CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)
June 18, 2009
George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Grey Hautaluoma/Ashley Edwards
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
NASA SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHES LUNAR IMPACTOR
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- 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.
The LCROSS mission is providing updates via @LCROSS_NASA on Twitter.
To follow, visit:
For more information about the LCROSS mission, visit:
Visit the NASA Mission Site @ http://www.nasa.gov/lcross