After completing 100 days of lunar observations, the LADEE spacecraft was sent on a collision course to smash into the moon in April 2014. Now the Lunar Reconnoissance Orbiter has spotted where it crashed, creating a sharp new addition to the dust and craters.
Top image: Before and after the April 18, 2014 impact of LADEE on the eastern rim of Sundman V crater. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
LADEE impacted on the eastern rim of the Sundman V crater, on the far side of the moon from the Apollo landing sites. Despite the guessing-games about when exactly LADEE would crash, the final impact crater was just 300 meters north of where mission controllers expected to find it.
LADEE wasn't going fast when it hit the moon, just under 1.7 kilometers a second, and it was a low mass, low density spacecraft. All this combined to creative a tiny crater: at less than three meters in diameter, the crater is so small it can barely be resolved by the Lunar Reconnoissance Orbiter camera. To spot it among the myriad of fresh craters from the constant rain of small celestial impacts, the team snapped a temporal pair of before and after images, then divided the before by the after to highlight surface changes.
Ratio of before and after images of the LADEE impact site. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
While the crater is tiny, the impact ejecta sprays out 200 to 300 meters from the impact site to the west, with a smaller ejecta area extends 20 to 30 meters to the northwest. This matches up with LADEE's travel direction at the time of impact.
Read more and check out a before/after image slider pair at NASA.