When NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and a companion rocket purposely slammed into a crater at the Moon's south pole on 9 October, some observers on Earth lamented as anticlimactic the raised plumes of material that were partially blocked by a crater ridge and were difficult to see with backyard telescopes. However, it turns out that the projectiles struck it big.
“Indeed, yes, we found water. We didn't find just a little bit; we found a significant amount,” said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator with the NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. At a 13 November news briefing, Colaprete lifted a 2-gallon plastic bucket and said preliminary results indicate that instruments detected about a dozen buckets' worth of water in parts of the two plumes, the first generated by the spent Centaur upper stage of the Atlas V launch vehicle at 1131 UTC and the second generated by LCROSS about 4 minutes later. NASA described the two plumes as a high-angle plume of vapor and fine dust and a lower-angle ejecta curtain of heavier material. LCROSS and the Centaur upper stage hit the permanently shadowed Cabeus crater.