I am writing this several minutes after the impact of the LCROSS mission in the Cabeus crater. Aside from being decidedly underwhelmed by the live coverage, a few things instantly spring to mind.
To my untrained eyes, it seemed as if the impact itself was a failure. While the Centaur did crash within the crater, there was no visible 'plume' and the flash of impact the trailing craft was relying on to find its own trajectory (the 'flash' mode), was invisible on both the normal and NIR and MIR camera feeds that were relayed over the live broadcast. The comment of the panel as the feed cut away said it all.
'Could you comment on what we just saw?'
'It's very hard to tell what we just saw, I'm wondering if the instruments were, ehmmm, calibrated correctly'
Secondly, I was struck by the failure of communication between the Science and Flight station, which should have been working closely together. It took them over a minute to interpret and relay the simple command 'Nir 1 to OPR 9', with Flight asking for confirmation twice.
'Science to Flight, NIR 1 to OPR 9'
'Ehmm, Science, was that NIR 1, November or Mike?' (this confusion due to the NIR, near infrared, and MIR, mid infrared, instruments)
(voices from Science, and several from payload, almost all in chorus 'November, Flight, NIR 1 to OPR 9, November'
'Just to confirm, Science, NIR 1, near infrared, to OPR 9?'
'Yes, NIR 1 to OPR 9, November, near infrared'
This was just after the impact, where time was fairly critical. Worse the actual adjustment of the bandwith, which flight misquoted as 0.2 when Science asked for 0.1, so the actual datastream would not be beyond the bandwith limit and fail to be received by the listening stations. Another miscommunication shortly after that, roughly ten seconds before impact
(voice slightly frantic) 'Science to Flight, NIR 2 to OPR 10'
'Roger, NIR 2 to OPR... ehmm.... 10?' (too late to correct after this if Flight was unsure, because the craft was seconds from impact)
This was followed by the oddest message yet, literally one second before impact.
'Science confirming thermal signature in crater' ?? Did they only just then pick up the remains of the Centaur? What other thermal signature could they have been looking for?
All in all, this was a very peculiar end to a controversial mission. The Centaur was supposed to impact the surface with the force of 1.5 tons of TNT (Edit: my original article mistakenly quoted a different source measuring the kinetic impact force at 1.5 megatons. That would have effectively made the Centaur as powerful as the Nagasaki A-bomb. The revised information was taken from NASA data, and is deemed by this author to be correct.). The trailing craft would then descend for two minutes through the debris plume and collect data, while the scientists on the ground would look for the intensity of the impact flash to determine if they'd thrown up loose material or bigger rocks.
I can't help but notice, no flash, no plume... no impact?