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Not Just NASA Scientists
Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)

Finally the date has been set for the launch of NASA's first lunar mission in the 21st Century:

 -- LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) and
 -- LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

These missions will launch together on June 18 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
This is a date that has been anticipated by not just the NASA Mission Scientists, but by members of the public who are engaged in the operations and science of this very special return-to-the-moon effort. See the press release Mom, Dad, It's Not a Joke, I'm Working a NASA Mission to the Moon!

Join us for a Launch Minus One (June 16) webcast where we’ll introduce you to some of these crucial participants and will provide you with information on how you too may become involved.

Tuesday, June 16 @ 11:00 am EDT (8 am PDT, and 1500 GMT)
Live from the Kennedy Space Center



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Transcription at right ---->

>> Hello, I'm Andy Chaikin. I'm a science journalist and space historian, and and I'm here at the Digital Learning Network at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The digital learning network is a series of studios that offer interactive programs for students to learn more about our home planet and the universe through videoconferencing and webcasts.

Students of all ages can participate in these interactive events and can talk to NASA experts and share their insights with the whole community and there are DLN network centers at every NASA center across the country.

And we're here today for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LCROSS pre-launch webcast.

As I speak there is an Atlas rocket sitting on its launch pad waiting to prepare for launch with the LRO and LCROSS spacecraft aboard.

We're excited about this mission.

This is returning to the Moon to find out all kinds of amazing new facts and scientific details about the Moon. There is actually two separate spacecraft, one the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter which is going to orbit the Moon and take high resolution images and other data and the LCROSS spacecraft which will be part of an experiment to impact one of the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon's poles and try and find out if indeed there is buried ice at the lunar poles.

We're going to start today with the LCROSS mission and one of the neatest features of the LCROSS mission is that it features student participation.

I'm here with Kim Bunnell from a Lewis Center for Educational Research in Apple Valley, California.

Kim, you're one of the mainstays of the Gold Stone Apple Valley Radio Telescope Program.

We call GAVRT for short.

Kim, tell us a little about how students are actually getting to participate in the LCROSS mission.

>> First of all we train teachers all over the United States and on military bases across the world.

Once a teacher becomes trained in GAVRT, they go back to their classroom and their students actually connect via the Internet to our Mission Control back at Apple Valley, California and they get to operate a 34 meter, about a 10 story large radio telescope from their classroom whether it be in Alabama, or here in Florida, or in Okinawa they get to operate and run the telescope and they get to observe planets or quazars and this time, for the first time we'll be operating and tracking the spacecraft.

>> The students are actually going to be listening for the carrier radio signal that is coming from the LCROSS spacecraft as it's on its way to the Moon.

>> Correct.

It will only be transmitting two out of 72 hours.

So during the 70 hours it's not transmitting GAVRT students will be listening to us in the DSS12 back in Goldstone, California, when it's in its hemisphere.

>>DSS 12, by the way, stands for one of the giant radio telescopes at Goldstone tracking facility.

We've toured that facility together.

These are amazing, enormous radio dishes and they're so big they can actually hear the faint radio signal from a spacecraft that's on its way to the Moon or elsewhere in the solar system.

>> We have a spectrometry now on DSS 13.

We'll be using a different radio telescope and students will be listening.

If it's transmitting when it isn't supposed to we get to pick up the phone and call NASA Ames and tell them there is something wrong.

It's doing something it's not supposed to.

>> Students can actually play a crucial role in the success of the LCROSS mission.

Kim, I'm going to call in some of the teachers who have been participating in this program.

Let's welcome Holly Mentillo of the Ocean Breeze Elementary right here in Brevard County.

Debbie Gaidzik from the Lewis Center for Educational Research, and Pat Reeder, who is at Auburn University in Alabama.


Thanks for joining me.

Debbie, why don't you tell us a little bit about what your work has been like with GAVRT and how that has gone.

>> Well, I've been involved with the program for four or five years and what has really been unique about this mission: In the past I've led hundreds of students on missions where we've monitored QVS or Quazar or taken the temperature of Jupiter in a Jupiter quest.

This being a live spacecraft, we're really excited about this, because this is something new, a new frontier for us. In the past year we've been so fortunate to be involved from the very beginning -- to take students from the very beginning, we've gone back and took an historic view .

We've gone back and we took an historic look at what has led us to wanting to return to the Moon, and we've looked at the Clementine mission, the Lunar Prospector and different things historically.

We've looked at the LCROSS spacecraft, the LRO and why we're so concerned about returning to the Moon. We've had students operate -- for me I'm fortunate enough that I get to take hundreds of students a year and even get to take my students down to Mission Control.

>> That's so exciting.

>> I think for the students the most exciting thing, here they are on the beginning of a mission that's a return to the Moon.

My middle and high school students could later be the actual people who visit and return to the Moon in person and to know they were at the very beginning.

>> That's fantastic.

>> It changes their lives.

>> That's fantastic.

Holly, you're a sixth grade teacher.

Your kids are getting ready to take part, and what has been the mood there and how excited have they been?

>> That's probably my favorite part of the whole GAVRT experience for kids.

Watching their excitement.

You could hear a pin drop when it's time to get the peak and they're all trying to get the correct data.

>> For those who are not in the initiated, the peak is something to do with the way the radio signal registers on the receiving equipment.

You want to be tuned into the right frequency and the signal strength makes a peak.

>> Correct.

They are dead quiet and all staring intently and just to watch them --They get so excited and for my younger students to be actually controlling the dish, they take it so seriously.

And after a little bit of help they really don't need Mission Control.

They tell them what to do.

They need to take it off deck they're good to go.

>> What I love about what you're talking about is the fact that here are young people who are getting a taste of what it's really like to do a space mission, not some idea of what a space mission might be like in their imagination but the real thing with all of the precision and the hard work that it takes to make a mission successful.

>> They do like the fact it's real data.

>> Pat, can you talk a little bit about the program from your perspective and sort of the changes that we've seen, these new opportunities that have come in that did not used to be there?

When we were growing up and they were going to the Moon we sat in front of the TV and were excited about it but didn't get to take part.

>> My role is a little bit different.

I'm no longer in the classroom even though I did do GAVRT in the classroom and as Holly mentioned seeing the student's excitement was with everything.

Now that I'm involved in the training aspect of GAVRT, it's just a delight to be here with Debbie and Holly, both of whom I trained as far as GAVRT is concerned and hear their experiences of doing GAVRT in the classroom, it makes everything worthwhile.

This is a wonderful opportunity for our students.

It is real.

We're not going to be reading about this in our textbook for maybe the next 10 or 15 years.

So our students are really excited about this.

>> They're on front lines, aren't they?

>> They are.

They're making discoveries within themselves and to quote one of our pioneers, I guess, for GAVRT, Dr. Michael Klein.

"This is rocket science but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to do this."

So we're not trying to make rocket scientists out of all of our students.

We want to excite them about what is happening right now and you know, to carry on with all their other academic subjects as well to tie everything in.

>> This is just super.

Why don't we hear from a few of the students right now.

And we're going to bring on Alicia and Chase from the Lewis Center for Educational Research.

Come on up and Logan and Olivia from Ocean Breeze Elementary in BRAVARD County.

Have a seat.

Alicia, let's start with you.

Tell a little bit about what this experience of working with an actual mission and doing actual data and that sort of thing has been like for you.

>> It has been unbelievable.

I never dreamed I could be part of something like this.

You get to work with little kids just like this and it's incredible to see no matter what age you are you're in love with this program.

You're inspired.

We're ready to lead our life into amazing science.

>> Do you have a favorite anecdote from your experiences that sticks with you, one moment that has stood out for you as one of the most satisfying?

>> Honestly just everything. We're like a family in GAVRT.

And just going here, this trip, seeing everything, and meeting all the scientists.

We got to do an interview with Brian Day and It was incredible. He was so in love with science...

>> He's at NASA Ames and really plugged into the science behind LRO and LCROSS.

>> He's ready to inspire the students.

The students are the future.

It's great.

>> Do you think you might want to pursue a career in space science?

>> I most definitely want to. I'm really excited.

>> Chase, what do you want to add to what Alicia said??

>> It's been awesome as a GAVRT intern to have the different experiences with the LCROSS mission.

Last year Alicia actually went to Goldstone, which is the home of DSS12 to make a video about LCROSS.

Last year I got to go to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

>> My old stomping grounds.

What did you see at the Jet Propulsion Lab?

>> I made a video on the viz cam, which is going be on LCROSS.

>> You have to tell us what that is.

>> If you're going to throw these technical terms around...Chase, come on , tell us what it's all about.

>> It's the camera monitoring the mission.

>> Okay.

>> And I also this year as a GAVRT intern a wrote an article about LCROSS and the importance of finding water on the Moon.

>> What is the importance of finding water on the Moon?

Not to put you on the spot, but because it's very exciting, and it's the whole reason for the LCROSS mission. I could talk about it for the rest of this webcast. I don't think they'd be happy about it. I'd rather have you talk about it.

>> The possibility of finding water on the Moon could possibly lead to having a permanent American base on the Moon.

That's definitely -- water is one of the most precious things you can have on another planet. That's excellent.

>> Olivia.

You and Logan are getting ready and preparing for this experience.

Do you want to talk a little bit about what that's been like?

Olivia, start with you.

>> At our school, we've been getting ready to take part in this program, and we've controlled radio telescopes and collected data from Jupiter and then created our scans, and you got to control...the people gave us directions and you got to actually control the telescope on the computer.

>> How amazing is that?

>> It was really fun.

>> Did you ever think when you were in the sixth grade you would be doing real astronomy?

>> No.

>> Logan, how about you?

What has been one of the most exciting parts of this for you?

>> Oh, well, see, being able, with these radio telescopes, to be able to see invisible things that you couldn't see with the naked eye.

>> Right.

>> But now with these technologies now we know they're there.

>> That's a very good point.

The fact that a lot of objects in the universe, a lot of very distant objects and a lot of the energy that comes to us from objects in the universe is not in wavelengths that we can see with our eyes.

We need things like radio telescopes to see some of them and ultraviolet for others.

So really the radio telescope gives us a window on the universe we couldn't have with our own eyes, right?

How about the lunar part of this.

Are you guys excited about the fact we're going back to the Moon and sort of explore, try to answer this question about whether there is water?

>> Yes

>> Do you think .... you're in the sixth grade now, so if we kind of think forward to when people go back to the Moon, you guys will be just about the right age to make the trip.

Is that something you think you would like to do yourself or you want to stay here and just work on the science or what?

>> It would be fun to actually go to the Moon.

>> Do you think you could go there and live on a base for six months?

>> Possible.

>> How about you, Logan?

>> Yeah, I think I could.

>> We've heard from Alicia, Logan.

Chase, would you like to go to the Moon?

>> Yeah.

>> In a heartbeat, right.

>> Yeah.

>> See! These are my kind of guys.

Does anyone have anything to add?

>> We're incredibly grateful for this opportunity you give students.

Thank you so much.

>> Thank you very much.

>> You're awesome.

>> Now let's talk a little bit about some of the other ways that the public can experience and get involved with the mission.

We're going to bring up two representatives of the Solar System Ambassadors program.

Bea Czogalla and Mike Lucas: Are you here?

Let's get you guys up here.

Thank you guys, we'll see you soon.

The Solar System Ambassadors Program is a public outreach program that is communicating the excitement of space exploration missions to the public, is that right, Bea?

>> That's exactly correct.

>> You're from Georgia College and State University.

Mike, you're a pilot for U.S. air.

I have a feeling if you could take one of these U.S. air jet planes and take it to the Moon you would do that?

>> I'd love to go to the Moon, absolutely.

No doubt about it.

An airplane can't make the trip, but I'll go in a rocket.

>> Bea.

>> Give me a ticket and I'll be there this afternoon.

>> You're a professor of theater design.

>> We'll need you at the lunar base to put on the shows and things like that.

Guys, tell me about the Solar System Ambassador program.

>> I've been a member of th Solar System Ambassadors program for nine years now and it's basically public outreach program of volunteers from all 50 states. There are 523 of us right now.

And our mission is basically to bring NASA topics and education to the public.

>> It's one of the function that I think that is most vital to us in the Solar System Ambassadors organization is that we connect NASA to the public.

Taxpayer money funds NASA and we bring NASA to the communities in which we live.

We bring them exciting information about space exploration, as well as mission-specific information about a variety of different missions being conducted.

>> What are you guys doing for LRO and LCROSS?

>> There is probably a variety of things going on out there.

For example, I write a biweekly column for our local newspaper "The Union Recorder."

Here is last week's volume.

Hopefully all my readers have tuned in today to watch me do this.

>> Can they look on the web?

>> They can watch it on the web and the article is also on the web.

>> That's what I mean.

Where would they go to see your article?


It's right there.

I've written an article about it last year in September about LCROSS.

And there will be, of course, another article next week because it's every two weeks about my experience here at the cape.

>> Let me ask you a question, Mike.

Do you think that the public as a whole hears enough about what we're doing in space exploration or do you think they need to -- that there needs to be other ways of getting this word out to them?

>> I don't think they hear enough about it and part of the reason that I look at our job is so vital, it's to bring it to not only students; we speak to students from elementary age up through senior citizens.

And I don't think they hear enough about this and I think it's vitally important they do.

The schools do not teach enough of the space exploration curriculum as well as astronomy subjects and other scientific subjects related to space travel.

>> Mike, I know that you are also very interested in the Apollo missions to the Moon.

That's, of course, a subject that's close to my heart.

Talk a little bit about what the return to the Moon means to you as somebody who is so interested in the explorations of the Moon that took place all those years ago.

Now we're going back to the Moon and learning new things about the Moon.

Hopefully we're building up to sending people back to the Moon someday.

What does that mean to you?

>> You're absolutely correct.

It is a subject dear to my heart.

December of 1972 was the last time humans were present on the Moon.

There is a program to return to the Moon, and I think it's vitally important that we continue to reach out into space.

LRO and LCROSS will return significant information that will begin pave the road for humans to return to the Moon, and I'm very excited about that. I'm looking forward to it.

>> You probably agree that even though Apollo went to the Moon and we had six landings at different places on the Moon, we've barely have begun to learn what the Moon has to teach us, the Moon is just a spectacular place scientifically and, you know, I mean, one of the reasons that we want to find water on the Moon, in fact, is not just as a resource for future lunar explorers but also because that water was deposited on the Moon by comets and so if you can get at that ice, you can learn something about the comets which are relics from the early solar system, right?

Bea, I want to ask you as a theater design expert, somebody who is interacting on a day-to-day basis with people who are not scientists.

>> That's right.

You're interacting with people who are focused on the arts and maybe they're more right brain than left brain, whatever.

Do you have a chance to see whether the excitement that we feel translates to people who are not in the scientific fields?

>> Absolutely, absolutely.

>> Talk about that a little bit.

>> There is something visceral about going into space and an exploratory spirit in general.

The emotions can run pretty high in both areas, either in theater where you have a performance or working technically on a show as I do.

Whereas if you talk to some of the people who work on various space missions, they have the same kind of emotional connection to their work that it matters to them, and they see the way it affects other people.

The way a theater production is run is very much the way -- similar to the way that a space mission is run.

You have your flight directors, you have your play rights, you have your actors (the astronauts, you know), and all that good stuff.

What is in front of the scene is just a small portion compared to all the people working behind the scenes and so everybody can get involved in both space exploration and in theater.

It sort of has this pyramid shape.

The emotional connection to the work you do is very much the same in both areas.

So they're very closely connected, and it is no surprise a lot of people who work at NASA have theater degrees.

>> You told me that before and that's something I did not know.

Is that really true?

>> If you read their bios, a lot of them have theater minor degrees somewhere.

I think it also helps with the outreach and not being people shy and just go out there and really bring your message out to the public, which is what theater does.

>> When are we going to see a musical number from space? When will we see a big production number with people floating around and doing things?

>>If I'm going into space, I'll do one, I promise you.

>> We'll be counting on you.

Thank you guys so much.

We'll be looking for lots of great things from the Solar System Ambassadors.

I would like to turn now to Steve Schiff if he's here.

We're going to talk about another way in which we reach out to the public with the Night Sky Network, Steve, welcome.

You're a planetarium manager at the Point Sienna School in Florida.

>> I'm the planetarium resource educator, and I retired after teaching 35 years in New York, and I retired to Florida just to play golf and tennis, but I found on the web the most fantastic job.

They were going to pay me a teacher's salary to do my hobby.

For seven years I've been involved with the school district in Palm Beach county, and I just love it.

>> The Night Sky Network is a coalition of astronomy clubs that bring together science, and actually inspiration, of the NASA missions and what the program started in March of 2004?

>> It started in 2004.

My affiliation with the South Florida Science Museum --no, the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches. I also worked at the South Florida Science Museum doing astronomy.

That's when I came in contact with the Night Sky Network.

Through the night sky network I'm able to add a dynamic dimention to the instructional programs -- I offer my K to 5 grade students as well as adult and student groups outside of school and to the community.

The Night Sky Network furnishes me with outreach education tools.

I have programs on black holes, the solar system, supernova, the history of the telescope, and I use these toolkits, which contain hands-on activities, in order to get my students involved in another dimension that I wouldn't ordinarily have the resources to accomplish in my normal job at the planetarium.

>> There are people like you all over the country who are working with educators and students, right?

>> There are.

Yes, the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches there are three of us.

Especially during the fall, we run library outreach programs, and we have from 40 to 50 people show up once a month to listen to our program and to view the stars.

We also travel to schools and at schools we have night viewing sessions sometimes with hundreds of students.

And, of course, my fellow members at the astronomical society show up.

Sometimes there are 10 telescopes, sometimes only four.

You'd be surprised.

Everyone wants to look up at the stars.

>> I have to ask you a question.

Talk about what it's like to be with someone who has never looked through a telescope and the reaction that they have when they finally get their first look through a telescope.

What is that like?

>> Well, not only students today, children today, adults today, they have the same reaction when they first look through a telescope that I did when I was a kid.

Basically I looked at the planet Saturn, and I didn't believe that was real.

It looked like a picture held in front of my eyes.

>> That's exactly the reaction that I had when I was in eighth grade, and I got my first look at Saturn through a telescope.

I thought somebody must be holding a transparency in front of the lens because this can't be real -- but it's real.

It is an incredible experience to know you could be standing in your backyard or in a parking lot if there is a group gathered somewhere with a modest-sized telescope.

We're not talking about a big observatory-size telescope. We're talking about a relatively small scope, but you can can actually feel like a space explorer.

>> Today the cost of really good telescopes has come dramatically down.

You can put a nice telescope in the hands of a child for like $150.

A telescope that I would have killed for as a child.

I had a 3 inch telescope which was barely a little better than the one Galileo used 100 years ago.

Today, kids can get nice telescopes and they can do observations on their own.

>> How about the educators?

I know that there might be teachers out there who feel intimidated about astronomy.

What would you say to them to give them some comfort level that they don't need to be intimidated by astronomy?

>> Anything new is something that people are a little afraid of.

And not so much at my school because it's a school of science and technology.

So we've been risk takers for a long time.

Adults should not be afraid to purchase that first telescope and learn along with their child and go out there and look at the Moon.

They can find it.

It is pretty bright out there.

You work from the Moon and then you work to the planets and one of the things I teach my students: how do you know the difference between a star and a planet?

Well, a planet is much closer.

It is a disc of light, and it doesn't twinkle like a star does.

You start big with the Moon.

You get a little smaller with the planets, and you look at the stars and the star clusters, and when you get good you hunt down the nebulas and galaxies that are millions of light years away.

>> The Night Sky Network as a whole nationwide interacts with more than 20,000 students every year.

Now, do you ever hear from those students as they go onward in their careers?

Do you ever hear from a student who was part of that program and comes back to you and says this has really meant something to me?

>> Through my affiliation with the Astronomical Society I have former students who have gone on to high school, gone on to college, and they show up at our monthly meetings over in West Palm.

Some of them still have an interest in astronomy.

One gentleman won a telescope, and he still has that telescope, when he was at our elementary school. Now he's a senior in high school and still uses that telescope.

>> That's great.

>> Maybe one day one of my students will join the space program or be a scientist for the space program.

>> That's wonderful.

Anything else you would like to add about your experiences?

>> Just that we hope through the LCROSS mission, through the Astronomical Society to be able to document either through video, through a Power Point or some sort of documentation just what we see on that day of the impact.

So my colleagues at the Astronomical Society will be working on that.

>> And, of course, if you go on the web go to and get plugged into all of this.

>> Sure.

>> Thank you for joining us.

We look forward to more from the Night Sky Network.

>> Thank you so much for inviting us.

>> You bet. Alright, it's time for Paul Mortfield.

Paul is also a long-time astronomy and space enthusiast and has grown up to be a space professional. Paul, you're the director of the David Dunlap Observatory in Toronto, Canada, is that right?

>> That's right, Andy. I'm with the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, which is just outside of Toronto.

We operate the largest telescope in Canada.

It's a 74 inch telescope.

>> Is that it there?

>> You can see it in the background.

The telescope is going to be part of the LCROSS observation network.

>> That's spectacular.

When you think about what should an observatory look like that's pretty much the classic appearance, isn't it?

>> It is. It's been around for 74 years.

>> What a wonderful thing to grow up in love with the sky and in love with space and then actually to be able to earn your living doing it.

>> Yeah, Hopefully.

>> If it works out, right.

Paul, you're very interested and very active in getting amateur astronomers to participate in the LCROSS mission.

>> What's exciting about this particular mission, here is an opportunity for amateur astronomers and backyard stargazers to participate and help the scientists throughout this particular mission.

>> That's fantastic.

What actually can they do?

We're talking about an actual NASA mission to the Moon.

Surely that's beyond the reach of an amateur astronomer.

>> Actually in this particular case.

>> I set you up there.

>> It was a great setup, Andy.

What they'll be able to do is go out and wind up doing several things:

First of all, after the mission launches it is going to go through some pretty large orbits around the Earth/Moon system over 90 some odd days to get the spacecraft in the right orientation.

>> I'll interrupt and say that's what is called the LGALRO orbit.

The LCROSS and Centaur upper stage will fly past the Moon a few days after launch and use the Moon's gravity to go into a new orbit which goes at a high angle to the Moon's poles and actually is about the same width as the Moon's orbit around the Earth and it will spend a little over three months in that orbit.

>> What we're looking at is advanced amateurs who happen to have CCD cameras.

What they'll be able to do is take images of the spacecraft in flight and make use of the data, submit it back to us and this way we can help refine the trajectory as it's getting itself set up for the actual impact.

>> I have to make sure I understand you right.

You're saying that an amateur astronomer with today's equipment with today's electronic cameras can actually photograph a spacecraft on its way to the Moon.

>> Because there is enough illumination and the spacecraft is not that far away that we'll actually be able to see it.

>> A quarter million miles may sound like a lot but in terms of what we view in the sky it's right next door.

>> There are actually small asteroids that amateurs have been able to photograph that are much smaller than the spacecraft and be able to wind up picking it up and seeing it.

Amateurs with that particular set of equipment can help us out in that particular way.

Another way they'll be able to do it is during this time frame: Anybody with a backyard telescope either using a webcam or some kind of video cam can actually take images like you're seeing here in the background.

This was taken with a small telescope to sort of set up the area as to where the actual impact, near the impact of what we're going to be able to see.

>> Let's hold that on the screen for a second.

I've been aware of this sort of thing for a number of years and I've been amazed by it.

This is an image of it looks like it's near one of the poles of the Moon and what you're seeing there are giant impact craters but this picture -- and you can even see small impact craters in this picture.

You look and there are craters that are probably only a few miles across at the very, very smallest, but yet this was taken with a relatively small amateur-size telescope.

>> I have to admit this.

I shot it with my own -- I have a 6 inch telescope in the backyard using a commercially available small webcam.

>> You took this picture?

>> Yes, I did.

>> You're here to say that this is something that just about any amateur astronomer can do.

>> There is free software that helps with all this.

This goes to show what I was trying to do here is test out the system to be able to go out and do that.

If I can do it in my backyard, amateurs can wind up doing this as well.

Help set this up.

>> This is better -- when we were kids looking in our astronomy books this is better than what the 200-inch telescope at Palomar could do.

>> At the time yes, because what we are able to do with the webcams is to cut through some of the seeing effects.

>> Seeing? You just threw out a technical term, you have to, you through it out seeing is what? Seeing is the blurring caused by the motion of the atmosphere?

>> You just explained it.

>> Okay, and so how does the webcam get around the problem of the fact that the atmosphere is constantly moving and blurring the picture?

>> When you're shooting with a webcam or you're shooting with a video cam you're shooting at about 30 frames a second.

What you're looking for is just those particular little moments where the scene is perfectly steady and you get the best view possible.

>> When the blurring quiets down for an instant, you can grab that on the video

>> You wind up with, say, several thousand frames, and then what you do is software picks out those best ones, puts that together and then you wind up with this beautiful image instead of the old days with film or the big telescopes.

>> Who would have thought?

>> All this stuff is commercially available.

Some of the software is free.

Amateurs can wind up doing this in their own backyard.

They don't have to travel to a dark sky site.

>> If we're lucky with the timing of the impact they'll even be some amateurs in the western part of the United States who will actually be able to observe the impact itself.

>> Yeah.

That was going to be my next point.

For those amateurs probably located in the right place at the right time and of course the sky has to be clear for you as well.

That's very important.

What we're looking for is amateurs to go out and photograph the plume that is going to come up from the impact.

The professional observatories in Hawaii will be looking at the spectra of plume to analyze it for what its content is.

>> So the spectra is where they break down the light into component wavelengths and looking at how much light in each wavelength to figure out what the stuff is made of that gets kicked up from the impact.

>> What we're looking at from the amateurs from different locations, because of different sun angles, is to characterize the size, shape and dimensions and how long the plume is going to be in existence and that will relate back to the actual data the other astronomers are getting with the big telescopes.

>> It's like getting a stereo view of the impact plume. If you're in a different location and you get a different shape, that tells you something about the three dimensional shape of the plume.

>> Again, that will correlate back to what the other astronomers are doing with the big telescopes.

The amateurs have the big opportunity to contribute some real data and real science.

>> As a fellow Apollo devotee you were glued to the TV set when humans were walking on the Moon.

The last time was 1972, which was 30-some years ago.

Did you ever think that you would A, grow up to be able to participate in a mission to the Moon and B, you would actually have the equipment yourself to make a meaningful contribution to the mission?

>> Of course not.

The only way we saw things like that was working at some of the largest observatories on the planet.

Here it is again because of the state-of-the-art technology that's available that allows us to participate.

Here is the excitement where anybody with a backyard telescopes and these different types of cameras, webcams, video cameras can participate.

For anybody who doesn't have those particular cameras available, you should still be able to go outside if you're in the right place, and be able to see the impact plume with your own small telescope.

>> Let's say you're an amateur astronomer and you actually have made observations.

What do you do with them?

How do you make use of this?

>> Go to NASA's web PORTAL for the mission. And there will be an observations place there, and that's where you can submit the photographs, and you put in the date and exact time, and then you'll be able to have them up there, and we'll be able to grab them.


Very exciting.

Anything else you want to throw in there about what you're doing?

>> The only thing I would like to throw in.

For the amateur astronomers out there it's so exciting to go out and do this.

It is an easy target.

Doesn't mean you have to go anywhere to a dark star site.

Do it in your backyard.

You don't need a super massive telescope to do this.

People from all over North America, depending on the impact times, should be able to go out and participate.

And how often do people just out of the normal public be able to go out there and have that opportunity, you know, to feast their minds and be able to participate in something like this?

It's just way exciting.

>> Do you find that people who are not amateur astronomers are excited about this?

Are they hearing about it?

When you do tell them about it, what is their reaction?

>> First of all, most of the time they don't believe that they can actually participate.

They figure they need the big telescopes and everything else.

No you don't, not for this particular event.

So they get excited about it.

>> Would you go to the Moon if you had the chance?

>> Any time, any date, any where, anyhow.

Put me on there and I'm gone.

>> Just need a seat for you.

>> You bet.

>> Paul, thank you very much.

It's been a blast.

We're going to turn our attention now to the other half of the LRO, LCROSS mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is going to launch on the same rocket as LCROSS.

They're both going to be inside the payload shroud.

Shortly after launch LRO will separate from the LCROSS and centaur upper stage and it will actually continue to the Moon and go into orbit around the Moon and one of the things it will do is it will photograph the Moon in very high resolution.

It has other sensors to look at the Moon and analyze composition.

And it will also make a very, very detailed map of the Moon's topography: the up and down of the landscape will have much better information on the topography of the Moon than we've ever had before.

If all goes well LRO will reach a Moon a few days after launch and while LCROSS is in that big LGALRO orbit we talked about for three months or so, LRO, among other things, will be scouting the potential impact point for LCROSS.

And so LRO and LCROSS are actually a team of lunar explorers and even though LCROSS's mission will be over as soon as it and the centaur upper stage hit the Moon, LRO will continue to explore the Moon.

LRO has its own outreach program and its own ways of engaging the public and right now I would like to welcome Brooke Hsu from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Welcome Brooke, you're going to talk a little bit about the scientific purpose of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and we'll also get into some other details of how the public can get involved in the mission.

>> Absolutely.

>> Tell us why is LRO important from a science standpoint?

>> LRO is NASA's first step back to the Moon in about 11 years.

We're actually going back this time to help set the stage for future human lunar exploration.

We have seven instruments aboard the spacecraft, and all of these instruments are designed to give us essentially a comprehensive atlas of the surface of the Moon.

When we send the Apollo astronauts back it was a dangerous environment for them, and they had very little information about the surface.

>> That's right.

40 years ago this summer; I'm just going to put on my Apollo historian hat here for just a second.

Neil Armstrong is bringing the lunar module down with Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11, and lo and behold, there is a huge crater the size of a football stadium with enormous boulders around it and that's where the computer was taking them.

Armstrong had to take over control and steer past the crater and he almost -- they almost ran out of fuel before they found a safe spot.

What you're saying is when we go back to the Moon we'll have a much better idea of what hazards will be on the ground that we need to avoid when we land.

>> Absolutely.

>> A lot of that information will come from LRO.

>> Matter of fact, the majority of it will.

>> What will we get -- how will we get that information?

>> Each of our instruments has a specific purpose.

It's like a piece of a puzzle.

You talked about the altimeter onboard LRO.

>> Tell us what that is in 50 words or less?

Really, to those not familiar with the technical aspects how do you measure, you're in orbit around the Moon.

How do you measure the height of a feature on the surface.

>> A laser is nothing but a very specialized beam of light and the laser is designed to be sent from our instrument.

It originates at the spacecraft and it's sent down to the surface of the Moon and comes back.

Our instrument is designed to measure that light pulse and the two-way travel time, the amount of time it takes for the beam to get from the spacecraft to the surface of the Moon and back tells us our distance.

>> It's the time that tells you the distance.

That's neat.

You just add up a lot of those points and you get an actual profile of those features and then the next orbit gives you another profile and another and another and another.

>> Absolutely.

Our instrument (LOLA) is actually designed to give us five spots at once.

So that's a new technology developed specifically for this instrument aboard LRO.

But that's just one piece of the puzzle.

We have instruments aboard that give us temperature maps, will tell us what the surface reflectivity and what the surface roughness is like.

Based on the amount of time it takes for that surface to change temperatures will tell us what kind of surface environment we're looking at.

Whether it's boulders, or regolith, lunar dust, lunar soil or if it's bedrock (actual ignious rock on the surface) it will tell us what kind of stuff is on the surface.

>> That's great.

If there is a lava flow with the rock exposed or something like that.

>> Right.

>> So there is an enormous amount of science coming out of LRO and scientists all over the place are just at the edges of their seats waiting for this mission to happen, right?

>> Absolutely.

I'm wearing my Hawaiian shirt to celebrate the fact we're ready to go and get there and start getting our data back from the spacecraft.

>> How about the rest of us who aren't scientists?

How can we share in the excitement of this mission?

>> That's the brilliant part about technology today.

LRO is actually -- it has a very large presence we'd like to think on social media sites like Facebook.

There is a Facebook.


On Facebook it's lunar reconnaissance orbiter.

On twitter follow LRO_NASA.

>> Will people on the mission be tweeting?

>> Absolutely.

We've been tweeting now for probably about a year and a half or two years and we're also actually broadcasting video from project personnel during the launch onto quick.

>> That's neat.

>> That's the immediate thing.

I have some of my colleagues with me who will talk about once we can do once we get the data back from the spacecraft.

>> Let's bring in one ever your colleagues, Lora Bleacher.

Is she here?

Come on over and have a seat with me and Brooke.

Lora is the outreach person on the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter.

And now tell us what you've been working on and what you'll be doing as the mission progresses.

>> With LOLA we would like to get planetary data into a the classroom and public venues.

>> How will that work into the classroom and public venues?

How do you get the data into a place where the public and students can interact with it?

>> NASA archives it's data with a system called the planetary data system.

With the LOLA data we will put it in the planetary data system and develop software that students and the public can use to analyze the data once they've downloaded it from the planetary data system.

>> What might be one example of an analysis a student could do with the data?

>> There are several things.

The main software that we'll be encouraging student to use with the LOLA data is called Gridview developed at Goddard space flight center where LOLA and the LRO spacecraft were built.

Gridview was originally developed with use with the Mars Orbite rLaser Altimeter data, so we have sent a similar instrument to Mars like we're sending to the Moon.

So Gridview can analyze this data and with Gridview you can look at profiles across the lunar surface. You can also look at crater morphology.

>> What does morphology mean to an average person?

>>Basically it looks at size and shape.

You can calculate the diameter of a crater, the amount of sediment that has filled in a crater.

You can look at the size and shape and volume of volcanoes on the lunar surface.

>> It's kind of cool.

If you look at craters on the Moon and the next time you see a picture of craters on the Moon, look at this.

The shape of a crater changes.

Let's look at the craters for a minute without us.

There you go.

Now, notice the one on the left of the picture that has the mountain in the middle of it.

Now, the crater walls actually have little stair step pattern to them.

They're called terraces and the floor is very flat and then there is this big mountain that rises from the center of the crater.

Well, those things all have to do with the way craters form.

The terraces form from collapse of the walls of the crater shortly after impact and the mountain is due to the actually the crushed rebounding from the force of the impact and pushing up a great mountain.

The flat floor is something called impact melt which is rock turned to molten rock by the energy of the impact and rains back down into the crater.

These are the kind of details you can get from the instruments aboard LRO that can -- the topography is of great interest to scientists as well as to mission planners.

This is going to be really neat.

We'll get up close and personal with the Moon in a way we've never done before.

>> Yes, we are.

>> Do you have a favorite instruments on LRO?

>> Oh, I don't know. I might get some scientists mad at me if I were to say.

>> They're all good.

Is there anything that you're especially looking forward to seeing as this goes out into the public?

What would you like to see happen with students and with average folks as this data becomes available?

>> I would just like to see folks using the data.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to actually play around with data like scientists at NASA will be doing every day.

Experience science in action for yourself.

>> One of the things about LRO is that it's part of a family of spacecraft that are going to different planets in the solar system, right?

We've had the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter around Mars now.

There is a spacecraft on its way to Mercury called Messenger and it has some similar instruments on it.

>> It has a laser altimeter called the Mercury laser altimeter.

>> We'll get up close and personal with Mercury, which is a very fascinating place.

The exploration of the Moon is part of a whole integrated approach to understanding the solar system.

>> Absolutely.

>> So we're all excited.

All of us planet fans.

Not just Moon exploration but all planet fans should be excited about LRO.

I want to thank you both.

I wish you luck.

I'll be watching for the tweets and Facebook postings and the videos on quick.

I don't know what quick is but it sounds neat and we'll all be crossing our fingers that everything goes just super.

Thank you so much.

Well, let's zoom in on the Moon with one of the other important instruments on LRO.

We'll welcome Dave Roberts from the Adler planetarium in Chicago.

>> Doug.

>> I misread my own writing here.

Doug Roberts from the Adler planetarium in Chicago..

You're the education lead on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera.

That's going to be a cool part of this mission, isn't it?

>> I was hoping Brook would say that the camera was her favorite instrument.

>> She's not allowed to pick a favorite, but you can pick a favorite.

>> My favorite is the camera.

It will send back unprecedented images.

Images that will be able to image the lunar surface at a foot per pixel.

>> For those of us not used to speaking pixel, compare that to the best photographs of the Moon from orbit that we have now.

>> We have pretty good images of the Moon from orbit when Apollo was in orbit around the Moon they had metric scans.

>> It was declassified military cameras.

>> Super high resolution.

>> The Apollo Pan Camera was actually a military spy camera that a scientist named Hal Masursky pushed NASA to get it declassified.

They flew it on Apollo and got very, very, very high resolution.

But, not as good as these.

>> Not as good as these.

>> It didn't cover that much of the Moon.

>> It was going around the equator. They were only able to see that part of the Moon, whereas LRO in its polar orbit will be able to point its cameras wherever scientists think that there's something interesting to see.

As far as data quantities that's going to totally overwhelm the ability of any one scientist to look at every picture.

>> So go back to the level of detail. What's the resolution of detail that you were talking about?

>> One pixel would be one foot on the surface.

>> One pixel is one foot.

If you and I were sitting like we are now in these chairs with this table on the Moon, (assuming there was atmosphere on the Moon, there isn't, otherwise we'd need space suits) LRO camera could see us.

>> Right.

>>That's incredible.

>> It's also incredible because before as you mentioned looking for boulders and hazards for landing low resolution images you can't see those small features that could be a real problem for building bases or landing safely.

>> Does that mean, going back to my Apollo heritage here, does that mean we'll actually have images of the lunar module descent stages and the other equipment the other astronauts left behind on the Moon.

>> Absolutely, that's one of the key things that will be observed.

>> All the Apollo artifacts. and not just Apollo, but the precursor robotic missions, the Russian missions...

>>The Ranger and Surveyor, the Russian lunar probes ...

>> We'll be able to see all those and that will be one of the targets that will be selected by the mission.

>> Wow.

How about scientifically.

What are some of the things that people are looking for?

What kinds of features are people anxious to see in better detail?

>> So you mentioned about what happens when a crater impact, there is a lot of details about the shapes of the craters.

The large craters, that's something we have known for a long time because we can see that from ---with the lower resolution images.

If we look at the smaller craters or the edges of the crater walls in high detail, then you're not going to see that unless we have the higher resolution that LROC will bring to the game.

>> How about the fact that craters can also tell us how old a surface is on the Moon.

When we can count small craters we can do a better job of estimating how long that surface has been sitting there in the cosmic shooting gallery piling up new craters, the longer it's there, the more craters it has because more and more meteorites are striking the Moon and make craters.

What about volcanic features?

>> Volcanic features are harder to see because impacts have been peppering the Moon for its entire history.

The volcanic features are somewhat harder to see.

>> They're kind of eroded and beaten back. But that's again one of these cases where you have to be able to, if a scientist with a low resolution image from the mission had been taken before said there could be something there, looks volcanic in origin they want to go back and look at it in higher resolution, this is their time to do that.

>> Every mission builds on what we've been able to learn so far.

Like you do the best you can with what you have, and then when you can send a better mission like this one you can answer things that were only questions before.

>> Exactly.

That's the way science works.

>> That's neat.

We're likely -- do you want to go out on a limb and make a prediction that we are going to see things we never have before?

>> That's a safe bet.

>> You mentioned that there is going to be an overwhelming amount of data coming from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera -- LROC, I should call it. See, NASA acronyms, you've got to have an acronym.

>> At least this acronym spells something that sounds cool!

>> You haven't picked a good acronym if you can't say something cool.

How much data are we talking about?

>> Every image of the LROC camera is actually a pair of cameras.

>> You mean so you can do stereo?

>> It's not quite that way.

It will capture stereo but actually take successful orbits to get the pairs.

Every image is 50,000 pixels tall and 5,000 pixels wide and there are a pair of them.

It's actually 500 million pixels per image.

>> When you see a digital camera and it says 10 megabyte images, this is 500 megabyte images.

Holy mackerel.


It's 500 megapixel and how many pixel is a byte.

>> Black and white camera, it's a single.

>> It's a lot of data.

>> A lot of data.

>> You can get thousands of images.

>> The total data archive after a year, there will be an intermediate process, almost 100 terabytes.

>> 100 trillion bites.

>> 1,000 gig, wow.

What kind of--

>> It's 100,000 gigabytes.

>> How will you be able to get this data analyzed by scientists?

>> People participating in the mission can choose targets.

The people who chose a certain target will have the target they want to look at.

>> If the object you want to photograph you analyze that data.

>> There are so many -- LRO will be capturing data at such an incredible rate they have a hard time filling out targets.

Now we look at the craters we don't know much about.

There could be surprises out there we don't know.

>> It sounds like at this level of detail just about any place you photograph on the Moon will show you something interesting.

>> Exactly.

It's a level we haven't seen before.

>> We want to get the public involved with this.

>> You'll actually have students involved in the picture taking.

>> One project is a project out of Arizona State University called lunar student imaging project.

That is a project that really engages students to do everything from learning the background of lunar space science and geology, finding interesting targets to target.

They can target the spacecraft itself to take pictures of some area they think is interesting after having done the research.

The spacecraft will send the images back.

They'll have analysis tools to be able to view the images.

Analyze them.

Come up with research results and it will be a wonderful opportunity for the students to use the spacecraft and to do really original research.

>> Is there one place they should go to find out how to get involved in this?

>> Basically the website at LROC -- at Arizona state, actually do a web search on LRO or LROC.

Lunar student imaging project.

>> Lunar student imaging project is easier.

This is so exciting and making me even more excited to see this mission get underway.

I know all of you feel that way, too.

And I want to thank Doug and all of our guests today. Keep watching, stay focused, stay involved and if you can participate in some way, please do.

Share the excitement with your friends, neighbors and family and we hope you'll continue to follow the progress of the mission.

Join us again soon.

Goodbye for now.

 FirstGov  NASA

Editor: Brian Day
NASA Official: Daniel Andrews
Last Updated: October 2009