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What is LCROSS?

asked 2016-05-05 18:02:49 -0600

Rob Mueller gravatar image

updated 2016-05-05 18:03:44 -0600

I heard something about LCROSS "bombing the Moon". What does this mean?

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answered 2016-05-10 19:12:45 -0600

Pascal Le Dramont gravatar image

updated 2016-05-10 19:13:47 -0600

Rob Mueller gravatar image

LCROSS stands for Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite. In 2009 the Atlas V’s Centaur upper stage rocket executed a fly-by of the moon and entered into an elongated Earth orbit to position LCROSS for impact on the south pole of the Moon into Cabeus crater.

The mission found evidence that the lunar soil within shadowy craters is rich in useful materials, and the moon is chemically active and has a water cycle. Scientists also confirmed the water was in the form of mostly pure ice crystals in some places. The results are featured in six papers published in the Oct. 22 issue of Science.

"NASA has convincingly confirmed the presence of water ice and characterized its patchy distribution in permanently shadowed regions of the moon," said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This major undertaking is the one of many steps NASA has taken to better understand our solar system, its resources, and its origin, evolution, and future."

The twin impacts of LCROSS and a companion rocket stage in the moon's Cabeus crater on Oct. 9, 2009, lifted a plume of material that might not have seen direct sunlight for billions of years. As the plume traveled nearly 10 miles above the rim of Cabeus, instruments aboard LCROSS and LRO made observations of the crater and debris and vapor clouds. After the impacts, grains of mostly pure water ice were lofted into the sunlight in the vacuum of space.

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"Seeing mostly pure water ice grains in the plume means water ice was somehow delivered to the moon in the past, or chemical processes have been causing ice to accumulate in large quantities," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Also, the diversity and abundance of certain materials called volatiles in the plume, suggest a variety of sources, like comets and asteroids, and an active water cycle within the lunar shadows."

Volatiles are compounds that freeze and are trapped in the cold lunar craters and vaporize when warmed by the sun. The suite of LCROSS and LRO instruments determined as much as 20 percent of the material kicked up by the LCROSS impact was volatiles, including methane, ammonia, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The instruments also discovered relatively large amounts of light metals such as sodium, mercury and possibly even silver.

Scientists believe the water and mix of volatiles that LCROSS and LRO detected could be the remnants of a comet impact. According to scientists, these volatile chemical by-products are also evidence of a cycle through which water ice reacts with lunar soil grains.


This is highly significant because it confirmed for the first time that previous Hydrogen rich signatures form orbiting neutron spectrometers were indeed caused by water ice. This means that water is available as a resource on the Moon which may change the way exploration is ... (more)

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Asked: 2016-05-05 18:02:49 -0600

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Last updated: May 10 '16