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SMART-1's snap of upcoming LCROSS crash scene
DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: September 28, 2009


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The European Space Agency's SMART-1 team has released an image of next week's impact site of NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, LCROSS.

The LCROSS mission comprises two separate impact events that will see two probes smash into the permanently shadowed crater Cabeus A at the lunar south pole in a dramatic attempt to throw up water ice buried there. After last week's exciting revelation that water exists in larger quantities on the Moon than previously believed it seems likely that LCROSS will not disappoint.

This image of LCROSS impact site Cabeus A was taken by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA's SMART-1 mission. The picture was taken from an altitude of about 500 kilometres. Image: B. Grieger, B.H. Foing & ESA/SMART-1/AMIE team.

The SMART-1 mission reached fruition in September 2006 with its deliberate impact into the lunar surface, which was watched by the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope on Earth, one of many sets of 'eyes' that will tune into the LCROSS impacts next week. Searching through SMART-1's image archive, mission scientists tracked down an image of Cabeus A taken four years ago. Taken at SMART-1's closest distance from the south pole at 500 kilometres, the image offers a sneak preview of what's in store for LCROSS.

"We are pleased to contribute these ESA SMART-1 observations of the LCROSS target site in order to help in the planning and interpretation of impact observations," says SMART-1's project scientist Bernard Foing. "This is like gathering evidence for a crash scene investigation, but before the action takes place."

First the upper stage Centaur rocket will crash into Cabeus A and the 'shepherd spacecraft' will fly into the plume of dust and debris generated, measuring its properties before making a second impact with the lunar surface. Astronomers will observe both impacts using ground and space-based telescopes.

"The coordination and exchange of information between lunar missions is an important step for future exploration of the Moon," adds Foing. "Cooperation is vital if we are ever to see ‘villages’ of robotic landers and eventual lunar bases, as recommended by the International Lunar Exploration Working Group."

The LCROSS impacts will occur at 11.30 Universal Time on Friday 9 October.

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