NASA announced on Friday that the public is being invited to vote on the best image taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The contest is being conducted to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the mission of the LRO that takes place on June 18, 2014. The winning image will become the cover of a special collection called “The Moon as Art” which will contain 24 images. The voting runs through June 6. People are invited to vote here on the following image:
- Starry Night
- Linne Crater
- Clerke Crater
- Diviner North Pole
- Tycho Central Peak
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was initiated as an unmanned precursor for eventual crewed expeditions back to the moon as part of Project Constellation. Ironically it has outlived the original program as it has orbited the moon, taking uncounted images, and gathering untold amounts of scientific data. It is just one of a number of recent lunar probes that have included missions conducted by China, Japan, and India.
Among the accomplishments of the LRO is the production of a map of the moon with a resolution of 100 meters per pixel. Some of the images include those of the Apollo landing sites, confirming, as if such were ever needed, that man actually did go to the moon. The amount of data that has been returned measures in the hundreds of terrabytes.
Despite the tremendous success that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has enjoyed, the White House essentially proposed defunding it in its DY 2015 funding request. Thus far Congress has balked at the idea, proving to be more generous toward planetary science missions in general than has the Obama administration. Thus it looks like, at least for the time being, the LRO will continue to return stunning images and scientific data. The information it has garnered will be invaluable to future lunar explorers, both robotic and human.