The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

After last week’s launch, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has now settled into orbit around the Moon. A USGS press release points out the cartographic aspects of the LRO’s mission: “Among the instruments carried on LRO, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) will acquire high-resolution stereo images that will allow the USGS to create detailed topographic maps of specific sites. USGS maps can be used to prioritize which sites are of the most interest, to guide robotic spacecraft or astronauts to safe landings, and to plan surface operations, including roving and possibly construction on the surface of the Moon.” The LRO’s mission page sets out the data that will be recorded and the instruments that will be recording it; this page on the LRO Camera provides more information on that instrument, including the resolution of its imagery.

Which is a roundabout way of saying: expect lunar maps and imagery to get way better shortly.