Woohoo! NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken its first images of the Moon! There are two cameras on board which combine to create the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC. They were both activated June 30, and their “first light” images were of a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).
“Our first images were taken along the moon’s terminator — the dividing line between day and night — making us initially unsure of how they would turn out,” said LROC Principal Investigator Mark Robinson of Arizona State University in Tempe. “Because of the deep shadowing, subtle topography is exaggerated, suggesting a craggy and inhospitable surface. In reality, the area is similar to the region where the Apollo 16 astronauts safely explored in 1972. While these are magnificent in their own right, the main message is that LROC is nearly ready to begin its mission.”
According to Robert Pearlman at collectSPACE, the LROC has some interesting sites lined up to image, including the imaging of Apollo landing sites.
However, the resolution of any images of Apollo sites will not be as good as those made later during the probe’s primary mapping orbit, a time when LRO will be at a lower altitude as it orbits the Moon.
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The LROC Science Team has opened up a public request opportunity to suggest LROC Narrow Angle Camera targets using a public targeting tool. So, check it out and submit your requests!
The Apollo 15 and Apollo 16 landing spots are already on a list put together by NASA’s Constellation Program Office, as a “Regions of Interest” for the LROC. But all the Apollo sites are regions of interest for almost any space enthusiast!