NASA acquires data after spacecraft' twin impacts into moon

08:31, October 10, 2009      

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NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) impact view is seen in this image released on October 9, 2009. Two U.S. spacecraft were crashed into a lunar crater Friday but scientists said it was too early to say whether the mission to search for supplies of water on the Moon had been a success.

NASA has successfully collected data after two spacecraft -- the Centaur rocket and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) -- impacted the moon's south pole, the space agency said Friday.

"We have a tremendous amount of data gathered through observation campaign, both ground-based and space-based," said Jennifer Heldmann, coordinator of the LCROSS observation campaign, at a press conference held after the impacts. It will take some time to understand what is seen in the data, Heldmann said.

Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator, reports the Centaur impacted as planned and they observed the flash and crater.

"There was an impact," Colaprete said. "We saw the impact. We saw the crater."

Spectrometers aboard LCROSS also gathered a wealth of data from the impact, according to Colaprete. "That, by itself, may constitute enough information to answer some fundamental questions," Colaprete said.

Colaprete also projected it would take several weeks to determine whether and how much hydrogen-bearing compounds were found.

NASA successfully crashed two spacecraft into the moon's south pole in a hunt for hidden ice on Friday.

The 2.2-ton Centaur, the upper stage of the Atlas V rocket that carried the LCROSS, into space struck the moon first at 7:31 a.m. EDT (1131 GMT). Four minutes later, the LCROSS hit the Cabeus crater floor near the moon's south pole.

NASA had expected the strikes to kick up a plume of lunar dirt to an altitude of about 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) and produce a flash lasting about 30 seconds. However, grainy thermal images carried on NASA's television station showed no apparent flashes as the rocket struck.

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