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Lunar Precursor and Robotic Program
The Lunar Precursor Robotic Program (LPRP) supports America's return to the moon by executing lunar robotic missions to conduct research and prepare for future human exploration.

LPRP missions will gather data important for reducing the risks of returning humans to the moon by 2020, such as examining the lunar radiation environment, which has implications for astronaut safety. Surface imaging and mapping will assist landing site selection by identifying terrain hazards (slope, roughness, obstacles) as well as areas of scientific and operational interest. Temperature and lighting conditions over an annual cycle, along with a good characterization of dust, environmental conditions, and radiation are needed for mission and hardware design. Resource identification and mapping will inform decisions about possible future use of in-situ resources.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Artist's concept of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA

LPRP's first mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), launched on June 18, 2009. LRO will provide critical information about the moon to enable selection of safe landing sites with compelling exploration and scientific features. Using a robust suite of instruments to measure the topography of the moon's surface, LRO will take high-resolution images of sites of interest, globally assess thermal and radiation environments, and assay potential resources.

Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite
Launching with LRO is the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). This low-cost secondary payload will investigate the presence of lunar volatiles in a permanently-shadowed region of the lunar surface. The Lunar Architecture Team (LAT) study is examining lunar exploration requirements needed to support a human lunar sortie by 2020.