Spacecraft Creates New Lunar Crater

Blessing the world with its immense beauty, the moon now boasts a new addition: another crater. The indent didn’t happen naturally, however–it was created by the impact of a spacecraft that NASA purposefully crashed into the moon.

At the completion of its seven-month mission in April, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft – which studied the moon’s atmosphere – smashed into the surface of the far side of the moon at 3,800 miles per hour. The impact crater was discovered just two-tenths of a mile from its forecasted location using images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and measures a total of 10 feet in diameter.


Spacecraft Creates New Lunar Crater  - ClapwayPhoto Courtesy of 


Spacecraft Creates New Lunar Crater  - ClapwayPhoto Courtesy of

“The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (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,” Mark Robinson, LROC principal investigator from Arizona State University in Tempe said in a news release. “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!”

According to NASA, the far side of the moon was selected so there would be no chance the crash would hit the Apollo landing sites.

“I’m happy that the LROC team was able to confirm the LADEE impact point,” Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., was quoted as saying. “It really helps the LADEE team to get closure and know exactly where the product of their hard work wound up.”

NASA added that the orbiter’s mission has been lengthened by two additional years to “study the seasonal volatile cycle; determine how many small meteorites are currently hitting the moon and their effects; characterize the structure of the lunar regolith; investigate the moon’s interaction with the space environment; and reveal more about the lunar interior using observations of the moon’s surface.”

“LRO continues to increase our understanding of the moon and its environment,” concluded John Keller, LRO project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.