11 Sep 2009
Grey Hautaluoma/Ashley Edwards
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
NASA'S LCROSS REVEALS TARGET CRATER FOR LUNAR SOUTH POLE IMPACTS
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. - 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.
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."
For more information about the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing
Satellite Mission and images of Cabeus A, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/lcross