Deliberate crash landings on extraterrestrial bodies

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The crash sites of SELENE, Lunar Prospector, LCROSS and the Indian Moon Impact Probe
Deep Impact at Comet 9P/Tempel 1

These are tables of space probes (typically orbiters or components thereof) which have been deliberately destroyed at their objects of study, typically by hard landings or crash landings at the end of their respective missions and/or functionality. This suicidal endeavor not only precludes the hazards of orbital space debris and planetary contamination, but also provides the opportunity in some cases for terminal science given that the transient light released by the kinetic energy may be available for spectroscopy; the physical ejecta remains in place for further study. Even after soft landings had been mastered, NASA used crash landings to test whether Moon craters contained ice by crashing space probes into craters and testing the debris that got thrown out.[1]

Several rocket stages utilized during the Apollo space program were deliberately crashed on the Moon to aid seismic research, and four of the ascent stages of Apollo Lunar Modules were deliberately crashed onto the Moon after they had fulfilled their function.

The Deep Impact mission had its own purpose-built impactor which hit Comet 9P/Tempel 1. Terminal approaches to gas giants which resulted in the destruction of the space probe count as crash landings for the purposes of this article.

The crash landing sites themselves are of interest to space archeology.

Luna 1, not itself a lunar orbiter, was the first spacecraft designed as an impactor. It failed to hit the Moon in 1959, however, thus inadvertently becoming the first man-made object to leave geocentric orbit and enter a heliocentric orbit, where it remains to this day.

Mercury[edit]

Mission Country/Agency Date of landing/impact Coordinates Notes
MESSENGER United States United States 30 April 2015 Probably around 54.4° N, 149.9° W, near the crater Janáček Intentionally crashed at end of mission.

Moon[edit]

Mission Country/Agency Date of landing/impact Coordinates Notes
Luna 2 Soviet Union USSR 13 September 1959 29°06′N 0°00′E / 29.1°N -0°E / 29.1; -0 Intentional hard impact.
Ranger 4 United States USA 26 April 1962 15°30′S 130°42′W / 15.5°S 130.7°W / -15.5; -130.7 Intentional hard impact; hit lunar far side due to failure of navigation system.
Ranger 6 United States USA 2 February 1964 9°24′N 21°30′E / 9.4°N 21.5°E / 9.4; 21.5 Intentional hard impact.
Ranger 7 United States USA 31 July 1964 10°21′S 20°35′W / 10.35°S 20.58°W / -10.35; -20.58 Intentional hard impact.
Ranger 8 United States USA 20 February 1965 2°43′N 24°37′E / 2.72°N 24.61°E / 2.72; 24.61 Intentional hard impact.
Ranger 9 United States USA 24 March 1965 12°50′S 2°22′W / 12.83°S 2.37°W / -12.83; -2.37 Intentional hard impact.
Lunar Orbiter 1 United States USA 29 October 1966 Lunar orbiter, intentionally crashed at end of mission.
Hiten Japan Japan 10 April 1993 Lunar orbiter, intentionally crashed at end of mission.
Lunar Prospector United States USA 31 July 1999 87°42′S 42°06′E / 87.7°S 42.1°E / -87.7; 42.1 Lunar orbiter, intentionally crashed into polar crater at end of mission to test for liberation of water vapour (not detected).
SMART-1 Not the esa logo.png ESA 3 September 2006 Lunar orbiter, intentionally crashed at end of mission.
Chandrayaan-1 Moon Impact Probe India ISRO 14 November 2008 Impactor. Water found.
SELENE Rstar (Okina)  Japan 12 February 2009 Lunar orbiter, intentionally crashed at end of mission.
Chang'e 1  China 1 March 2009 Lunar orbiter, intentionally crashed at end of mission.
Kaguya  Japan 10 June 2009 Lunar orbiter, intentionally crashed at end of mission.
LCROSS (Centaur)  USA 9 October 2009 84°40′30″S 48°43′30″W / 84.675°S 48.725°W / -84.675; -48.725
84°43′44″S 49°21′36″W / 84.729°S 49.360°W / -84.729; -49.360
Impactors -main craft flew through the plume of lunar dusted created by its own upper rocket stage gathering data. Water confirmed.
Longjiang 2  China 31 July 2019 16°41′44″N 159°31′01″E / 16.6956°N 159.5170°E / 16.6956; 159.5170[2] Micro-satellite, intentionally crashed at end of mission.

Mars[edit]

Mission Country/Agency Date of landing/impact Coordinates Notes
Mars Science Laboratory Skycrane United States United States 6 August 2012 Bradbury Landing 4.5895°S 137.4417°E Debris fields created by the heat shield, Sky Crane, and other components.

Comets[edit]

Mission Country/Agency Date of landing/impact Coordinates Notes
Deep Impact United States United States 4 July 2005 Tempel 1 The "Smart Impactor" had a payload of 100 kg of copper, which at its closing velocity 10.2 km/s had the kinetic energy equivalent to 4.8 tonnes of TNT.

Jupiter[edit]

Mission Country/Agency Date of landing/impact Notes
Galileo atmospheric probe United States USA 7 December 1995 Functioned for 57.6 minutes.
Galileo United States USA 21 September 2003 Disintegrated in the Jovian atmosphere.

Saturn[edit]

Mission Country/ Agency Date of landing/impact Coordinates Notes
Cassini orbiter United States USA 15 September 2017 9.4°N. 53°W. 30 seconds of terminal data, more than anticipated, were received prior to Cassini's disintegration in Saturn's atmosphere.

Venus and others[edit]

Venus
433 Eros
67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Chronological Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Philips, T. (n.d.). Crash Landing on the Moon - NASA Science. Retrieved April 20, 2016, from https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2006/28jul_crashlanding/
  2. ^ [1]