Moon Plume Detected! NASA's Lunar Crash Wasn't a Flop, After All

By Brett Israel | October 19, 2009 1:47 pm

moon-plumeThe lack of fireworks after a NASA probe struck a crater on the moon‘s surface disappointed observers watching from Earth, and many initially questioned the mission’s success. However, new images show a mile-high plume of lunar debris from the Cabeus crater shortly after the space agency’s Centaur rocket struck Oct. 9 [AP]. This is almost exactly what the mission’s engineers had in mind when they proposed slinging an empty rocket hull into a crater at the moon’s south pole, so that the LCROSS probe that followed could analyze the dust plume for traces of water ice. Researchers had initially predicted a 6-mile-high plume that would be visible from Earth’s observatories, but they’re presumably thankful for what they got.

A movie screen at the Ames Research Center in Northern California was set to show the impact from the vantage point of a camera on board LCROSS, but the crowd walked away disappointed when the impact produced no visible plume of dust and debris. At the time, NASA scientists said they hoped the problem was simply that cameras aboard the satellite were not properly adjusted to detect the plume. But some scientists feared the Centaur might have hit bedrock and failed to create a plume. The new images, lifted from a different camera aboard the spacecraft, show that a plume did, in fact, occur. That means the satellite should have been capable of detecting water, if it was present [Los Angeles Times]. Scientists said it’s still too early to say what was in the plume, but other clues, such as the heat generated at the impact sight, should help the scientists interpret the data over the next few weeks.

Related Content:
80beats: So What Exactly Happened With That Crashing Moon Probe?
80beats: Lunar Impact! NASA Probe Slams Into Moon to Search for Water
80beats: NASA to Moon: We’re Back. Got Any Ice?

Image: NASA

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Technology
MORE ABOUT: moon, NASA, water
  • Max E

    You’d hope that NASA would have enough back up strategies in place to give at least a suggestion of what’s there. You’d hate to think they’d send two rockets to their doom banking solely on a 6 mile plume.

    Nice, violent, expensive Science though.

  • A. Mous

    *cough* “such as the heat generated at the impact =site=” *cough*

  • http://NotionsCapital.com Mike Licht

    Why is NASA really seeking water on the Moon?

    see:

    http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/water-on-the-moon/

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    obviously like your web site but you need to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very troublesome to tell the truth nevertheless I’ll surely come back again.

  • http://www.beatsbydre-cuffie.eu Cuffie Dr Dre Beats

    and I find it very troublesome to tell the truth nevertheless I’ll surely come back again.

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