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  NASA Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)

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Author Topic:   NASA Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)
Philip
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posted 02-25-2008 02:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA taps astronomy community to help search for lunar water

NASA's Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) is scheduled to launch with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, known as LRO, aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in late 2008. After launch, the LCROSS shepherding spacecraft and the Atlas V's Centaur upper stage rocket will fly by the moon and enter an elongated Earth orbit to position themselves for a rapid descent into a permanently shadowed crater near the moon's south pole.

On final approach, the instrument-laden spacecraft and the upper stage will separate. They will hit the lunar surface about four minutes apart. The spacecraft will fly through the Centaur debris plume and collect data before its own impact. The LCROSS impacts are expected to be visible from Earth using 10-to-12 inch and larger telescopes.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-24-2008 11:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
Moon-Bound NASA Spacecraft Passes Major Preflight Tests

Engineering teams are conducting final checkouts of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, known as LCROSS, that will take a significant step forward in the search for water on the moon.

The mission's main objective is to confirm the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater near a lunar polar region. A major milestone, thermal vacuum testing of the LCROSS spacecraft, was completed June 5 at the Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, Calif.

To simulate the harsh conditions of space, technicians subjected the spacecraft to 13.5 days of heating and cooling cycles during which temperatures reached as high as 230 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as minus 40 degrees. Previous testing for the LCROSS spacecraft included acoustic vibration tests. Those tests simulated launch conditions and checked mating of connection points to the Atlas V rocket's Centaur upper stage and the adapter ring for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, known as LRO.

The satellite currently is undergoing final checkout tests. After all tests are complete, the LCROSS spacecraft will be prepared for delivery to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch processing and integration onto the Atlas V as a secondary payload to LRO. Both spacecraft are scheduled to launch from Kennedy in late 2008.

"The spacecraft steadily has taken shape since Ames delivered the science payload in January," said Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "It is a testament to the hard work, perseverance and expertise of the NASA and Northrop Grumman teams that the spacecraft has completed these critical tests ahead of schedule."

After launch, the LCROSS spacecraft and the Atlas V's Centaur upper stage rocket will execute a fly-by of the moon and enter into an elongated Earth orbit to position the satellite for impact on a lunar pole. On final approach, the spacecraft and the Centaur will separate. The Centaur will strike the surface of the moon, creating a debris plume that will rise above the surface. Four minutes later, LCROSS will fly through the debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth before impacting the lunar surface and creating a second debris plume. Scientists will observe both impacts from Earth to gather additional information.

LCROSS is a fast-paced, low-cost mission that is leveraging existing NASA systems, commercial-off-the-shelf components and the spacecraft design and development expertise of integration partner Northrop Grumman Space Technologies. The LCROSS and LRO missions are components of the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. The program manages pathfinding robotic missions to the moon for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Lou Chinal
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posted 01-05-2009 04:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gee! It would be neat to find water on the moon. I admit it would be a long shot, but it open up a world of implications. Space Cadets sharpen up those pike axes.

Blackarrow
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posted 01-05-2009 06:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Water has already been found in small quantities inside glass beads sampled by the Apollo 15 and 17 crews. (This is a very recent discovery, announced in summer, 2008).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-10-2009 07:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Air & Space Magazine: Lunar Smackdown
This summer, backyard astronomers may be able to peer through their telescopes and see what happens when a spacecraft smashes into the moon. The impact will be no accident: With an eye to sending humans back to the moon as early as 2020, NASA is on a collision course with Earth's nearest neighbor to learn about potential landing sites for astronauts who may touch down there again -- only much more gently.

Like a bullet hitting sand, the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, is expected to plow into a deep, dark crater on the moon's north pole. The impact should kick up at least 220 tons of lunar material -- enough to fill 10 school buses -- composed of dust, soil, and possibly water in the form of ice or hydrated minerals. The visible portion of the debris plume is expected to rise about six miles above the surface.

Robert Pearlman
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NASA release
NASA Mission To Seek Water Ice On Moon Heads To Florida For Launch

NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, known as LCROSS, is enroute from Northrop Grumman's facility in Redondo Beach, Calif., to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for a spring launch.

The satellite's primary mission is to search for water ice on the moon in a permanently shadowed crater near one of the lunar poles. LCROSS is a low-cost, accelerated-development, companion mission to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. At Kennedy, the two spacecraft will be integrated with an Atlas V launch vehicle and tested for final flight worthiness. LCROSS and LRO are the first missions in NASA's plan to return humans to the moon and begin establishing a lunar outpost by 2020.

After launch, the LCROSS spacecraft and the Atlas V's Centaur upper stage rocket will fly by the moon and enter into an elongated orbit to position the satellite for impact. On final approach, the spacecraft and Centaur will separate. The Centaur will strike the chosen lunar crater, creating a debris plume that will rise above the surface. Four minutes later, LCROSS will fly through the debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth before striking the moon's surface and creating a second debris plume. Scientists will use data from the debris clouds to determine the presence or absence of water ice.

"The LCROSS project has had to work within very challenging cost-cap and schedule-cap constraints," said Dan Andrews, LCROSS project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "The shipping of our spacecraft is a testament to our balanced approach and the great people working on this project."

To remain within budget and a short schedule of 26 months, the LCROSS project team developed a simple yet innovative spacecraft that uses existing NASA systems, commercial-off-the-shelf components modified to survive the harsh conditions of space, and the spacecraft design and development expertise of integration partner Northrop Grumman Space Technologies.

"LCROSS delivers a high science value per dollar," said Steve Hixson, vice president for advanced concepts at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach. "With its versatile, fast and cost efficient architecture, the LCROSS spacecraft serves as a pathfinder for future low-cost Earth and space science missions."

Ames manages the LCROSS mission and will conduct mission and science operations. Northrop Grumman designed, built, integrated and tested the spacecraft. The LCROSS and LRO missions are components of the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The program manages pathfinding robotic missions to the moon for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-18-2009 11:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Successfully Launches Lunar Impactor

NASA successfully launched the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, Thursday on a mission to search for water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at the moon's south pole. The satellite lifted off on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 5:32 p.m. EDT, with a companion mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

LRO safely separated from LCROSS 45 minutes later. LCROSS then was powered-up, and the mission operations team at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., performed system checks that confirmed the spacecraft is fully functional.

LCROSS and its attached Centaur upper stage rocket separately will collide with the moon at approximately 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2009, creating a pair of debris plumes that will be analyzed for the presence of water ice or water vapor, hydrocarbons and hydrated materials. The spacecraft and Centaur are tentatively targeted to impact the moon's south pole near the Cabeus region. The exact target crater will be identified 30 days before impact, after considering information collected by LRO, other spacecraft orbiting the moon, and observatories on Earth.

"LCROSS has been the little mission that could," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We stand poised for an amazing mission and possible answers to some very intriguing questions about the moon."

The 1,290-pound LCROSS and 5,216-pound Centaur upper stage will perform a swing-by maneuver of the moon around 6 a.m. on June 23 to calibrate the satellite's science instruments and enter a long, looping polar orbit around Earth and the moon. Each orbit will be roughly perpendicular to the moon's orbit around Earth and take about 37 days to complete. Before impact, the spacecraft and Centaur will make approximately three orbits.

On the final approach, about 54,000 miles above the surface, LCROSS and the Centaur will separate. LCROSS will spin 180 degrees to turn its science payload toward the moon and fire thrusters to slow down. The spacecraft will observe the flash from the Centaur's impact and fly through the debris plume. Data will be collected and streamed to LCROSS mission operations for analysis. Four minutes later, LCROSS also will impact, creating a second debris plume.

"This mission is the culmination of a dedicated team that had a great idea," said Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at Ames. "And now we'll engage people around the world in looking at the moon and thinking about our next steps there."

The LCROSS science team will lead a coordinated observation campaign that includes LRO, the Hubble Space Telescope, observatories on Hawaii's Mauna Kea and amateur astronomers around the world.

Ames manages LCROSS and also built the instrument payload. Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif., built the spacecraft.


Photo credit: collectSPACE.com

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-19-2009 12:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Status updates on Twitter:
  • Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite: @LCROSS_NASA
LCROSS and the Centaur rocket will stay attached for the next four months. They will then separate and be directed to impact the moon on October 9.

DChudwin
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posted 06-22-2009 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
LCROSS' lunar swingby video stream coverage will begin at approximately 5:20 a.m. PDT on Tuesday, June 23, 2009.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-23-2009 08:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release

NASA Moon Impactor Successfully Completes Lunar Maneuver

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, successfully completed its most significant early mission milestone Tuesday with a lunar swingby and calibration of its science instruments. The satellite will search for water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at the moon's south pole.

With the assist of the moon's gravity, LCROSS and its attached Centaur booster rocket successfully entered into polar Earth orbit at 6:20 a.m. PDT on June 23. The maneuver puts the spacecraft and Centaur on course for a pair of impacts near the moon's south pole on Oct. 9.


Credit: NASA

"The successful completion of the LCROSS swingby proves the science instruments are functioning as expected. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire team" said Dan Andrews, LCROSS project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "We are elated at the results from the maneuver and eagerly anticipate the impacts in early October."

During its swing by the moon, the spacecraft's instruments were turned on and calibrated by scanning three sites on the lunar surface. These sites were the craters Mendeleev, Goddard C and Giordano Bruno. They were selected because they offer a variety of terrain types, compositions and illumination conditions. The spacecraft also scanned the lunar horizon to confirm its instruments are aligned in preparation for observing the Centaur's debris plume.

"Each instrument returned good data that the science team will spend the next few weeks analyzing," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist at Ames. "These data will ensure we are as prepared as possible for monitoring and interpreting data we receive during impact."

LCROSS and its attached Centaur upper stage rocket are now in a long, looping polar orbit around Earth and the moon. Each orbit will be roughly perpendicular to the moon's orbit around Earth and take about 37 days to complete. Before impact, the spacecraft and Centaur will make approximately three orbits.

LCROSS and the Centaur separately will collide with the moon at approximately 7:30 a.m. EDT on Oct. 9, creating a pair of debris plumes that will be analyzed for the presence of water ice or water vapor, hydrocarbons and hydrated materials. The spacecraft and Centaur are targeted to impact the moon's south pole near the Cabeus region. The exact target crater will be identified 30 days before impact, after considering information collected by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and observatories on Earth.

Nine hours before impact, about 54,000 miles above the surface, LCROSS and the Centaur will separate. LCROSS will spin 180 degrees to turn its science payload toward the moon and fire thrusters to create distance from the Centaur. The spacecraft will observe the flash from the Centaur's impact and fly through the debris plume. Data will be collected and streamed to Earth for analysis. Four minutes later, LCROSS also will impact, creating a second debris plume.

Philip
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posted 06-25-2009 02:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Due to the delayed launch date of LRO-LCROSS (18th June 2009), the LCROSS lunar smack-down will take place in October. LCROSS and its Centaur-stage separately will collide with the moon at approximately 7:30 a.m. EDT on 9th October 2009. The exact target crater will be identified 30 days before impact...

Well, here are the Moon phases for October 2009.

If the LCROSS impact would be visible, it might be seen from Japan to the US west-coast... I believe.

Remember the Kaguya impact was seen by the 3.9m Anglo Australian Telescope and the 1.2m telescope at Mt Abu - India.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-30-2009 05:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Paul Mortfield, the "Backyard Astronomer" captured LCROSS as it traversed the field of view of the Sierra Remote Observatories.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-25-2009 03:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA LCROSS update
Spacecraft Anomaly

Upon starting an early morning communications pass on Aug. 22, 2009, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission operations team discovered the spacecraft had experienced an anomaly.

According to spacecraft data, the LCROSS Inertial Reference Unit (IRU) experienced a fault. The IRU is a sensor used by the spacecraft's attitude control system (ACS) to measure the orientation of the spacecraft. The anomaly caused the spacecraft ACS to switch to the Star Tracker Assembly for spacecraft rate information and caused the spacecraft's thruster to fire excessively, consuming a substantial amount of fuel. Initial estimates indicate that the spacecraft still contains sufficient fuel to complete the full mission.

LCROSS mission operations declared a "spacecraft emergency" and were allocated additional communications time on the Deep Space Network. The team conducted procedures to mitigate the problem and were able to restart the IRU and reduce fuel consumption to a nominal level. Automatic operations procedures also were implemented to minimize the possibility of another IRU anomaly from occurring while the spacecraft is out of contact with the ground. Since the re-start, IRU has not experienced any additional problems.

The team continues to actively assess and mitigate the situation and is in contact with the manufacturers of the IRU and star tracker to investigate the root cause of the problems. Mission managers remain optimistic the LCROSS mission can reach its successful conclusion with projected impact at the lunar south pole currently set for 4:30 a.m. PDT on Oct. 9, 2009.

LCROSS is a low-cost, highly risk-tolerant, fast-tracked mission of opportunity that was co-manifest with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Both spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 18, 2009. The main LCROSS mission objective is to confirm the presence of water ice in a permanently shadowed region near a lunar pole.

JPSastro
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posted 08-26-2009 07:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JPSastro   Click Here to Email JPSastro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Upon starting an early morning communications pass on Aug. 22, 2009, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission operations team discovered the spacecraft had experienced an anomaly.
I read that the attitude control sensor malfunctioned causing the spacecraft to repeated fire it's thrusters resulting in a loss of nearly 140 kg of hydrazine propellant being expended and a reserve of around 50 kg.

Robert Pearlman
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NASA release
NASA Selects Target Crater for Lunar Impact of LCROSS Spacecraft

NASA has identified the spot where it will search for water on the moon. The announcement of the target location where the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and its spent Centaur rocket will hit in October will take place at 10 a.m. PDT, Friday, Sept. 11, at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's Web site.

The selected crater is an optimal target for evaluating if water ice exists at the lunar south pole. Briefing participants are Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager, Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator, and Jennifer Heldmann, lead for the LCROSS observation campaign.

Andrews will provide an update about the health of the spacecraft and mission activities. Colaprete will announce the target crater and explain the criteria and selection process. Heldmann will discuss the LCROSS observation campaign in which an international cadre of professional and amateur astronomers will view the impacts at 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 9.

Robert Pearlman
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NASA release
NASA's LCROSS Reveals Target Crater for Lunar South Pole Impacts

NASA has selected a final destination for its Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, after a journey of nearly 5.6 million miles that included several orbits around Earth and the moon. The mission team announced Wednesday that Cabeus A will be the target crater for the LCROSS dual impacts scheduled for 7:30 a.m. EDT on Oct. 9, 2009. The crater was selected after an extensive review as the optimal location for LCROSS' evaluation of whether water ice exists at the lunar south pole.


Credit: NASA

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."

Robert Pearlman
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NASA LCROSS update
NASA's LCROSS Mission Changes Impact Crater

NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission (LCROSS), based on new analysis of available lunar data, has shifted the target crater from Cabeus A to Cabeus (proper).

The decision was based on continued evaluation of all available data and consultation/ input from members of the LCROSS Science Team and the scientific community, including impact experts, ground and space based observers, and observations from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Lunar Prospector, ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 and JAXA's Kaguya spacecraft. This decision was prompted by the current best understanding of hydrogen concentrations in the Cabeus region, including cross-correlation between the latest LRO results and LP data sets.

The general consensus of lunar experts led by the LCROSS science team is that Cabeus shows, with the greatest level of certainty, the highest hydrogen concentrations at the lunar south pole. Further consideration of the most current terrain models provided by JAXA's Kaguya spacecraft and the LRO Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) was important in the decision process.The models show a small valley in an otherwise tall Cabeus perimeter ridge, which will allow for sunlight to illuminate the ejecta cloud on Oct. 9, and much sooner than previously estimated for Cabeus. While the ejecta does have to fly to higher elevations to be observed by Earth assets, a shadow cast by a large hill along the Cabeus ridge, provides an excellent, high-contrast, back drop for ejecta and vapor measurements.

The LCROSS team concluded that Cabeus provided the best chance for meeting its mission goals. The team critically assessed and successfully advocated for the change with the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program (LPRP) office. The change in impact crater was factored into LCROSS' most recent Trajectory Correction Maneuver, TCM7.

During the last days of the mission, the LCROSS team will continue to refine the exact point of impact within Cabeus crater to avoid rough spots, and to maximize solar illumination of the debris plume and Earth observations.

Robert Pearlman
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From a Kennedy Space Center release:
For the impact itself at 7:30 a.m. EDT, three tracking cameras used by Kennedy Space Center to observe space shuttle launches - one infrared and two high-definition - also will be focused on the moon to try to record the plume.

Since it will be after sunrise at Kennedy at the time of impact and depending on atmospheric conditions, there is no guarantee Kennedy's trackers will be able to record the event, and none of NASA's scientific research is being based on the effort.

Kennedy's tracking camera shots will not be sent out on NASA Television live, but will be available live at Kennedy's news center and then on NASA TV's Video File feed starting at 12 p.m.

Robert Pearlman
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LCROSS Flight Director's blog
Saying Goodbye to a Really Amazing Spacecraft (and Team)

Well, we all knew it was going to happen. It was inevitable. It was the whole design of the mission. LCROSS was destined to end its wonderfully fantastic journey by intentionally crashing into a permanently shadowed crater at the south pole of the Moon. We are the ones who devised this fate for LCROSS. So why should we be surprised (and just a little bit sad) now that the time has finally come?

As a proud member of the LCROSS Science Team and as the Observation Campaign Coordinator, I would have to say that working on this mission has been one of the highlights of my career thus far. The mission itself is truly amazing (We're impacting the Moon! We're looking to see if there's water ice at the poles! We're going to this utterly unexplored place in our Solar System, so close to home, and are so excited about what we're yet to learn!). LCROSS is so important to both science and exploration. This mission is blazing a new path in how to build small, robust spacecraft both on schedule and on budget. LCROSS uses eight (yes eight!) commercial off-the-shelf instruments for its payload - also a very novel way for NASA to get more bang for the buck as well as good science to boot. The technical aspects of the LCROSS mission are astounding, but none of this would be possible without the dedication of the *people* working on this project.

The LCROSS Team is made up of an amazing cadre of individuals. LCROSS has a relatively lean and nimble team. There's still a lot of work to be done to send a spacecraft to the Moon, and so that means that everyone has to pull together to make things happen. If somebody is extra busy and needs help, you help them. If there's something that needs to be done and you've never done it before, you figure out how to do it. If you are stuck and need some assistance, just ask your teammates and without hesitation people are willing to help. We all naturally come together to get the job done. There is a high level of trust and commitment on this team, starting with the top Project management and all the way through the people working the nitty-gritty technical aspects. It is truly a glorious experience to work with a team such as this. The best part is that everyone is working towards a common goal, and everyone is willing and able to contribute in whatever way is needed in order to achieve the objective. It is amazing what a group of people can do when presented with a fascinating project and an exciting challenge.

And it's not just the Project folks who have helped make this happen, but it's all of the students and members of the general public who have so substantially contributed to the successes of LCROSS. Student interns at NASA Ames have had the opportunity to work with real honest-to-goodness flight hardware. Not everyone has the opportunity in college to hold an instrument that will be on the Moon within the next year! Such opportunities are tremendously powerful for encouraging the students of today to continue the pursuit of careers in math, science, and engineering. Amateur astronomers from around the world have been imaging LCROSS in the night sky during its trip to the Moon and are planning to collect observations of the impacts as well. This is a great way to actively participate in a NASA mission. We've also been having a great time keeping folks updated regarding LCROSS activities through our NASA website as well as the LCROSS Facebook and Twitter accounts. Thousands of people are following LCROSS on these sites and we're thrilled to be able to have a two-way dialog to discuss all things lunar!

So, although this mission was destined to end in a spectacular grande finale culminating with two lunar impacts, it is a bit sad to see this phase of the project come to a close. However, next up is the exciting analysis of the data to try and learn all we can about these enigmatic regions on our very own Moon. And here's to hoping there are lots more missions coming up in the future, because we are fired up and ready to go!

ilbasso
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posted 10-07-2009 09:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is it inappropriate to wish them, "Break a leg!"?

Robert Pearlman
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Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
This video zooms into a visualization of the moon shortly after the LCROSS impact. Blue arcs represent 50, 100 and 200 kilometer heights above the crash site.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-08-2009 09:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Centaur Separation

At 8:50 p.m. CDT on October 8, LCROSS separated from its Centaur. Sensors on three break wires confirmed a successful separation.


Credit: NASA TV

After separation, LCROSS completed a 180 degree flip maneuver and powered up its science payload to watch the Centaur recede (pictured above). The mission operations team then commanded a breaking burn, creating a separation distance of about 370 miles (600 km) from the Centaur, determined to be the optimal distance to view the Centaur on the surface of the Moon.

The Centaur will impact the floor of Cabeus crater at 6:31:19 a.m. Flying four minutes behind, collecting and transmitting data, LCROSS will impact the surface at approximately 6:35:45 a.m.

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Tally-ho the Moon!

The mission operations team has powered-up the LCROSS science payload and is evaluating the health of the spacecraft instruments.

LCROSS spacecraft data is transmitted to the NASA Ames Research Center via the Goldstone Deep Space Network Facility in California.


Credit: NASA TV

LCROSS got its first view of the Moon at 5:42 a.m. CDT.


Credit: NASA TV

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NASA release
NASA Spacecraft Impacts Lunar Crater in Search for Water Ice

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 8:50 p.m. CDT.

Moving at a speed of more than 1.5 miles per second, the Centaur hit the lunar surface shortly after 6:31 a.m. Oct. 9, creating an impact that instruments aboard LCROSS observed for approximately four minutes. LCROSS then impacted the surface at approximately 6:36 a.m. CDT.

"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 imagery 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."


Credit: NASA TV

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Infrared views of Centaur impact "flash" and crater:


Credit: NASA TV

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Space Telescope Science Institute release
Hubble Observes LCROSS Impact Event

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has made a series of observations immediately preceding and following the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) Centaur rocket stage and shepherding spacecraft impacts at the lunar south pole, on October 9 at 7:31 and 7:35 a.m. EDT.

Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) were pointed just off the southern limb of the moon to look for a cloud of vaporized material blasted into space by the successive impacts of the rocket booster and spacecraft. The WFC3 images do not show any evidence for a temporary exosphere resulting from the impacts.

Hubble's ultraviolet sensitivity allowed astronomers to look specifically for hydroxyl (OH) that would have been produced by vaporized material from the impact. The STIS and WFC3 looked for emission from OH which would have formed if water molecules had been thrown into sunlight and broken apart by ultraviolet radiation into hydrogen and hydroxyl.

"A preliminary analysis of the STIS spectra do not show any clear evidence for hydroxyl, but further analysis is needed," said Hubble co-investigator Alex Storrs. The Hubble team plans on further analysis of their data.

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NASA release
NASA'S LCROSS Captures All Phases of Centaur Impact

NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) was a smashing success, returning tantalizing data about the Centaur impact before the spacecraft itself impacted the surface of the moon.

Last week, plunging headlong into Cabeus crater, the nine LCROSS instruments successfully captured each phase of the impact sequence: the impact flash, the ejecta plume, and the creation of the Centaur crater.

"We are blown away by the data returned," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator and project scientist. "The team is working hard on the analysis and the data appear to be of very high quality."

Within the ultraviolet/visible and near infra-red spectrometer and camera data was a faint, but distinct, debris plume created by the Centaur's impact.

"There is a clear indication of a plume of vapor and fine debris," said Colaprete. "Within the range of model predictions we made, 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 impacted."

The magnitude, form, and visibility of the debris plume add additional information about the concentrations and state of the material at the impact site.

The LCROSS spacecraft also captured the Centaur impact flash in both mid-infrared (MIR) thermal cameras over a couple of seconds. The temperature of the flash provides valuable information about the composition of the material at the impact site. LCROSS also captured emissions and absorption spectra across the flash using an ultraviolet/visible spectrometer. Different materials release or absorb energy at specific wavelengths that are measurable by the spectrometers.

With the spacecraft returning data until virtually the last second, the thermal and near-infrared cameras returned excellent images of the Centaur impact crater at a resolution of less than 6.5 feet (2 m). The images indicate that the crater was about 92 feet (28 m) wide.

"The images of the floor of Cabeus are exciting," said Colaprete. "Being able to image the Centaur crater helps us reconstruct the impact process, which in turn helps us understand the observations of the flash and ejecta plume."

In the coming weeks, the LCROSS team and other observation assets will continue to analyze and verify data collected from the LCROSS impacts. Any new information will undergo the normal scientific review process and will be released as soon as it is available.


The extent of the plume at 15 sec is approximately 6-8 km. Credit: NASA

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NASA release
NASA'S LCROSS Impacts Confirm Water In Lunar Crater

"Indeed yes, we found water," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS Principal Investigator.

"...and we didn't find just a little bit, we found a significant amount.

If you remember about a month ago, we were talking about teaspoons going to glasses over football fields, well now I can say today that in the 20 to 30 meter crater that LCROSS made we found maybe about a dozen of these two gallon buckets worth of water."


Preliminary data from NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, indicates the mission successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater. The discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the moon.

The LCROSS spacecraft and a companion rocket stage made twin impacts in the Cabeus crater Oct. 9 that created a plume of material from the bottom of a crater that has not seen sunlight in billions of years. The plume traveled at a high angle beyond the rim of Cabeus and into sunlight, while an additional curtain of debris was ejected more laterally.

"We're unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and, by extension, the solar system," said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"The moon harbors many secrets, and LCROSS has added a new layer to our understanding."

Scientists long have speculated about the source of significant quantities of hydrogen that have been observed at the lunar poles. The LCROSS findings are shedding new light on the question with the discovery of water, which could be more widespread and in greater quantity than previously suspected. If the water that was formed or deposited is billions of years old, these polar cold traps could hold a key to the history and evolution of the solar system, much as an ice core sample taken on Earth reveals ancient data. In addition, water and other compounds represent potential resources that could sustain future lunar exploration.

Since the impacts, the LCROSS science team has been analyzing the huge amount of data the spacecraft collected. The team concentrated on data from the satellite's spectrometers, which provide the most definitive information about the presence of water. A spectrometer helps identify the composition of materials by examining light they emit or absorb.

"We are ecstatic," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "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, but it is safe to say Cabeus holds water."

The team took the known near-infrared spectral signatures of water and other materials and compared them to the impact spectra the LCROSS near infrared spectrometer collected.

"We were able to match the spectra from LCROSS data only when we inserted the spectra for water," Colaprete said. "No other reasonable combination of other compounds that we tried matched the observations. The possibility of contamination from the Centaur also was ruled out."

Additional confirmation came from an emission in the ultraviolet spectrum that was attributed to hydroxyl, one product from the break-up of water by sunlight. When atoms and molecules are excited, they release energy at specific wavelengths that can be detected by the spectrometers. A similar process is used in neon signs. When electrified, a specific gas will produce a distinct color. Just after impact, the LCROSS ultraviolet visible spectrometer detected hydroxyl signatures that are consistent with a water vapor cloud in sunlight.

Data from the other LCROSS instruments are being analyzed for additional clues about the state and distribution of the material at the impact site. The LCROSS science team and colleagues are poring over the data to understand the entire impact event, from flash to crater. The goal is to understand the distribution of all materials within the soil at the impact site.

"The full understanding of the LCROSS data may take some time. The data is that rich," Colaprete said. "Along with the water in Cabeus, there are hints of other intriguing substances. The permanently shadowed regions of the moon are truly cold traps, collecting and preserving material over billions of years."

LCROSS was launched June 18 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida as a companion mission to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. Moving at a speed of more than 1.5 miles per second, the spent upper stage of its launch vehicle hit the lunar surface shortly after 4:31 a.m. PDT 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.

LRO observed the impact and continues to pass over the site to give the LCROSS team additional insight into the mechanics of the impact and its resulting craters. The LCROSS science team is working closely with scientists from LRO and other observatories that viewed the impact to analyze and understand the full scope of the LCROSS data.


Credit: NASA
The visible camera image showing the ejecta plume at about 20 seconds after impact.

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Google pays tribute to LCROSS' success with today's 'doodle':

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NASA release
NASA Missions Uncover The Moon's Buried Treasures

Nearly a year after announcing the discovery of water molecules on the moon, scientists Thursday revealed new data uncovered by NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

The missions found evidence that the lunar soil within shadowy craters is rich in useful materials, and the moon is chemically active and has a water cycle. Scientists also confirmed the water was in the form of mostly pure ice crystals in some places. The results are featured in six papers published in the Oct. 22 issue of Science.

"NASA has convincingly confirmed the presence of water ice and characterized its patchy distribution in permanently shadowed regions of the moon," said 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."

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 rim of Cabeus, 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 Moffett Field, Calif. "Also, the diversity and abundance of certain materials called volatiles in the plume, suggest a variety of sources, like comets and asteroids, and an active water cycle within the lunar shadows."

Volatiles are compounds that freeze and are trapped in the cold lunar craters and vaporize 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.

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.

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 in Greenbelt, Md. "This knowledge can open doors to new areas of research and exploration."

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 retrieve the 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.

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.

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