cameras (NACs). Together, these cameras provide two side by side, 5 kilometer-wide swaths of images for selected regions of the Moon. Unfortunately, the entire Moon will not be imaged by these cameras, because their resolution is very high at 50 centimeters per pixel (you would show up as roughly one pixel at this resolution). To completely image the Moon at that resolution is currently not possible. Instead, the goal of these cameras is to look for good future landing sites, which are relatively flat and free of rocks and other landing hazards. For that reason, areas thought to be potentially good or scientifically interesting landing sites are targeted by these cameras, as well as other areas that are generally of scientific interest. The Apollo landing sites are also targeted by the NAC cameras, because they can provide a known comparison between what the surface looks like from orbit and what it looks like on the ground.
To learn more about LROC cameras and see images, please visit Arizona State University’s LROC site.
The current Moon Mapper tasks are using the NAC images to map small craters, which have never been cataloged before. These images provide exciting opportunities for you to identify features that have never been observed by anyone before.