National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Lunar Impact
Lunar Impact (click to enlarge)

Lunar Impact

The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will help determine if there is water hidden in the permanently dark craters of one of the Moon's poles by creating an impact plume that will be visible from Earth-based telescopes.

LCROSS will travel with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) satellite to the moon on the same Atlas-Centaur rocket.

After launch, the 'secondary payload,' LCROSS spacecraft will arrive in the lunar vicinity independent of the LRO satellite. On the way to the moon, the LunarCROSS spacecraft's two main parts, the Shepherding Spacecraft (S-S/C) and the Centaur Upper Stage will remain coupled.

As the spacecraft approaches the moon's south pole, the Centaur will separate, and then will impact a crater in a polar region of the moon. A plume from the Centaur crash will develop as the S-S/C heads in towards the moon. The S-S/C will fly through the plume, and instruments on the spacecraft will analyze the cloud to look for signs of water and other compounds. Additional space and earth-based instruments also will study the huge plume, which scientists expect to be larger than 200 metric tons.

The LCROSS mission will help determine if there is water hidden in the permanently dark craters of one of the moon's poles. If there are substantial amounts of water ice there, it could be used by astronauts to make rocket fuel when they later visit the moon.

Image Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 20 Jan 2011