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The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission at 7: Status and Future Prospects

Noah Petro
Missions (Including Commercial)
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Abstract Text: 

As of SSERVI 2016, LRO will have been in orbit about the Moon for 7 years. In that time the data from LRO has been part of a revolution in our understanding of how the Moon, and by association airless bodies in the Solar System, fundamentally work. LRO is the longest-lived lunar orbiting mission, providing a totally unique set of data on how the lunar surface and environment changes over extended periods of time. This “new view of the Moon” from LRO uniquely reveals small-scale surface changes, manifest in new impact craters, landslides, and varying surface hydration.
The mission is underwent Senior Review in May, in order to extend the mission two more years. The Cornerstone Mission will take LRO to 2018, meaning that we will be at the Moon for ~100 lunar days, and will shed light on the processes that continue to shape and re-shape the Moon today.
The LRO spacecraft and instrument suite are in good health, with no significant degradation. The orbit we are in is quasi-stable allowing us to preserve the small amount of fuel we have left so that we can possible rephrase the orbit in order to observe scientifically unique events (e.g., spacecraft impacts).
As part of the Senior Review process, we proposed to return Mini-RF to a fully operational status. The Mini-RF team has investigated possibly using an antenna at Goldstone as a transmitter at X-band wavelength (4.3cm). This addition, as well as new operational modes from several other instruments enables LRO to make new measurements during the next two years of operation.

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SSERVI Identifier: 

Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts."