LCROSS is NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite. Its mission is to determine whether water ice exists in the lunar soil in craters near the Moon's south pole, which it did by crashing into the surface and producing a plume of lunar surface material. Research telescopes on Earth were watching to analyze the content of the plume.

LCROSS was launched on July 18, 2009 along with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) -
A satellite that has been taking high-resolution pictures of the lunar surface.

NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Delivers Treasure Trove of Data

by Ken Kremer on March 15, 2011

LOLA data give us three complementary views of the near side of the moon: the topography (left) along with new maps of the surface slope values (middle) and the roughness of the topography (right). All three views are centered on the relatively young impact crater Tycho, with the Orientale basin on the left side. The slope magnitude indicates the steepness of terrain, while roughness indicates the presence of large blocks, both of which are important for surface operations. Lunar topography is the primary measurement being provided, while ancillary datasets are steadily being filled in at the kilometer scale. Credit: NASA/LRO/LOLA Science Team

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has completed its initial phase of operations during the exploration phase which lasted one year from Sept. 15, 2009 through Sept. 15, 2010 and has now transitioned to the science phase which will last for several more years depending on the funding available from NASA, fuel reserves and spacecraft health. The exploration phase was in support of NASA’s now cancelled Project Constellation

To mark this occasion NASA released a new data set that includes an overlap of the last data from the exploration phase and the initial measurements from the follow on science mapping and observational phase.

This is the fifth dataset released so far. All the data is accessible at the Planetary Data System (PDS) and the LROC website and includes both the raw data and high level processed information including mosaic maps and images.

LRO was launched on June 18, 2009 atop an Atlas V/Centaur rocket as part of a science satellite duo with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter & Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

After achieving elliptical orbit, LRO underwent a commissioning phase and the orbit was lowered with thruster firings to an approximately circular mapping orbit at about 50 km altitude.

LRO spacecraft (top) protected by gray colored blankets is equipped with 7 science instruments located at upper right side of spacecraft. Payload fairing in background protects the spacecraft during launch and ascent. Credit: Ken Kremer

LRO was equipped with 7 science instruments that delivered more than 192 terabytes of data and with an unprecedented level of detail. Over 41,000 DVDs would be required to hold the new LRO data set.

“The release of such a comprehensive and rich collection of data, maps and images reinforces the tremendous success we have had with LRO in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and with lunar science,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington according to a NASA statement.

The new data set includes a global map produced by the onboard Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) that has a resolution of 100 meters. Working as an armchair astronaut,

anyone can zoom in to full resolution with any of the mosaics and go an exploration mission in incredible detail because the mosaics are humongous at

34,748 pixels by 34,748 pixels, or approximately 1.1 gigabytes.

Browse the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Image Gallery here:

The amount of data received so far from LRO equals the combined total of all other NASA’s planetary missions. This is because the moon is nearby and LRO has a dedicated ground station.

Topographic map from LRO data. Credit: NASA

Data from the other LRO instruments is included in the release including visual and infrared brightness, temperatures maps from Diviner; locations of water-ice deposits from the Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) especially in the permanently shadowed areas and new maps of slope, roughness and illumination conditions from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter team.

Additional new maps were generated from data compilations from the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND), the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation and the Miniature Radio Frequency (mini RF) instruments

The combined result of all this LRO data is to give scientists the best ever scientific view of the moon.

“All these global maps and other data are available at a very high resolution — that’s what makes this release exciting,” said Goddard’s John Keller, the LRO deputy project scientist. “With this valuable collection, researchers worldwide are getting the best view of the moon they have ever had.”

Slope image. Credit: NASA

The Atlas V/Centaur carrying NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter & Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite hurtles off Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June18, 2009. Credit: NASA/Tom Farrar, Kevin O'Connell

Source: NASA Press Release


Lunar Impact Uncovered More Than Just Moon Water


Oct. 21, 2010:  Nearly a year after announcing the discovery of water molecules on the moon, scientists have revealed new data uncovered by NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO—and it's more than just water.

Moon Water (lcross, 200px)
An artist's concept of LCROSS approaching the moon in Oct. 2009. [more]

The missions found evidence that lunar soil within shadowy craters is rich in useful materials. Moreover, the moon appears to be chemically active and has a full-fledged water cycle. Scientists also confirmed that 'moon water' was in the form of mostly pure ice crystals in some places.

These results are featured in six papers published in the Oct. 22 issue of Science.

The twin impacts of LCROSS and a companion rocket stage in the moon's Cabeus crater on Oct. 9, 2009, lifted a plume of material that might not have seen direct sunlight for billions of years. As the plume traveled nearly 10 miles above the crater’s rim, instruments aboard LCROSS and LRO made observations of the crater and debris and vapor clouds. After the impacts, grains of mostly pure water ice were lofted into the sunlight in the vacuum of space.

"Seeing mostly pure water ice grains in the plume means water ice was somehow delivered to the moon in the past, or chemical processes have been causing ice to accumulate in large quantities," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center.

In addition to water, the plume contained "volatiles." These are compounds that freeze in the cold lunar craters and vaporize easily when warmed by the sun. The suite of LCROSS and LRO instruments determined as much as 20 percent of the material kicked up by the LCROSS impact was volatiles, including methane, ammonia, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

Moon Water (south pole, 550px)
Above: A surface temperature map of the lunar south pole made by LRO's Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment . The map contains several intensely cold impact craters that could trap water ice and other icy compounds commonly observed in comets. The approximate maximum temperatures at which these compounds would be frozen in place for more than a billion years are noted at right. [larger image]

"The diversity and abundance of volatiles in the plume suggest a variety of sources, like comets and asteroids, and an active water cycle within the lunar shadows," says Colaprete.

The instruments also discovered relatively large amounts of light metals such as sodium, mercury and possibly even silver. Scientists believe the water and mix of volatiles that LCROSS and LRO detected could be the remnants of a comet impact. According to scientists, these volatile chemical by-products are also evidence of a cycle through which water ice reacts with lunar soil grains.

LRO's Diviner instrument gathered data on water concentration and temperature measurements, and LRO's Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector mapped the distribution of hydrogen. This combined data led the science team to conclude the water is not uniformly distributed within the shadowed cold traps, but rather is in pockets, which may also lie outside the shadowed regions.

Moon Water (gun range, 550px)
These experiments at the Ames Vertical Gun Range helped researchers understand the LCROSS impact. Solid impacts send debris to the side (left), whereas hollow impacts result in a high-angle ejecta plume (right). The primary LCROSS impact was an emptied rocket and acted like a hollow projectile. Image credit: Brown University/Peter H. Schultz and Brendan Hermalyn, NASA/Ames Vertical Gun Range. [larger image]

The proportion of volatiles to water in the lunar soil indicates a process called "cold grain chemistry" is taking place. Scientists also theorize this process could take as long as hundreds of thousands of years and may occur on other frigid, airless bodies such as asteroids; the moons of Jupiter and Saturn (including Europa and Enceladus); Mars' moons; interstellar dust grains floating around other stars and the polar regions of Mercury.

"The observations by the suite of LRO and LCROSS instruments demonstrate the moon has a complex environment that experiences intriguing chemical processes," said Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "This knowledge can open doors to new areas of research and exploration."

Moon Water (video, 200px)
Click to view videos of the LCROSS/LRO results.

By understanding the processes and environments that determine where water ice will be, how water was delivered to the moon and its active water cycle, future mission planners might be better able to determine which locations will have easily-accessible water. The existence of mostly pure water ice could mean future human explorers won't have to devise complicated processes to retrieve water out of the soil in order to use it for valuable life support resources. In addition, an abundant presence of hydrogen gas, ammonia and methane could be exploited to produce fuel.

"NASA has convincingly confirmed the presence of water ice and characterized its patchy distribution in permanently shadowed regions of the moon," concludes Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This major undertaking is the one of many steps NASA has taken to better understand our solar system, its resources, and its origin, evolution, and future."

Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

More Information

For more information about LCROSS and a complete list of the papers and their authors, visit:

For more information about the LRO mission, visit:

LCROSS launched with LRO aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 18, 2009, and used the Centaur upper stage rocket to create the debris plume. The research was funded by NASA's Exploration Systems Missions Directorate at the agency's headquarters. LCROSS was managed by Ames and built by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif. LRO was built and is managed by Goddard.


Water Found on Moon, Researchers Say

NASA, via Reuters

This artist's rendering released by NASA shows the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)
as it crashed into the moon to test for the presence of water in October. 



Published: November 13, 2009 by The New York Times
A version of this article was on the cover of the Saturday Nov 14 issue of The New York Times

There is water on the Moon, scientists stated unequivocally on Friday Nov 13.

“Indeed yes, we found water,” Anthony Colaprete, the principal investigator for NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, said in a news conference. “And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount.”

The confirmation of scientists’ suspicions is welcome news to explorers who might set up home on the lunar surface and to scientists who hope that the water, in the form of ice accumulated over billions of years, holds a record of the solar system’s history.

The satellite, known as LCROSS (pronounced el-cross), crashed into a crater near the Moon’s south pole a month ago on Oct 9. The 5,600-miles-per-hour impact carved out a hole 60 to 100 feet wide and kicked up at least 26 gallons of water.

“We got more than just a whiff,” Peter H. Schultz, a professor of geological sciences at Brown University and a co-investigator of the mission, said in a telephone interview. “We practically tasted it with the impact.”

For more than a decade, planetary scientists have seen tantalizing hints of water ice at the bottom of these cold craters where the sun never shines. The Lcross mission, intended to look for water, was made up of two pieces — an empty rocket stage to slam into the floor of Cabeus, a crater 60 miles wide and 2 miles deep, and a small spacecraft to measure what was kicked up.

For space enthusiasts who stayed up, or woke up early, to watch the impact on Oct. 9, the event was anticlimactic, even disappointing, as they failed to see the anticipated debris plume. Even some high-powered telescopes on Earth like the Palomar Observatory in California did not see anything.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration later said that Lcross did indeed photograph a plume but that the live video stream was not properly attuned to pick out the details.

The water findings came through an analysis of the slight shifts in color after the impact, showing telltale signs of water molecules that had absorbed specific wavelengths of light. “We got good fits,” Dr. Colaprete said. “It was a unique fit.”

The scientists also saw colors of ultraviolet light associated with molecules of hydroxyl, consisting of one hydrogen and one oxygen, presumably water molecules that had been broken apart by the impact and then glowed like neon signs.

In addition, there were squiggles in the data that indicated other molecules, possibly carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, methane or more complex carbon-based molecules. “All of those are possibilities,” Dr. Colaprete said, “but we really need to do the work to see which ones work best.”

Remaining in perpetual darkness like other craters near the lunar poles, the bottom of Cabeus is a frigid minus 365 degrees Fahrenheit, cold enough that anything at the bottom of such craters never leaves. These craters are “really like the dusty attic of the solar system,” said Michael Wargo, the chief lunar scientist at NASA headquarters.

The Moon was once thought to be dry. Then came hints of ice in the polar craters. In September, scientists reported an unexpected finding that most of the surface, not just the polar regions, might be covered with a thin veneer of water.

The LCROSS scientists said it was not clear how all the different readings of water related to one another, if at all.

The deposits in the lunar craters may be as informative about the Moon as ice cores from Earth’s polar regions are about the planet’s past climates. Scientists want to know the source and history of whatever water they find. It could have come from the impacts of comets, for instance, or from within the Moon.

“Now that we know that water is there, thanks to LCROSS, we can begin in earnest to go to this next set of questions,” said Gregory T. Delory of the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Delory said the findings of Lcross and other spacecraft were “painting a really surprising new picture of the Moon; rather than a dead and unchanging world, it could be in fact a very dynamic and interesting one.”

Lunar ice, if bountiful, not only gives future settlers something to drink, but could also be broken apart into oxygen and hydrogen. Both are valuable as rocket fuel, and the oxygen would also give astronauts air to breathe.

NASA’s current exploration plans call for a return of astronauts to the Moon by 2020, for the first visit since 1972. But a panel appointed in May recently concluded that trimmings of the agency’s budget made that goal impossible. One option presented to the Obama administration was to bypass Moon landings for now and focus on long-duration missions in deep space.

Even though the signs of water were clear and definitive, the Moon is far from wet. The Cabeus soil could still turn out to be drier than that in deserts on Earth. But Dr. Colaprete also said that he expected that the 26 gallons were a lower limit and that it was too early to estimate the concentration of water in the soil.


Ten Cool Things Seen in the First Year of LRO

2010 JUNE 23
Having officially reached lunar orbit on June 23rd, 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has now marked one full year on its mission to scout the moon. Maps and datasets collected by LRO’s state-of-the-art instruments will form the foundation for all future lunar exploration plans, as well as be critical to scientists working to better understand the moon and its environment. In only the first year of the mission, LRO has gathered more digital information than any previous planetary mission in history. To celebrate one year in orbit, here are ten cool things already observed by LRO. Note that the stories here are just a small sample of what the LRO team has released and barely touch on the major scientific accomplishments of the mission. If you like these, visit the official LRO web site at to find out even more!

One of LRO’s  observations from the past year goes beyond cool to absolutely frigid.  Diviner, LRO’s temperature instrument, found a place in the floor of the  moon’s Hermite Crater that was detected to be -415 degrees Fahrenheit  (-258 Celsius) making it the coldest temperature measured anywhere in  the solar system.
The Coldest Place in the Solar System
One of LRO''s observations from the past year goes beyond cool to absolutely frigid. Diviner, LRO's temperature instrument, found a place in the floor of the moon's Hermite Crater that was detected to be -415 degrees Fahrenheit (-248 Celsius) making it the coldest temperature measured anywhere in the solar system. For comparison, scientists believe that Pluto's surface only gets down to about -300 degrees Fahrenheit (-184 Celsius). Extremely cold regions similar to the one in Hermite Crater were found at the bottoms of several permanently shaded craters at the lunar south pole and were measured in the depths of winter night. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of California, Los Angeles
› Larger image
› Learn more about the moon's coldest places

Images of the Apollo 11 landing site from LRO show clearly where  the descent stage (about 12 feet in diameter) was left behind as well as  the astronauts’ tracks and the various equipment they deployed.
Astronauts' First Steps on the Moon
On July 20, 1969, NASA added a page to the history books when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to set foot on the moon. Though their stay was only brief, Armstrong and Aldrin had about two and a half hours to track around outside the module, taking pictures and deploying a few science experiments before returning to orbit and ultimately, the safety of Earth. Images of the Apollo 11 landing site from LRO clearly show where the descent stage (about 12 feet in diameter) was left behind as well as the astronauts' tracks and the various equipment they deployed. This LRO data has important scientific value, as it provides context for the returned Apollo samples. Beyond their use for science, the images of all six manned landing sites observed by LRO provide a reminder of NASA's proud legacy of exploration and a note of inspiration about what humans are capable of in the future. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
› Larger image
› Learn more about the Apollo 11 landing site

Images from LRO now show precisely just how far the Apollo 14  astronauts traveled and how close they came to reaching the crater,  their tracks ending only about 100 feet (30 meters) from the rim
The Apollo 14 Near Miss of Cone Crater
While all of the Apollo missions are fascinating, the Apollo 14 activities provided a particularly interesting story to see in the images from LRO. The mission called for Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell to go to Fra Maura where they would attempt to gather samples from the rim of Cone Crater. Without having the aid of the lunar rover and having to drag a cart full of scientific equipment along with them, the trek from the descent module to Cone Crater proved to be a physically intense one. After traversing nearly a mile (1400 meters), the steep incline of the crater rim, the high heart rates of the astronauts and the tight schedule of the activity resulted in mission control ordering them to gather whatever samples they could and return to the landing module. They never reached the edge of the crater. Though geologists say it did not greatly affect the success of the scientific goal, the astronauts were personally disappointed in failing to make it to the top. Images from LRO now show precisely just how far the astronauts traveled and how close they came to reaching the crater, their tracks ending only about 100 feet (30 meters) from the rim! Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
› Larger image
› Learn more about the Apollo 14 mission image

Lunokhod 1 was the name of a  Russian robotic rover that landed on the moon in 1970 and lost contact  in September 1971. In March 2010, the LROC team found it and contact was  made with the rover for the first time in nearly four decades.
A Lost Russian Rover is Found
Lunokhod 1 was the name of a Russian robotic rover that landed on the moon in 1970 and navigated about 6 miles (10 km) of the lunar surface over 10 months before it lost contact in September 1971. Scientists were unsure of the rover's whereabouts, though at least one team of researchers were searching for it, hoping to bounce a laser off of its retroreflector mirrors. This past March however, the LROC team announced they had spotted it, miles from the location the laser team had been searching. Using the info provided by LRO, a laser pulse was sent to Lunokhod 1 and contact was made with the rover for the first time in nearly four decades. Not only did Lunokhod 1's retroreflector return a signal, but it returned one that was about five times better than those that have routinely been returned by Lunokhod 2's mirrors over the years. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
› Larger image
› Learn more about the discovery of Lunokhod 1

LRO is providing scores  of new details about the entire half of the moon that is obscured from  Earth. The Lunar Far Side: The Side Never Seen from Earth
Tidal forces between the moon and the Earth have slowed the moon' rotation so that one side of the moon always faces toward our planet. Though sometimes improperly referred to as the "dark side of the moon," it should correctly be referred to as the "far side of the moon" since it receives just as much sunlight as the side that faces us. The dark side of the moon should refer to whatever hemisphere isn't lit at a given time. Though several spacecraft have imaged the far side of the moon since then, LRO is providing new details about the entire half of the moon that is obscured from Earth. The lunar far side is rougher and has many more craters than the near side, so quite a few of the most fascinating lunar features are located there, including one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system, the South Pole-Aitken Basin. The image highlighted here shows the moon's topography from LRO's LOLA instruments with the highest elevations up above 20,000 feet in red and the lowest areas down below -20,000 feet in blue. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard
› Larger image
› Learn more about the far side of the moon

With the greatly increased resolution of the LRO  Camera as well as the new information gathered by LRO’s other  instruments, scientists can suddenly characterize the moon’s surface in  ways never before possible. Counting Craters and Boulders
The LRO Camera (LROC) has a resolution about ten times better than any previous lunar orbiter missions. That means for every pixel imaged by other spacecraft, LROC gathers 100 pixels in that same area, enough to distinguish details never before possible. One of the most striking ways this manifests itself is in the ability to make out detailed craters and individual boulders, some no larger than a few feet on the lunar surface. In order to understand the history of the lunar surface and its features and mechanisms, scientists look at the abundance, size, shape, and distribution of both craters and boulders. By comparing and analyzing these feature counts across different regions as well as other places like the Earth and Mars, we can gain a better understanding of our solar system's natural history. With the increased resolution of the LRO Camera as well as the new information gathered by LRO's other instruments, scientists can characterize the moon's surface in ways never before possible. This information will be critical for both science and future exploration plans. Not only that, but now thanks to the "Moon Zoo" ( the public can get involved doing their own crater and boulder counts to aid in the research. With hundreds of gigabytes of new data returning daily, the contribution of "citizen scientists" can play a crucial part in lunar science. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
› Larger image
› Learn more about crater and boulder counting

The largest lunar mountains were formed  in minutes or less as asteroids and comets slammed into the surface at  tremendous velocities, displacing and uplifting enough crust to create  peaks that easily rival those found on Earth.
Mountains on the Moon
On the Earth, we are taught that mountains form over millions of years, the result of gradual shifting and colliding plates. On the moon however, the situation is quite different. Even the largest lunar mountains were formed in minutes or less as asteroids and comets slammed into the surface at tremendous velocities, displacing and uplifting enough crust to create peaks that easily rival those found on Earth. On a few occasions in the past year, NASA has tilted the angle of LRO to do calibrations and other tests. In such cases the camera has the opportunity to gather oblique images of the lunar surface like the one featured here of Cabeus Crater providing a dramatic view of the moon's mountainous terrain. Cabeus Crater is located near the lunar south pole and contains the site of the LCROSS mission's impact. Early measurements by several instruments on LRO were used to guide the decision to send LCROSS to Cabeus. During the LCROSS impact LRO was carefully positioned to observe both the gas cloud generated in the impact, as well as the heating at the impact site. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
› Larger image
› Learn more about mountains on the moon

Rilles are long, narrow depressions  on the lunar surface that look like river channels.
Lunar Rilles: Mysterious Channels on the Moon

Rilles are long, narrow depressions on the lunar surface that look like river channels. Some are straight, some curve, and others, like the ones highlighted here, are called "sinuous" rilles and have strong meanders that twist and turn across the moon. Rilles are especially visible in radar imagery, like that gathered by LRO's Mini-RF instrument. The formation of lunar rilles is not well understood. It is believed there may be many different formation mechanisms including ancient magma flows and the collapse of subterranean lava tubes. Imagery from LRO will help researchers to better understand these mysterious "river-like" lunar features. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/LSI
› Larger image
› Learn more about lunar rilles

The Mare  Ingenii pit. These holes are actually skylights that form when the  ceiling of a subterranean lava tube collapses, possibly due to a  meteorite impact punching its way through. Lunar Pits
LRO has now collected the most detailed images yet of at least two lunar pits, quite literally giant holes in the moon. Scientists believe these holes are actually skylights that form when the ceiling of a subterranean lava tube collapses, possibly due to a meteorite impact punching its way through. One of these skylights, the Marius Hills pit, was observed multiple times by the Japanese SELENE/Kaguya research team. With a diameter of about 213 feet (65 meters) and an estimated depth of 260 to 290 feet (80 to 88 meters) it's a pit big enough to fit the White House completely inside. The image featured here is the Mare Ingenii pit. This hole is almost twice the size of the one in the Marius Hills and most surprisingly is found in an area with relatively few volcanic features. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
› Larger image
› Learn more about the lunar pits

Using LRO's precise measurements  of topography scientists have been able to map lunar illumination in  detail, finding some areas with up to 96% solar visibility.
Areas of Near Constant Sunlight at the South Pole

One of the most vital resources LRO is searching for on the moon is solar illumination. Light from the sun provides both warmth and a source of energy, two critical constraints to exploration efforts. The moon's axis is only slightly tilted so there are areas in high elevations at its poles that remain almost constantly exposed to the sun. Using LRO's precise measurements of topography scientists have been able to map illumination in detail, finding some areas with up to 96% solar visibility. Such sites would have continuous sun for approximately 243 days a year and never have a period of total darkness for more than 24 hours. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard

› Larger image

› Learn more about lunar illumination conditions

› View a video about these images
› View Geeked on Goddard Blog entry

For additional image sizes and related links visit,
Andrew Freeberg
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center



See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

LCROSS Centaur Impact Flash
Credit: NASA, LCROSS Mission Team

Explanation: This Mid-Infrared Image was taken in the last minutes of the LCROSS flight mission to the Moon. The small white spot (enlarged in the insets) seen within the dark shadow of lunar crater walls is the initial flash created by the impact of a spent Centaur upper stage rocket. Traveling at 1.5 miles per second, the Centaur rocket hit the lunar surface yesterday at 7:31AM EDT followed  four minutes later by the shepherding LCROSS spacecraft. Earthbound observatories have reported capturing both impacts. But before crashing into the lunar surface itself, the LCROSS spacecraft's instrumentation successfully recorded close-up the details of the rocket stage impact, the resulting crater, and debris cloud. In the coming weeks, data from the challenging mission will be used to search for signs of water in the lunar material blasted from the surface.

From for 2009 Oct 17 & 18:

LUNAR IMPACT PLUME: There was a plume after all. Observers on Earth had their doubts after LCROSS and its Centaur booster rocket hit the Moon on Friday, Oct. 9th. The twin lunar impacts failed to produce visible plumes of debris, prompting speculation that something had gone wrong. On the contrary, members of the LCROSS science team are now calling the experiment "a smashing success." (The lunar terrain is overexposed to properly show the much fainter impact plume.)

Fifteen seconds after the Centaur hit the shadowy floor of crater Cabeus, the LCROSS spacecraft flying 600 km overhead took the following picture of a plume measuring 6 to 8 km wide:

"There is a clear indication of a plume of vapor and fine debris," says LCROSS principal investigator Tony Colaprete of NASA/Ames. "The ejecta brightness appears to be at the low end of our predictions and this may be a clue to the properties of the material the Centaur hit."

Nine cameras and spectrometers on LCROSS captured every phase of the Centaur's impact: the intial flash, the debris plume, and the creation of the Centaur's crater. "We are blown away by the data returned," says Colaprete. "The team is working hard on the analysis and the data appear to be of very high quality."

But did the impact reveal any water at the bottom of Cabeus? The LCROSS team isn't ready to say yet. Combining their data with those of other observatories and analyzing the full dataset could take weeks. According to NASA, "any new information will undergo the normal scientific review process and will be released as soon as it is available."

For more information, read NASA's Oct. 16th press release and browse the gallery of images.


The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.


LUNAR IMPACT: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has pinpointed the wreckage of a spacecraft that crashed into the Moon. No, the photo below wasn't caused by LCROSS, which hit the floor of crater Cabeus last week. This crash site is much older:

Thirty-eight and a half years old, to be exact. The crater pictured above was formed on February 4, 1971, by the impact of Apollo 14's Saturn IVB booster rocket. NASA intentionally guided the rocket into the lunar surface to provide a signal for seismometers deployed by Apollo astronauts. The experiment yielded new information about the Moon's interior structure.

Over the years, NASA and other international space agencies have peppered the Moon with dozens of spacecraft--usually on purpose, although not always--and by doing so gained considerable experience with the results of lunar impacts. Researchers tapped into that experience when they predicted bright flashes and debris plumes for the crash of LCROSS. Imagine their surprise when the flashes and plumes failed to materialize! To the human eye, LCROSS and its Centaur booster rocket simply disappeared into the inky depths of Cabeus with no obvious evidence of impact.

The solution to this mystery probably lies in data beamed back to Earth by LCROSS in the last minutes before impact. Scientists are crunching the numbers, and it may be days or weeks before results are known. Stay tuned.


                                                                MORE AT:

NASA Spacecraft Impacts Lunar Crater in Search for Water Ice
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, created twin impacts on the moon's surface early Friday in a search for water ice. Scientists will analyze data from the spacecraft's instruments to assess whether water ice is present.

The satellite traveled 5.6 million miles during an historic 113-day mission that ended in the Cabeus crater, a permanently shadowed region near the moon's south pole. The spacecraft was launched June 18 as a companion mission to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"The LCROSS science instruments worked exceedingly well and returned a wealth of data that will greatly improve our understanding of our closest celestial neighbor," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator and project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "The team is excited to dive into data."

In preparation for impact, LCROSS and its spent Centaur upper stage rocket separated about 54,000 miles above the surface of the moon on Thursday at approximately 6:50 p.m. PDT.

Moving at a speed of more than 1.5 miles per second, the Centaur hit the lunar surface shortly after 4:31 a.m. Oct. 9, creating an impact that instruments aboard LCROSS observed for approximately four minutes. LCROSS then impacted the surface at approximately 4:36 a.m PDT.

"This is a great day for science and exploration," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The LCROSS data should prove to be an impressive addition to the tremendous leaps in knowledge about the moon that have been achieved in recent weeks. I want to congratulate the LCROSS team for their tremendous achievement in development of this low cost spacecraft and for their perseverance through a number of difficult technical and operational challenges."‪

Other observatories reported capturing both impacts. The data will be shared with the LCROSS science team for analysis. The LCROSS team expects it to take several weeks of analysis before it can make a definitive assessment of the presence or absence of water ice.

"I am very proud of the success of this LCROSS mission team," said Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at Ames. "Whenever this team would hit a roadblock, it conceived a clever work-around allowing us to push forward with a successful mission."

The images and video collected by the amateur astronomer community and the public also will be used to enhance our knowledge about the moon.

"One of the early goals of the mission was to get as many people to look at the LCROSS impacts in as many ways possible, and we succeeded," said Jennifer Heldmann, Ames' coordinator of the LCROSS observation campaign. "The amount of corroborated information that can be pulled out of this one event is fascinating."

"It has been an incredible journey since LCROSS was selected in April 2006," said Andrews. "The LCROSS Project faced a very ambitious schedule and an uncommonly small budget for a mission of this size. LCROSS could be a model for how small robotic missions are executed. This is truly big science on a small budget."

For more information about the LCROSS mission, including images and video, visit:


LCROSS is NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite. Its mission is to determine whether water ice exists in the lunar soil in craters near the Moon's south pole, which it did by crashing into the surface and producing a plume of lunar surface material. Research telescopes on Earth were watching to analyze the content of the plume.

LCROSS was launched on July 18, 2009 along with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a satellite that has been taking high-resolution pictures of the lunar surface.

Why is the Moon's south pole so important?

Remember that a day on the Moon—the time it takes the Moon to rotate once, or the time between two sunrises on the Moon—is as long as a month on Earth. Most parts of the Moon's surface get a couple of weeks of sunlight followed by a couple of weeks of darkness. Ice just can't form on most of the Moon's surface, because of the long, intense periods of unfiltered sunlight that would vaporize it.

Because the Moon has very little tilt with respect to the Sun, it doesn't have seasons the way the Earth does. If you could stand at one of the Moon's poles, the Sun would skim along the horizon, never rising more than a few degrees. If you were standing in a crater at one of the poles, you would never see any light at all, just like the bottom of a well only gets sunlight when the Sun is high overhead.

Open this file in Starry Night to see how the Sun almost never rises when you're standing at the Moon's south pole. Try skipping time ahead one month at a time. The landscape is made translucent so that you can see the Sun behind it. Pay special attention to the line white line marked "Horizon Line" (the true horizon, 90 degrees from the zenith) and the green line marked "Ecliptic" (the path of the Sun in the sky).

It's estimated that about 12,500 square kilometres (almost 5,000 square miles) of the Moon's surface is permanently shadowed like this. These are the only places on the Moon where ice could exist, so that's where LCROSS is going to look. The crater chosen as the impact site is called Cabeus. The Cabeus crater complex can be seen on the map below, marked in blue. This is what the Moon  looked like on October 9. The blue label at the
bottom of the picture (near the South Pole) is labelled CABEUS-
the crater chosen for the impacts.


                                  THE ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY FOR 2009 OCTOBER 8

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Target Crater Cabeus
Image Credit: NMSU/MSFC Tortugas Observatory

Explanation: About 100 kilometers from the Moon's South Pole, 100 kilometer wide crater Cabeus is the target for two LCROSS mission spacecraft on course to impact the Moon tomorrow. The shadowed crater is strongly foreshortened in this mosaic, a representative view of the region for earthbound telescopes. The impacts are intended to create billowing debris plumes extending into the sunlight above the crater walls, that could reveal signs of water. First to impact will be the mission's Centaur upper stage rocket at 11:30 UT (7:30am EDT). The instrumented LCROSS mothership will image the impact and then fly through the resulting debris plume analyzing the material blasted from the crater floor. Four minutes after the first impact, the LCROSS mothership itself will crash into Cabeus. The plumes are expected to be visible in telescopes about 10 inches in diameter or larger, with the timing favoring Moon watchers in western North America and the Pacific. NASA also plans to broadcast live footage from the LCROSS mission on NASA TV starting at 6:15am EDT / 3:15am PDT on Oct  9.

  •  2009 Sept 25th Article Below Written by Nancy Atkinson from

This image of LCROSS impact site Cabeus A was taken by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 mission. The picture was taken from about 500 km, with small-field (about 50 km across) high resolution view (50 m/pixel). Image credit: B.Grieger, B.H. Foing & ESA/SMART-1/ AMIE team
ESA's SMART-1 team has released an image of the future impact site of NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). The SMART-1 team searched through their database to find images of Cabeus A, where LCROSS will search for water ice by making two impacts into this crater at the lunar south pole. The impacts are scheduled for 11:30 and 11:34 am UT on 9 October 2009. This image was taken four years ago by SMART-1, a spacecraft that ended its mission in 2006 by deliberately crashing to the Moon, similar to what LCROSS will do, hoping to exhume materials buried under the lunar surface, particularly water ice. "This is like gathering evidence for a Crash Scene Investigation, but before the action takes place,” said Bernard Foing, SMART-1 project scientist.

Cabeus A is permanently shadowed, so ice lying inside the crater could be protected from the Sun’s harsh rays. LCROSS will send the upper stage Centaur rocket crashing into Cabeus A and a shepherd spacecraft will fly into the plume of dust generated and measure its properties before making a second impact with the lunar surface. Astronomers will observe both impacts using ground and space-based telescopes. The SMART-1 spacecraft also concluded its mission with a controlled bouncing impact on 3 September 2006. The event was observed with ground-based telescopes and the flash from the impact was detected at infrared wavelengths.

Find out more about observing the LCROSS event here.

Foing and Bjoern Grieger, the liaison scientist for SMART-1’s AIMIE camera searched through SMART-1’s database for images of Cabeus A, taken four years ago at conditions where solar elevation and direction were similar to those of LCROSS impact. The SMART-1 image is at high resolution as the spacecraft was at its closest distance of 500 km from the South Pole.

“We are pleased to contribute these ESA SMART-1 observations of the LCROSS target site in order to help in the planning and interpretation of impact observations," said Foing. “The coordination and exchange of information between lunar missions is an important step for future exploration of the Moon. Cooperation is vital if we are ever to see ‘villages’ of robotic landers and eventual lunar bases, as recommended by the International Lunar Exploration Working Group.”

Source: AlphaGalileo

Filed under: Missions, Moon

Tags: LCROSS, Moon, SMART-1

Related stories on Universe Today

 SMART-1 Releases Image of LCROSS Impact Site

September 11th, 2009

LCROSS Impact Site on Moon Announced: Cabeus A

Written by Nancy Atkinson from

This view of the Moon is similar (in both geometry and phase) to the view that observatories will have during the October 9 impact of LCROSS into crater Cabeus A, near the Moon's south pole. Credit: NMSU / MSFC Tortugas Observatory
On October 9, 2009, at 7:31 a.m. EDT professional and amateur astronomers alike will be focusing their telescopes on the south pole of the Moon, hoping to see a little fireworks. Or more accurately, they are hoping to see ice. NASA will be sending the upper stage of a Centaur rocket to impact a permanently shadowed crater, along with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS which will fly into the plume of dust left by the impact and measure the properties of the dust to look for water ice hidden inside the crater. LCROSS will collide with the lunar surface. Team scientists have been debating what crater would be the optimal location for the impact, and today they made their announcement: Cabeus A.

And just to clarify, the spacecraft will impact the Moon, NOT bomb it. No detonations involved.

The LCROSS team selected Cabeus A based on a set of conditions that include proper debris plume illumination for visibility from Earth, a high concentration of hydrogen, and mature crater features such as a flat floor, gentle slopes and the absence of large boulders.

"The selection of Cabeus A was a result of a vigorous debate within the lunar science community that included review of the latest data from Earth-based observatories and our fellow lunar missions Kaguya, Chandrayaan-1, and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principle investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "The team is looking forward to the impacts and the wealth of information this unique mission will produce."

Close up image depicting the slopes or steepness of the walls in Cabeus A. Credit: NASA

Close up image depicting the slopes or steepness of the walls in Cabeus A. Credit: NASA

"LCROSS will shepherd the Centaur to the precise orbit, and accelerate it into the moon," said LCROSS project scientist Tony Colaprete. "The two will separate, with LCROSS following the Centaur by four minutes, taking live "bent pipe" measurements, sending back live video (which will be shown live via webcast) taking measurements of the lunar regolith characteristics, looking for lunar water vapor or ice characteristics, then impacting the lunar surface itself. LCROSS will be a smashing success."

Observatories involved the observing campaign include the Infrared Telescope Facility and Keck telescope in Hawaii; the Magdalena Ridge and Apache Ridge Observatories in New Mexico and the MMT Observatory in Arizona; the newly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope; and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, among others.

"These and several other telescopes participating in the LCROSS Observation Campaign will provide observations from different vantage points using different types of measurement techniques," said Jennifer Heldmann, lead for the LCROSS Observation Campaign at Ames. "These multiple observations will complement the LCROSS spacecraft data to help determine whether or not water ice exists in Cabeus A."

The impact should be visible to people in the United States and Canada — the farther west the better.
Learn about the observing campaign for amateur astronomers here.

During a media briefing Sept. 11, Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at Ames, provided a mission status update indicating the spacecraft is healthy and has enough fuel to successfully accomplish all mission objectives despite an anomaly that caused the spacecraft to spend an excessive amount of fuel.

Andrews also announced the dedication of the LCROSS mission to the memory of legendary news anchor, Walter Cronkite, who provided coverage of NASA's missions from the beginning of America's manned space program to the age of the space shuttle.

Source: NASA

Filed under: Missions, Moon

Related stories on Universe Today

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

LRO spacecraft, artist's rendering
Organisation NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Mission type Orbiter
Satellite of Earth's Moon
Orbits 30–70 km polar orbit, extended mission 30–216 km
Launch date 2009-06-18 21:32:00 UTC =
JUNE 18 - 2:21:32 PM EDT
Launch vehicle Atlas V 401 [1][2]
Launch site Space Launch Complex 41
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Mission duration one year, extended mission of up to five years
elapsed:  1 month and 2 days
Home page
Mass 1,846 kg
Power 1,850 W

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a robotic spacecraft launched by NASA, currently orbiting the Moon.[1] The unmanned launch of the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program occurred on June 18, 2009, the first United States mission to the Moon in over ten years.[2][3][4][5] LRO is the first mission of the United States's Vision for Space Exploration program. To successfully attain the goals of "The Vision", including human exploration of the Moon, LRO will orbit the Moon, survey lunar resources, and identify possible landing sites. The orbiting probe will be able to provide a 3-D map of the Moon's surface [4] and has provided some of the first images of Apollo equipment left on the Moon.[6][7] The LRO Atlas V launch vehicle also carries the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which is designed to detect water liberated when the launch vehicle's spent upper stage strikes a lunar crater. Together, LCROSS and LRO form the vanguard of the NASA Lunar Precursor Robotic Program's return to the Moon.[8]

The first images taken by the LRO were published on the July 2, 2009, aimed at the region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds). [9] On July 17, 2009 some images of the Apollo landing sites were released.  SEE BELOW.





The Atlas V-Centaur rocket carrying the LRO and LCROSS.

Developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, LRO is a large and sophisticated spacecraft planned to fly in a lunar polar orbit for a nominal mission of one Earth year. An optional extended phase of the mission (up to five years) could provide a communications relay for other future ground lunar missions, such as a Moon lander or rover.

A preliminary design review was completed in February 2006 and the critical design review was completed in November 2006.[10] The LRO was shipped from Goddard Space Flight Center to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on 11 February 2009.[11]

Launch was originally planned for October 2008. A later launch date was scheduled for June 17, 2009. The actual launch took place one day later, on June 18. The one day delay was to allow the Space Shuttle Endeavour a chance to lift off following a hydrogen fuel leak that canceled an earlier planned shuttle launch.

Areas of investigation will include:[12]

  • Selenodetic global topography.
  • Characterization of deep space radiation in lunar orbit.
  • The lunar polar regions, including possible water ice deposits and the lighting environment. The lunar polar regions experience temperatures of −223°C (−370°F) and may be able to hold water ice.[13]
  • High-resolution mapping (max 0.5 m) to assist in the selection and characterization of future landing sites "identify the ups and downs on the Moon, but also the slopes that are so critical to being able to land safely," said Mike Wargo, chief lunar scientist for NASA's exploration division.[14]

In addition, LRO has provided some of the first images of leftover Apollo equipment on the Moon.[6] The $583 million space mission comes equipped with a $504 million state of the art 4,200 pound (1,905 kg) LRO space probe and a $79 million LCROSS satellite.[15]

  Onboard instruments

Onboard instruments
LRO during testing at NASA

The orbiter carries a complement of six instruments and one technology demonstration:

  • CRaTER—The primary goal of the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation is to characterize the global lunar radiation environment and its biological impacts.[16]
  • DLRE—The Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment will measure lunar surface thermal emission to provide essential information for future surface operations and exploration.[17]
  • LAMP—The Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project will peer into permanently shadowed craters in search of water ice, seeing by the ultraviolet light from stars and the interplanetary medium.[18]
  • LEND—The Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector will provide measurements, create maps, and detect possible near-surface water ice deposits.[19]
  • LOLA—The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter investigation will provide a precise global lunar topographic model and geodetic grid.
  • LROC—The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera has been designed to address the measurement requirements of landing site certification and polar illumination.[20] LROC comprises a pair of narrow-angle cameras (NAC) and a single wide-angle camera (WAC). LROC will fly several times over the historic Apollo lunar landing sites; with the camera's high resolution, the lunar rovers and Lunar Module descent stages and their respective shadows will be clearly visible. It is expected that this photography will boost public acknowledgement of the validity of the landings, and further discredit Apollo conspiracy theories.[21]
  • Mini-RF—The Miniature Radio Frequency radar will demonstrate new lightweight SAR and communications technologies and locate potential water-ice.[22]

LRO's high-resolution mapping will show some of the larger pieces of equipment previously left on the Moon, and will return approximately 70–100 TB of image data.

The LRO will overfly everything that has ever landed on the Moon at 31 miles (50 km) altitude. It is hoped that new imagery of the Apollo 11 landing site will be taken in time for the 40th anniversary of the first human Moon landing.[citation needed]

Names to the Moon

The microchip panel containing 1.6 million names

Prior to the LRO's launch, NASA gave members of the public the opportunity to have their names placed in a microchip on the LRO. The deadline for this opportunity was July 31, 2008.[23] About 1.6 million names were submitted.[24] Planetary Society. "Everyone who sends their name to the Moon, like I'm doing, becomes part of the next wave of lunar explorers," said Cathy Peddie, deputy project manager for LRO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "The LRO mission is the first step in NASA's plans to return humans to the moon by 2020, and your name can reach there first. How cool is that?"

Accordingly, numerous names that were submitted were celebrities and politicians. NASA has not released a complete list of names that were placed on the microchip IT Wired. Mystery has surrounded exactly who submitted their name to the moon. Phone calls have been placed to NASA requesting they release all of the names placed of the Space Ship Microschip, so the public can give their input 1 Million Names and Counting.



From, the free encyclopedia


LCROSS Centaur 1.jpg
LCROSS spacecraft, artist's rendering
Organization NASA/Ames Research Center
Mission type Impactor
Launch date 2009-JUNE-18 21:32:00 UTC
Launch vehicle Atlas V 401
Launch site Cape Canaveral SLC-41
Mission duration June 18, 2009 – November 15, 2009
Elapsed: 5 months 
COSPAR ID 2009-031B
Home page
Mass LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft: 621 kg (1,369 lb) (min.); Centaur at impact: 2,249 kg (4,958 lb) (min.)[1]
Orbital elements
Regime Highly elliptical
Orbital period 37 days

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) was a robotic spacecraft operated by NASA. The main LCROSS mission objective was to explore the presence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater near a lunar polar region.[2] It was successful in discovering water in the southern lunar crater Cabeus.[3]

It was launched together with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on June 18, 2009, as part of the shared Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, the first American mission to the Moon in over ten years. Together, LCROSS and LRO form the vanguard of NASA's return to the Moon,[4] and are expected to influence United States government decisions on whether or not to colonize the Moon.

LCROSS was designed to watch as the launch vehicle's spent Centaur upper stage, with a nominal impact mass of 2,305 kg (5,081 lb), struck the crater Cabeus[5] near the south pole of the Moon. LCROSS suffered a malfunction on August 22, depleting half of its fuel and leaving very little fuel margin in the spacecraft.[6] Impact occurred successfully on October 9, 2009, at 11:31 UTC.




The Atlas V rocket carrying LRO and LCROSS.
The flash from the LCROSS Centaur impact.

LCROSS was a fast-track, low-cost companion mission to the LRO. The LCROSS payload was added after NASA moved the LRO from the Delta II to a larger launch vehicle. It was chosen from 19 other proposals.[7] LCROSS's mission was dedicated to late American broadcaster Walter Cronkite.[8]

LCROSS launched with the LRO aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on June 18, 2009, at 21:32 UTC (17:32 EDT). On June 23, four and a half days after launch, LCROSS and its attached Centaur booster rocket successfully completed a lunar swingby and entered into polar Earth orbit with a period of 37 days, positioning LCROSS for impact on a lunar pole.[9][10]

Early in the morning on August 22, 2009, LCROSS ground controllers discovered an anomaly caused by a sensor problem, which had resulted in the spacecraft burning through 140 kilograms (309 pounds) of fuel, more than half of the fuel remaining at the time. According to Dan Andrews, the LCROSS project manager, "Our estimates now are if we pretty much baseline the mission, meaning just accomplish the things that we have to [do] to get the job done with full mission success, we're still in the black on propellant, but not by a lot."[6]

The LCROSS Trajectory

Lunar impacts, after approximately three orbits, occurred on October 9, 2009, with the Centaur crashing into the Moon at 11:31 UTC and the Shepherding Spacecraft following a few minutes later.[11] The mission team initially announced that Cabeus A would be the target crater for the LCROSS dual impacts,[12] but later refined the target to be the larger, main Cabeus crater.[13]

On its final approach to the Moon, the Shepherding Spacecraft and Centaur separated Oct. 8, 2009, at 21:50 EDT.[14] The Centaur upper stage acted as a heavy impactor to create a debris plume that rose above the lunar surface. Following four minutes after impact of the Centaur upper stage, the Shepherding Spacecraft flew through this debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth before it struck the lunar surface to produce a second debris plume. The impact velocity was projected to be over 9,000 km/h (5,600 mph);[15] at the time of the event, impact was calculated as over 10,000 km/h (6,200 mph).[8]

The Centaur impact was expected to excavate more than 350 metric tons (390 short tons) of lunar material and create a crater about 20 m (65 ft) in diameter to a depth of about 4 m (13 ft). The Shepherding Spacecraft impact was projected to excavate an estimated 150 metric tons (170 short tons) and create a crater 14 m (46 ft) in diameter to a depth of about 2 m (6 ft). Most of the material in the Centaur debris plume was expected to remain at (lunar) altitudes below 10 km (6 mi).[1]

It was hoped that spectral analysis of the resulting impact plume would help to confirm preliminary findings by the Clementine and Lunar Prospector missions which hinted that there may be water ice in the permanently shadowed regions. Mission scientists expected that the Centaur impact plume would be visible through amateur-class telescopes with apertures as small as 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 inches).[12] But no plume was observed by such amateur telescopes. Even world class telescopes such as the Palomar 200 inch telescope, equipped with adaptive optics, did not detect the plume. The plume may have still occurred but at a small scale not detectable from earth. Both impacts were also monitored by Earth-based observatories and by orbital assets, such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

Whether or not LCROSS finds water has been stated to be influential in whether or not the United States government pursues creating a Moon base.[16] On November 13, 2009, NASA confirmed that water was detected after the Centaur impacted the crater.[3]


LCROSS spacecraft (exploded view)

The LCROSS mission took advantage of the structural capabilities of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring[17] used to attach LRO to the Centaur upper stage rocket. Mounted on the outside of the ESPA were six panels that hold the spacecraft's science payload, command and control systems, communications equipment, batteries, and solar panels. A small monopropellant propulsion system was mounted inside of the ring. Also attached were two S-Band omni antennas and two medium-gain antennas. The mission's strict schedule, mass, and budget constraints posed difficult challenges to engineering teams from NASA Ames Research Center and Northrop Grumman. Their creative thinking led to a unique use of the ESPA ring and innovative sourcing of other spacecraft components. Usually, the ESPA ring is used as a platform to hold six small deployable satellites; for LCROSS, it became the backbone of the satellite, a first for the ring. LCROSS also took advantage of commercially available instruments and used many of the already-flight-verified components used on LRO.

LRO (top, silver) and LCROSS (bottom, gold) prepared for fairing

LCROSS is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center and was built by Northrop Grumman. The LCROSS preliminary design review was completed on September 8, 2006. The LCROSS mission passed its Mission Confirmation Review on February 2, 2007,[18] and its Critical Design Review on February 22, 2007.[19] After assembly and testing at Ames, the instrument payload, provided by Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation,[20] was shipped to Northrop Grumman on January 14, 2008, for integration with the spacecraft.[21] LCROSS passed its review on February 12, 2009.


The LCROSS science instrument payload, provided by NASA's Ames Research Center, consisted of a total of nine instruments: one visible, two near infrared, and two mid-infrared cameras; one visible and two near-infrared spectrometers; and a photometer. A data handling unit (DHU) collected the information from each instrument for transmission back to LCROSS Mission Control. Because of the schedule and budget constraints, LCROSS took advantage of rugged, commercially available components. The individual instruments went through a rigorous testing cycle that simulated launch and flight conditions, identifying design weaknesses and necessary modifications for use in space, at which point the manufacturers were allowed to modify their designs.[1]


The impact was not as visually prominent as had been anticipated. Project manager Dan Andrews believed that this was due to pre-crash simulations that exaggerated the plume's prominence. Because of data bandwidth issues, the exposures were kept short, which made the plume difficult to see in the images in the visible spectra. This resulted in the need for image processing to increase clarity. The infrared camera also captured a thermal signature of the booster's impact.[22]

 Presence of  Water

On 2009 November 13, NASA reported that multiple lines of evidence show water was present in both the high angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the LCROSS Centaur impact. The concentration and distribution of water and other substances requires further analysis.[3] Additional confirmation came from an emission in the ultraviolet spectrum that was attributed to hydroxyl fragments, a product from the break-up of water by sunlight.[3]


LCROSS  Lunar Swingby Photos (June 23, 2009)[23]
One of the first images from the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) using the visible light camera during the swingby of the Moon. LCROSS has nine science instruments that collect different types of data which are complementary to each other.  
An infrared camera image of the Moon taken with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mid-infrared camera  
Another visible light camera image of the Moon taken by the LCROSS spacecraft during lunar swingby  
LCROSS Centaur separation photos (Impact - 9hrs 40min, October 9, 2009)[24]
Near infrared image of the LCROSS Centaur separation as seen from the LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft  
Mid infrared (false color) image of the LCROSS Centaur separation (red->hot, blue->cold)  
STK (Satellite Tool Kit) image of the LCROSS spacecraft after Centaur separation  
Centaur/LCROSS impact photos (7:31 a.m. EDT October 9, 2009)[25]
Image taken of the Centaur upper stage impact in the Cabeus crater near the south pole of the moon. The images were taken by the LCROSS shepherding spacecraft.  
Locations of the Diviner LCROSS impact swaths overlain on a grayscale daytime thermal map of the Moon’s south polar region. Diviner data were used to help select the final LCROSS impact site inside Cabeus Crater, which sampled an extremely cold region in permanent shadow that can serve as an effective cold trap for water ice and other frozen volatiles.  
Preliminary, uncalibrated LRO/Diviner thermal maps of the Centaur/LCROSS impact site acquired two hours before the impact, and 90 seconds after the impact. The thermal signature of the impact was clearly detected in all four Diviner thermal mapping channels.  

  See also


  1. ^ a b c "LRO/LCROSS Press Kit v2". NASA. Retrieved 2009-08-04. 
  2. ^ "NASA - LCROSS: Mission Overview". Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  3. ^ a b c d Dino, Jonas; Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite Team (November 13, 2009). "LCROSS Impact Data Indicates Water on Moon". NASA. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  4. ^ "Lunar Precursor Robotic Program". NASA. Retrieved 2009-08-04. 
  5. ^ "NASA's LCROSS Mission Changes Impact Crater". NASA. 2009-09-29. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  6. ^ a b Stephen Clark (August 25, 2009). "Managers mull options after moon mission malfunction". Spaceflight Now. 
  7. ^ Tariq Malik (2006-04-10). "NASA Adds Moon Crashing Probes to LRO Mission". Retrieved 2006-04-11. 
  8. ^ a b "NASA crashes rocket into moon". Toronto Star. October 9, 2009. Retrieved 09-10-2009. 
  9. ^ "NASA Moon Impactor Successfully Completes Lunar Maneuver". NASA. June 23, 2009. 
  10. ^ "LCROSS Lunar Swingby Streaming Video". NASA. June 23, 2009. 
  11. ^ Seth Borenstein (October 9, 2009). "NASA probes give moon a double smack". Associated Press. Retrieved 09-10-2009. 
  12. ^ a b "LCROSS Observation Campaign". NASA. 
  13. ^ "Moon-crashing probe aimed at bigger target". MSNBC. 
  14. ^ "Nasa lcross". NASA. 
  15. ^ "A Flash of Insight: LCROSS Mission Update". NASA. 2008-08-11. 
  16. ^ "NASA's Rocket Crash Might Boost Plans for Moon Colonies". The Chosun Ilbo. October 9, 2009. Retrieved 09-10-2009. 
  18. ^ "NASA Moon-Impactor Mission Passes Major Review". 2007-02-02. 
  19. ^ "Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite Passes Critical Design Review". 2007-03-02. 
  20. ^ "Ecliptic provides key elements of LCROSS payload". 2008-03-03. 
  21. ^ Jonas Dino (2008-01-14). "NASA's Quest to Find Water on the Moon Moves Closer to Launch". NASA. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  22. ^ Musser, George (2009-10-09). LCROSS strikes Earth's moon as other moons continue to puzzle: Fourth dispatch from the annual planets meeting. Scientific American. "Shortly before the spacecraft itself hit, word came through that the infrared camera had indeed seen a thermal signature of the booster's crater.". 
  23. ^ "Visible light camera image during lunar swingby". NASA. 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  24. ^ "LCROSS Centaur Separation". NASA. 2009-10-09. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  25. ^ "Visible light camera image during lunar swingby". NASA. 2009-10-09. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 

  External resources

Search Wikimedia Commons Wikimedia Commons has media related to: LCROSS
v  d  e
Robotic exploration of the Moon


NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter





Luna 2 · MIP · LCROSS


See also

Bold italics indicates active missions
v  d  e
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Policy & History
NACA (1915) · National Aeronautics and Space Act (1958) · Paine (1986) · Rogers (1986) · Ride (1987) · Space Exploration Initiative (1989) · Augustine (1990) · U.S. National Space Policy (1996) · CFUSAI (2002) · CAIB (2003) · Vision for Space Exploration (2004) · Aldridge (2004) · Augustine (2009)
General: Space Race · Administrators · Chief Scientist · NASA Budget · NASA spin-off · NASA TV

NASA logo.svg

Robotic Programs


Human spaceflight



Featured Missions
(Human and robotic)



Space Comm and Nav (SCaN)

NASA Categories
and Lists

Categories: Lunar spacecraft | 2009 in space exploration


July 17th, 2009

LRO Images Apollo Landing Sites (w00t!)

Written by Nancy Atkinson ShareThis

The Apollo 14 landing site imaged by LRO.  Credit: NASA

The Apollo 14 landing site imaged by LRO. Credit: NASA

As anticipated, NASA released images of the Apollo landing sites taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The pictures show the Apollo missions' lunar module descent stages sitting on the moon's surface, as long shadows from a low sun angle make the modules' locations evident. Also visible are the tracks left where the astronauts walked repeatedly in a "high traffic zone" and perhaps by the Modularized Equipment Transporter (MET) wheelbarrow-like carrier used on Apollo 14. Wow.

As a journalist, I (most of the time) try to remain objective and calm. But there's only one response to these images: W00T!

Apollo 11 landing site as imaged by LRO. Credit: NASA

Apollo 11 landing site as imaged by LRO. Credit: NASA

These first images were taken between July 11 and 15, and the spacecraft is not yet in its final mapping orbit. Future LROC images from these sites will have two to three times greater resolution.
Apollo 15 site by LRO. Credit: NASA

Apollo 15 site by LRO. Credit: NASA

These images are the first glimpses from LRO," said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington. "Things are only going to get better."

The Japanese Kaguya spacecraft previously took images of some of the Apollo landing sites, but not at a high enough resolution to show any of the details of the lander or any other details. But here on these images, the hardware is visible. "It's great to see the hardware on the surface, waiting for us to return," said Mark Robinson, principal investigator for LRO.

Robinson said the LROC team anxiously awaited each image. "We were very interested in getting our first peek at the lunar module descent stages just for the thrill — and to see how well the cameras had come into focus. Indeed, the images are fantastic and so is the focus."

Apollo 16 by LRO. Credit: NASA

Apollo 16 by LRO. Credit: NASA

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, was able to image five of the six Apollo sites, with the remaining Apollo 12 site expected to be photographed in the coming weeks.

The spacecraft's current elliptical orbit resulted in image resolutions that were slightly different for each site but were all around four feet per pixel. Because the deck of the descent stage is about 12 feet in diameter, the Apollo relics themselves fill an area of about nine pixels. However, because the sun was low to the horizon when the images were made, even subtle variations in topography create long shadows. Standing slightly more than ten feet above the surface, each Apollo descent stage creates a distinct shadow that fills roughly 20 pixels.

Apollo 17 LRO. Credit: NASA

Apollo 17 LRO. Credit: NASA

The image of the Apollo 14 landing site had a particularly desirable lighting condition that allowed visibility of additional details. The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package, a set of scientific instruments placed by the astronauts at the landing site, is discernable, as are the faint trails between the module and instrument package left by the astronauts' footprints.
Zoomed in Apollo 14 image by LRO. Credit: NASA

Zoomed in Apollo 14 image by LRO. Credit: NASA