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Space exploration - The LCROSS Centaur upper stage booster just prior to impacting the crater Cabeus as seen from the surface of the Moon - Space Art Illustration

LCROSS Centaur impact on the Moon

On 9 October 2009 a spent Centaur upper stage booster crashed into the permanently shadowed crater Cabeus in southern hemisphere of the Moon. The force of the impact excavated a large amount of lunar material in the form of a plume that rose above the lunar surface. This plume was examined remotely for evidence of water ice by both the LCROSS robotic probe (traveling about 4 minutes behind the Centaur and itself on a collision course with the Moon) and Earth-based telescopes.

This image suggests how the Centaur upper stage booster may have appeared from the surface of the Moon just a fraction of a second before impact. The position, orientation and phase of the Earth, as well as the position of the stars, are accurately illustrated (the Earth would appear "upside down" in the constellation Ophiuchus just below Scorpius).

The Centaur is 41 feet tall by 10 feet in diameter and at the time of impact its Earth-bound weight was about 5,000 pounds and traveling at about 5,600 miles per hour.

* Depiction of the Atlas and LCROSS logos does not imply endorsement of this image, associated text, or website by United Launch Alliance or NASA.


Copyright Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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