While Ulysses dies in the solitude of space, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is now alive and fully awake, sending these ultra-detailed images from the Moon’s Mare Nubium region. Go on and zoom in. It’s actually made of cheese.
Designed to help the planning of the next lunar missions, NASA’s LRO will take the most detailed photographic map of the Moon yet, distinguishing features only 3 meters (9.8 feet) wide, which is better than JAXA’s Selene and way clearer than NASA’s own HD-upscaled images from the 1966’s Lunar Orbiter 1.
In theory, that’s enough resolution to see the lunar landing sites, so I guess we can expect to see a badly parked rover as soon as the spacecraft passes over it.
Only the Apollo astronauts and Selene—which sent close-up images just before crashing—have relayed photos with more detail than these. However, these weren’t taken from orbit.
The rest of the instruments on board the LRO are doing fine so far: On June 19 the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector—which will look for potential water ice deposits—and the Cosmic Ray Telescope—to test the moon’s radiation environment—were activated. Both are working perfectly.
In the next days, NASA will turn on and calibrate the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter—which will create a three-dimensional topographic map of our satellite—as well as the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment—prepared to check the temperature of its surface—and the Miniature Radio Frequency—that will create images of permanently-shaded craters. Another instrument designed to measure “starlight to search for surface ice”— the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project—will activate when all the other instruments complete their calibration process. [NASA]