LRO/LCROSS Mission to the Moon

Launched together in June 2009, LRO and LCROSS both travelled to the Moon. LRO maps from lunar orbit, while LCROSS crashes near the South Pole.
Images courtesy of NASA.

LRO and LCROSS are two space missions sent by NASA to Earth's Moon. LRO and LCROSS were launched together on an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on June 18, 2009.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a satellite that is now orbiting the Moon. LRO is mapping the Moon at very high resolution from a low orbit just 50 km (30 miles) above the lunar surface. These detailed maps will be used for planning of other upcoming robotic and human missions to the Moon. LRO is also searching for signs of water ice near the lunar poles and is studying radiation levels around the Moon, which will be important to know when astronauts return in the coming years.

The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) is designed to intentionally crash into the Moon on October 9, 2009. The goal of LCROSS is to detect signs of water ice in craters near the Moon's South Pole, if any is there. The Centaur upper stage of the rocket that launched LRO and LCROSS will crash into Cabeus crater, producing a huge plume of ejecta material. LCROSS will search for signs of water molecules within the ejecta cloud. Soon after the crash of the Centaur rocket, the LCROSS spacecraft will also smash into the Moon. Telescopes on Earth will observe both crashes.

LRO/LCROSS mission overview video from NASA

LRO/LCROSS "First Step" video from NASA

NASA's LCROSS web site

NASA's LRO web site

The Moon's South Pole

LCROSS web site at NASA Ames

LRO web site at NASA Goddard

Last modified October 6, 2009 by Randy Russell.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more


Radiation comes in two basic types: electromagnetic radiation transmitted by photons, and particle radiation consisting of electrons, protons, alpha particles, and so forth. Electromagnetic radiation,...more

Radiation Dangers to Astronauts

Astronauts are exposed to many different types of dangerous radiation in space. Space agencies, like NASA, must carefully monitor the radiation exposure of astronauts to make sure they remain safe and...more


Most things around us are made of groups of atoms bonded together into packages called molecules. The atoms in a molecule are held together because they share or exchange electrons. Molecules are made...more

Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades, and will continue to serve as a great resource well into the new millennium. The HST is credited...more

Apollo 11

Driven by a recent surge in space research, the Apollo program hoped to add to the accomplishments of the Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor missions of the late 1960's. Apollo 11 was the first mission to succeed...more

Apollo 12

Apollo 12 survived a lightning strike during its launch on Nov. 14, 1969, and arrived at the Moon three days later. Astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean descended to the surface, while Richard Gordon...more

Apollo 15

Apollo 15 marked the start of a new series of missions from the Apollo space program, each capable of exploring more lunar terrain than ever before. Launched on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 reached the Moon...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA