Issue Date: October 19, 2009
NASA Probe Hits The Moon
During a “flawless” performance on Oct. 9, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation & Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) spacecraft blasted a new small crater on the moon’s south pole first by crashing its spent booster rocket onto the lunar surface and then following the booster down to its own planned destruction. Analysis of the material kicked up by these impacts is expected to determine whether water lies in permanently shadowed craters near the moon’s poles. The impacts, which occurred in a south-pole crater named Cabeus, did not generate visible plumes of material, although spectrometers did register the impacts by way of a strong sodium emission line. After the booster rocket’s impact, LCROSS scanned the ejected material, sent the data back to Earth, and then crashed itself into the moon’s surface. Meanwhile, LCROSS’s companion spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), recorded the events and is now settling into orbit around the moon. LCROSS and LRO were launched together last June. Mission scientists say they may spend weeks analyzing the data before announcing to the public whether the moon’s craters contain water.
- Chemical & Engineering News
- ISSN 0009-2347
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