Why The Eclipse Forced A Shutdown Of Lunar Spacecraft’s Instruments

While people across North America marvelled at the blood-red moon early this morning, some NASA engineers had a different topic on their minds: making sure the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter would survive the period of extended shadow during the eclipse.

LRO uses solar panels to get energy for its batteries, so for two passes through the Earth’s shadow it would not be able to get any sunlight at all. Tweets on the official account show all as well in the first few hours after the eclipse.

“The spacecraft will be going straight from the moon’s shadow to the Earth’s shadow while it orbits during the eclipse,” stated Noah Petro, LRO’s deputy project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a release before the eclipse occurred.

“We’re taking precautions to make sure everything is fine,” Petro added. “We’re turning off the instruments and will monitor the spacecraft every few hours when it’s visible from Earth.”

LRO’s Twitter account asked “Who turned off the heat and lights?” during the eclipse, then reported a happy acquisition of signal after the shadow passed by. “AOS, and sunlight, sweet sunlight! My batteries are charging again before I make another trip to the lunar far side.”

Hear more about LRO’s eclipse journey in the video below. For more information, check out NASA’s LRO website.  UPDATE, 10:28 a.m. EDT: NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft also is fine after the eclipse, according to its Twitter account.

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Recent Posts

Hot Stars Blast Away at gas Giants Until Only Their Rocky Cores Remain

We don't see many Neptune-sized worlds closely orbiting their star. That may be because the…

13 hours ago

JWST’s Science, Surgeon Robot for ISS, Booster 7 Test Fire

James Webb delivers scientific results, SLS and Starship go closer to their maiden flights, remote…

16 hours ago

MIT Researchers Propose Space Bubbles to Stop Climate Change

Climate change is a real problem. Human caused outputs of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide…

1 day ago

In Wildly Different Environments, Stars End Up Roughly the Same

When you look at a region of the sky where stars are born, you see…

1 day ago

Primordial Black Holes Could Have Triggered the Formation of Supermassive Black Holes

Computer simulations show the role primordial black holes may have played in the early universe,…

1 day ago

Why Betelgeuse Dimmed

Using data from Hubble and other observatories, a team of scientists have determine the cause…

2 days ago