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Exploration Of The Moon

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Lomonosov – a large crater filled by lava

user posted image

This image, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, shows crater Lomonosov on the Moon’s far side.

AMIE obtained the image on 30 January 2006 from a distance of about 2100 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution of 190 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at a latitude of 27.8º North and a longitude of 98.6º East.

Crater Lomonosov is a nice example for a large crater (92 kilometres in diameter) which was filled by lava after the impact, thus exhibiting a flat floor. The terraced walls indicate 'slumping', that is sliding of the rocks downwards due to gravity after the end of the impact. The small craters inside Lomonosov are the result of impacts into this lava floor which happened after the formation of Lomonosov.

Credits: ESA/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)


25 July 2006
This image, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, shows crater Lomonosov on the Moon’s far side.

AMIE obtained the image on 30 January 2006 from a distance of about 2100 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution of 190 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at a latitude of 27.8º North and a longitude of 98.6º East.
Crater Lomonosov is a nice example for a large crater (92 kilometres in diameter) which was filled by lava after the impact, thus exhibiting a flat floor. The terraced walls indicate 'slumping', that is sliding of the rocks downwards due to gravity after the end of the impact. The small craters inside Lomonosov are the result of impacts into this lava floor which happened after the formation of Lomonosov.

Looking closely to the left half of the crater, one can see changes in the brightness of the crater floor, resembling horizontal paint strokes. These can be seen frequently in this area of the Moon and are ejecta deposits of the young crater Giordano Bruno which is at about 300 kilometres distance.

The crater is named in honor of Mikhail Vassilievitch Lomonossov, a Russian physicist (1711 - 1765). He was professor of physics at Saint Petersburg university and devoted his live to the study of the properties of matter and electricity.

Source: ESA - Smart-1

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Mersenius crater – wrinkles between Humorum and Procellarum

user posted image

This mosaic of three images, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft, shows the crater Mersenius C on the Moon.
AMIE obtained this sequence on 13 January 2006, from distance of 1149, 1172, 1195 kilometres from the surface, respectively. The ground resolution ranges from 104 to 108 metres per pixel. All images are located at a longitude of 45.7º West, at latitudes of 21.3º South, 19.7º South and 18.1º South, respectively. The separate images can be downloaded here [ AMI_EAE3_001777_00008_00020.JPG, AMI_EAE3_001777_00009_00020.JPG, AMI_EAE3_001777_00010_00020.JPG]

Crater Mersenius C is positioned in the highland area between Mare Humorum and the Oceanus Procellarum. The crater has a diameter of 14 kilometres and is best visible for ground-based observers 4 days after first quarter Moon.

Credits: ESA/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)


27 July 2006
This mosaic of three images, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft, shows the crater Mersenius C on the Moon.

AMIE obtained this sequence on 13 January 2006, from a distance of 1149, 1172, 1195 kilometres from the surface, respectively. The ground resolution ranges from 104 to 108 metres per pixel. All images are located at a longitude of 45.7º West, at latitudes of 21.3º South, 19.7º South and 18.1º South, respectively.
Crater Mersenius C is positioned in the highland area between Mare Humorum and the Oceanus Procellarum. The crater has a diameter of 14 kilometres and is best visible for ground-based observers 4 days after first quarter Moon.

It is named in honour of Marin Mersene, a French philosopher and physicist (1588 - 1648). The crater is surrounded by a system of so-called 'grabens', which are fractures that form when the lunar surface sinks slightly as a result of faults.

The crater is named in honour of Marin Mersenne, a French philosopher and physicist (1588-1648).

Source: ESA - Smart-1

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NASA Awards Launch Services for Lunar Mission


The user posted image press release is reproduced below:

July 28, 2006
Grey Hautaluoma
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0668

George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
321-867-2468

RELEASE: C06-042

NASA Awards Launch Services for Lunar Mission


NASA announced today the award of launch services for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission to Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services Inc. of Littleton, Colo. The total cost of launch services for NASA, which includes spacecraft processing, and associated mission integration services such as telemetry support and mission-unique items is $136.2 million dollars.

The spacecraft are scheduled for launch aboard an Atlas V 401 rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a launch window that opens on Oct. 31, 2008. The launch service was awarded in support of the NASA Launch Services Program office at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

The orbiter will spend a year mapping the moon from an average altitude of approximately 30 miles. It will carry six instruments and one technology demonstration to perform investigations specifically targeted for preparing for future human exploration. The instruments are provided by various organizations throughout the United States, and one is from Russia.

The mission is also carrying a secondary payload called Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite. Its goals are to confirm the presence or absence of water ice at the moon's south pole. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the orbiter project, and the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the sensing satellite project.

Principal work for tank manufacturing of the Atlas V first stage booster will occur at the Lockheed Martin facilities in Waterton, Colo.; tank fabrication for the Centaur upper stage will occur at the Lockheed facilities in San Diego; assembly and testing of the launch vehicle components will occur at the Lockheed aeronautics plant in Denver.

The fabrication and assembly of the payload fairing, the interstate and its associated adapter will be performed by Lockheed in Harlingen, Texas.

The launch services for the LRO/LCROSS were acquired under the existing NASA Launch Services indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract using a launch service task order procedure.

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/home

- end -

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Source: NASA Press Release C06-042

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Mare Serenitatis: crater statistics and lunar chronology

user posted image

This animated sequence, composed of three images taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, shows a portion of Mare Serenitatis on the Moon.
AMIE obtained the images on 18 March 2006 from distances between 1257 and 1213 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution ranging between 114 and 110 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at about 21º East longitude and 18º North latitude. The separate images can be downloaded here
[AMI_EAE3_002082_00001_00016.JPG,
AMI_EAE3_002082_00002_00016.JPG,
AMI_EAE3_002082_00003_00015.JPG]

Mare Serenitatis is one of the lunar maria, that are vast lava plains on the lunar surface. It formed between 3.9 and 3.8 thousand million years ago, a period in which the Moon was heavily bombarded by asteroids and the major impact basins on the Moon were formed.

Credits: ESA/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)


31 July 2006
This animated sequence, composed of three images taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, shows a portion of Mare Serenitatis on the Moon.

AMIE obtained the images on 18 March 2006 from distances between 1257 and 1213 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution ranging between 114 and 110 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at about 21º East longitude and 18º North latitude, with a lunar field of view of 57 km. The Sun was on the West direction (top of this image) at about 50 degrees elevation.
Mare Serenitatis is one of the lunar maria, that are vast lava plains on the lunar surface. It formed between 3.9 and 3.8 thousand million years ago, a period in which the Moon was heavily bombarded by asteroids and the major impact basins on the Moon were formed. This was followed by an episode of lunar volcanism that flooded the basin with basalt creating a fresh and flat surface.

To its southeast border, Mare Serenitatis lies close to Mare Tranquillitatis. Both maria were visited by previous lunar landers. In particular, Luna 21 and Apollo 17 (the last manned lunar mission to land on the Moon so far), landed on Mare Serenitatis in January 1973 and December 1972, respectively.

"Thanks to the solar elevation and SMART-1 camera resolution, the statistics of the sizes of the craters can be well determined in different units," says SMART-1 Project scientist Bernard Foing. "This permits us to establish a chronology, calibrated on absolute ages from isotopic measurements on returned lunar samples".

Source: ESA - Smart-1

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Crash Landing on the Moon


July 28, 2006: In 1959, a spaceship fell out of the lunar sky and hit the ground near the Sea of Serenity. The ship itself was shattered, but its mission was a success. Luna 2 from the Soviet Union had became the first manmade object to "land" on the Moon.

This may seem hard to believe, but Luna 2 started a trend: Crash landing on the Moon, on purpose. Dozens of spaceships have done it.

user posted image
Above: Luna 2 [More]

NASA's first kamikazes were the Rangers, built and launched in the early 1960s. Five times, these car-sized spaceships plunged into the Moon, cameras clicking all the way down. They captured the first detailed images of lunar craters, then rocks and soil, then oblivion. Data beamed back to Earth about the Moon's surface were crucial to the success of later Apollo missions.

Even after NASA mastered soft landings, however, the crashing continued. In the late 1960s and early 70s, mission controllers routinely guided massive Saturn rocket boosters into the Moon to make the ground shake for Apollo seismometers. Crashing was much easier than orbiting, they discovered. The Moon's uneven gravity field tugs on satellites in strange ways, and without frequent course corrections, orbiters tend to veer into the ground. Thus the Moon became a convenient graveyard for old spaceships: All five of NASA's Lunar Orbiters (1966-1972), four Soviet Luna probes (1959-1965), two Apollo sub-satellites (1970-1971), Japan's Hiten spacecraft (1993) and NASA's Lunar Prospector (1999) ended up in craters of their own making.

Back to the Future

All this experience is about to come in handy. NASA researchers have a daring plan to find water on the Moon and they're going to do it by--you guessed it--crash landing. The mission's name is LCROSS, short for Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite. Team leader Tony Colaprete of NASA Ames explains how it's going to work:

"We think there's frozen water hiding inside some of the Moon's permanently-shadowed craters. So we're going to hit one of those craters, kick up some debris, and analyze the impact plumes for signs of water."

The experiment couldn't be more important. NASA is returning to the Moon, and when explorers get there, they'll need water. Water can be split into hydrogen for rocket fuel and oxygen for breathing. It can be mixed with moondust to make concrete, a building material. Water makes an excellent radiation shield, and when you get thirsty you can drink it. One option is to ship water directly from Earth, but that's expensive. A better idea would be to mine water directly from the lunar soil.

But is it there? That's what LCROSS aims to find out.

The quest begins in late 2008 when LCROSS leaves Earth tucked inside the same rocket as Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a larger spacecraft on a scouting mission of its own. After launch, the two ships will split up and head for the Moon, LRO to orbit, LCROSS to crash.

Actually, says Colaprete, "we're going to crash twice." LCROSS is a double spacecraft: a small, smart mothership and a big, not-so-smart rocket booster. The mothership is called the "Shepherding Spacecraft" because it shepherds the booster to the Moon. They'll travel to the Moon together, but hit separately.

user posted image
Above: An artist's rendering of LCROSS in action. [More]

The booster strikes first, a savage blow transforming 2-tons of mass and 10 billion joules of kinetic energy into a blinding flash of heat and light. Researchers expect the impact to gouge a crater ~20 meters wide and throw up a plume of debris as high as 40 km.

Close behind, the Shepherding Spacecraft will photograph the impact and then fly right through the debris plume. Onboard spectrometers can analyze the sunlit plume for signs of water (H2O), water fragments (OH), salts, clays, hydrated minerals and assorted organic molecules. "If there's water there, or anything else interesting, we'll find it," says Colaprete.

The Shepherd then begins its own death plunge. Like the old Rangers, it will dive toward the lunar surface, cameras clicking. Back on Earth, mission controllers will see the booster's glowing crater swell to fill the field of view--an exhilarating rush.

Until the very end, the Shepherd's spectrometers will keep sniffing for water. "We'll be able to monitor the data stream down to 10 seconds before impact," says Colaprete. "And we should have enough control to land within 100 meters of the booster's crash site."

The Shepherd is 1/3rd lighter than the booster, so its impact will be proportionally smaller. Nevertheless, the Shepherd will make its own crater and plume, adding to those of the booster. Astronomers hope the combined plumes will be visible from Earth, allowing observations to continue even after the Shepherd is destroyed.

user posted image
Right: Shackleton crater at the Moon's south pole, a possible crash site for LCROSS. [More]

Many readers will remember the crash of Lunar Prospector in 1999. Mission controllers guided the ship into Shoemaker crater near the Moon's south pole in hopes of kicking up water—just like LCROSS. But no water was found.

"LCROSS has a better chance of success," says Colaprete. For one thing, LCROSS delivers more than 200 times the impact energy of Lunar Prospector, excavating a deeper crater and throwing debris higher where it can be plainly seen. While Lunar Prospector's plume was observed only by telescopes on Earth a quarter-million miles away, LCROSS's plume will be analyzed by the Shepherding Spacecraft at point blank range, using instruments specifically designed for the purpose.

Only one question remains: Where will LCROSS strike?

"We haven't decided," he says. The best places are probably polar craters with shadowy bottoms where water deposited by comets long ago may have frozen and survived to the present-day. Less orthodox choices include canyons, rilles and lava tubes. "There are many candidates. We're convening a meeting of researchers to debate the merits of various sites and, finally, to pick one."

Stay tuned to Science@NASA for updates.

Amateur astronomers: Using 6-inch or larger backyard telescopes, you might be able to see the LCROSS impact flashes. For a split-second, the explosions will glow about as brightly as 7th or 8th magnitude stars. But there's a catch: "If we land inside a deep polar crater, the flashes could be hidden by steep crater walls," says Colaprete. "We'll know more after a landing site is chosen."

Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA


More Information

Spacecraft that have hit the Moon: Luna 2, NASA's Rangers and Lunar Orbiters, Lunar Prospector, Japan's Hiten.

Soon to hit the Moon: SMART-1 and LCROSS

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter -- mission home page

The Vision for Space Exploration

Source: Science@NASA

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SMART-1 towards final impact


4 August 2006
SMART-1, the successful first European spacecraft to the Moon, is now about to end its exploration adventure, after almost sixteen months of lunar science investigations.

SMART-1 was launched on 27 September 2003, and it reached the Moon in November 2004 after a long spiralling around Earth. In this phase, the spacecraft tested for the first time in space a series of advanced technologies.
These included the first use of an ion engine (solar electric propulsion) for interplanetary travels, in combination with gravity assist manoeuvres.

user posted image
SMART-1 first orbits the Earth in ever-increasing ellipses. When it reaches the Moon, its orbit is altered by the Moon's gravitational field. It uses a number of these lunar 'gravity assist' manoeuvres to position itself for entering orbit around the Moon.

Credits: AOES Medialab, ESA 2002.


SMART-1 also tested future deep-space communication techniques for spacecraft, techniques to achieve autonomous spacecraft navigation, and miniaturised scientific instruments, used for the first time around the Moon.

Initially planned to operate six months around the Moon, SMART-1 was later given a mission extension of one further year, now about to be concluded. The spacecraft will hit the Moon surface through a small impact currently expected for 3 September 2006, at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT) or at 02:37 CEST (00:37 UT), with an uncertainty due to the incomplete knowledge of the lunar topography. The expected coordinates for impact at 5:41 UT are about 36.44º south of latitude and 46.25º west of longitude.


Manoeuvres up to impact

If left on the course of its lunar orbit, SMART-1 would have naturally hit the Moon on 17 August 2006 on the lunar far side, not visible from Earth.

A 2-week series of manoeuvres started on 19 June and concluded on 2 July allowed SMART-1 to adjust its orbit to avoid having the spacecraft intersect with the Moon at a disadvantageous time from the scientific point of view, and to obtain a useful small mission ‘extension’.

A further series of minor manoeuvres may be performed on 27 and 28 July, 25 August and on 1 and 2 September 2006 to adjust the SMART-1 trajectory.


Why 3 September?

The choice of 3 September for lunar impact was led by the decision to obtain further high resolution lunar data from orbit and to allow ground telescopes to see the impact from Earth.

On 3 September 2006 the SMART-1 perilune, coinciding with the point of impact, will be on the lunar area called ‘Lake of Excellence’, located at mid-southern latitudes. This area is very interesting from the scientific point of view. It is a volcanic plain area surrounded by highlands, but also characterised by ground mineral heterogeneities.

At the time of impact, this area will be in the dark on the near-side of the Moon, just near the terminator – the line separating the lunar day-side from the night-side. The region will be shadowed from the Sun’s direct rays, but it will be lit faintly by the light from the Earth – by earthshine. The spacecraft’s orbit will take it over the region every five hours, getting one kilometre lower at each pass. From Earth, a Moon quarter will be visible at that time.

user posted image
This artist's impression shows the location of the SMART-1 impact on the Moon surface, expected for 3 September 2006 at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 7 hours, due to the unknown lunar topography.
The expected coordinate for impact are 36.44º south of latitude and 46.25º west of longitude.. The impact site will be on the lunar area called ‘Lake of Excellence’, located at mid-southern latitudes. This area is very interesting from the scientific point of view. It is a volcanic plane area surrounded by highlands, but also characterised by ground heterogeneities.

Credits: ESA - C. Carreau


This geometry is ideal to allow ground observations. In fact, during full Moon the luminosity would have completely obscured the impact to ground observers, and during new Moon it would have been difficult as well, because new Moon is visible only for a few seconds after sunset. Furthermore, an impact in the dark will favour the detection of the impact flash.

The ground telescopes will also try to observe the dust ejected by the impact, hoping to obtain physical and mineralogical data on the surface excavated by the spacecraft.

The expected impact time (07:41 CEST ) will be good for big telescopes in South and Northwest Americas and Hawaii and possibly Australia. But if SMART-1 hits a hill on its previous pass, around 02:37 CEST on 3 September, then it can be observed from the Canary Islands and South America. If SMART-1 hits a hill on the pass on 2 September at 21:33 CEST, then telescopes in Continental Europe and Africa will have the advantage.


Trapped by lunar gravity

When a spacecraft orbits around the Moon, as SMART-1 does, it is doomed by the law of gravity. Tugs from the Sun, the Earth, and irregularities in the Moon itself, all disturb its orbit. Sooner or later, any lunar orbiter will impact the Moon surface unless it has very big amounts of fuel left to be re-boosted and escape the lunar gravity.

To break away from the Moon’s gravity and go off into deep space would have meant cancelling the SMART-1 science programme entirely. In fact, by the time SMART-1 was in its orbit around the Moon, there was enough propellant left for an orbital boost, but not for an escape, so the spacecraft was a true ‘prisoner’ of the Moon.

user posted image
When a spacecraft orbits around the Moon, as SMART-1 does, it is doomed by the law of gravity. Tugs from the Sun, the Earth, and irregularities in the Moon itself, all disturb its orbit. Sooner or later, any lunar orbiter will impact the Moon surface unless it has very big amounts of fuel left to be re-boosted and escape the lunar gravity.
By the time SMART-1 had settled into its operational orbit around the Moon in March 2005 its exeprimental ion engine had only 7 kilograms of propellant left (bottled xenon gas) out of the 84 kilograms available at launch. This fuel allowed orbital boosts, but was not sufficient for a Moon escape.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab


SMART-1 has survived far longer than expected when the originally planned 6-month scientific mission. Its experimental ion engine, powered by the Sun, was very efficient. By the time SMART-1 had settled into its operational orbit around the Moon in March 2005 there was only 7 kilograms of propellant left (bottled xenon gas) out of the 84 kilograms available at launch.

ESA engineers used all the remaining xenon to avoid an early crash due in September 2005, after a manoeuvres to re-boost the orbit. As a result, SMART-1 gained an extra year of operational life in its lunar orbit, to the great benefit of Europe’s space scientists and engineers.

Out of xenon propellant, SMART-1 used its hydrazine thrusters to perform the last major manoeuvre at the end of June 2006 to further stretch the mission lifetime and win three more weeks of operations.


Any harm for the Moon?

Nearly 50 years ago, in 1959, the Russian Luna-2 spacecraft was the first man-made object to hit the Moon. Since then many others have done the same, without any noticeable harm, and SMART-1’s impact will be softer than that of any man-made impactor up till now.

When it arrives at the Moon’s surface, SMART-1 will be travelling at 2 kilometres per second. That’s much slower than a natural meteoroid - for instance Leonid meteoroids arrive on the Moon at 70 kilometres per second. SMART-1 will go in at a glancing angle – like a ski jumper. SMART-1 may hit a steep hill at 7000 kilometres per hour, but what is more likely is that it will glide down over a flat part of the lunar surface, dropping 15 metres in the last kilometre of forward motion. At impact, its vertical speed will be only 70 kilometres per hour, which is less than some ski jumpers achieve.


Possibly SMART-1 will skid for a short distance after impact, throwing up dust ahead of it and spraying dust out on either side like the wings of a butterfly. The crater made by SMART-1 will be 3 to 10 metres wide and perhaps a metre deep. The Moon already has 100 000 craters that are more than four kilometres wide, and every day several small meteoroids make craters as big as SMART-1’s.

Every chemical element present on SMART-1 and in its equipment exists naturally on the Moon. For instance aluminium and iron are very common. Hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen are much scarcer on the Moon, but they arrive naturally onto the surface from the solar wind and from the impacts of icy fragments of comets, which contain many elements. From this point of view, one can think of SMART-1 as an artificial comet. Furthermore, the little hydrazine left in the SMART-1 thrusters will burn immediately at impact.

Last observations

The last observations before impact will provide new impressions of the lunar landscapes.

During close lunar approaches, the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 will have oblique views of some areas that we have previously looked at only vertically, providing a sort of 3-dimensional view of the surface. However, as the impact will occur in a dark area of the Moon, it is not possible to expect to see very much by visible light during the final descent.

During the last orbits, the other instruments on-board, including the D-CIXS X-ray telescope and the SIR infrared spectrometer, will have detailed views of some lunar regions from very low altitudes.

Powerful telescopes on the Earth may see a faint flash from the impact itself, followed by a cloud of dust thrown up by the impact, perhaps 5 kilometres wide. The dust will obscure the view of part of the Moon’s surface for 5 or 10 minutes. The behaviour of the cloud will give valuable information about impact events in general, while the analysis of the light from the dust, with spectrographs in the telescopes, may detect materials dug up by the impact from just beneath the lunar surface.

The observations will rely on the faint glow of earthshine – unless some of the dust cloud is thrown more than 20 kilometres above the lunar surface. In that case, it will be lit directly by sunlight and will appear far brighter for perhaps a few minutes. Amateur astronomers may be able to spot the sunlit dust cloud with their binoculars and small telescopes.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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An oblique look on the north lunar far west

user posted image

This image, taken by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, provides an ‘oblique’ view of the lunar surface towards the limb, around the Mezentsev, Niepce and Merrill craters, on the far side of the Moon.
AMIE obtained this sequence on 16 May 2006. The imaged area is centred at a latitude of 73º North and a longitude of 124º West.

A 'clean' version of the image can be downloaded here [ SIDEVIEW.jpg]

Normally, the SMART-1 spacecraft points the AMIE camera straight down, in the so-called Nadir pointing mode. In this image, AMIE was looking out 'the side window' and pointing towards the horizon, showing all craters in an oblique view. The largest craters shown are Mezentesev, Niepce and Merrill, located on the lunar far side, not visible from the Earth. Mezentsev is an eroded crater 89 kilometres in diameter, while Niepce and Merrill have the same size 57 km.

Credits: ESA/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)


9 August 2006
This image, taken by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, provides an 'oblique' view of the lunar surface towards the limb, around the Mezentsev, Niepce and Merrill craters, on the far side of the Moon.

"This cratered terrain is similar in topography to near-side highlands," says SMART-1 Project scientist Bernard Foing, "while the far-side equator bulge can reach heights of 7 km, and the South Pole Aitken basin has depths down to 8 km".
AMIE obtained this sequence on 16 May 2006. The imaged area is centred at a latitude of 73º North and a longitude of 124º West(or 34 º further than the West limb seen from Earth).

Normally, the SMART-1 spacecraft points the AMIE camera straight down, in the so-called Nadir pointing mode. In this image, AMIE was looking out 'the side window' and pointing towards the horizon, showing all craters in an oblique view. The largest craters shown are Mezentesev, Niepce and Merrill, located on the lunar far side, not visible from the Earth. Mezentsev is an eroded crater 89 kilometres in diameter, while Niepce and Merrill have the same size 57 km.

Mezentsev is named after Yourij Mezentsev, a Soviet engineer (1929 - 1965) who was one of the first people to design rocket launchers. Joseph Niepce was the French inventor of photography (1765 - 1833), while Paul Merrill was an American astronomer (1887 - 1961).

Source: ESA - Smart-1

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Eroded structures in Jacobi crater: a window on the past


user posted image
Rim of Jacobi crater as seen by SMART-1

Credits: ESA/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)


14 August 2006
This high-resolution image, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, shows part of crater Jacobi in the southern hemisphere of the Moon. The rim of the crater is seen on the upper edge of the image.

AMIE obtained this sequence on 18 March 2006 from a distance of about 578 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution of 52 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at a latitude of 56.5º South and a longitude of 10.9º East, with a field of view of 27 km. North is at the right of the image.
The crater Jacobi itself is much larger than this image - about 70 kilometres in diameter - whereas this image only shows an area of about 25 square kilometres. The single prominent crater to the upper right of the image centre is ‘Jacobi W’, with a diameter of only 7 kilometres. It is possible to note the peculiar surface structure in the upper left area of the image, indicating several heavily eroded kilometre-sized craters having roughly the same size.

"SMART-1 resolution at high solar elevation angle allows us to detect eroded structures buried under more recent layers" says SMART-1 Project scientist Bernard Foing, "giving another window on the past evolution of the Moon".

This area is named after the German mathematician Carl Jacobi (1804 - 1851), who worked on elliptic functions and was active in the field of celestial mechanics.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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Europe rediscovers the Moon with
SMART-1


user posted image

When a spacecraft orbits around the Moon, as SMART-1 does, it is doomed by the law of gravity. Tugs from the Sun, the Earth, and irregularities in the Moon itself, all disturb its orbit. Sooner or later, any lunar orbiter will impact the Moon surface unless it has very big amounts of fuel left to be re-boosted and escape the lunar gravity.
By the time SMART-1 had settled into its operational orbit around the Moon in March 2005 its exeprimental ion engine had only 7 kilograms of propellant left (bottled xenon gas) out of the 84 kilograms available at launch. This fuel allowed orbital boosts, but was not sufficient for a Moon escape.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab


16 August 2006
ESA PR 30-2006. Now Europe too can say it has been to the Moon. In the early morning of 3 September this year (at 07:41 Central European Summer Time, as currently estimated), the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 mission will end its exploration adventure through a small impact on the lunar surface.

The whole story began in September 2003, when an Ariane 5 launcher blasted off from Kourou, French Guiana, to deliver the European Space Agency’s lunar spacecraft SMART-1 into Earth orbit. SMART-1 is a small unmanned satellite weighing 366 kilograms and roughly fitting into a cube just 1 metre across, excluding its 14-metre solar panels (which were folded during launch).
After launch and injection into an elliptical orbit around the Earth, the gentle but steady push provided by the spacecraft’s highly innovative electric propulsion engine forcefully expelling xenon gas ions caused SMART-1 to spiral around the Earth, increasing its distance from our planet until, after a long journey of about 14 months, it was “captured” by the Moon’s gravity.

To cover the 385,000 km distance that separates the Earth from the Moon if one travelled in a straight line, this remarkably efficient engine brought the spacecraft on a 100 million km long spiralling journey on only 50 litres of fuel! The spacecraft was captured by the Moon in November 2004 and started its scientific mission in an elliptical orbit around its poles. ESA’s SMART-1 is currently the only spacecraft around the Moon, paving the way for the fleet of international lunar orbiters that will be launched from 2007 onwards.

The story is now close to ending. On the night of Saturday 2 to Sunday 3 September, looking at the Moon with a powerful telescope, one may be able to see something special happening. Like most of its lunar predecessors, SMART-1 will end its journey and exploration of the Moon by landing in a relatively abrupt way. It will impact the lunar surface in an area called the “Lake of Excellence”, situated in the mid-southern region of the Moon’s visible disc at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UTC).

The story is close to ending

After 16 months harvesting scientific results in an elliptical orbit around the Moon’s poles (at distances of between 300 and 3.000 km), the mission is almost over. The spacecraft perilune has now dropped below an altitude of 300 km from the lunar surface and will get a closer look at specific targets on the Moon before landing in a controlled manner on the moon surface (controlled, that is, in terms of where and when). It will then 'die' there.

With a relative low speed at impact (2 km/sec or 7200 km/h), SMART-1 will create a small crater of 5 to 10m in diameter with a depth in the order of one metre; a crater no larger than that a typical created by a 2kg meteorite on a surface already heavily affected by natural impacts.

Mission controllers at the European Space Agency’s Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt, Germany will monitor the final moments before impact step by step.

Final milestones of SMART-1 flight operations

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Members of the Flight Control Team monitor SMART-1's progress in the Main Control Room, 16 November 2004 (Stephane Beauvivre, Jean-Luc Josset and Rick Blake). The MCR is located at the European Space Agency's Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

Credits: ESA


In June, SMART-1 mission controllers at ESOC completed a series of complex thruster firings aimed at optimising the time and location of the spacecraft’s impact on the Moon's surface. They had to be done with the thrusters of the attitude control system since all the Xenon of the Ion engine had been consumed in 2005.

The manoeuvres have shifted the time and location of impact, which would otherwise occurred in mid-August on the far side of the Moon; impact is now set to occur on the near side and current best estimates show the impact time to be around 07:41 CEST (05:41 UTC) on Sunday 3 September.

"Mission controllers and flight dynamics engineers have analysed the results of the manoeuvre campaign to confirm and refine this estimate," says Octavio Camino-Ramos, SMART-1 spacecraft operations manager at ESA/ESOC. "The final adjustment manoeuvres are planned for 25th of August, which may still have a consequence on the final impact time", he added.

Large ground telescopes will be involved before and during impact to make observations of the event, with several objectives:
  • To study the physics of the impact (ejected material, mass, dynamics and energy involved).
  • To analyse the chemistry of the surface by collecting the specific radiation emitted by the ejected material (‘spectra’)
  • To help technological assessment: understand what happens to the impacting spacecraft to know better how to prepare for future impactor experiments (for instance on satellites to intercept meteorites menacing our planet)

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This artist's impression shows the location of the SMART-1 impact on the Moon surface, expected for 3 September 2006 at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 7 hours, due to the unknown lunar topography.
The expected coordinate for impact are 36.44º south of latitude and 46.25º west of longitude.. The impact site will be on the lunar area called ‘Lake of Excellence’, located at mid-southern latitudes. This area is very interesting from the scientific point of view. It is a volcanic plane area surrounded by highlands, but also characterised by ground heterogeneities.

Credits: ESA - C. Carreau


Media briefing on 3 September, major press conference on 4 September

Media representatives wishing to witness the impact event at ESOC and share the excitement of it with specialists and scientists available for interviews as of early morning on Sunday 3 September, or wishing to attend the press conference on Monday 4 September to highlight the first results of the impact, are required to fill in the attached registration form and return it by fax to the ESOC Communication Office by Thursday 31 August.

Notes

Why so SMART?
SMART-1 is packed with high-tech devices and state-of-the-art scientific instruments. Its ion engine, for instance, works by expelling a continuous beam of charged particles, or ions, which produces a thrust that drives the spacecraft forward. The energy to power the engine comes from the solar panels, hence the term 'solar electric propulsion'. The engine generates a very gentle continuous thrust which causes the spacecraft to move relatively slowly: SMART-1 accelerates at just 0.2 millimetres per square second, a thrust equivalent to the weight of a postcard.

By necessity, SMART-1’s journey to the Moon has been neither quick nor direct. This was because, for the first time, ESA wanted to test electric propulsion on a trip similar to an interplanetary journey. After launch, SMART-1 went into an elliptical orbit around the Earth. Then the spacecraft fired its ion engine, gradually expanding its elliptical orbit and spiralling out in the direction of the Moon’s orbital plane.

Month after month this brought SMART-1 closer to the Moon. This spiralling journey accounted for more than 100 million kilometres, while the Moon – if you wanted to go there in a straight line - is only between 350,000 and 400,000 kilometres away from the Earth.

As SMART-1 neared its destination, it began using the gravity of the Moon to bring it into a position where it was captured by the Moon’s gravitational field. This occurred in November 2004. After being captured by the Moon, in January 2005, SMART-1 started to spiral down to its final operational polar elliptical orbit with a perilune (closest point to the lunar surface) altitude of 300 km and apolune (farthest point) altitude of 3000 km to conduct its scientific exploration mission.

What was there to know that we didn’t know already?

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This animated sequence, composed of three images taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, shows a portion of Mare Serenitatis on the Moon.
AMIE obtained the images on 18 March 2006 from distances between 1257 and 1213 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution ranging between 114 and 110 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at about 21º East longitude and 18º North latitude. The separate images can be downloaded here
[AMI_EAE3_002082_00001_00016.JPG,
AMI_EAE3_002082_00002_00016.JPG,
AMI_EAE3_002082_00003_00015.JPG]

Mare Serenitatis is one of the lunar maria, that are vast lava plains on the lunar surface. It formed between 3.9 and 3.8 thousand million years ago, a period in which the Moon was heavily bombarded by asteroids and the major impact basins on the Moon were formed.

Credits: ESA/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)


Despite the number of spacecraft that have visited the Moon, many scientific questions concerning our natural satellite remained unanswered, notably to do with the origin and evolution of the Moon, and the processes that shape rocky planetary bodies (such as tectonics, volcanism, impacts and erosion).

Thanks to SMART-1, scientists all over Europe and around the world now have the best resolution surface images ever from lunar orbit, as well as a better knowledge of the Moon’s minerals. For the first time from orbit, they have detected calcium and magnesium using an X-ray instrument. They have measured compositional changes from the central peaks of craters, volcanic plains and giant impact basins. SMART-1 has also studied impact craters, volcanic features and lava tubes, and monitored the polar regions. In addition, it found an area near the north pole where the Sun always shines, even in winter.

SMART-1 has roamed over the lunar poles, enabling it to map the whole Moon, including its lesser known far side. The poles are particularly interesting to scientists because they are relatively unexplored. Moreover, some features in the polar regions have a geological history which is distinct from the more closely studied equatorial regions where all previous lunar landers have touched down so far.

With SMART-1, Europe has played an active role in the international lunar exploration programme of the future and, with the data thus gathered, is able to make a substantial contribution to that effort. SMART-1 experience and data are also assisting in preparations for future lunar missions, such as India’s Chandrayaan-1, which will reuse SMART-1’s infrared and X-ray spectrometers.

SMART-1 is equipped with completely new instruments, never used close to the Moon before. These include a miniature camera, and X-ray and infrared spectrometers, which are all helping to observe and study the Moon.

Its solar panels use advanced gallium-arsenide solar cells, chosen in preference to traditional silicon cells. One of the experimental instruments onboard SMART-1 is OBAN, which has been testing a new navigation system that will allow future spacecraft to navigate on their own, without the need for control from the ground.

Instruments and techniques tested in examining the Moon from SMART-1 will later help ESA's BepiColombo spacecraft to investigate the planet Mercury.

Source: ESA - Smart-1

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SMART-1 impact: last call for ground based observations

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This image, produced with the ESA MAPS mapping tool (based on data from the US Clementine lunar image), provides an albedo map of the Lake of Excellence of the Moon. The last orbits of ESA’s SMART-1 mission, and the possible locations of impact - planned for 3 September 2006 - are indicated.
If impacting on 3 Sept at 07:41 CEST, SMART-1 will touch the Moon at the lunar coordinates 36.44º South and 46.25º West. If impacting on 3 September at 02:36 CEST the lunar coordinates will be 36.4º South and 43.5º West.

One degree of latitude corresponds to 30 kilometres on the Moon, and one arc-second from Earth subtends 1.8 kilometres on the Moon centre.

Credits: ESA/ US Clementine Project, BMDO, NRL, LLNL


17 August 2006
If you are a professional or amateur astronomer and want to contribute to the final phase of the SMART-1 mission, join ESA on the impact ground observation campaign.

Like most of its lunar predecessors, SMART-1 will conclude its scientific observations of the Moon through a small impact on the lunar surface. This is planned to take place in the lunar Lake of Excellence, located at mid-southern latitudes. A trim manoeuvre at the end of July has determined that the impact will most likely occur on 3 September 2006 at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT), or at 02:36 CEST (00:36 UT) on the previous orbit due to uncertainties in the detailed knowledge of the lunar topography.
If impacting on 3 Sept at 07:41 CEST, SMART-1 will touch the Moon at the lunar coordinates 36.44º South and 46.25º West. If impacting on 3 September at 02:36 CEST the lunar coordinates will be 36.4º South and 43.5º West.

The Lake of Excellence is very interesting from the scientific point of view – it is a volcanic plain area surrounded by highlands, but also characterised by ground mineral heterogeneities.

“We call for ground-based observations mostly to study impact physics, the release of spacecraft volatiles, and the lofted soil mineralogy,” says Bernard Foing , SMART-1 Project Scientist at ESA. “We look for fast imaging of the impact and of the associated ejected material, and for spectroscopic analysis, for example to find hints about the mineralogy of the impact area.”

“Even if the impact at 2 kilometres per second is of modest energy, the plume might be observable if it reaches sunlight, with an amateur telescope or binoculars,” continues Foing. “For sites not covering the time of impact, we ask for context observations before and after impact to look for the ejecta blanket”.

A number of worldwide observatories have already confirmed their participation to the campaign. They include the network of VLBI Very Long Baseline Interferometry and radio observatories, the South African Large Telescope SALT, the Calar Alto observatory in Andalucia, Spain, the ESA OGS Optical Ground Station at Tenerife, Spain, the CEA Cariri observatory in Brazil, the Argentina National Telescope, the Florida Tech Robotic telescopes, NASA IRTF and Japanese telescopes at Hawaii, as well as a number of professional and amateur astronomy telescopes around the world, and the ODIN observatory from space.

ESA invites the scientific community and amateur astronomers to join in the observation campaign. For more information follow this link.

Source: ESA - Smart-1

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SMART-1 on the trail of the Moon’s beginnings

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This image shows groundtracks of the D-CIXS X-ray telescope on board ESA's SMART-1. D-CIXS’s Facet 1 and Facet 3 are superimposed on the areas of the Moon overflown during observation which took place on 15 January 2005, during a solar flare. The centre track of each facet is also shown, along with the landing sites of the three Soviet Luna robotic landers. The underlying map is from USGS/PDS based on Clementine data (710nm ) and has been contrast enhanced.

Credits: ESA/D-CIXS


18 August 2006
The D-CIXS instrument on ESA's Moon mission SMART-1 has produced the first detection from orbit of calcium on the lunar surface. By doing this, the instrument has taken a step towards answering the old question: did the Moon form from part of the Earth?

Scientists responsible for the D-CIXS instrument on SMART-1 are also announcing that they have detected aluminium, magnesium and silicon. "We have good maps of iron across the lunar surface. Now we can look forward to making maps of the other elements," says Manuel Grande of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth UK, and D-CIXS' Principal Investigator.
Knowing how to translate the D-CIXS orbital data into ‘ground truth’ has been helped by a cosmic coincidence. On 9 August 1976, the Russian spacecraft Luna 24 was launched. On 18 August it touched down in a region of the Moon known as Mare Crisium and returned a sample of the lunar soil to Earth.

In January 2005, SMART-1 was high above Mare Crisium when a giant explosion took place on the Sun. Scientists often dread these storms because they can damage spacecraft but, for the scientists responsible for D-CIXS, it was just what they needed.

The D-CIXS instrument depends on X-ray emission from the Sun to excite elements on the lunar surface, which then emit X-rays at characteristic wavelengths. D-CIXS collects these X-ray fingerprints and translates them into the abundance of each chemical element found on the surface of the Moon. Grande and his colleagues could relate the D-CIXS Mare Crisium results to the laboratory analysis of the Russian lunar samples.

They found that the calcium detected from orbit was in agreement with that found by Luna 24 on the surface of Mare Crisium. As SMART-1 flew on, it swept D-CIXS over the nearby highland regions. Calcium showed up here too, which was a surprise until the scientists looked at the data from another Russian moon mission, Luna 20. That lander had also found calcium back in the 1970s. This boosted the scientists’ confidence in the D-CIXS results.

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A shocking birth for the Moon? SMART-1's researchers will examine the theory that our companion in space was made from the debris of a monstrous collision thousands of millions of years ago - between the newly born Earth and a smaller planet.

Credits: AOES Medialab, ESA 2002


Ever since American astronauts brought back samples of moonrock during the Apollo Moon landings of the late 1960s/early 1970s, planetary scientists have been struck by the broad similarity of the moonrocks and the rocks found deep in the Earth, in a region known as the mantle. This boosted the theory that the Moon formed from debris left over after the Earth was struck a glancing blow by a Mars-sized planet.

However, the more scientists looked at the details of the moonrock, the more discrepancies they found between them and the earthrocks. Most importantly, the isotopes found in the moonrocks did not agree with those found on Earth.

"The get-out clause is that the rocks returned by the Apollo missions represent only highly specific areas on the lunar surface and so may not be representative of the lunar surface in its entirety," says Grande; hence the need for D-CIXS and its data.

By measuring the abundance of several elements across the lunar surface, scientists can better constrain the contribution of material from the young Earth and its possible impactor to condense and form the Moon. Current models suggest that more came from the impactor than from Earth. Models of the Moon’s evolution and interior structure are necessary to translate the surface measurements into the Moon’s bulk composition.

D-CIXS was a small experimental device, only about the size of a toaster. ESA is now collaborating with India to fly an upgraded version on the Indian lunar probe Chandrayaan, due for launch in 2007–2008. It will map the chemistry of the lunar surface, including the other landing sites from where samples have been brought back to Earth. In this way it will show whether the Apollo and Russian landing sites were typical or special.

"From SMART-1 observations of previous landing sites we can compare orbital observations to the ground truth and expand from the local to global views of the Moon," says Bernard Foing, Project Scientist for SMART-1.

Then, perhaps planetary scientists can decide whether the Moon was indeed once part of the Earth.

Note

The findings will appear in the Planetary and Space Science journal, in an article titled: "The D-CIXS X-ray spectrometer on the SMART-1 mission to the Moon – First Results", by M.Grande et al.

Source: ESA - Smart-1

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Close-up on Cuvier crater ridge


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Young crater ‘Cuvier C’ as seen by SMART-1

Credits: ESA/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)


22 August 2006
This high-resolution image, taken by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, shows the young crater ‘Cuvier C’ on the Moon.

AMIE obtained this sequence on 18 March 2006 from a distance of 591 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution of 53 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at a latitude of 50.1º South and a longitude of 11.2º East, with a field of view of 27 km. The North is on the right of the image.
"This image shows the resolving power of the SMART-1 camera to measure the morphology of rims and craters in order to diagnose impact processes", says SMART-1 Project scientist Bernard Foing, "or to establish the statistics of small craters for lunar chronology studies".

Cuvier C, a crater about 10 kilometres across, is visible in the lower right part of the image. Cuvier C is located at the edge of the larger old crater Cuvier, a crater 77 kilometres in diameter. The upper left quadrant of the image contains the smooth floor of Cuvier, only one fourth of which is visible in this image.

Crater Cuvier was named after the creator of the comparative anatomy, Georges Cuvier, a 19th century French naturalist (1769 - 1832).


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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NASA Ames Spacecraft to Smash into a Pole of the moon in Search of Ice


In the near vacuum of space there will be silence as a large NASA rocket smashes into one of the moon's polar regions in early 2009. There is no air to transmit sound waves where the rocket will strike, but the ground will shake. The 4,410-pound (2,000-kilogram) NASA rocket will be hurtling 1.56 miles per second (2.5 kilometers per second) towards the lunar surface. The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will carry out this lunar collision mission and experiment.

As well as being soundless, some craters near the moon's poles are in permanent shadow and are so cold that ice could remain there for eons. When the LCROSS rocket's upper stage violently collides with the surface of a shadowed lunar crater, the massive impact will jolt up a huge cloud, or 'plume,' of lunar material - soil and maybe even water ice. Finding water ice is the main purpose of LCROSS. However, if LCROSS does not detect ice will not mean that there is no ice at the lunar poles, according to scientists.

If there is enough of it, water ice would be as valuable as gold to astronauts on the moon because launching anything into space from Earth's surface costs as much as $10,000 per pound (0.45 kilogram.) Astronauts could drink life-sustaining moon water or make it into rocket fuel. If there is adequate water near one of the lunar poles that astronauts could use, that water could save NASA huge sums of money.

"Our objective is to detect and measure water in the lunar soil," said Tony Colaprete, the LCROSS principal investigator and a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "It's just like prospectors used to do when they were looking for precious metals. They would drill a hole in the side of a riverbank, stick a piece of dynamite in there and then blast a chunk of earth off. They would then sift through the debris - using a variety of methods - to detect ores," said Colaprete. "They'd wash the debris into the river and use slurry - a mix of water and debris - to separate gold from the rest of the dirt."

"We're doing the same thing. We're blasting a hole in the moon about half the size of an Olympic-size swimming pool. Instead of slurry and a tin pan, we're using a suite of instruments both at the moon and on Earth (to detect water and other materials)," he said. "We expect to excavate at least 220 tons (200 metric tons) of moon dirt," Colaprete noted. The impact will be visible to a number of lunar-orbiting satellites and possibly also to Earth-based telescopes.

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Image above: The south pole of the Moon. Click on the image to download high resolution photo.

What triggered NASA's interest in locating possible water near the moon's poles? Both the Clementine (in 1994) and the Lunar Prospector (in 1998) spacecraft found indirect -- but not definitive proof -- that water ice may exist in the dark shadows of craters in the lunar south pole area - gloomy, extremely cold places that never see the light of day. Lunar Prospector found evidence of hydrogen, which along with oxygen, comprises water. Soon, LCROSS mission scientists hope to find solid proof of water.

LCROSS will be a 'secondary payload' when it is launched for its journey to the moon in October 2008. That is, LCROSS will be a hitchhiker. It will ride the same rocket as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), another NASA mission to the moon. The rocket, an Atlas V with a Centaur upper stage, will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The LCROSS spacecraft will arrive in the lunar vicinity independent of the LRO satellite. Instead of arriving at the moon in a few days like LRO, LCROSS will orbit Earth twice for about 80 days, and then will strike one of the lunar poles in January 2009.

The reason that the LCROSS spacecraft will take so long to arrive at the moon is that the spacecraft will use 'lunar gravity assist' to change the second stage Centaur rocket's trajectory so that the space vehicle will strike its target near one of the moon's poles. During a gravity assist maneuver, a spacecraft approaches a planet or a moon, and the spacecraft's orbit is affected, causing the probe to shift direction.

Because of lunar gravity assist, LCROSS will approach the moon's poles with more velocity -- 1.56 miles per second (2.5 kilometers per second) -- and will strike the lunar surface more squarely -- at 70 degrees to the moon's horizon -- a steeper impact angle that will produce a bigger plume. LCROSS also will take longer to reach the moon, and NASA will have more time to track the spacecraft, control it and precisely aim it at a crater.

On the way to the moon, the LCROSS spacecraft's two main parts, the Shepherding Spacecraft and the Centaur second stage, will remain coupled.

As the spacecraft nears one of the moon's poles, the upper Centaur stage will separate, and then will impact a crater in that region. A plume from the upper stage crash will develop as the Shepherding Spacecraft heads in toward the moon.

The Shepherding Spacecraft will fly through the impact plume, sending back real-time images and spectra of the plume material taken by infrared cameras and spectrometers. After sending back these data, the Shepherding Satellite will become a 1,543-pound (700-kilogram) 'impactor' as well. The second impact will provide another opportunity for lunar-orbiting satellites and Earth-based observatories to study the nature of the lunar soil in the second, smaller plume.

In 1988 during the Lunar Prospector lunar orbital mission, scientists estimated that as much as 6 billion metric tons of water ice could be under about 18 inches of lunar soil in the craters. However, Lunar Prospector did not provide proof positive of ice. Scientists now are determining how best to detect water - if any -- in the mammoth plumes of moon dust that will result from the two LCROSS impacts. Because the impacts will be so complicated, scientists need to understand them before they happen. Then, researchers can properly plan the science observations scientists would like to make.

"An impact is a very complex event," Colaprete observed. "There are a number of processes that occur one after the other, and some simultaneously, each of which contains clues about the moon's materials and the impact."

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Image above: Time exposed image of simulated LCROSS lunar impact (without lights) taken slightly from the side. The heat created at impact will vaporize any water-ice near the surface, which LCROSS will then measure. Photo courtesy of LCROSS team member P.H. Schultz, Brown University, Providence, R.I. Click on the image to download high resolution photo.

Scientists must consider factors that include how long the lunar dust will linger above the lunar landscape, how bright the initial impact flash will be and how much material will fly up from the surface. To analyze the impact before it will happen has required a team of scientists -- the people who designed the mission.

The team is a dozen scientists strong. All of them are co-investigators on the LCROSS mission. They are from across the United States and work at NASA as well as Brown University, Providence, R.I.; University of California, Santa Cruz; Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.; Northrop Grumman, Redondo Beach, Calif.; and the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif.

The team includes impact specialists, astronomers, spectroscopists (scientists who analyze light and other radiation to determine material composition) and planetary scientists. Some team members are experts in two or more fields of study.

The team met at NASA Ames in the spring of 2006 to share their outlooks for the mission and to take a critical look at the mission design to make sure all objectives would be met.

"In the morning of the first day of our meeting, we heard from our impact specialists, including Peter Schultz of Brown University and Erik Asphaug and Don Korycansky both of the University of California, Santa Cruz," Colaprete said. "What we heard were their current expectations for the size and duration of the impact."

"We're going to be using the LCROSS as if we're kicking a divot out of the surface of the moon to expose what's below," Schultz said. "Every time you go into a sand trap on the golf course -- a place you don't want to be -- you pitch up sand with your sand wedge. If you watch your friend do this, you can (see) this cone of debris fly out of the trap. The formation of the cloud of sand is similar to what will (happen) during LCROSS."

Scientists used NASA Ames' Vertical Gun Range to simulate the lunar impacts by firing small pellets into materials that represented the lunar surface. "It's very cool," Schultz said. "In experiments -- just like in a science fiction movie -- you need to slow everything down to imagine what you would see at the scale of LCROSS. We slow it down by a factor of a thousand. We are using high-speed video and other special imaging," he explained.

What Schultz and others find out from the Vertical Gun tests may help them to refine their estimates of the impact flash, how hot the ejecta will become and how fast it will cool, ejecta trajectories and what the physical state of any water in the ejecta may be.

"We've watched all these complex processes every time we do an experiment at the Ames Gun Range. The (LCROSS) impact (on the moon) will be in the dark, and all we'll see at first is just a faint flash. And then we'll see this expanding ring of debris as it comes out of the darkness and is lit by sunlight," Schultz said.

"So, what we're really after is to bring material up into the sunlight for the very first time," he explained. "We want to know if this material contains ice. What we get to do is the same thing we do in the gun range at Ames (only) at a much larger scale."

According to Schultz, there will be a whole suite of instruments looking at the plume of lunar material above the moon. "The instruments we'll have on board will allow us to detect what makes up the surface and subsurface. We are going to try to get as much out of this one-second event when the crater is formed (as we can). But then we'll watch the material emerge into a cloud and a ring for about minute or more," Schultz continued.

The second impact must be observed from Earth and other spacecraft because the Shepherding Satellite carrying all the LCROSS instruments is the impactor for the follow-up collision with the moon.

During their meeting at Ames, scientists also considered the mission time line and how they will coordinate their observations of the impact from the Earth, and from satellites orbiting the moon. Astronomers Jennifer Heldmann of the SETI Institute and Diane Wooden of NASA Ames are leading the effort to coordinate and define Earth and moon-based observations of the impact.

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Image above: A sequence "grab" from a high-speed video taken at the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range. The images show the initial flash and the gradual appearance of the simulated lunar ejecta as they emerge into the 'sunlight'. Sequence courtesy of LCROSS team member P.H. Schultz, Brown University, Providence, R.I. Click on the image to download high resolution photo.

"We are encouraging the science community to observe the impacts from ground based telescopes, Earth-based telescopes and Earth and moon-orbiting satellites," said Heldmann. We also encourage amateur astronomers to observe the LCROSS impacts and plumes," Heldmann added.

Because scientists will use many instruments at various locations to observe the impacts, researchers will be able to combine independent measurements to potentially come to more concrete conclusions about the presence of water and other materials in lunar soil.

Large telescopes including the Keck II telescopic on Mauna Kea mountain in Hawaii will make observations of the LCROSS moon impacts. According to scientists, the Hubble Space Telescope may also be called upon to observe the impacts. In addition, LCROSS researchers plan to use three satellites orbiting the moon to study the impacts. One is NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO); another is India's Chandrayaan-1 and Japan's SELenological and ENgineering Explorer (SELENE) - all of which have yet to be launched.

Mission planetary scientists include Colaprete and Heldmann. Schultz and Asphaug also are planetary scientists, but they will concentrate on impact studies for the LCROSS mission.

Spectroscopists include Wooden and Tony Ricco, a chemist from Stanford. They will search for clues of water and other minerals by looking at the initial impact flash of light and then the sunlight colors reflected from the dust cloud with special instruments on spacecraft and through telescopes. The instruments include special cameras and spectrometers.

Spectrometers are instruments that separate light beams into bands of color. Some of the color bands the spectrometer will see are invisible to human beings. Combinations of the bands are unique -- like fingerprints or barcodes. These color band combinations are 'signatures' that can identify virtually all materials.

According to Ricco, spectral signatures of water vapor, water ice and water bound in minerals show up in the infrared part of the spectrum. "These signatures are of keen interest, so the reflected light from the dust plume will be examined carefully for their presence using a unique spectrometer adapted for the LCROSS mission," Ricco said.

"The LCROSS mission will make two impacts separated by about 10 minutes," said Wooden. "The dust and water ice cloud lofted into sunlight will be observable from ground-based telescopes. Imagine an umbrella-shaped cloud that emerges from the limb (a heavenly body's outer disk edge) of the pole of the moon. If the cloud contains water ice, the ice will become water vapor, and the energetic ultraviolet solar photons (sunlight) will break it down further into hydroxyl (OH-), which can be detected for hours or even days," she explained.

"Also, dust grains will reveal their compositions when they are warmed by the sunlight. The ground-based observations are very important to the studying the longer (tens of minutes to hours) evolution of the cloud," Wooden added.

According to Wooden, it is just this kind of cloud that a comet impact would have created during the heavy bombardment period of the early solar system some four billion years ago. "If the water vapor in such a cloud was dispersed to the poles, it would have refrozen there - making the source of water ice that we now seek to find," said Wooden.

"NASA Ames will host a site selection workshop on Oct. 16 - Oct. 17, 2006, to ask the science community to give us their suggestions as to where the LCROSS impact should occur on the moon - at either the north or south pole," said Heldmann.

According to Colaprete, the LCROSS proposal named Shackleton Crater in the south pole area as an example around which scientists and engineers could develop a mission design. "The process for selecting the impact target will be modeled after the successful Mars Exploration Rover landing site selection method," Colaprete said.

The LCROSS prime contractor for the spacecraft and the spacecraft integration is Northrop Grumman.

For images related to the LCROSS mission, please visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/multimedia/images/2006/lunarorbiter.html

For information about the Clementine mission to the moon, please see:

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2005/14apr_moonwater.htm

To read a fact sheet about the Lunar Prospector mission, please visit:

http://discovery.nasa.gov/prospector.html


John Bluck
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-5026
E-mail: jbluck@mail.arc.nasa.gov


Source: NASA/Ames Research Center - Research

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Low altitude flying with coarse maps – determining the time of SMART-1 impact


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This image, produced with the ESA MAPS mapping tool (based on data from the US Clementine lunar image), provides an albedo map of the Lake of Excellence of the Moon. The last orbits of ESA’s SMART-1 mission, and the possible locations of impact - planned for 3 September 2006 - are indicated.
If impacting on 3 Sept at 07:41 CEST, SMART-1 will touch the Moon at the lunar coordinates 36.44º South and 46.25º West. If impacting on 3 September at 02:36 CEST the lunar coordinates will be 36.4º South and 43.5º West.

One degree of latitude corresponds to 30 kilometres on the Moon, and one arc-second from Earth subtends 1.8 kilometres on the Moon centre.

Credits: ESA/ US Clementine Project, BMDO, NRL, LLNL


25 August 2006
What exactly determines the time of the SMART-1 impact? What causes the uncertainty in the impact time?

The SMART-1 spacecraft is currently expected to impact the Moon's surface on 3 September 2006, at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT). However, it is also possible that the small satellite hits the Moon on the previous orbit at 02:37 CEST (00:37 UT). Why?
The time of impact has been determined by orbit predictions following the major thruster manoeuvres performed from 23 June to 2 July 2006 (plus a few trajectory correction manoeuvres performed on 27 and 28 July 2006) – aimed at changing the impact site from the lunar far-side to the lunar near-side, taking into account the Sun-Earth-Moon gravity perturbations. These make the SMART-1 orbit perilune (point of closest approach to the lunar surface) naturally drift down about one kilometre per orbit.

In determining the impact orbit, ESA's spacecraft control experts are also taking into account the tiny perturbations to the trajectory induced by the small hydrazine thrusters to offload the spacecraft reaction wheels, and some slight additional gravity perturbations. An additional slot is also available for a corrective manoeuvre on 1 and 2 September 2006 if needed, to maintain the impact time as planned and allow ground based observations.

There remains, however, an uncertainty on the time of impact, because the lunar topography is still not completely known. The best lunar topographic maps currently available are based on data from the US Clementine mission in 1994. The laser altimeter experiment (LIDAR) on board provided the spacecraft altitude over a grid of roughly every kilometre. The values in between have been interpolated by the SMART-1 experts, assuming that there are no unknown peaks in those areas.

However, there is still a chance that an unknown peak is just in SMART-1's way as the spacecraft spirals down to the surface. This means that, if encountering terrain about one kilometre high, SMART-1 may hit ground at 02:37 CEST (00:37 UT), at which time the spacecraft will be flying at about 800 metres altitude. This would result in an impact one orbit earlier than the estimated 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT) impact on 3 September. For the same reason, there is even a possibility that impact could happen on 2 September, at 21:33 CEST (19:33 UT).

So, for SMART-1, the last lunar approach orbits will be rather like low-altitude flying with incomplete terrain maps. Results from SMART-1 and the next fleet of lunar orbiters may help to improve maps for future lunar exploration.


Impact visibility for ground observers

"Dependent on the impact times, different parts of the world will have the best seats for the final impact show , some seats in sunlight and others at night", says Bernard Foing, ESA SMART-1 Project Scientist.

user posted image
This image provides views of Earth from the Moon during the current nominal time of SMART-1 impact on 3 September at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT).

Credits: J.Walker/Home Planet


If the impact occurs nominally on 3 September 2006 at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT), observers from North and South America and the East Pacific will be able to see the impact or 'listen' to it through radio telescopes during night time, with best views from America's East coasts as well as from Hawaii and the East Pacific.

user posted image
This image provides views of Earth from the Moon on 3 September at 02:37 CEST (00:37 UT), a possible time for ESA’s SMART-1 impact.

Credits: J.Walker/Home Planet


If the probe impacts on 3 September at 02:36 CEST (00:36 UT), the impact will be easily visible from South America, Canary Islands (Spain) and the US East coast, and from radio observatories from the US in daylight.

user posted image
This image provides views of Earth from the Moon on 2 September at 21:33 CEST (19:33 UT), a possible time for ESA’s SMART-1 impact.

Credits: J.Walker/Home Planet


Should the impact occur on 2 September 2006 at 21:33 CEST (19:33 UT), two orbits before the nominal one, then Africa and South Europe would have a clear view just after sunset. Radio observatories from South America can listen to SMART-1's final signal in daylight.

For more information on the ground observations follow this link to find more information about SMART-1 impact site observations.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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SMART-1 ‘star tracker’ peeks at the approaching lunar surface


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This image of the lunar surface was taken on 23 August at 12:42 CEST (10:42 UT), by the star tracker (attitude camera) on board ESA’s SMART-1, from a distance of 165 kilometres above the Moon surface. SMART-1 was travelling at a speed of 1.93 kilometres per second.
The two craters visible on the image are 'satellite' craters to the Neumayer crater. Satellite craters are identified by the name of their parent crater and an additional letter. On the star tracker image the crater with the sharp rim is called Neumayer M (located at a latitude of 71.6° South, and a longitude of 78.5° East) and the one with the smooth rim is called Neumayer N (at a latitude of 70.4° South, and a longitude of 78.7° East).

The image is slightly smeared as the spacecraft is moving at high speed and at low altitude. This image was taken as a test, which means the spacecraft pointing was not optimised for taking images with the star tracker.

Credits: ESA


29 August 2006
While ESA's SMART-1 mission is running on its last orbits around the Moon before its planned lunar impact on 3 September 2006, the spacecraft 'star tracker' – or attitude camera - is taking exciting pictures of the ever approaching surface.

One week before the end of the SMART-1 mission, the SMART-1 Mission Control Team at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Germany are working together with the Danish Technical University (DTU), manufacturer of the star tracker, to demonstrate that this attitude camera is not only capable of determining the spacecraft attitude by looking at the stars, but can also be used for exciting peeks at the Moon. The DTU star tracker is a light-weight instrument, weighing only 3.2 kilogrammes including the baffles, and operates highly autonomously.
With only a few days to go, the flight control team is taking advantage of the star tracker being blinded by the moonlight to fuel the imagination and take images at close distance.

The first image was taken on 23 August at 12:42 CEST (10:42 UT), from 165 kilometres above the Moon surface, while SMART-1 was travelling at a speed of 1.93 kilometres per second. The two craters visible on the image are 'satellite' craters to the Neumayer crater. Satellite craters are identified by the name of their parent crater and an additional letter.

On the star tracker image the crater with the sharp rim is called Neumayer M (located at a latitude of 71.6° South, and a longitude of 78.5° East) and the one with the smooth rim is called Neumayer N (at a latitude of 70.4° South, and a longitude of 78.7° East). The image is slightly smeared as the spacecraft is moving at high speed and at low altitude. This image was taken as a test, which means the spacecraft pointing was not optimised for taking images with the star tracker.

user posted image
This image of the lunar surface was taken on 25 August at 10:08 CEST (08:15 UT) by the star tracker (attitude camera) on board ESA’s SMART-1, from a distance of 59 km above the Moon surface. The spacecraft was travelling at a speed of 2 kilometres per second.
The image is slightly smeared as the spacecraft is moving at high speed and at low altitude. This image was taken as a test, meaning that the spacecraft pointing was not optimised for star tracker imaging. The Moon features on the photo still have to be identified.

Credits: ESA


Additional test images were taken by the star tracker on 25 August, from 165 and 59 kilometres altitude, respectively. The first image was taken while the spacecraft was moving at a speed of 2 kilometres per second, while the second image was taken when SMART-1 was travelling at 1.6 kilometres per second.

user posted image
This image of the lunar surface was taken on 25 August 2006 at 15:48 CEST (13:48 UT) by the star tracker (attitude camera) on board ESA's SMART-1, from a distance of 744 km above the Moon surface. The spacecraft was travelling at a speed of 1.6 kilometres per second.
Remarkably, at the time the image was taken the star tracker was still producing valid attitude samples based on the few stars that are visible in the image. This image was taken as a test, meaning that the spacecraft pointing was not optimised for star tracker imaging. The Moon features on the photo still have to be identified.

Credits: ESA


On Tuesday 29 August the spacecraft is in a favourable position to take the most exciting images so far. At that time the star tracker will have both the Earth and the Moon in its field of view, with the Earth about to disappear on the Moon's horizon.

To calibrate the star tracker and to ensure safe star tracker operation, the Flight Control Team at ESOC have taken test images with new star tracker settings provided by DTU. The resulting images already show a breath-taking view of the Moon.


"The star tracker provided its first images of the Milky Way a few days after SMART-1 was 'born' in space", says SMART-1 Project scientist Bernard Foing, "and it is also witnessing the last moments from the vehicle as if we were on board."


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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SMART-1 maps its own impact site


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SMART-1 impact site.

Credits: ESA/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)


31 August 2006
This mosaic of images, obtained by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft, shows the SMART-1 landing site on the Moon.

AMIE obtained this sequence on 19 August 2006 from the relatively high distance of 1200 kilometres from the surface (far from the SMART-1 perilune, or point of closer approach), with a ground resolution of about 120 metres per pixel. The imaged area, located at mid-southern latitudes on the lunar near-side, belongs to the so-called 'Lake of Excellence'.
To take these images, SMART-1 had to be tilted by 20 degrees in order to obtain a large ground coverage and an image mosaic of several views, each covering an area about 60 kilometres per side.

SMART-1 will be flying from North to South, and it will impact the surface 46 seconds, or about 90 kilometres, before reaching its nominal perilune (situated South of the impact location). This is due to the last orbit and the topography of the impact area. According to calculations based on the available maps and topography, impact would take place at a descending angle of one degree on a relatively flat surface.

SMART-1's impact is currently expected on 3 September 2006 at 07:41 CEST (05:41:51 UT), in the point located at 46.2º West longitude and 33.3º South latitude.

At 02:37 CEST (00:37 UT), one orbit earlier, the spacecraft should be just flying at its perilune. By that time, it will be over crater Clausius (25 kilometres diameter and 2.5 kilometres depth), at about 800 metres above the Lake of Excellence volcanic plain. As observed from these SMART-1 images, the rim of crater Clausius (bottom right of the image) is quite low and eroded, and should possibly be below SMART-1 last perilune.

"If SMART-1 passes safely the rim of crater Clausius, the probe will go for its last lunar orbital tour until its foretold death," said Bernard Foing, ESA SMART-1 Project Scientist.

Crater Clausius is named after Rudolf Clausius (1822-188), German physicist and mathematician, a founder of thermodynamics.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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SMART-1 to Crash the Moon

A European spaceship is about to crash into the Moon. Amateur astronomers may be able to observe the impact.


Amateur astronomers, grab your telescopes. A spaceship is about to crash into the Moon, and you may be able to see the impact.

The spacecraft: SMART-1, a lunar orbiter belonging to the European Space Agency (ESA).


The impact site: Lacus Excellentiae (The Lake of Excellence), an ancient, 100-mile wide crater in the Moon's southern hemisphere.

The time to watch: Saturday, September 2nd at 10:41 p.m. PDT (Sept. 3rd, 0541 UT).

user posted image
Above: The SMART-1 impact site. Image courtesy: ESA. [More]


Why is SMART-1 crashing? There's nothing wrong with the spacecraft, which is wrapping up a successful 3-year mission to the Moon. SMART-1's main job was to test a European-built ion engine. It worked beautifully, propelling the craft in 2003 on a unique spiral path from Earth to the Moon. From lunar orbit, SMART-1 took thousands of high-resolution pictures and made mineral maps of the Moon's terrain. One of its most important discoveries was a "Peak of Eternal Light," a mountaintop near the Moon's north pole in constant, year-round sunlight. Peaks of Eternal Light are prime real estate for solar-powered Moon bases.

But now SMART-1 is running low on fuel. It has to come down sometime--and soon--so ESA mission scientists decided to crash it in a place where the crash can be seen from Earth and studied.

When SMART-1 hits the ground, it will explode in a flash of light. This won't be the sort of explosion we'd see on Earth. The Moon has no oxygen to support fire or combustion. Instead, the flash will be caused by rocks and soil made so hot by the impact that they suddenly glow.

The area will be in complete darkness at the moment of impact, so much the better to see the flash. How bright will it be? No one knows. Estimates range from 7th to 15th magnitude. In other words, it might be bright enough for backyard telescopes--or so dim that even big professional observatories won't see a thing. The only way to find out is to look. Observing tips may be found here (ALPO) and here (ESA).

"We'll be watching," says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "Measuring the brightness of SMART-1's impact is important to our research."

His group at the Marshall Space Flight Center has spent the last year watching things hit the Moon--not spacecraft, but meteoroids. "The Moon is under constant bombardment from meteoroids," says Cooke. "They hit the ground and explode just like SMART-1 will do." The Moon actually sparkles, slowly and faintly, as one space rock after another hits the ground.

user posted image
Above: Possible SMART-1 impact times and coordinates. Image courtesy: ESA.[More]


Cooke's group has a knack for this kind of work: Using only two small telescopes, they've spotted eight meteoroid impacts this year, almost doubling the number of confirmed sightings in all of the history of astronomy before 2006. Cooke attributes their success to improvements in digital video cameras, which they use to record the brief flashes.

Lunar impacts interest NASA greatly. Astronauts are going back to the Moon and "we need to know what kind of danger meteoroids pose to both people and Moon bases," explains Cooke. How often do they hit? And what kind of damage do they do?

Think of SMART-1 as a controlled, man-made meteoroid impact, he says. "We know exactly how much kinetic energy SMART-1 packs. And, if all goes well, we're going to see how bright a flash it makes. This will help us interpret our meteoroid data."

When SMART-1 hits, it won't plunge straight into the ground. "The spacecraft will enter Lacus Excellentiae at a shallow angle, only a few degrees from horizontal," notes Cooke. For this reason, it will gouge a long, narrow crater, about a meter wide and many meters long. The grazing impact should kick up a plume of debris--no one knows how high. If it rises high enough, the plume might catch some sunlight and become visible to telescopes on Earth. The chances of this, however, are slim. The main event is the flash of heat and light at the "point" of impact.

Another side-effect of the shallow approach is uncertainty about when, exactly, SMART-1 will strike. The spacecraft is due to glide low over the floor of Lacus Excellentiae several times on Sept. 3rd. Mission controllers believe it will hit on orbit number 2890 at 0541 UT. But it could equally well hit one orbit earlier or one orbit later. Possibilities are summarized in the table, above. The nominal impact time favors observers in western parts of North America and across the Pacific Ocean. Depending on when SMART-1 hits, however, almost anyone could catch the flash.

Visit the SMART-1 home page for updates and more information.

Feature Author: Dr. Tony Phillips
Feature Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips
Feature Production Credit: Science@NASA


Source: NASA - Exploring the Universe - Watch the Skies

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Amateur observers prepare to watch SMART-1 impact


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This image shows a lunar phase very similar to that expected to be seen at the time of SMART-1 impact. The impact site is situated in the dark area at the bottom left of the picture (North is up, East is left).
To obtain this image, a 7-inch Starfire refractor telescope with 1650-mm focal length, was used, with a Canon EOS 300D camera (1/20 s exposure time, 100 ASA).

Credits: Christian Bauer (Sternwarte Stuttgart) and Silvia Kowollik


2 September 2006
Preparing to watch the impact by ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft, amateur astronomers worldwide are keeping a close eye on the Moon in an observation campaign coordinated with SMART-1 scientists.

At the beginning of July this year, the lunar phase was similar to the one that observers on Earth will see at the expected time SMART-1's impact, now expected on 3 September 2006 at 07:42 CEST. As a result, during the month of July, several amateur astronomers started imaging the impact site.
The Moon as seen in these images shows a slightly earlier phase than on 3 September, when it will be a bit more illuminated, but when the impact site will still be in the dark.

user posted image
The lunar impact of ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft is expected to occur in the Lake of Excellence, an area just south of Mare Humorum, at around 34º South and 46 º West. This area is a cratered highland terrain, as shown in this other image taken on 8 July 2006 at 23:17 CEST.

Credits: Silvia Kowollik


The first image, taken by German amateur astronomers Christian Bauer and Silvia Kowollik, shows a lunar phase very similar to that visible at the expected time of the SMART-1 impact. The impact site is situated in the dark area at the bottom left of the picture (North is up, East is left).

The impact is expected to occur in the Lake of Excellence, an area just south of Mare Humorum, at 34.2º South and 46.2º West. This area is a cratered highland terrain, as shown in this other image taken by Silvia Kowollik on 8 July 2006 at 23:17 CEST.

user posted image
The impact site of SMART-1 was imaged by Austrian amateur astronomer Franz Klauser on 8 July 2006, using an 8-cm refractor telescope and a webcam. The arrow indicates the expected impact location on 3 September 2006.

Credits: Franz Klauser


The impact site of SMART-1 was also imaged by Austrian amateur astronomer Franz Klauser. The arrow indicates the expected impact site.

Other groups have been using spectrometers to observe the impact site and some of the targets observed by SMART-1.

Spectral data obtained in the visible and infrared can give information on the mineral composition and weathering of the surface.

user posted image
German amateur astronomer Silvia Kowollik was trying to observe the Moon and the SMART-1 impact site in July 2006. The observation had to be postponed due to... bad weather!

Credits: Silvia Kowollik


“It is great to share the SMART-1 adventure with amateur observers,” says Bernard Foing SMART-1 Project Scientist. “Actually, once you have navigated with your eyes and telescopes over the lunar landscape that SMART-1 has also over flown, you just would like to be there and explore.”

"The SMART-1 amateur observation campaign is a good opportunity to rediscover the Moon from our backyard and to make it accessible to everybody," added Detlef Koschny, ESA planetary scientist and coordinator of the amateur campaign.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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Intense final hours for SMART-1


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This mosaic of images, obtained by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft, shows the SMART-1 landing site on the Moon, with a new indication of the impact time as calculated after the last orbit correction manoeuvre on 1 September 2006.
AMIE obtained the image sequence on 19 August 2006 from the relatively high distance of 1200 kilometres from the surface (far from the SMART-1 perilune, or point of closer approach), with a ground resolution of about 120 metres per pixel. The imaged area, located at mid-southern latitudes on the lunar near-side, belongs to the so-called 'Lake of Excellence'.

To take these images, SMART-1 had to be tilted by 20 degrees in order to obtain a large ground coverage and an image mosaic of several views, each covering an area about 60 kilometres per side.

SMART-1's impact is now expected on 3 September 2006 at 07:42 CEST (05:42 UT), at 46.2º West longitude and 34.2º South latitude, but it could take place one orbit earlier, at 02:38 CEST (00:38 UT), if an unknown peak is in SMART-1's way.

Credits: ESA/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)


2 September 2006
The final days of SMART-1's spectacularly successful mission have seen intense activity including a successful recovery from safe mode as mission controllers manoeuvre the craft into a planned Moon crash landing, newly estimated for 07:42 CEST Sunday, 3 September.

A tense, 6-hour recovery from an unexpected safe mode activation, one of the quickest in recent ESA spacecraft operations memory, allowed manoeuvres to proceed nominally during the night of 1-2 September aimed at avoiding a premature Moon impact.
Earlier this week, and based on estimates including local area topography, impact was due to occur during orbit 2890, on 3 September, 2006, at 07:41 CEST (05:41:51 UT), at a spot located at mid-southern latitudes on the lunar near-side. This region belongs to the so-called 'Lake of Excellence'.

Of the possible impact times and locations, this spot was chosen to favour the ground observation campaign and optimise potential science returns.

However, the latest estimates of the elevation of the surrounding Moon terrain indicated that, in the absence of any further manoeuvres, impact would very likely occur one orbit earlier, at 02:38 CEST (00:38 UT) during orbit 2889, with SMART-1 possibly clipping the rim of a medium-sized crater, Clausius a crater jutting some 1600 metres up and located at 43.5º West and 36.5º South.

Refined elevation estimates hint at too-early impact

The refined estimates came earlier last week from scientists working at the UK's Nottingham University and specialising in 3D digital image interpretation.

Stereo image analysis combined with current topographical models of the Moon, as well as information obtained from AMIE photos taken of the potential impact area in mid-summer and on 19 August, indicated a high probability that there could be an additional 200-400 metres of landscape elevation intersecting orbit 2889.

This conclusion was supported by additional data analysis provided by the USGS (United States Geological Survey).


As a result, during the night of 1-2 September, mission controllers conducted manoeuvres using the spacecraft's thrusters aiming to boost the height of perilune of the penultimate orbit, while maintaining the intended (nominal) impact time and location.

The manoeuvres successfully achieved this aim, boosting perilune by 592 metres, with the result that the new impact time is now estimated to be 07:42 CEST (05:42 UT), 1 minute later then previous, and at 46.2º West and 34.2º South.

"While impact may still occur earlier due to uncertainty in terrain elevations, the possibility of this happening has been reduced as much as possible based on the information we now have," said Bernard Foing, SMART-1 Project Scientist.


ESOC mission controllers perform ‘super quick’ recovery

To complicate matters, at 15:09 CEST on 1 September, and with the planned manoeuvre activity pending, SMART-1 unexpectedly placed itself into 'safe mode', a standard recovery and diagnostic status in which most spacecraft functions and payload operations are suspended.

Safe mode is usually caused by a key parameter running out of expected range, or by a memory or CPU problem in an on board computer, and it allows controllers to investigate the problem, upload corrective commands and restart normal operations. The switch to safe mode occurred just after the star trackers had recorded and stored routine images and after a download of other stored data.

user posted image
This image of the lunar surface was taken on 25 August 2006 at 15:48 CEST (13:48 UT) by the star tracker (attitude camera) on board ESA's SMART-1, from a distance of 744 km above the Moon surface. The spacecraft was travelling at a speed of 1.6 kilometres per second.
Remarkably, at the time the image was taken the star tracker was still producing valid attitude samples based on the few stars that are visible in the image. This image was taken as a test, meaning that the spacecraft pointing was not optimised for star tracker imaging. The Moon features on the photo still have to be identified.

Credits: ESA


After six tension-filled hours during which controllers working in the Main Control Room at ESOC, ESA’s Spacecraft Operations Centre, implemented a contingency recovery, Spacecraft Operations Manager Octavio Camino happily reported full recovery at 19:15 CEST.

SMART-1 flight control team members nicknamed the successful operation a 'super quick recovery' in view of the requirement to finish in time for the thruster manoeuvres.

"We believe that safe mode was caused by an overload being put on the spacecraft in the last orbits. We resumed payload operations at 20:30 CEST, 1 September," said Camino. He added: "The spacecraft is back in business and the manoeuvre will take place as planned."


Pre-impact activities on 2 September

Mission staff, scientists and principal investigators are meeting at ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany, 2-3 September, to receive, analyse and interpret final data transmitted from SMART-1.

The extended team is also keen to be close to the centre of mission control activities as their spacecraft's mission reaches a successful conclusion.

During the evening of Saturday, 2 September, mission scientists expect to receive the last data stored on board, which will be among the final science returns delivered by ESA's first Moon mission.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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Intense final hours for SMART-1


Click here for HI-RES WMV (Size: 1 730 kb)
Animation sequence captured from SMART-1 star tracker on 1 September 2006, just prior to impact on the Moon, 600 km above the Moon's surface.

Credits: ESA


2 September 2006
An impressive sequence of Moon images in earthshine was taken by one of SMART-1's star trackers, or attitude cameras, on 1 September 2006. The images are presented as they were acquired, without additional processing.

In the final phases before impact, and as a nice add-on to the mission outcome so far, SMART-1 scientists and the flight control team took the opportunity to test a fast-tracking imaging mode with the star tracker, normally used to orient the spacecraft in space, and take an additional look at the Moon while the spacecraft is getting steadily closer.
The images show a beautiful dark Moon illuminated only by light coming from Earth. SMART-1's star tracker gathered this sequence over a few seconds between 14:15 and 15:06 CEST (12:15 to 13:06 UT) on 1 September, during a slew (rotation) manoeuvre aimed at starting the next imaging session with the AMIE camera on board the spacecraft.

user posted image
Screen shot taken from SMART-1 star tracker animation sequence, taken 1 September 2006, 600 km above the Moon's surface.

Credits: ESA


The constellations visible at the beginning of the sequence (when the star tracker started taking images) are Corona Australis and Sagittarius.

Then, the Sun-illuminated Moon appears in the field of view. Later, as the spacecraft continues its slew, the Moon's disk - illuminated by only earthshine - starts to appear in full beauty (see screenshot at left).

The dark highland areas correspond to flat mare basalts, about 3000 million years old. The bright spots on the surface correspond to relatively young craters showing fresh material brought to the surface by lunar impacts.

user posted image
Screen shot showing a remarkable impact crater (bright circle at top right) and the elongated shapes of ejected material extending radially outward. Animation sequence captured from SMAERT-1 star tracker on 1 September 2006, 600 km above the Moon's surface.

Credits: ESA


Approximately half-way through the sequence, it is possible to see a remarkable feature: an impact crater (a bright circle at top right) and the elongated shapes of ejected material extending radially outward.

At the end of the sequence, it is possible to see highland reliefs in an oblique view.

When taking these images, SMART-1 was flying at about 600 kilometres above the lunar surface.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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Impact landing ends SMART-1 mission to the Moon


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This artist's impression shows the trajectory of ESA SMART-1 spacecraft in the final phase of its mission, due to end through a small impact on the lunar surface.
After two weeks of manoeuvres started on 19 June and concluded on 2 July 2006, the impact is now set to occur on the near side and most probably at 05:41 UT (07:41 CEST) on 3 September 2006.

Credits: ESA - C.Carreau


3 September 2006
ESA PR 31-2006. Early this morning, a small flash illuminated the surface of the Moon as the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 spacecraft impacted onto the lunar soil, in the ‘Lake of Excellence’ region. The planned impact concluded a successful mission that, in addition to testing innovative space technology, had been conducting a thorough scientific exploration of the Moon for about a year and a half.

SMART-1 scientists, engineers and space operations experts witnessed the final moments of the spacecraft’s life in the night between Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany. The confirmation of the impact reached ESOC at 07:42:22 CEST (05:42:22 UT), when ESA’s New Norcia ground station in Australia suddenly lost radio contact with the spacecraft. SMART-1 ended its journey in the Lake of Excellence, in the point situated at 34.4º South latitude and 46.2º West longitude.

The SMART-1 impact took place on the near side of the Moon, in a dark area just near the terminator (the line separating the day side from the night side), at a "grazing" angle between 5 and 10 degrees and a speed of about 2 kilometres per second. The impact time and location was planned to favour observations of the impact event from telescopes on Earth, and it was achieved by a series of orbit manoeuvres and corrections performed during the course of summer 2006, the last of which was done on 1 September.
Professional and amateur ground observers all around the world – from South Africa to the Canary Islands, South America, the continental United States, Hawaii, and many other locations – were watching before and during the small SMART-1 impact, hoping to spot the faint impact flash and to obtain information about the impact dynamics and about the lunar surface excavated by the spacecraft. The quality of the data and images gathered from the ground observatories – a tribute to the end of the SMART-1 mission and a possible additional contribution to lunar science - will be assessed in the days to come.

For the last 16 months and until its final orbits, SMART-1 has been studying the Moon, gathering data about the morphology and mineralogical composition of the surface in visible, infrared and X-ray light.

“The legacy left by the huge wealth of SMART-1 data, to be analysed in the months and years to come, is a precious contribution to lunar science at a time when the exploration of the Moon is once again getting the world’s interest” said Bernard Foing, ESA SMART-1 Project Scientist. “The measurements by SMART-1 call into question the theories concerning the Moon’s violent origin and evolution,” he added. The Moon may have formed from the impact of a Mars-size asteroid with the Earth 4500 million years ago. “SMART-1 has mapped large and small impact craters, studied the volcanic and tectonic processes that shaped the Moon, unveiled the mysterious poles, and investigated sites for future exploration,” Foing concluded.

“ESA’s decision to extend the SMART-1 scientific mission by a further year ( it was initially planned to last only six months around the Moon) allowed the instrument scientists to extensively use a number of innovative observing modes at the Moon,” added Gerhard Schwehm, ESA’s SMART-1 Mission Manager. In addition to plain nadir observations (looking down on the ‘vertical’ line for lunar surveys), they included targeted observations, moon-spot pointing and ‘push-broom’ observations (a technique SMART-1 used to obtain colour images). “This was tough work for the mission planners, but the lunar data archive we are now building is truly impressive.”

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Electrons attracted into the discharge chamber collide with xenon atoms from the propellant gas supply, making charged atoms (ions). Current-carrying coils, inside and outside the doughnut-shaped discharge chamber, sustain a magnetic field oriented like the spokes of a wheel. By the Hall effect, ions and electrons swerving in opposite directions in the magnetic field create an electric field. This expels the xenon ions in a propulsive jet. Other emitted electrons then neutralize the xenon, producing the blue jet.

Credits: ESA 2002. Illustration by Medialab.


“SMART-1 has been an enormous success also from a technological point of view,” said Giuseppe Racca, ESA SMART-1 Project Manager. The major goal of the mission was to test an ion engine (solar electric propulsion) in space for the first time for interplanetary travel, and capture a spacecraft into orbit around another celestial body, in combination with gravity assist manoeuvres.

SMART-1 also tested future deep-space communication techniques for spacecraft, techniques to achieve autonomous spacecraft navigation, and miniaturised scientific instruments, used for the first time around the Moon. “It is a great satisfaction to see how well the mission achieved its technological objectives, and did great lunar science at the same time,” Racca concluded.

“Operating SMART-1 has been an extremely complex but rewarding task,” said Octavio Camino-Ramos, ESA SMART-1 Spacecraft Operations Manager. “The long spiralling trajectory around Earth to test solar electric propulsion (a low-thrust approach), the long exposure to radiation, the strong perturbations of the gravity fields of the Earth-Moon system and then the reaching of a lunar orbit optimised for the scientific investigations, have allowed us to gain valuable expertise in navigation techniques for low-thrust propulsion and innovative operations concepts: telemetry distribution and alerting through the internet, and a high degree of ground operations automation - a remarkable benchmark for the future,” he explained.

“For ESA’s Science Programme, SMART-1 represents a great success and a very good return on investment, both from the technological and the scientific point of view,” said Professor Southwood, ESA’s Director of Science. “It seems that right now everyone in the world is planning on going to the Moon. Future scientific missions will greatly benefit from the technological and operational experience gained thanks to this small spacecraft, while the set of scientific data gathered by SMART-1 is already helping to update our current picture of the Moon.”

Note:

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The European Space Agency’s SMART-1 was one of three payloads on Ariane Flight 162. The generic Ariane-5 lifted off from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe’s spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, at 2014 hrs local time (2314 hrs GMT) on 27 September (01:14 Central European Summer time on 28 September).

Credits: ESA/CNES/Arianespace - Service optique CSG.


SMART-1, (Small Mission for Advanced Research and Technology) is the first European mission to the Moon. It was launched on 27 September 2003 on board an Ariane 5 rocket, from the CSG, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana and reached its destination in November 2004 after following a long spiralling trajectory around Earth.

In this phase, the spacecraft successfully tested for the first time in space the series of advanced technologies it carried on board. The technology demonstration part of the mission was declared successfully concluded when SMART-1 reached the Moon and was captured by the lunar gravity field in mid-November 2004.

SMART-1 started its scientific observations of the Moon in March 2005, running on an elliptical polar orbit that ranged from about 500 to 3000 kilometres over the lunar surface. The instruments on board included a miniaturised imaging camera (AMIE), an X-ray telescope (D-CIXS) to identify the key chemical elements in the lunar surface, an infrared spectrometer (SIR) to chart the Moon’s minerals and an X-ray solar monitor (XSM) to complement the D-CIXS measurements and study the solar variability.

SMART-1 was a small unmanned satellite weighing 366 kilograms and roughly fitting into a cube just 1 metre across, excluding its 14-metre solar panels. It was manufactured by the Swedish Space Corporation, Solna (Sweden), leading a consortium of more than 20 European industrial teams.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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SMART-1 impacts Moon


3 September 2006
At 07:42:22 CEST (05:42:22 UT) today, the SMART-1 spacecraft impacted the Moon's surface as planned, ending ESA's first solar-powered mission to another celestial body and Europe's first mission to the Moon. ESA estimates that impact occurred at 46.2º West, 34.4º South.

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Annotated strip of the lunar near side including SMART-1 impact site

The mosaic above is composed of a set of images obtained by the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 on 19 August 2006, some two weeks before today's impact. It includes the SMART-1 impact site, and thus shows the satellite's intended landing zone as seen from the satellite itself.
The impact region lies about two-thirds down, directly above the small gap in the mosaic, just south-east of the small crater Palmieri A in the direction of crater Doppelmayer W. A close-up of this region with the nominal impact point indicated is available by clicking on the image.

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The images below were captured by the AMIE camera in the past few days and represent some of the final image data gathered by the SMART-1 mission. They are provided here as recently received, and will be updated shortly with captions and additional information.

Links to download the currently available images are provided below.


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SMART-1 AMIE camera - final week images 27-08-2006


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SMART-1 AMIE camera - final week images 27-08-2006


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SMART-1 AMIE camera - final week images 27-08-2006


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SMART-1 AMIE camera - final week images 27-08-2006


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SMART-1 AMIE camera - final week images 27-08-2006

Source: ESA - Smart-1 Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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SMART-1 impact update


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This oblique view of the lunar surface was taken on 2 September 2006 by the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 during the last few orbits prior to Moon impact, and provides a good view of the Moon's horizon.
This view was captured during the imaging session which took place bewteen 15:19 and 17:34 CEST (17:19 - 19:34 UT).

Credits: ESA/SPACE-X (Space Exploration Institute)


3 September 2006
Scientists have received and are analysing the final data gathered by SMART-1 on 2 September, prior to today's Moon impact. This update presents several of the images received, as well as additional images and information from the worldwide ground observation campaign.

The seven AMIE images included in this update article were taken on 2 September by the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 during the last few orbits prior to Moon impact. They were taken between 15:19 - 17:34 CEST (17:19 - 19:34 UT) and were analysed by camera scientists during the night of 2-3 September.

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This oblique view of the lunar surface was taken on 2 September 2006 by the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 during the last few orbits prior to Moon impact.
This view was captured during the imaging session which took place bewteen 15:19 and 17:34 CEST (17:19 - 19:34 UT).

Credits: ESA/SPACE-X (Space Exploration Institute)


The images include both oblique and nadir (vertical) views, with the camera pointing mode having been selected to best exploit the illumination conditions during the final orbits over the Moon's night side.
In several of the images, the Moon's horizon can clearly been seen; excellent details of the surface are also visible.


Ground observation campaign

An impressive sequence of impact images was captured by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), a 3.6-meter optical/infrared telescope located atop the summit of Mauna Kea, a 4200-meter volcano on Hawaii's Big Island (see before, during, after image sequence below).

The CFHT observed the projected impact area between 07:00 - 08:44 CEST (05:00 06:44 UT), and astronomers were rewarded with a beautiful image of that indicates a very short impact flash, possibly lasting less than a second. While still to be confirmed, a preliminary assessment indicates the impact flash was possibly caused by thermal emission from the impact itself or by the release of spacecraft volatiles, such as the small amount of hydrazine fuel remaining on board.

"It was exciting to see the impact flash live from Hawaii, just after receiving, at ESOC, the last radio signal from SMART-1," said Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund, from Leiden University, Impact Ground Campaign Coordinator.

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This impressive sequence of SMART-1 impact images was captured by the 3.6-meter optical/infrared Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), Hawaii, 3 September 2006.
The CFHT observed the projected impact area between 07:00 - 08:44 CEST (05:00 06:44 UT). The impact flash lasted only about 1 millisecond. It may have been caused by the thermal emission from the impact itself or by the release of spacecraft volatiles, such as the small amount of hydrazine fuel remaining on board.

The separate images can be downloaded here:

Before impact | SMART-1 impact flash | After impact

Credits: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation



Many other observatories, including both professional and amateurs sky watchers, also participated in ground observation activities.
"We look forward to collecting worldwide reports from this impact. We call upon the community to search for the ejecta blankets and for future lunar orbiters to search for the SMART-1 crater," says Bernard H. Foing, ESA's SMART-1 Project Scientist. Their updates will be published on the ESA portal as they are received in the coming days.


Radio telescope observations

SMART-1 was also observed by a network of five cooperating radio telescopes over several months leading up to Moon impact. The observatories' activities are coordinated by the Joint Institute for Very Long Baseline Interferometry (JIVE), hosted by ASTRON (the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy), Dwingeloo, The Netherlands.

The participating observatories are capable of making highly sensitive observations, characterized by very accurate timing and the ability to detect very weak radio signals.

Starting in the spring of 2006, the cooperating telescopes observed radio signals emitted by SMART-1 and reflected from the Moon as part of a programme to test and validate the very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) technique. VLBI allows ground-based telescopes to track spacecraft with very high accuracy, and furthermore has applications in radio astronomy, including the testing of radio wave propagation in the vicinity of massive bodies like the Moon and the study of the Moon's surface physical properties.

In working with SMART-1, the radio telescopes applied the same techniques used by ground telescopes to track the descent of ESA's Huygens probe to the surface of Saturn's moon Titan in January 2005. This technique is also expected to be used in tracking China's Chang'e-series of Moon missions, to be launched starting in 2007.

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This oblique view of the lunar surface was taken on 2 September 2006 by the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 during the last few orbits prior to Moon impact.
The view was captured during the imaging session which took place bewteen 15:19 and 17:34 CEST (17:19 - 19:34 UT).

Credits: ESA/SPACE-X (Space Exploration Institute)


Summary:

These and other SMART-1 data will be analysed by the science teams in the coming days and the ESA Portal plans to publish results as soon as they are available.

Note:

The five radio telescopes involved in the SMART-1 observations and coordinated by the Joint Institute for VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) in Europe (JIVE), are: the Medicina (INAF) 32- metre antenna in Italy, the Fortaleza (ROEN) 14-metre antenna in Brazil, the German-Chilean TIGO (BKG) 6-metre antenna in Chile, the Mount Pleasant Observatory of the University of Australia and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (CSIRO).

The SMART-1 impact observation campaign involved several amateur and professional astronomers all around the world. They include: the South African Large Telescope (SALT), the Calar Alto observatory in Andalucia, Spain, the ESA Optical Ground Station (OGS) at Tenerife, Spain, the TNG telescope in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain, the CEA Cariri observatory in Brazil, the Argentina National Telescope, the Florida Tech Robotic telescopes, US telescopes, NASA IRTF, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, the Japanese Subaru Auxiliary telescopes on Hawaii, and many others.

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This beautiful image of the lunar surface was taken on 2 September 2006 by the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 during the last few orbits prior to Moon impact, and shows a heavily cratered region of the Moon.
This view was captured during the imaging session which took place bewteen 15:19 and 17:34 CEST (17:19 - 19:34 UT).

Credits: ESA/SPACE-X (Space Exploration Institute)


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This oblique view of the lunar surface was taken on 2 September 2006 by the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 during the last few orbits prior to Moon impact, and shows small craters over the lunar surface.
This view was captured during the imaging session which took place bewteen 15:19 and 17:34 CEST (17:19 - 19:34 UT).

Credits: ESA/SPACE-X (Space Exploration Institute)


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This beautiful oblique view was taken on 2 September 2006 by the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 during the last few orbits prior to Moon impact, and shows a double crater.
This view was captured during the imaging session which took place bewteen 15:19 and 17:34 CEST (17:19 - 19:34 UT).

Credits: ESA/SPACE-X (Space Exploration Institute)


user posted image
This oblique view of the lunar surface was taken on 2 September 2006 by the AMIE camera on board SMART-1 during the last few orbits prior to Moon impact, and shows the Moon's horizon.
This view was captured during the imaging session which took place bewteen 15:19 and 17:34 CEST (17:19 - 19:34 UT).
Credits: ESA/SPACE-X (Space Exploration Institute)


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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SMART-1 impact flash and debris: crash scene investigation


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This wide-angle animation is built with images taken by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on the Mauna Kea volcano at Hawaii on 3 September 2006, and shows the flash generated by the SMART-1 impact on the Moon.
The observations were made with the WIRCam wide-field infrared camera, featuring a 10-second exposure time. As the impact was on the South-East of the Moon, the South-East area of the Moon was placed on the North-West corner of the North-West detector. Only a tiny fraction of the whole field really used to look at the impact.

As the telescope tracks the Moon, it is possible to see the stars moving from one exposure to the next, and then disappearing behind the Earthshine-lit Moon crescent. The extreme upper right is saturated by the Sun as the telescope started looking at the illuminated part of the Moon.

In the centre area, ugly reflections coming from the bright Moon through various optics on the way down to the camera are seen. The WIRCam camera was definitely not designed to have such a big and bright light source close by!

It is also possible to see the impact flash popping up on one of the frames in the upper right area. All the images shown here have been extracted form the large images used for this wide-angle animation. Courtesy of CFHT.

Credits: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope / 2006


7 September 2006
Timing, location, detection of a flash and of ejected material, and a firework generated by the lunar impact of ESA's SMART-1, are the latest results gathered thanks to the ground observation campaign of this historical event.

"The successful capture of the SMART-1 impact from Earth raised a substantial interest in the amateur and professional astronomical community. They started to reanalyse the available data, to repeat observations of the impact site and to share the results worldwide as a family", says Pascale Ehrenfreund, coordinator of the SMART-1 impact ground observation campaign.

Where did SMART-1 impact the Moon?

"From the various observations and models, we try to reconstruct the 'movie' of what happened to the spacecraft and to the Moon surface," says ESA SMART-1 Project scientist Bernard Foing. "For this lunar 'Crash Scene Investigation', we need all possible Earth witnesses and observational facts."
The actual SMART-1 impact took place on 3 September 2006 in the course of the spacecraft’s 2890th orbit around the Moon. SMART-1 sent its last signals to Earth at 07:42:21:759 CEST (05:42:21:759 CEST), and the JIVE radio telescope from Hobart, Tasmania, measured a loss of signal a few moments later, at 07:42:22.394 CEST (07:42:22.394 UT).

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This image shows the location of the SMART-1 impact, as estimated by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT).
To determine the location, the CFHT scientists used the position of the flash relative to a pair of reference craters visible as bright areas on the CFHT images, and a map of the Moon as seen from Mauna Kea at the time of the impact using the Moon Virtual Atlas. A simple triangulation allowed to pinpoint the impact area within a couple of kilometres.

The crash site determined from the CFHT observations is actually almost coinciding with the last ESA predictions before the impact. Courtesy of CFHT.

Credits: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope / 2006


These times are remarkably in agreement with the last SMART-1 flight dynamics predictions of 3 September at 05:42:20 CEST (05:42:20 UT), in the location at 46.20º West longitude and 34.4º South latitude.

This is also in agreement with the coordinates newly derived from the position of the infrared impact flash observed by the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope (CFHT).

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This image shows a 3D view of the SMART-1 impact location, as generated by USGS scientist Mark Rosiek.
The blue star indicates the approximate impact site assuming that the coordinate system used to produce the reference Clementine Base Mosaic is correct. The yellow star indicates the approximate impact site using USGS's lunar control network revised with respect to the Clementine Base Mosaic. The distance separating the blue and yellow stars is about 7 kilometres.

In this image North is up.

Credits: USGS/ Mark Rosiek


Extensive data processing is now going on to specify the topography of the impact site.

From a preliminary analysis of the topographic stereo data available and earlier maps built with SMART-1 data, the satellite should have hit the Moon in the ascending slope of a mountain about 1.5 kilometres high, above the Lake of Excellence plain.

What happened? Dust after the flash

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This animation is built with infrared images taken by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) 3 September 2006, and shows the scene of the SMART-1. It is possible to see the impact flash and the dust cloud that followed.
The scene is observed from the exposure just before the impact to about 130 seconds later, corresponding to about ~10 images overall. In order to look at the dust generated by the impact, the scene from before the impact has been substracted from all the images. Each image is a snapshot taken over 10 seconds, with a gap of about 5 seconds in between the different exposures.

No processing to enhance the signal and minimize the background noise has been made on these images. Courtesy of CFHT.

Credits: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope / 2006


To determine what part of the flash comes from the lunar rock heated at impact or from the volatile substances released by the probe, it is important to obtain measurements in several optical and infrared wavelengths, in addition to the CFHT observations (2.12 microns).

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This mosaic was built with infrared images taken by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) 3 September 2006, and shows the flash and the dust cloud that followed the SMART-1 impact. The 15 exposures that make up the mosaic start with the one taken at the time of the flash. Courtesy of CFHT.

Credits: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope / 2006


From a detailed analysis of the CFHT infrared movie of the variations after the flash, a cloud of ejected material or debris travelling some 80 kilometres in about 130 seconds has been detected by observer Christian Veillet, Principal Investigator for the SMART-1 impact observations at CFHT.

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This movie is built with 15 infrared images taken by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) 3 September 2006, and shows the flash and the dust cloud that followed the SMART-1 impact. Courtesy of CFHT.

Credits: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope / 2006


"It seems that some ejecta or debris made it across the mountain. This is good news to search for the ejecta blanket" says Foing." We might also see the 'firework' expansion of gas and debris that has bounced after impact from the spacecraft."

Some SMART-1 campaign amateurs report that they may have observed the optical flash in their own data, and a possible impact afterglow. "We call for observers to search for the crater and ejecta blankets from SMART-1, in particular using visible or infrared imagery, or even to look at spectroscopic anomalies at the impact site," added Foing. "We also call all observers to send us their reports, thanking them for engaging in the SMART-1 adventure".


Note

The five radio telescopes involved in the SMART-1 observations and coordinated by the Joint Institute for VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) in Europe (JIVE), are: the Medicina (INAF) 32- metre antenna in Italy, the Fortaleza (ROEN) 14-metre antenna in Brazil, the German-Chilean TIGO (BKG) 6-metre antenna in Chile, the Mount Pleasant Observatory of the University of Tasmania (Australia) and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (CSIRO).

The SMART-1 impact observation campaign involved a core of participating telescopes, including: the South African Large Telescope (SALT), the Calar Alto observatory in Andalucia, Spain, the ESA Optical Ground Station (OGS) at Tenerife, Spain, the TNG telescope in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain, the CEA Cariri observatory in Brazil, the Argentina National Telescope, the Florida Tech Robotic telescopes at Melbourne FL and Kitt Peak, MSFC lunar meteor robotic telescopes, Houston 1m, Big Bear Solar Observatory, MDM telescopes at Kitt Peak, NASA IRTF, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, the Japanese Subaru Auxiliary telescopes on Hawaii, the ODIN space observatory. We acknowledge also support from Nottingham University, and the USGS.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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SMART-1 impact simulated in a laboratory sand-box


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To simulate the SMART-1 impact, experts at the University of Kent shot a 2-millimitre aluminium sphere (simulating the spacecraft) at the high-speed of 2 kilometres per second using a two-stage light gas gun, at an incidence angle of 2 degrees. The target was a tray of sand, similar to lunar soil.
The test results suggest that the impact may have caused a clearly elongated lunar crater, and produced a high-speed rebounding for the spacecraft. This may explain some of the properties of the clouds detected by the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope (CFHT) up to 100 seconds after the impact flash.

Credits: University of Kent


11 September 2006
Laboratory simulations of the SMART-1 impact performed at the University of Kent, United Kingdom, suggest that the impact may have caused a clearly elongated lunar crater, and produced a high-speed rebounding for the spacecraft.

This may help explain some properties of the dust cloud observed just after the actual impact of SMART-1 on the Moon.
The simulations were performed by M.J. Burchell and M.J.Cole at the University of Kent. For the test, they used a high-speed, two-stage light gas gun to shoot at 2 kilometres per second a 2-millimitre aluminium sphere that simulated the SMART-1 spacecraft. The target was a tray of sand, similar to lunar soil.

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The lunar impact of SMART-1 was simulated by experts at the University of Kent. For the test, they used using a high-speed, two-stage light gas gun (shown in this image) to shoot at 2 kilometres per second a 2-millimitre aluminium sphere that simulated the SMART-1 spacecraft. The target was a tray of sand, similar to lunar soil.

Credits: University of Kent


"We called for such laboratory simulations and numerical modelling of the SMART-1 impact as a crucial test to understand the processes at work in space-bound and artificial impacts," said Bernard Foing, ESA SMART-1 Project Scientist.

Data from a previous project, in which Burchell and Cole made use of coarse grained sand, had shown that for an impact at a 10-degree incidence the fastest ejected material travelled forward (within about plus or minus 5 degree angle with respect to the impact direction) at 120 percent of the impact speed – a higher value than the impacting projectile had.

However, at that 10-degree incidence angle only one percent of the material excavated by the impact went forwards and the percentage decreased as the angle got shallower. Out of that one percent, about 75 percent was at an angle to the surface greater than 10 degrees.

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This movie is built with 15 infrared images taken by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) 3 September 2006, and shows the flash and the dust cloud that followed the SMART-1 impact. Courtesy of CFHT.

Credits: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope / 2006


"To reproduce the SMART-1 scenario we simulated an impact at two degrees incidence. The result was a nice non-circular crater," said Mark Burchell. "According to the test's results, the fine grained dust of the lunar surface was to raise a cloud of ejected material, which would have spread out sideways, as well as in a forward direction."

Based solely on the results and ignoring scaling issues, Burchell and Cole predicted the size for the SMART-1 impact crater, expected to be 7 metres long and 4.5 metres wide. This was compatible with ESA’s scaling-law predictions on the size of the SMART-1 crater.

Burchell and Cole also observed a 'ricochet-projectile' phenomenon, suggesting a bounce like that of a single object that had undergone some deformation, with a slight 20 percent loss of speed during the impact.

user posted image
This animation is built with infrared images taken by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) 3 September 2006, and shows the scene of the SMART-1. It is possible to see the impact flash and the dust cloud that followed.
The scene is observed from the exposure just before the impact to about 130 seconds later, corresponding to about ~10 images overall. In order to look at the dust generated by the impact, the scene from before the impact has been substracted from all the images. Each image is a snapshot taken over 10 seconds, with a gap of about 5 seconds in between the different exposures.

No processing to enhance the signal and minimize the background noise has been made on these images. Courtesy of CFHT.

Credits: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope / 2006


"Based on the latest topography analysis, SMART-1 touched down with a very grazing incidence not higher than a few degrees," said Foing. "Therefore it might have bounced in a similar way to the flying bullet in the sand box, like a stone skipping on water."

"The result of these simulations may explain some of the properties of the clouds detected by the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope (CFHT) up to 100 seconds after the flash," added Pascale Ehrenfreund, coordinator of the SMART-1 impact ground-based observation campaign. "These were spread at some tens of kilometres downstream from impact," she concluded.


Source: ESA - Smart-1

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