Impact from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Line of Sight


Scientist and engineers are adjusting LRO’s orbit to have it fly its closest approach to the Cabeus target site just 90 seconds after the Centaur impacts the lunar surface. 


Artist Concept of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter with Apollo mission
imagery in the background. Credit: NASA

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, better known as LRO, was a sister payload to LCROSS during launch and now the orbiter will pass over the moon at just the right time to capture the Centaur impact to collect key data about the physics of the impact and how volatile materials may have been mobilized.


This image shows the moon’s south pole, as seen by the 1994 Clementine
mission. The possibility of frozen water is one of many reasons NASA is
interested in thisspot as a potential future landing site. However, many of the
craters in this area where frozen water sources are most likely to be found are
in constant shadow, which inhibited Clementine’s ability to see into these craters.
These shadows are the very dark areas at the pole’s center. The upcoming
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission will study this area and search for
evidence of frozen water sources. Credit: NASA

During and after impact LRO’s LAMP far UV spectrometer will search for evidence of significant water ice or water signatures and how they evolve in the moon’s atmosphere.  LRO’s Diviner radiometer will peer into the impact site to measure the heating effects caused by impact and how the temperature changes over time. LRO will continue to study the impact site using its suite of instruments long after the dust settles.

A Personal Perspective
David A. Paige, principal investigator Diviner
Diviner is one of the seven instruments aboard LRO

We on the LRO Diviner team are looking forward to the LCROSS impact with great anticipation. It’s not every day that we will have an opportunity to excavate a significant volume of material from one of the moon’s permanently shadowed polar cold traps.  We expect that a new lunar impact crater will form, and that dust, rock, and possibly cold-trapped volatile materials such as water ice will be thrown into space.

Everything we learn about the LCROSS impact will come from Earth observations and from observations from nearby spacecraft. Diviner will get excellent views of the impact site as LRO flies by. We intend to make maps of the radiometric temperature of the impact site before and after the impact, as well as observations of the dust plume that will be lofted during the impact event. Diviner’s observations may help confirm the location of the LCROSS impact, and its effects on the impact on the surrounding terrain. Diviner has already mapped the impact site on previous orbits and so any changes that are detected will be of great interest. We have no idea what LCROSS will uncover, but we’re anxious to know the results.


Diviner has acquired the first global daytime and nighttime thermal
maps of the moon. These maps were assembled using Diviner data obtained during
August and the first half of September, 2009. Credit: NASA/GSFC/UCLA

Hopefully, everything will go well for LCROSS and LRO on Friday morning and we’ll learn something new and exciting about the moon!

45 thoughts on “Impact from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Line of Sight”

  1. I think that this is just plain WRONG, blasting a hole in the moon!! Isn’t it bad enough that we’ve ruined Earth with all the blasting and drilling that we’ve done to it? What gives us the right to destroy other planets? And why is this the first that anyones heard about it? one day before its planned. I think we the people of earth should have had a say so in this. What is going to happen if there is some type of gas in the moon that causes it to explode?

  2. why not simply take a bomb into space, a small one at that, and detonate it, then have a rover inspect the after affect with satellites? We could have done this same affect with the mars missions.

  3. Why dont you guys have pictures of the moon in “Color”? Every other pictures in your NASA Media gallery have pictures in Color. Why using old outdated pictures to show what you are going to hit.

    You have the advanced technology to show that to us. Weird….

  4. the moon isn’t a planet. i think its ok to do this. i dont seeanything wrong with putting a small hole in the moon, it’s not going to hurt anything, i dont understand why people are making this such a big deal. they know what there doing, or they wouldn’t be doing this

  5. We should all be very proud of what you and your teams are doing for the mission. Who would’ve thought of blowing a hole in the moon to look for h2o!!!!!

  6. I heard on world news that you are sending a rocket
    into the moon to see if there is water….
    I got an idea you also can do….
    set up a mission to the moon, take with you
    a drill to dig into the moon to 350ft to 500ft or more
    and bring back a rock core sample.
    you may never know what you may discover, in that
    rock core sample, new elements, new metals,
    or even ice you never know if you don’t try.
    we’ve walked on the moon before now if you can
    go back and take drill to dig more deeper
    and bring back a new discovery you can
    make history or even have element chart
    for the moon or even see how old the moon
    really is. we’ve done it down here in ice cores,
    mining for metals, gems,and crytals.
    Inmagine what you would find in a rock core sample.
    good luck on your rocket mission
    have a good one Peace your friend
    Nicholas Warzala
    Milwaukee WI

  7. OK, sounds neat. I’d love to watch it. But while YouTube can and does work with every Operating System/Browser combination, why can’t NASA do the same?

    The most technologically advanced U.S. Government agency can’t manage something that a couple of college students tossed together. This doesn’t make sense.

  8. Good information. The comments on these blogs underscore the critical need for more science education in the world so that disaster movie plotlines don’t become our guiding “authority.” Good luck with this very important and exciting mission.

  9. i hope the world will stop the junk that yall r doing thiers no reason that yall can,t land and do everything on the moon its a sorry use of our money thanks for nothing i hope the world will stop yall enough //////////////////////

  10. I find it truly hard to believe that causing a deliberate explosion on the moon is outrageous & simply stupid. You don’t have to agree with me. But do you really think causing this is good for our planet, or the solar system as a whole? You cannot honestly say this will have no negative impact on nature & how things are incorporated together. I hope this doesn’t “backfire”, pun intended. I’ll be watching as America gets closer & closer to its downfall. Good luck to us all.

  11. I am sorry, but the Moon doesn’t belong exclusively to scientists and corporations that they can mess up with it as they like, it belongs to all of us and no one asked the people how they feel about the Moon being bombed!

  12. I hope that the fine instrumentation at NASA was able to glean a lot of useful info from the impact. But from the perspective of watching the event on NASA TV……it was a complete waste of time. I got my kids and family and friends up at the crack of dawn for that? We all saw absolutely nothing, followed by a group of three scientists giving the event a spin like a bunch of Republican politicians, saying the gain settings for the camera on the second spacecraft were not set in a way that allowed the event to be seen. Blah.

    That’s the last time I try to watch anything in real time on NASA TV. My kids think I am some sort of fool, and thanks to this, they are correct.

  13. Has anyone been able to see the impact. I’m looking (from the Washington, DC) area with a decent telescope and don’t see it.

  14. I dont think they should mess with the moon,I think they do to many things,God would of gave us that if it was meant to be.Leave stuff alone.Money they spend on all this could save alot of people from what there going through at this time,including us.Why didnt we know about it till now? They knew alot of people wouldnt agree.I believe in some science,but not this.What are we doing to this world?

  15. I have been trying to watch this event, but cannot locate the actual pictures of it? Sorry I missed it.

  16. Stop bombing the moon. it makes me and my family feel uncomfortable. I would complain if I just would know where to…

  17. “man” can’t think of anything more important to do with their time then blow up the moon…amazing.

  18. Wow this sounds like a really great idea but yet it won’t work if you want a cloud of debri then that rocket had better be a missile with a bomb. Otherwise this is the biggest waste of money ever. Have you ever shot anything with a bb-gun? Guess what it doesn’t explode like some cool huge bomb seriously this is a waste and a failure

  19. What a great mission and a perfect opportunity to teach the general public about the moon and its importance to our future exploration of the solar system. It is unfortunate that so many of the popular news outlets “missed the target”, by describing the event as “bombing” the moon. It is my sincere hope that the masses become interested enough to actually educate themselves about this mission and the moon in gerneral, even if that intrest is driven by tabloid-like headlines and ignorant talking heads.

    I became excited about this mission when I first learned of it, in June I think, and immediately ordered a telescope. Thanks NASA, and Northrop-Grumman, you hit this one out of the park.

  20. If it wasn’t for the advent of the wheel there would not be your car.
    If you want to talk about wasting money just ask your president.
    There is more to science than sitting at home typing thoughts on what you think may be right or wrong. The future will remain in tack long after we leave. Care for a dinner date on the moon tonight? It will happen.

  21. First, let me say that I am an electrical engineer and a life-long NASA enthusiast. As a young boy, I watched the lunar landing in 1969 and it fired my imagination–my spacecraft drawings started then. In 1976 when I was about 14, I sent NASA some designs for a variable camber wing, a VTOL aircraft and a combination turbo-jet, ram-jet, rocket engine for single stage to space. They returned my designs along with a nice letter thanking and praising me and a huge and wonderful packet of information with full-color glossy layouts of planned missions, craft designs etc. I was enthralled for months and inspired for a lifetime.

    Unfortunately, there seems to be a failure of imagination at NASA in recent years with regard to capturing the world’s interest and building excitement about NASA’s mission. That directly translates into reduced budgets and fewer engineers and scientists overall, as well as in those who choose a career in space exploration. It may not be apparent on this forum, but on others the overall sentiment is negative on this mission–for all the wrong reasons, but as I make the case here, that’s really a result of the failure of NASA to inspire public.

    Why do I say this? I watched the LCROSS impact with anticipation, as many did around the world, and could not have been more disappointed. That is, unless I had been one of the people who camped out all night in the Western US around giant TV screens and telescopes. When interviewed, those people were disappointed to have seen nothing. This is not the first time that the real-time NASA media delivery has been lackluster, and there have been bright spots, but the trend is down.

    As far as the general viewing audience is concerned, It won’t matter if some days or weeks from now, spreadsheets of instrument data show that there are interesting chemicals and tons of water, the moment was lost. How is it that the video was poorer than that of the lunar landing 40 years ago? I suspect it has to do with having ultra-high resolution cameras needed for the analysis. But that’s where the failure comes in. Not a technical failure, but one of imagining what it will look like to a non-technical observer. Choppy “video” composed of high-res images at 1Hz just looks uninteresting and even low-tech. In addition to any high-res cameras, there should have been a standard resolution TV camera delivering real-time images at a normal frame rate. This is for general consumption rather than for analysis, yet one wonders what is missed by having such a low frame rate in any case.

    The view from the shepherd craft was not the best perspective either. A small probe giving a sideways look with real-time video would have been much more interesting and may also have yielded good data for analysis. I believe there was an lunar orbiting probe coming along 90 seconds later, but the TV coverage didn’t even bother with that after seeing the initial, from their perspective, non-event. Besides, people like explosions, not plumes. I know that may not be science, but science doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

    From the perspective of many observers, they saw dull shots of the moon slowly getting closer and then stop. This was interspersed with a very boring looking control room showing the backside of ordinary looking computer monitors with wires dangling just like in their own home. The room was manned by what must be inscrutable geeks since they seemed excited over something that no-one saw. This reinforces the idea that engineers and scientists are dull people who get excited over some numbers or scribbles on a chalk board. Remember, I am and engineer and sometimes I do get excited over such things, but I like a good Mythbusters type gratuitous explosion too.

    What I think NASA needs is a serious overhaul of its PR group. They need to amp it up and have some dynamic coverage. My cable provider doesn’t even bother carrying the NASA channel. I think that says something. They need to spend the extra $49 to put a plain old TV camera on these probes. (Yeah I know it’s not that cheap or simple, but it is from the world’s perspective.) They should have their own host for the “show”. They need to make science actually exciting for ordinary people. I really don’t care if anyone thinks this is somehow selling out. The selling out I worry about is letting the idea of science and engineering as fun, interesting and exciting die in the minds of the general population. I also think NASA needs to emphasize the spin-off benefits in a more public way. Most people have no idea how many things in their everyday lives have spring from the space program.

    One final point. If NASA wants to get people interested in a Mars mission, the they should consider putting a probe down near Olympus Mons; dropping one in or around the Valles Marineris canyon system; deploying a gossamer-winged flier that goes though the canyon and circles the great volcano. Then you’ll get some real excitement. The Mars rovers are amazing technical achievements and have sent us excellent images and other data. However, the images and data are exciting because they come from Mars than anything else. Perhaps that ought to be enough–but it isn’t. Given the inherent mission risks and costs, NASA has been understandably cautious in their choices for landing zones, but when you think about it, it would be like sending a probe to Earth and putting it down in the salt flats. Consider what you’d be missing–in science–in beauty–in firing the imagination.

  22. I am amazed at the ignorance of these posts. I hope you gained valuable information from this mission. I trust your minds and goals to explore our world. M

  23. Leave the moon alone!!!!!!!!!!! What kind of crap are they pulling, to blast the moon? Shouldn’t there be restrictions on what scientists can and cannot do? What the hell are they thinking? I think NASA’s motives are not science related, rather a quest to capitalize off of the moon. Man has destroyed the Earth’s atmosphere and now they are trying to do the same thing to the moon. God help us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. I always want to know about “Impact from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Line of Sight”.
    Thanks to your post. i get chance to know about it.
    Your post is amazing and information in it amazing.

  25. Typo: missing space bar:

    This image shows the moon’s south pole, as seen by the 1994 Clementine
    mission. The possibility of frozen water is one of many reasons NASA is
    interested in thisspot

  26. I had the honor of designing one of the original decal and patch designs for LRO. I’m very pleased to be a part of such a great program. It was so exciting to see my logo on the rocket.
    Thank you for the opportunity to work with everyone on the LRO project and see my work on such a large scale.
    sincerely,
    Nina Heimpel

  27. Yes, NASA needs to be able to explain more about the money being spent for planetary exploration, especially the moon to mars event. But instead we spend more time on the Middle East, every country over there, we have seemed to get involved with, even though the general public does not see it coming until it hits the National or Regional new telecasts. My cable provider DOES have NASA TV… but it is also edited for audience only. History and Discovery Channel do a much better job at explaining planetary exploration and our “needs” for it. The Earth has already gone through many disastrous environmental changes without any intervention from man and it has survived and brought us copious amounts of unfathomable information. We as a society are so unknowable about these events that we take for granted our everyday living and sustenance. The real truth about our earth and solar system is that we cannot and will never be able to control it. However, we CAN make our earth healthier with everyone being educated, taking the initiative to not waste and recycle, cook from scratch, drink water from our tap with a filter and not bottles, and so much more. Think of the money in all areas of life this is costing Americans: health, medical costs, waste disposal, landfills, pollution, products that NEVER breakdown, our oceans, toxic fish, and so much more. We can change it if we are all educated and taught to clean up our earth. The money saved would pay for Universal Medical Care and slow down the rate of cancer and deaths in our country. Not to mention the pain and suffering we all endure due to a lack of knowledge and “retraining” of our current daily practices.

    There’s so much more to cover, one could never have enough space to fill a “comment notes” page on nasa.gov but maybe somehow this will get some notice and be publicized.
    Sincerely,
    Nina Heimpel

  28. I like Nasa, I like the idea of spending money to send men to the far reaches of outerspace but this…this was a let down.

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