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LCROSS Project Site
Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)
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December 2, 2010: Back-to-School Special
October 21, 2010: LCROSS Science Results Released


Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)

The Mission Objectives of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) include confirming the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at the Moon’s South Pole. The identification of water is very important to the future of human activities on the Moon. LCROSS excavated the permanently dark floor of one of the Moon’s polar craters (Cabeus) in 2009 to test the theory that ancient ice lies buried there. The impact ejected material from the crater’s floor to create a plume that specialized instruments have been able to analyze for the presence of water (ice and vapor), hydrocarbons and hydrated materials.

LCROSS also provides technologies and modular, reconfigurable subsystems that can be used to support future mission architectures.

Ames Research Center (ARC) managed the mission, conducting mission operations and developing the payload instruments, while Northrop Grumman designed and built the spacecraft for this innovative mission. Ames mission scientists were responsible for spearheading the data analysis. This was a fast-paced, low-cost, mission that leveraged some existing NASA systems, Northrop-Grumman spacecraft expertise, and Ames’ Lunar Prospector experience.

LCROSS and LRO launched on Thursday, June 18, 2009 @ 5:32 pm Eastern Time. LCROSS traveled to the Moon as a co-manifested payload aboard the launch vehicle for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). LRO is designed to map the lunar surface and characterize landing sites for future missions.

Moving at a speed of more than 1.5 miles per second, the Centaur upper stage hit the lunar surface shortly after 4:31 a.m. PDT on October 9, 2009, creating an impact that instruments aboard LCROSS observed for approximately four minutes. LCROSS then impacted the surface at approximately 4:36 a.m. PDT.


LCROSS spacecraft above the Moon's surface

Just like on Earth, water is a crucial resource on the Moon. It will not be practical to transport to space the amount of water needed for human and exploration needs. It is critical to find natural resources, such as water, on the Moon. The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission begins the search for water, leveraging the information we learned from the Clementine and Lunar Prospector missions.


Part 1 Intro to LCROSS part 2 of LCROSS podcast Part 3 of LCROSS Podcast

thumbnail photo of the launchWATCH THE LAUNCH


Download the LCROSS Fact Sheet.

“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, ’Because it was there.’

Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the Moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there.”

President John F. Kennedy
Address at the Rice University on the Space Effort
September 12, 1962


Learn more about the mission through the LCROSS Frequently Asked Questions, answered by LCROSS Principal Investigator, Tony Colaprete.

Moon Trivia

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Editor: Brian Day
NASA Official: Daniel Andrews
Last Updated: October 2010