Back in April, NASA planned for the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) to impact the moon. On April 11, LADEE initiated its final maneuver in order to avoid the Apollo landing sites. Seven days later it impacted the eastern rim of Sundman V crater.
Yesterday, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team announced they found LADEE’s crater.
The LROC team “recently developed a new computer tool to search Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) before and after image pairs for new craters, the LADEE impact event provided a fun test”, said Mark Robinson, LROC principal investigator from Arizona State University in Tempe.
“As it turns there were several small surface changes found in the predicted area of the impact, the biggest and most distinctive was within 968 feet (295 meters) of the spot estimated by the LADEE operations team. What fun!”
The LROC NAC was barely able to spot the crater, which was less than 10 feet in diameter.
LADEE’s small mass, plus slow speed compared to other celestial impacts, kept the crater small.
“I’m happy that the LROC team was able to confirm the LADEE impact point,” said Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “It really helps the LADEE team to get closure and know exactly where the product of their hard work wound up.”
You can see LADEE’s impact site in the image below.
As for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, it just received a two-year extension to its mission. It will continue to study the moon’s surface, and figure out how many meteorites impact the moon right now and their effects.
Image credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University – Top image: Artist concept/NASA