NASA PRESS RELEASE
NASA’s Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, mission has won Popular Mechanics magazine’s 2010 Breakthrough Award for innovation in science and technology.
The sixth annual Breakthrough Awards recognize innovators and products poised to change the world in fields such as technology, medicine, aviation and environmental engineering. Honorees will be celebrated during a ceremony tonight at Hearst Tower in New York City.
“The LCROSS mission truly was a technological achievement and made some game-changing discoveries in innovative ways,” said S. Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., which developed and managed science operations for the LCROSS mission. “We are honored by this recognition of the Ames and Northrop Grumman team that made this mission possible.”
LCROSS was launched with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on June 18, 2009. A team at Northrop Grumman built the LCROSS spacecraft, which was outfitted with commercial off-the-shelf instruments and ruggedized for spaceflight at Ames, saving the team time and the costly development of custom instruments.
NASA used the upper stage of the rocket that lofted LCROSS and LRO into lunar orbit, which would otherwise have become space debris, to impact a permanently shadowed crater near the south pole of the moon. LCROSS then flew through the dust kicked up by the impact and gathered data about what it contained. Soon after, in November 2009, the science team announced LCROSS had detected water in the dust plume in concentrations comparable to those of the Sahara Desert. The LCROSS team successfully completed the mission on time and under its $79 million budget.
“We chose the LCROSS mission for a Breakthrough Award because it set a new standard for low-cost, high-impact NASA programs,” said James B. Meigs, editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics. “Space exploration missions are rarely cheap, but a team from Ames and Northrop Grumman proposed a scrappy way to accomplish a monumental goal — confirming the presence of water ice on the moon. We’re thrilled to recognize the LCROSS team and all of this year’s honorees, who are making the seemingly impossible a reality.”
The individual LCROSS 2010 Breakthrough Award recipients are:
- Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at Ames
- Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at Ames
- Stephen Carman, LCROSS spacecraft project manager at Northrop Grumman
- Craig Elder, LCROSS spacecraft manager at Northrop Grumman
“We are honored to win this award,” said Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts – Space and Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, Calif. “It is a significant acknowledgement of the high caliber of our engineering skills and our close partnership with Ames, which developed the LCROSS payload and conducted mission operations. It also validates our ability to build small, inexpensive spacecraft with high science value very quickly, awakening the industry and the nation to the viability of this mission class.”