The NASA’s lunar orbiter, initially developed for helping the US space agency return astronauts to the Moon in the previous administration, is now up for having a critical role in supporting both international and commercial mission to the Earth’s natural satellite. The so-called Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which took off in 2009, although the Obama government was still revisiting those new lunar exploration plans, would only have now only 20 kilograms of fuel.
However, NASA announced that in the fiscal year 2019, the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program would finance the LRO project, while NASA will rent payload space on commercially developed landers.
“That may not seem like a lot, but we don’t go through much fuel on an annual basis. All told, we have approximately seven years of fuel remaining. That could decrease if the spacecraft performs additional maneuvers, such as to phase its orbit to observe specific activities like lunar landings,” said Noah Petro, LRO project scientist.
NASA’s Lunar Orbiter To Support Both International And Commercial Missions
“The LRO team is standing ready to help,” also said Barbara Cohen, the LRO associate project scientist. She added that the US space agency would assist those future commercial landers that could be sent to the Moon to identify sites close to lunar resources or of high-value for scientific explorations.
“We are working with some upcoming missions to try to pick landing dates that have favorable viewing geometries that would allow LRO to observe the landings as they happen. We want to observe the plumes as the landers land and kick up dust and disturb the environment,” Cohen added.
“We will go out and say, ‘Look, let us help you understand the LRO data set, how to use it and how it can it can help you be successful,'” said John Keller, deputy project scientist for LRO, referring to the NASA’s involvement in the future commercial mission using the LRO.
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