The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) Mission
The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission will advance the Vision for Space Exploration by identifying, with a high probability of success, the presence of water ice at the Moon's South Pole. This mission provides a 2000kg Kinetic Impactor that creates nearly a 1000 metric ton plume of lunar ejecta-more than 200 times the energy of Lunar Prospector (LP)-which will be visible from a number of Lunar-orbital and Earth-based assets. We achieve this powerful impact by steering the entire launch vehicle's spent Earth Departure Upper Stage (EDUS) into a crater at the South Pole. The impact will excavate a much larger area to deeper depths, and the resultant 70km plume will provide a much longer window of observation than would be possible if limited to a 1000kg Secondary Payload impact. The 1000kg Secondary Payload budget is efficiently used to provide a highly modular and reconfigurable Shepherding Spacecraft (S-S/C) with extensive heritage to accurately guide the EDUS into the crater. Upon separation the S-S/C flies through the impact plume, telemetering real-time images and characterizing water ice in the plume with IR cameras and spectrometers. The S-S/C then becomes a 700kg impactor itself, to provide a second opportunity to study the nature of the Lunar Regolith. LCROSS provides a critical ground-truth for Lunar Prospector and LRO neutron and radar maps, making it possible to assess the total lunar water inventory.
For more information on the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) or the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), please visit:
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.