LUNAR CRATER OBSERVATION AND SENSING SATELLITE
NASA’S LCROSS Reveals Target Crater for Lunar South Pole Impacts
Goldstone Radar image of Cabeus A-Slope Close up image depicting the slopes or steepness of the walls in Cabeus A.
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› Potential South Pole Water Concentrations
› Potential South Pole Water Concentrations (Zoomed)
› Composite South Pole Image
› Labeled Composite South Pole Image
LCROSS will search for water ice by sending its spent upper-stage Centaur rocket to impact the permanently shadowed polar crater. The satellite will fly into the plume of dust left by the impact and measure the properties before also colliding with the lunar surface. 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.”
A cadre of professional astronomers using many of the Earth’s most capable observatories is helping maximize the scientific return from the LCROSS impacts. These observatories 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.”
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. 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.
“Dad would sure be proud to be part, if just in name, of getting humans back up to the moon and beyond,” said Chip Cronkite, son of the famed news anchor.
The LCROSS mission was selected in April 2006 as a mission manifested with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Both missions launched on June 18, 2009 on an Atlas V from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The LCROSS mission and science operations are managed at Ames.
“The LCROSS team has long been preparing for its final destination on the moon, and we’re looking forward to October 9,” Andrews said. “The next 28 days will undoubtedly be very exciting.”
By Mirror.co.uk 9/10/2009
Scientists hope to make a splash by “bombing” the Moon with two spacecraft today.
The plan is to slam the projectiles into a dark crater at the lunar south pole, kicking up a six-mile high dust cloud that may contain water.
British researchers helped Nasa pick the spot for the drama, which will be broadcast live on the American space agency’s website.
The Cabeus south polar region was identified by the University of Durham team as a site with high concentrations of hydrogen – a key component of water.
It is believed water ice could lie at the bottom of dark craters at the Moon’s poles, where temperatures are lower than minus 170C.
The crashing spacecraft consist of an orbiter, LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite), which is now mapping the lunar surface, and its 2.2 tonne empty Centaur launch rocket.
Both are currently on collision course with the Moon and still attached together.
In the early hours, British time, the probe and rocket will separate. Then at 12.31pm the larger rocket will smash into the crater at 5,600 mph, blasting out 350 tonnes of debris in a 6.2 mile high plume.
Following close behind, the LCROSS satellite beaming live pictures back to Earth will fly through the material and four minutes later plunge into the crater itself. LCROSS will trigger its own dust cloud a third of the size of the first one.
Amateur astronomers in dark parts of the world will be able to view the spectacle through their own instruments. But daylight will make this impossible in the UK.
Dr Vincent Eke, from the Institute for Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham, said: “Water ice could be stable for billions of years on the Moon provided that it is cold enough.
“If ice is present in the permanently shaded lunar craters of the Moon then it could potentially provide a water source for the eventual establishment of a manned base on the Moon.
“Such a base could be used as a platform for exploration into the further reaches of our Solar System.”
The energy generated by the rocket hitting the Moon will be equivalent to exploding about two tonnes of TNT, he said.
He added: “While this sounds dramatic, the impact of this will simply create one more dimple on the moonscape.
“The cratered surface of the Moon shows it has a history of violent collisions with asteroids and comets.”
Dr Eke led a study of data from Nasa’s 1998 Lunar Prospector mission which showed that hydrogen was concentrated in permanently shaded craters at the Moon’s polar regions.
If the hydrogen really is a sign of ice, it implies that the craters could hold a total of 200,000 million litres of water.
Last month new findings from three spacecraft, including India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe, showed that small amounts of water might be chemically bound up with the Moon’s soil.
The smaller probe carrying cameras and other scientific instruments separated from the rocket as planned.
It is now trailing behind ready to measure the debris kicked up by the rocket before hitting the moon’s surface four minutes later.