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On Tuesday morning, the LCROSS spacecraft will fly by the Moon only 9,000 km above the lunar surface and send back live streaming video for about an hour. This relatively close encounter with the Moon, will help put LCROSS in the correct position to impact the lunar surface in October. LCROSS will never actually be lunar orbit, but is working its way to an elongated Earth orbit which will eventually bring it to the correct orientation for meeting up with the south pole of the Moon later this year. LCROSS will search for water ice on the moon by sending the spent upper-stage Centaur rocket to impact part of a polar crater in permanent shadows. The LCROSS spacecraft will fly into the plume of dust left by the impact and measure the properties before also colliding with the lunar surface. Live video streaming of the flyby begins at approximately 12:20 GMT (8:20 EDT) on Tuesday, June 23, 2009. Click here to watch.
The LCROSS instrumentation will send back data to Earth for approximately one hour. The first 30 minutes will contain a view of the lunar surface from an altitude of approximately 9,000 km. The video feed is set to display one frame per second. During the latter 30 minutes, the spacecraft will perform multiple scans of the moon’s horizon to calibrate its sensors. During this latter half hour, the video image will update only occasionally. The 3D visualization stream will show the spacecraft position and attitude throughout the swingby.