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To The Moon Alice! – NASA’s search for water on shadows of the Moon

September 14, 2009 Leave a comment

With NASA winding down the last of the Space Shuttle missions and Space Station nearing completion you would be forgiven for thinking we are hitting a lull in space exploration but you would be wrong.

On October 9, 2009 at 4:30 AM PDT The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will probe one of the permanent shadows on the moon for water.

LCROSS_Centaur_Sep_small

When a rocket reaches Earth orbit the rocket portion of the stack is no longer needed so it usually released to fall back to earth.  For this mission the Centaur stage of the Atlas V rocket was retained on the craft so that it can be fired at the moons surface. When LCROSS reaches the moon it will release the Centaur stage to crash into a lunar crater named Cabeus A.  Scientist are hoping this collision will cause a plume of debri to rise up from the crater that the main LCROSS science package will fly through on its way to the surface.  There is no way of nowing tell if there is water in Cabeus A but using neutron emissions from the site indicate a large concentration of hydrogen.  If that hydrogen is part of a water deposit in the crater a plume of water vapor should reach LCROSS and be detected back on earth.

  • LCROSS is a sister mission to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).    LRO and LCROSS were launched on the same Atlas V rocket.  Upon reaching Earth orbit, LRO was realeased while LCROSS and the Centeaur stage of the Atlas V rocket separated for there own mission.
  • The impact on the lunar surface should be visible on Earth using amateur astronomy telescopes.  NASA is encouraging people to make there own observation of the impact and report back what they see.  NASA has provided a page with details on how to view the impact event.
  • An issue earlier in the LCROSS mission caused a greater than expected fuel burn while in Earth orbit.  NASA says there is enough propellant remaining to complete the mission, but there is little room for error.

You can read more about the LCROSS mission by following these links:


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