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SMART-1 Maps Kaguya Lunar Impact

June 10, 2009

The Japanese lunar orbiter Kaguya has completed a productive operational phase and will conclude its scientific mission with a controlled impact on the lunar surface, scheduled for 20:30 CEST today.

The impact is expected to occur on the near-side of the Moon, in the dark area close to the limb, at lunar coordinates 80°E and 64°S.

ESA’s SMART-1 team have prepared maps of the Kaguya landing site using survey images obtained by the SMART-1 AMIE camera. The images show that the satellite’s final orbit and impact site lie in an ancient cratered highland.

Towards the end of SMART-1′s mission in September 2006, spacecraft operators were confronted with a similar situation, which necessitated a small maneuver just three days before the satellite was to impact the lunar surface so as to avoid impacting a crater rim. SMART-1 avoided the rim of the crater and the impact occurred at the planned time and location.

An analysis of the lunar topography has been carried out to determine the exact time at which Kaguya will impact the surface and whether it will graze the surface upon touchdown or if it will bounce, as SMART-1 did.

“We hope that future data will show the elongated crater that will form due to the Kaguya impact and bouncing secondary debris,” said Bernard Foing, ESA’s former SMART-1 Project Scientist.

Image Caption: This close-up of a SMART-1 image shows the site where Kaguya is expected to impact, indicated by the red circle, 9 km in diameter. The field-of-view is 5.7° wide (about 75 km at 64°S). Due to the lunar rotation (27.3 days), Kaguya will fly over perilune areas about 1.1 or 2.2 degrees (at 15 and 30 km) East of the expected impact. About 2 or 4 hours before nominal impact, the probe trajectory could cut across the rim of the 40 km crater (on the right of SMART-1map). Credits: ESA/SMART-1/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute), Image mosaic: ESA (B. Grieger and B. Foing) [ More Images ]

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