Ribosomal protein S1 has been shown to be a significant effector of prokaryotic translation. The protein is in fact capable of efficiently initiating translation, regardless of the presence of a Shine-Dalgarno sequence in mRNA. Structural insights into this process have remained elusive, as S1 is recalcitrant to traditional techniques of structural analysis, such as x-ray crystallography. Through the application of protein cross-linking and high resolution mass spectrometry, we have detailed the ribosomal binding site of S1 and have observed evidence of its dynamics. Our results support a previous hypothesis that S1 acts as the mRNA catching arm of the prokaryotic ribosome. We also demonstrate that in solution the major domains of the 30S subunit are remarkably flexible, capable of moving 30-50Å with respect to one another.