NASA Fulfills Promise Of Moon Punch


The big news on newsgroups is that NASA deliberately aimed a rocket into the Moon to expand the search for water. NASA has said the rocket and satellite strike was a success, kicking up enough dust for scientists to determine whether or not there is water on the moon.

Nothing exploded, although two spacecraft — one about the size of a bus, the other a subcompact car — did crash on the surface of the moon. For background on the whys and wherefores, you can read more about moon exploration and the reasons for the LCROSS mission here and on some of the space and technology newsgroups.

Mission scientists said they did spy a thermal flash and spotted an approximately 20 meter sized created by the impact. They were most excited about a tiny bump in brightness seen by a mission spectrometer, which could signal the presence of water that some think exists as ice in the bottom of the target crater.

“We have the data we need to address the questions we set out to address”, said Anthony Colaprete, principal investigator for the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission. At approximately 5.31pm IST on Friday, a rocket called LCROSS (for Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite), traveling at over twice the speed of a bullet, traversed the nearly 375,000 km from earth to Moon and slammed into the bottom of a lunar crater bathed in a permanent shadow.

The impact sequence was followed not only by telescopic eyes in space, such as LRO and the Hubble Space Telescope, but also by hundreds of telescopes, both professional and amateur, in North America, where the skies were mostly clear.

The one-two punch of crashing a booster rocket and its mother craft near the moon’s south pole didn’t kick up dramatic and visible plumes as hoped, but scientists reported that the mission had gathered enough data to tell whether the crater contains frozen water.

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