This is the Exact Spot that ESA’s SMART-1 Crashed Into the Moon in 2006

In 2003, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology-1 (SMART-1) lunar orbiter. After taking 13 months to reach the Moon using a Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) system, the orbiter then spent the next three years studying the lunar surface. Then, on September 3rd, 2006, the mission came to an end as the spacecraft was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface.

While the bright flash that this created was captured by observers using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, no other spacecraft were in orbit at the time to witness it. As a result, it has been impossible for over a decade to determine precisely where SMART-1 went down. But thanks to images captured last year by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the final resting place of SMART-1 is now known.

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SMART -1 Updates Image for LCROSS Impact

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Since the LCROSS team reloaded and switched which lunar crater they are targeting for impact with the spacecraft and its upper stage of the Centaur rocket on October 9, the SMART-1 team has reloaded as well, and has released an updated image of the new crater. LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) will search for water ice on the Moon by making two impacts into Cabeus crater at the lunar South Pole. The impacts are scheduled for 11:31:19 UTC and 11:35:45 UTC.

Previously, the SMART-1 team had released an image of Cabeus A, the original target crater.
Bjoern Grieger, the liaison scientist for SMART-1’s AMIE camera, and Bernard Foing, ESA SMART-1 Project Scientist, searched through SMART-1’s database for images of Cabeus, taken four years ago. The
SMART-1 images are at high resolution as the spacecraft was near its closest distance of 500 km from the South Pole.

The Cabeus crater interior is permanently shadowed, so ice lying inside the crater could be protected from the Sun’s harsh rays. LCROSS will send the upper stage Centaur rocket crashing into Cabeus and a
shepherd spacecraft will fly into the plume of dust generated and measure its properties before making a second impact with the lunar surface. Astronomers will observe both impacts using ground and space-based telescopes. The SMART-1 spacecraft also concluded its mission with a controlled bouncing impact on September 3, 2006. The event was observed with ground-based telescopes (a “dry run” for LCROSS), and the flash from the impact was detected at infrared wavelengths.

“The Cabeus topographic features as observed by SMART-1 vary greatly during the lunar rotation and the yearly seasons due to the polar grazing illumination conditions,” said Foing. “The floor of Cabeus
near LCROSS targets shows a number of small craters and seems old enough to have accumulated water ice delivered from comets and water-rich asteroids, and might have kept it frozen in its shadowed
area.”

Source: ESA

SMART-1 Releases Image of LCROSS Impact Site

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ESA’s SMART-1 team has released an image of the future impact site of NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). The SMART-1 team searched through their database to find images of Cabeus A, where LCROSS will search for water ice by making two impacts into this crater at the lunar south pole. The impacts are scheduled for 11:30 and 11:34 am UT on 9 October 2009. This image was taken four years ago by SMART-1, a spacecraft that ended its mission in 2006 by deliberately crashing to the Moon, similar to what LCROSS will do, hoping to exhume materials buried under the lunar surface, particularly water ice. “This is like gathering evidence for a Crash Scene Investigation, but before the action takes place,” said Bernard Foing, SMART-1 project scientist.

Cabeus A is permanently shadowed, so ice lying inside the crater could be protected from the Sun’s harsh rays. LCROSS will send the upper stage Centaur rocket crashing into Cabeus A and a shepherd spacecraft will fly into the plume of dust generated and measure its properties before making a second impact with the lunar surface. Astronomers will observe both impacts using ground and space-based telescopes. The SMART-1 spacecraft also concluded its mission with a controlled bouncing impact on 3 September 2006. The event was observed with ground-based telescopes and the flash from the impact was detected at infrared wavelengths.

Find out more about observing the LCROSS event here.

Foing and Bjoern Grieger, the liaison scientist for SMART-1’s AIMIE camera searched through SMART-1’s database for images of Cabeus A, taken four years ago at conditions where solar elevation and direction were similar to those of LCROSS impact. The SMART-1 image is at high resolution as the spacecraft was at its closest distance of 500 km from the South Pole.

“We are pleased to contribute these ESA SMART-1 observations of the LCROSS target site in order to help in the planning and interpretation of impact observations,” said Foing. “The coordination and exchange of information between lunar missions is an important step for future exploration of the Moon. Cooperation is vital if we are ever to see ‘villages’ of robotic landers and eventual lunar bases, as recommended by the International Lunar Exploration Working Group.”

Source: AlphaGalileo