The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, began its journey on June 18th when the Atlas V rocket that carried it to space was launched from Kennedy Space Center. Taking only five days to reach its destination, LRO’s lunar orbit was confirmed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. At 6:27 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.
Cathy Peddie, the LRO deputy project manager at Goddard states that “Lunar orbit insertion is a crucial milestone for this mission.” This is because the mission can not begin until the moon’s gravitational pull captures the LRO. Over the next four days the LRO will release a series of four engine burns in order to achieve its commissioning phase orbit which will last for 60 days and allow the instruments to be brought online.
The LRO will spend the next year orbiting above the moon and assist scientist in creating hi-res 3D maps of the Moon’s surface. The LRO will also explore the permanently sunlit and shadowed regions as well as search for signs of water in the deepest craters of the lunar surface.
Note: The space shuttle Endeavor next launch attempt will be targeted for July 11 at 7:39 p.m. EDT.