Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)
Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)
As our nearest neighbor, the moon is a natural laboratory for investigating fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of the Earth and the solar system. With the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), NASA has returned to the moon, enabling new discoveries and bringing the moon back into the public eye.
LRO is a robotic mission that set out to map the moon's surface and, after a year of exploration, was extended with a unique set of science objectives. LRO observations have enabled numerous groundbreaking discoveries, creating a new picture of the moon as a dynamic and complex body. These developments have set up a scientific framework through which to challenge and improve our understanding of processes throughout the solar system.
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- Nearly a year after announcing the discovery of water molecules on the moon, scientists Thursday revealed new data uncovered by NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.
Systems engineering is a core competency of NASA's highly skilled workforce and has been recognized as one of the "secrets" of the Agency's success in the Apollo program and many other Programs and Projects since then. NASA teams and organizations are increasingly employing well-defined, proven processes and practices to develop, manage, and integrate increasingly complex systems. The successful application of these principles is a challenge that requires not only knowledge of systems engineering but artful and disciplined implementation.
The Office of the Chief Engineer (OCE) has established the first annual NASA Systems Engineering Award. Each center nominated several highly deserving projects and each was worthy of recognition. After a very difficult and competitive review process OCE announced that the LCROSS System Engineering Team, led by Project Systems Engineer Bob Barber of NASA Ames Research Center, has been selected as one of the 2010 award recipients.
The OCE will present the award at the Program Management Challenge in February during a lunch time ceremony.
Grey Hautaluoma/Ashley Edwards
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
NASA'S LCROSS IMPACTS CONFIRM WATER IN LUNAR CRATER
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- Preliminary data from 's Lunar Crater
Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, indicates the mission
successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater.
The discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the moon.
The LCROSS spacecraft and a companion rocket stage made twin impacts
in the Cabeus crater Oct. 9 that created a plume of material from the
bottom of a crater that has not seen sunlight in billions of years.
The plume traveled at a high angle beyond the rim of Cabeus and into
sunlight, while an additional curtain of debris was ejected more
"We're unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and, by
extension, the solar system," said Michael Wargo, chief lunar
scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The moon harbors many
secrets, and LCROSS has added a new layer to our understanding."
Scientists long have speculated about the source of significant
quantities of hydrogen that have been observed at the lunar poles.
The LCROSS findings are shedding new light on the question with the
discovery of water, which could be more widespread and in greater
quantity than previously suspected. If the water that was formed or
deposited is billions of years old, these polar cold traps could hold
a key to the history and evolution of the solar system, much as an
ice core sample taken on Earth reveals ancient data. In addition,
water and other compounds represent potential resources that could
sustain future lunar exploration.
Since the impacts, the LCROSS science team has been analyzing the huge
amount of data the spacecraft collected. The team concentrated on
data from the satellite's spectrometers, which provide the most
definitive information about the presence of water. A spectrometer
helps identify the composition of materials by examining light they
emit or absorb.
"We are ecstatic," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist
and principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett
Field, Calif. "Multiple lines of evidence show water was present in
both the high angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the
LCROSS Centaur impact. The concentration and distribution of water
and other substances requires further analysis, but it is safe to say
Cabeus holds water."
The team took the known near-infrared spectral signatures of water and
other materials and compared them to the impact spectra the LCROSS
near infrared spectrometer collected.
"We were able to match the spectra from LCROSS data only when we
inserted the spectra for water," Colaprete said. "No other reasonable
combination of other compounds that we tried matched the
observations. The possibility of contamination from the Centaur also
was ruled out."
Additional confirmation came from an emission in the ultraviolet
spectrum that was attributed to hydroxyl, one product from the
break-up of water by sunlight. When atoms and molecules are excited,
they release energy at specific wavelengths that can be detected by
the spectrometers. A similar process is used in neon signs. When
electrified, a specific gas will produce a distinct color. Just after
impact, the LCROSS ultraviolet visible spectrometer detected hydroxyl
signatures that are consistent with a water vapor cloud in sunlight.
Data from the other LCROSS instruments are being analyzed for
additional clues about the state and distribution of the material at
the impact site. The LCROSS science team and colleagues are poring
over the data to understand the entire , from flash to
crater. The goal is to understand the distribution of all materials
within the soil at the impact site.
"The full understanding of the LCROSS data may take some time. The
data is that rich," Colaprete said. "Along with the water in Cabeus,
there are hints of other intriguing substances. The permanently
shadowed regions of the moon are truly cold traps, collecting and
preserving material over billions of years."
LCROSS was launched June 18 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in
Florida as a companion mission to the ,
or LRO. Moving at a speed of more than 1.5 miles per second, the
spent upper stage of its launch vehicle hit the lunar surface shortly
after 4:31 a.m. PDT Oct. 9, creating an impact that instruments
aboard LCROSS observed for approximately four minutes. LCROSS then
impacted the surface at approximately 4:36 a.m.
LRO observed the impact and continues to pass over the site to give
the LCROSS team additional insight into the mechanics of the impact
and its resulting craters. The LCROSS science team is working closely
with scientists from LRO and other observatories that viewed the
impact to analyze and understand the full scope of the LCROSS data.
For information about LCROSS, visit:
Last week, plunging headlong into Cabeus crater, the nine LCROSS instruments successfully captured each phase of the impact sequence: the impact flash, the ejecta plume, and the creation of the Centaur crater.
"We are blown away by the data returned," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator and project scientist. "The team is working hard on the analysis and the data appear to be of very high quality.”
Within the ultraviolet/visible and near infra-red spectrometer and camera data was a faint, but distinct, debris plume created by the Centaur's impact.
"There is a clear indication of a plume of vapor and fine debris," said Colaprete. “Within the range of model predictions we made, the ejecta brightness appears to be at the low end of our predictions and this may be a clue to the properties of the material the Centaur impacted.”
The magnitude, form, and visibility of the debris plume add additional information about the concentrations and state of the material at the impact site.
The LCROSS spacecraft also captured the Centaur impact flash in both mid-infrared (MIR) thermal cameras over a couple of seconds. The temperature of the flash provides valuable information about the composition of the material at the impact site. LCROSS also captured emissions and absorption spectra across the flash using an ultraviolet/visible spectrometer. Different materials release or absorb energy at specific wavelengths that are measurable by the spectrometers.
With the spacecraft returning data until virtually the last second, the thermal and near-infrared cameras returned excellent images of the Centaur impact crater at a resolution of less than 6.5 feet (2 m). The images indicate that the crater was about 92 feet (28 m) wide.
"The images of the floor of Cabeus are exciting," said Colaprete. "Being able to image the Centaur crater helps us reconstruct the impact process, which in turn helps us understand the observations of the flash and ejecta plume."
In the coming weeks, the LCROSS team and other observation assets will continue to analyze and verify data collected from the LCROSS impacts. Any new information will undergo the normal scientific review process and will be released as soon as it is available.
To view the latest images from the LCROSS impacts, visit:
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
MEDIA ADVISORY : 09-131AR
NASA Spacecraft Impacts Lunar Crater in Search for Water Ice
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, created twin impacts on the moon's surface early Friday in a search for water ice. Scientists will analyze data from the spacecraft's instruments to assess whether water ice is present.
The satellite traveled 5.6 million miles during an historic 113-day mission that ended in the Cabeus crater, a permanently shadowed region near the moon's south pole. The spacecraft was launched June 18 as a companion mission to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
"The LCROSS science instruments worked exceedingly well and returned a wealth of data that will greatly improve our understanding of our closest celestial neighbor," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator and project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "The team is excited to dive into data."
In preparation for impact, LCROSS and its spent Centaur upper stage rocket separated about 54,000 miles above the surface of the moon on Thursday at approximately 6:50 p.m. PDT.
Moving at a speed of more than 1.5 miles per second, the Centaur hit the lunar surface shortly after 4:31 a.m. Oct. 9, creating an impact that instruments aboard LCROSS observed for approximately four minutes. LCROSS then impacted the surface at approximately 4:36 a.m.
"This is a great day for science and exploration," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The LCROSS data should prove to be an impressive addition to the tremendous leaps in knowledge about the moon that have been achieved in recent weeks. I want to congratulate the LCROSS team for their tremendous achievement in development of this low cost spacecraft and for their perseverance through a number of difficult technical and operational challenges."
Other observatories reported capturing both impacts. The data will be shared with the LCROSS science team for analysis. The LCROSS team expects it to take several weeks of analysis before it can make a definitive assessment of the presence or absence of water ice.
"I am very proud of the success of this LCROSS mission team," said Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at Ames. "Whenever this team would hit a roadblock, it conceived a clever work-around allowing us to push forward with a successful mission."
The images and video collected by the amateur astronomer community and the public also will be used to enhance our knowledge about the moon.
"One of the early goals of the mission was to get as many people to look at the LCROSS impacts in as many ways possible, and we succeeded," said Jennifer Heldmann, Ames' coordinator of the LCROSS observation campaign. "The amount of corroborated information that can be pulled out of this one event is fascinating."
"It has been an incredible journey since LCROSS was selected in April 2006," said Andrews. "The LCROSS Project faced a very ambitious schedule and an uncommonly small budget for a mission of this size. LCROSS could be a model for how small robotic missions are executed. This is truly big science on a small budget."
For more information about the LCROSS mission, including images and video, visit:
- end -