The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Was Once Hit By a Meteoroid, Here’s What Happened


Scientists at NASA were puzzled on October 13, 2014 when the LRO sent back this distorted image.

In a press release NASA states that the only explanation is that the LRO was hit by a meteoroid and that had shook the camera mid exposure.

To verify this theory, the LRO team used a computer model that was created during LRO’s development, a vibration table that was used to simulate a launch, a test that the cameras passed to prove stability.

They reproduced the distortions from the image received and determined that the left NAC was hit by an 0.8 mm meteoroid with a density of 2.7 grams/cm3 going at a velocity of about 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) per second.

“Since the impact presented no technical problems for the health and safety of the instrument, the team is only now announcing this event as a fascinating example of how engineering data can be used, in ways not previously anticipated, to understand what is happing to the spacecraft over 236,000 miles (380,000 kilometers) from the Earth,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Thanks to astronomer Alex Parker we can also hear the impact, he used the data from the LRO to recreate what it would sound like inside the LRO at the time of the impact.