The LROC Public Targeting Interface is now live!

Share in the adventure as LRO leads the way towards returning humans to deep space!

With LRO safely in lunar orbit, the LROC Science Team is excited and tremendously enthusiastic about this important first step towards returning Americans to the lunar surface, and we want to include the general public in this adventure as LRO scouts the next frontier.  So, the LROC Science Team is giving the public the opportunity to suggest LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) targets using our new public targeting tool, which is now available in final form after a two-week testing period which resulted in functionality and usability improvements. 

Here's how the process works. The user simply places a NAC footprint (2.5 km crosstrack by 25 km downtrack) over a feature of interest. The targeting interface displays existing target requests, including both targets suggested by the general public and targets which have been selected by the LROC Science Team (you can see this Lunar and Planetary Science Conference abstract for more details about the LROC Science Team's targeting strategy) and NASA's Project Constellation.  Note that requests which duplicate an existing target request will not be entered in the database. 

Certain classes of targets are objects of intense interest to both NASA and the LROC Science Team, and will be imaged extensively as part of our scientific investigation.  These targets are already in the request database and generally include:

1) All human targets on the lunar surface, including the Apollo landing sites, Surveyor spacecraft, Ranger impact points, Soviet lunar probes, and S-IVB and LM ascent stage impact points.



2) The notional design reference landing sites selected by NASA's Project Constellation as representative examples of human lunar exploration locations. There are 50 of these sites, carefully selected by NASA with expert lunar scientific community input because of their scientific value and high resource potential. Comprehensive imaging campaigns of these sites have been planned, and will be a primary focus of the first year of LRO operations.  You can see a list of these fifty sites (broken down into two groups of 25 sites) here and here.

3) The lunar poles. During respective summers, the NACs will acquire contiguous meter-scale images of both polar regions when the shadows are minimal (well at least minimal for the poles!). From these images the LROC team will construct a complete mosaic of each pole from 85.5° (N or S) to the pole. Then, in respective winters, areas that remain illuminated will be repeatedly imaged as lighting conditions change. These multi-temporal observations will sharpen mission planners’ ability to select optimal landing sites.

After positioning a public target request, a user must provide a name, a valid e-mail address (so that you can be notified when your image is available), select high- or low- Sun conditions, tell us what is targeted by selecting a geologic feature keyword (e.g., crater), and then hit submit! All of these fields must be filled. These ancillary parameters are important, as they tell the LROC Operations Team what to expect as we go through the complex process of planning NAC observations. Users will be limited to five LROC NAC image requests per day.

Public proposed targets will be added to the LROC targeting queue according to their science priority and (more importantly) any constraints associated with obtaining the target image(s). One thing that must be kept in mind is that Sir Isaac Newton is in the driver's seat, so individuals who submit public targets will have to be patient. This will be especially true during the initial phase of the LRO mission, when it could be many months between public target request submission, acquisition of that image, and image release through NASA's Planetary Data System. Planning LROC imaging depends upon a complicated combination of celestial mechanics and operational constraints (including such factors as the illumination geometry, the location of a target request in relation to other target requests, and LRO spacecraft operations). Please see this LPSC abstract for more details about the kind of planning that goes into the LROC imaging process. Although we will do our absolute best to accommodate public targeting requests, please understand that the overarching engineering and scientific goals of the LROC investigation (including calibrating our instruments, supporting our friends on the LCROSS mission, collecting the scientific data to achieve our measurement requirements, and most importantly, collecting the data that NASA needs to enable future human lunar exploration and development) will take precedence over public targeting requests (this will be especially true during the first year of the LRO mission). Accordingly, we can provide no guarantee that any given public target request will be imaged, nor can we provide estimates about when public target submissions will be acquired. However, it is currently planned that the one-year nominal Exploration mission will be followed by a multi-year mission dedicated to science objectives. The longer the LRO mission lasts, the greater our ability to accommodate public targeting requests.

Individuals who submit public target requests will first receive an email message at the address they provided indicating whether the submitted target has been accepted for a position in the public targeting queue. Another email notification will be sent when the image of the requested target has been acquired and forwarded to the PDS.

Published by Samuel Lawrence on 29 June 2009