Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Is Launched
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a robotic spacecraft launched by NASA, currently orbiting the Moon.
The unmanned launch of the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program occurred on June 18, 2009, the first United States mission to the Moon in over ten years. LRO is the first mission of the United States's Vision for Space Exploration program. To successfully attain the goals of "The Vision", including human exploration of the Moon, LRO will orbit the Moon, survey lunar resources, and identify possible landing sites. The orbiting probe will be able to provide a 3-D map of the Moon's surface and has provided some of the first images of Apollo equipment left on the Moon. The LRO Atlas V launch vehicle also carries the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which is designed to detect water liberated when the launch vehicle's spent upper stage strikes a lunar crater. Together, LCROSS and LRO form the vanguard of the NASA Lunar Precursor Robotic Program's return to the Moon.
Today, the Center remains involved in each of NASA's key programs. Goddard has developed more instruments for planetary exploration than any other organization, among them scientific instruments sent to every planet in the Solar System. The Center's contribution to the Earth Science Enterprise includes several spacecraft in the Earth Observing System fleet as well as EOSDIS, a science data collection, processing, and distribution system. For the manned space flight program, Goddard develops tools for use by astronauts during extra-vehicular activity, and operates the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft designed to study the Moon in preparation for future manned exploration.