Two NASA spacecrafts closed in on the moon Tuesday morning — one to send streaming video to Earth as it swings past the moon, the other to map the lunar surface from orbit, the space agency said.
The two probes will begin collecting data after nearing the moon’s orbit about 5:30 a.m. ET. By about 8:20 a.m. E.T., the space agency will begin streaming footage on the Internet. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Spacecraft, lifted off on June 18 atop the same Atlas V rocket. The mission is the first in NASA’s plan to return to the moon, then travel to Mars and beyond, the space agency said. During the mission, the agency will collect all sorts of data, including day-night temperature maps, NASA said. There is particular emphasis on the polar areas of the moon, where sunlight is more plentiful and where water might exist. The data that the orbiter collects and sends to Earth will be used in planning an eventual lunar outpost, the agency said. The orbiter also will look for potential landing sites for astronauts.