NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has forever changed our view of the moon, literally bringing it into sharper focus and showing us the whole globe in unprecedented detail. This rich new portrait has been rendered by LRO's seven onboard instruments, which together have delivered more than 192 terabytes of data, images and maps -- the equivalent of nearly 41,000 typical DVDs. "This is a tremendous accomplishment," says Douglas Cooke, Associate Administrator of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "The exploration phase of the mission delivered a lot more than it originally promised, and that's been just the beginning for LRO."
The primary objective of the mission was to enable safe and effective exploration of the moon. "To do so, we needed to leverage the very best that the science community had to offer," says Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "And by doing that, we've fundamentally changed our scientific understanding of the moon."
The most precise and complete topographic maps to date of the moon's complex, heavily cratered landscape have been created from the more than 4 billion measurements -- and still counting -- taken by LRO's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA). These maps are more accurate and sample more places on the lunar surface than any available before. In fact, LOLA has taken more than 100 times more measurements than all previous lunar instruments of its kind combined, opening up a world of possibilities for future exploration and for science.