Doomed Space Missions: A Rich History of Planned Destruction

NASA Takes Aim at Moon with Double Sledgehammer
An artist's depiction of the LCROSS moon-smashing mission as the Shepherding Spacecraft (left) pulls free of the Centaur upper stage impactor. (Image credit: NASA/Ames)

NASA's latest lunar probe looks to grab the spotlight next month when it

The history of space exploration includes many spacecraft that intentionally

Never mind the accidental graveyards for generations of robotic

Luna 2 became the first spacecraft to impact on the surface of

Ranger 4 represented a U.S. comeback attempt in lunar

Venera 3 followed up the Soviet Union's coup in

Lunar Orbiter 1 capped its lunar survey mission on Oct. 29,

Apollo missions by the United States didn't just land the

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe sent one large U.S. probe and three smaller versions diving toward different regions of Venus on Dec. 9, 1978.

Lunar Prospector struck pay dirt by diving into a crater on

Galileo headed in for a Jupiter impact on Sept. 21, 2003, and

Deep Impact created its own big bang spectacular on July 4,

Smart-1 kicked off a fresh round of manmade lunar impacts on

Chandrayaan-1 helped inaugurate the new space race by

Chang'e-1 ended China's first lunar mission by

Kaguya struck

Now NASA's LCROSS mission plans to shake the moon twice in

A smaller lower stage will follow up its big brother and slam into a

All this physical bashing may sound hard on the moon and other solar

By comparison, LCROSS and its predecessors probably represent loving

Correction: The amount of debris expected to be kicked up by the LCROSS Centaur rocket stage impact has been corrected.

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Contributing Writer

Jeremy Hsu is science writer based in New York City whose work has appeared in Scientific American, Discovery Magazine, Backchannel, and IEEE Spectrum, among others. He joined the and Live Science teams in 2010 as a Senior Writer and is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Indicate Media.  Jeremy studied history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania, and earned a master's degree in journalism from the NYU Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. You can find Jeremy's latest project on Twitter