NASA moon craft spots Ebb and Flow crash sites

NASA moon craft spots Ebb and Flow crash sites

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

-, SPACE: Artistic view released by ESA 03 September 2006 shows the Europe's first probe to the Moon, SMART-1, during its mission before its scheduled crash landing on the moon. SMART-1, crashed onto the lunar surface as scheduled at 7.42 am (0542 GMT) 03 September 2006, ending a successful 16-month mission, the European Space Agency announced today. SMART-1 smashed into the Moon at a speed of two kilometres per second (7,200 kmph) in a plain called the Lake of Excellence on the southwestern side of the Moon's face. Bernard Von Weyhe, spokesman for the ESA, said the probe had thrown up significant amounts of material on impact, which will allow scientists to carry out further tests on the crash site. AFP PHOTO ESA (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

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KMOV.com

Posted on March 20, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 20 at 10:07 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- When NASA's twin spacecraft Ebb and Flow crashed into the moon last year, scientists did not count on seeing the aftermath.

   On Tuesday, the space agency released before-and-after pictures of the lunar north pole where Ebb and Flow came to rest. Months after the back-to-back, mission-ending dives, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter flew over the crash sites and imaged the final resting spots.

   Ebb and Flow broke into smithereens upon impact and pinpointing the small craters they carved was difficult, said Arizona State University researcher Mark Robinson, who operates the orbiter's camera.

   Even the mission's chief scientist, Maria Zuber, was surprised when she saw the impact sites, which looked like dots.

   "I was expecting to see skid tracks," said Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

   Ebb and Flow deliberately plunged into a lunar mountain in December after mapping the moon's gravity field in unprecedented detail. The location was chosen because it was far away from the Apollo landings and other historic sites.

   Since the finale occurred in the dark, telescopes from Earth did not capture it. Even the reconnaissance orbiter had to wait until sunlight streamed to the northern lunar region.

   Launched in 2011, the spacecraft spent nearly a year flying in formation, exclusively collecting gravitational data. Among the discoveries: The lunar crust is much thinner and more battered than scientists had imagined.

   Initially flying at 35 miles above the lunar surface, the spacecraft dipped lower and lower in altitude during the $487 million mission.

   Scientists are still poring through the last chunk of data beamed back just before their demise.

   The Ebb and Flow crash sites were named in honor of mission team member, Sally Ride, the first American woman in space who died last year. Ride's educational company supplied the cameras on the mission that allowed students to take their own pictures of craters and other geological features.
 

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