Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lunar and Planetary Institute



Former LPI Intern Selected for Return to Moon Team

March 24, 2008
Source:  NASA and LPI

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft and its six instruments will circle the lunar poles. It will spend at least one year in low, polar orbit, with all the instruments working simultaneously to collect detailed information about the lunar environment. A former participant in the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) Summer Intern Program, now a scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, is one of 24 researchers selected to join the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission to explore and measure geological features on the Moon’s surface. Scheduled for launch later this year, the mission represents NASA’s first step toward returning humans to the Moon.

Ross Beyer was a student at the University of Illinois when he was selected as an LPI summer intern in 1997. Now a SETI Institute employee who works at Ames Research Center, Beyer will join the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team to help develop high-resolution imaging and topography to explore the lunar terrain for future landing sites. Beyer will help plan stereo observations and build topographic models in order to study the geologic history of the Moon.

“I haven’t seen the reviews of my proposal yet,” Beyer said, “but I assume that I was selected because I can provide a variety of mission operations and science expertise to the team, helping out with both the exploration and science portions of the mission.”

The orbiter will conduct a one-year primary mission exploring the Moon, taking measurements to identify future robotic and human landing sites. In addition, it will study lunar resources and how the Moon’s environment will affect humans. The mission also will involve a spacecraft called the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which will impact the lunar south pole to search for evidence of frozen polar water.

Instrument teams will define the science goals for the second year or what is deemed the extended science phase of the mission during its second year. In addition to achieving its exploration objectives, the LRO spacecraft is expected to return high quality scientific data, such as day-night temperature maps, a global mapping system, high resolution color imaging and detailed global topography that will greatly expand our understanding of the Moon.

NASA received a total of 55 proposals in response to a NASA Research Announcement released in 2007. A peer review panel and NASA Planetary Science Division Research and Analysis Program scientists evaluated the proposals. Selection criteria included intrinsic merit, relevance, responsiveness to planetary science goals and objectives, as well as cost.

Scientists will be fully or partially funded, depending on their research work and scope of activities. NASA will provide funding to U.S. scientists for up to three years depending on satisfactory progress, continued relevance to the NASA objectives and availability of funds.

The LRO spacecraft is being built and tested at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and includes six instruments and a technology demonstration.

In a study published in 2007, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the science conducted on the Moon is of high value. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate will help coordinate and expand a number of in-depth research efforts in lunar science and other fields that can benefit from human and robotic missions to the Moon. The lunar orbiter’s science mission phase is one of many of the science directorate’s activities that support Moon exploration.

For more information, visit

LRO Participating Scientists

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

LPI Summer Intern Program in Lunar and Planetary Science



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Last updated March 24, 2008