NASA has released two videos to celebrate the 1,000th operational day of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
The first vid, dubbed "Evolution of the Moon," traces the likely origin of the Moon, starting around 4.5 billion years ago when it is thought a chunk of Earth was knocked into orbit after a major collision. The Moon – the result of the collision – slowly cooled, then received a series of foreign object strikes of its own, including a massive impact on its south pole that formed the 2,500 km-wide South Pole-Aitken Basin.
The second video, "Tour of the Moon," shows a flyby of the lunar surface using data gleaned by the LRO. The narrated show covers the mapping of lunar craters and mountains, and gives views of human artifacts scattered across the Moon, but no black monoliths, sadly. Tycho crater – home of the fictional TMA-1 – does, however, have a mountain with a ballpark-sized rock perched on top.
The LRO was launched in 2009, in tandem with the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS,) and has been scanning the Moon's surface with seven different devices ever since. LCROSS was used to pile into the Moon itself, so that the impact debris could be studies for signs of free water on the lunar surface, but the LRO will remain in orbit as long as it is functional.
The long-term goal of the LRO is to map out future sites for human exploration. So far it has found tunnels that could be used for lunar colonies, possible frozen water deposits and even discovered that the Moon itself is shrinking. ®