Countdown to LCROSS Impact
10 Days and Counting!
The countdown is on! LCROSS' projected lunar impact will occur on October 9, 2009 at 11:30 UT (7:30 a.m. EDT, 4:30 a.m. PDT), +/- 30 minutes.
If you've been tracking the LCROSS Mission, you know that the craft entered its third and final orbit of the Earth several weeks ago. Despite an unexpected fuel consumption problem in August that resulted in round-the-clock monitoring by the LCROSS Earth-based team, LCROSS has remained on track and stable. NASA recently formally announced that Cabeus A, the permanently shadowed polar crater, is the target site for impact in this search and discovery mission. The mission is now in its final days before the much-anticipated lunar impact on October 9.
According to NASA, "LCROSS will search for water ice by sending its spent upper-stage Centaur rocket to impact the permanently shadowed polar crater. The satellite will fly into the plume of dust left by the impact and measure the properties before also colliding with the lunar surface."
The plume generated by the impact is expected to be visible for only 2-5 minutes, but because it will be visible with mid-range telescopes, 10-to-12 inches and larger, NASA expects many backyard astronomers will be training scopes on the Moon on October 9. For those without the necessary equipment, there are LCROSS "Impact Parties" being organized around the country, and many observatories are holding special viewing sessions.
Viewing a scheduled and planned "crash" into the moon is (most likely) a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Today's K-12 students weren't around for the last appearance of Halley's Comet (visible only once every 75-76 years), but they're in range for LCROSS. To see if there is an event near you, check this list of LCROSS Public Events.
If you are planning to watch with your own equipment or have questions about what equipment is required, be sure and check out NASA's guide for "Amateur Observations," a compilation of information designed for the casual observer.
For those involved in organizing an Impact Party or for those planning to talk about LCROSS and the coming impact with students, NASA has put together an Impact Party Toolkit that contains background information as well as resources related to each stage of the mission.
Resources for educators, include the following:
- On the Moon Educator Guide (PDF)
- NASA eClipsTM list of short educational videos designed for K-12 students
- Finding Water on the Moon --Launchpad Music Video
- LCROSS Storybook (full-color PDF)
- Future of Exploration (video)
- Moon Math Craters! Supplemental Educator Guide (PDF)
If you are talking with K-1 students about LCROSS, craters, and the Moon, don't miss Science Buddies' "Craters and Meteorites" project idea which gives students an immediate and hands-on look at the concept of impact craters and the relationship between the size and mass of a meteor and the resulting crater.
For more information on LCROSS and suggested materials for fourth grade and beyond, check our initial entry on the LCROSS mission.
The LCROSS spacecraft was designed and built by Northrop Grumman, sponsor of Science Buddies' Aerodynamics Interest Area