Locating the LCROSS Impact Craters
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The Lunar CRater Observations and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission impacted a spent Centaur rocket stage into a permanently shadowed region near the lunar south pole. The Sheperding Spacecraft (SSC) separated ∼9 hours before impact and performed a small braking maneuver in order to observe the Centaur impact plume, looking for evidence of water and other volatiles, before impacting itself.
This paper describes the registration of imagery of the LCROSS impact region from the mid- and near-infrared cameras onboard the SSC, as well as from the Goldstone radar. We compare the Centaur impact features, positively identified in the first two, and with a consistent feature in the third, which are interpreted as a 20 m diameter crater surrounded by a 160 m diameter ejecta region. The images are registered to Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter (LRO) topographical data which allows determination of the impact location. This location is compared with the impact location derived from ground-based tracking and propagation of the spacecraft’s trajectory and with locations derived from two hybrid imagery/trajectory methods. The four methods give a weighted average Centaur impact location of −84.6796°, −48.7093°, with a 1σ uncertainty of 115 m along latitude, and 44 m along longitude, just 146 m from the target impact site. Meanwhile, the trajectory-derived SSC impact location is −84.719°, −49.61°, with a 1σ uncertainty of 3 m along the Earth vector and 75 m orthogonal to that, 766 m from the target location and 2.803 km south-west of the Centaur impact.
We also detail the Centaur impact angle and SSC instrument pointing errors. Six high-level LCROSS mission requirements are shown to be met by wide margins. We hope that these results facilitate further analyses of the LCROSS experiment data and follow-up observations of the impact region.
KeywordsAstrodynamics Lunar Image Registration LCROSS
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