Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NASA ESMD PAO Statement Regarding Release of LRO Imagery

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Keith's note: I received this by email from ESMD PAO Representative Grey Hautaluoma this afternoon:

"At the present time the highest priority is to assure safe operation of all LRO spacecraft subsystems, so we do not yet have a detailed schedule for instrument activation.

LRO's lunar orbit insertion is scheduled for Tuesday morning, followed by orbit trimming burns over the next four days. Then we will be in our commissioning orbit, where we spend approximately two months activating and calibrating the instruments and making observations in support of LCROSS. After those tasks are completed we will enter our normal mapping orbit that is circular at about 50 km altitude.

Until an instrument is properly activated and calibrated, the measurements are not appropriate for release. The time required depends on the instrument. The LRO Camera has to be heated for several days in order to drive out moisture and other volatiles before it is turned on. After this bakeout the LROC focus will have to be checked and adjusted. As another example, the LAMP ultraviolet spectrometer has requested a late activation near the end of the commissioning period, in order to provide a maximum duration for outgassing of the instrument to decrease contamination.

Planetary missions usually have a cruise phase of months to years before they reach their destination planet. Missions use this cruise phase to activate and checkout all the spacecraft subsystems and to activate and calibrate the instruments. Because the moon is only a few days away, we do these activations and calibrations during our commissioning phase. Once we enter our normal mapping orbit in late August, we will be able to provide a schedule for when images of particular targets will be made.

Because of the great interest in our early data, particular the images, we have a high priority on getting them made and released to the public as soon as possible. In fact, the decontamination heaters on the LRO Camera were turned on this past weekend, ahead of the original schedule. We may be able to release some images during the calibration phase of LROC if practicable. Our goal is to get images out as soon as we can, possibly starting sometime in July. ASU and NASA will be working to get the best images out on nearly a daily basis once LROC is fully online. Due to the massive amount of data that will be coming down from LRO, we're evaluating how to best present the raw material before the mandatory submission to the Planetary Data System, and I will keep you informed as I have more details."

NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate


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