Nasa’s lunar reconnaissance orbiter (LRO) has begun mapping the moon’s surface after entering the mapping orbit.

The LRO is scheduled to conduct a one-year exploration mission in a polar orbit of about 31 miles above the lunar surface, the closest any spacecraft has orbited to the moon.

Over the next year, LRO will produce a complete map of the lunar surface in unprecedented detail, search for resources and safe landing sites for human explorers, and measure lunar temperatures and radiation levels.

The LRO will identify safe landing sites for manned missions, locate potential resources, characterise the moon’s radiation environment and demonstrate new technologies.

Nasa LRO project scientist Richard Vondrak said the LRO mission had already begun to elicit new data that would lead to a vastly improved atlas of the lunar south pole and advance our capability for human exploration and scientific benefit.

The lunar orbiter’s suite of seven instruments are currently mapping the moon’s south pole for potential resources such as water ice or hydrogen.