Scientists around the world dream of being part of a NASA science mission. Few projects carry the vigor and prestige of exploring scientific questions that can be answered only with a view from and into space.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, is one of the more than 90 operating NASA missions, and is currently orbiting the moon with the primary objective of making fundamental discoveries about our closest celestial neighbor.
Launched in June 2009, the LRO’s primary mission is making fundamental scientific discoveries about the moon. Its original exploration mission was to support the extension of human presence throughout the solar system by identifying sites close to potential resources with high scientific value, favorable terrain and the environment necessary for safe future robotic and human lunar missions.
The LRO’s exploration mission was completed on September 15, 2010, when responsibility to begin the next LRO mission was transferred to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The LRO has been equipped with seven instruments, one of which is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC. This three-camera system is mounted on the LRO to capture the moon’s surface in high-resolution black and white images and moderate-resolution, multi-spectral images allowing scientists to see beyond what is visible to the human eye.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Science Operations Center, or LROC SOC, is housed at Arizona State University as part of the university’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. This proximity has created an incredible opportunity for students from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to gain insight into space exploration without ever leaving campus. The variety of learning opportunities available to students help prepare them for various roles after graduation.
“I think students who can say they’ve been a part of an active spacecraft mission, collecting or processing data from a NASA satellite moving around the moon, stand out that much more to potential employers,” says Nick Estes, the LROC SOC manager at ASU.
Fulton Schools students operate in different areas of the center, performing tasks related to software, modeling and image creation from data.