The Spacecraft Will Eventually Crash Into The Moon
The Lunar Crater
Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) successfully completed a
critical swing-by maneuver of the moon at 5:20 a.m. PDT on June 23.
This maneuver puts LCROSS, built under contract to NASA Ames
Research Center, on a trajectory to complete its mission to search
for water ice on moon in early October.
LCROSS calibrated its NASA Ames-built science instruments during
the swing-by, which put it into a long looping polar orbit around
the Earth and moon. The orbit, called a Lunar Gravity Assist, Lunar
Return Orbit (LGALRO), will be roughly perpendicular to the moon's
orbit around Earth and will take about 37 days to complete. LCROSS
will make approximately three LGALRO orbits before impact.
LCROSS was launched June 18 from Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, along with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
"LCROSS has been a fantastic mission," said Craig Elder, LCROSS
spacecraft program manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
sector. "It came together very quickly, was built on a modest
budget and delivered in a very short time frame, just 29 months.
Most importantly, it will produce high value science data critical
to the nation's quest to return humans to the moon and beyond."
Northrop Grumman built LCROSS quickly using an Evolved
Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adaptor ring as the
spacecraft support structure, commercial-off-the-shelf technology,
duplicates of systems built for LRO and a sophisticated risk
The first step in NASA's plan to return humans to the moon,
LCROSS is on an impact mission in search for water ice and hydrated
materials in permanently shadowed craters that could be a resource
for lunar outposts. It consists of a shepherding spacecraft and a
spent upper stage Centaur.
The exact target crater will be identified by NASA Ames 30 days
before impact. The final crater selection will include
consideration of information collected by LRO, other spacecraft
orbiting the moon, and observatories on Earth. During the four
short minutes before its lunar impact, data will be collected and
streamed to LCROSS mission operations for analysis.
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
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