Current & Future Missions
LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)
The primary objective of LRO is to conduct investigations that prepare for future lunar exploration. Specifically LRO will scout for safe and compelling landing sites, locate potential resources (with special attention to the possibility of water ice) and characterize the effects of prolonged exposure to the lunar radiation environment.
Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)
The main LCROSS mission objective was to explore the presence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater near a lunar polar region.
The spacecraft's primary mission is to test new technologies, including an ion engine and minaturized electronics.
Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)
2011 - GRAIL mission is a Discovery Program mission which will use high-quality gravity field mapping of the Moon to determine its interior structure.
Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE)
2012 - Determine the global density, composition, and time variability of the fragile lunar atmosphere before it is perturbed by further human activity.
Peaks of Eternal Light
Not far from home, on our own moon, a unique condition exists (below). Discovered in 1994 on Peary crater near the north pole, the so-called peaks of eternal light are the only known region in the solar system where the sun never sets. (Other such regions may exist on Mercury but have not been seen yet.) This unusual condition arises because the moon's rotational axis is barely tilted relative to the plane of its and Earth's orbit around the sun. Certain to become a tourist attraction, this site may one day also house the first moonbase. Temperatures in the area fluctuate comparatively little, perhaps by 20 degrees, making it an ideal place to settle. The possibility of water ice here is an added bonus.
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