Sunday, August 2, 2009


Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), Centaur impactor and shepherding vehicle separate hours before striking the lunar surface within the permanently shadowed depths of one of six abyssal craters near the south pole of the Moon, Oct. 9, 2009.

Paul Tompkins
LCROSS Flight Team Lead

Transcript & Video Available HERE.

Hello, my name is Paul Tompkins, and I'm the flight team lead for the LCROSS mission. LCROSS stands for Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, and as flight team lead, I lead the team that operates the spacecraft from the Mission Control Center here at NASA Ames Research Center.

Our mission objective is to look for water at the lunar poles, perhaps contained in permanently shadowed craters there. We launched on June 18th of this year, and our impact is scheduled for October 9th 2009. We have LCROSS mounted atop the Centaur vehicle, which is now spent and depleted, and over the course of three months we'll guide this upper stage into a crash course into the lunar South Pole. When it impacts the Moon, our spacecraft will be detached and will be watching the impact and looking for signs of water.

Here we have an animation of the LCROSS Mission, and as I start the animation you'll see in the first five days, we swung from the Earth, all the way out to lunar distance, and just as the Moon goes by, it threw us into this super high inclination, highly elliptical orbit around the Earth, but at about lunar distance.

And what that allowed us to do is phase our orbit such that in three months we'd come back on the Moon again and have a direct impact on the South Pole.

Currently, as of early August, our spacecraft is as healthy as can be. We've been monitoring the spacecraft for about a month now, and it just so happens that we've completed our first orbit out of three around the Earth as we prepare for our lunar impact.

While we were sitting on the pad in Cape Canaveral, our Centaur upper stage absorbed water from the atmosphere, and that's a natural thing because the Centaur is very cold and collects water and then turns it into ice. The interesting thing is that even though space is a vacuum, the water can sustain itself there if it's cold enough. The reason that's a problem is that, first of all, if we bring water from the Earth's surface, it could interfere with measurements of lunar water in the permanently shadowed craters, and so we want to remove that ambiguity. Secondly, the water if it's exposed to sunlight will escape and as it escapes, it can cause an impulse onto our spacecraft, which will actually disturb our trajectory as we near the lunar surface.

Read or watch the update HERE.

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