NASA spacecraft crash into the moon

NASA’s LCROSS satellite experiment to determine how much water might be lurking under the moons surface

NASA’ Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellites (LCROSS) took dead aim and crashed into the moon around 7:31 am ESD. Watching the results on NASA TV, scientists were pleased with the impact of the two satellites.

The impact of the $80 million LCROSS satellites into the moon was to create what the space agency hopes is an ice-filled a debris plume that can be analyzed for water content.

LCROSS is made up of two spacecraft. The first, known as the heavy impactor Centaur separated from the main LCROSS satellite at 9:50 EDS and rocketed toward the moon’s surface, burrowing at least 90ft into the moon’s surface and throwing up an estimated 250 metric tons of lunar dust. Following four minutes behind, the remaining LCROSS spacecraft flew through the debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth before it too crashed into the lunar surface, burrowing in about 60ft, NASA stated.

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According to NASA, as the debris field should rise above the target area, known as the Cabeus crater, and is exposed to sunlight, any water-ice, hydrocarbons or organics will vaporize and break down into their basic components. These components primarily will be monitored by the visible and infrared spectrometers. The near-infrared and mid-infrared cameras will determine the total amount and distribution of water in the debris plume. The spacecraft’s visible camera will track the impact location and the behavior of the debris plume while the visible radiometer will measure the flash created by the Centaur impact, NASA stated.

The LCROSS science payload consists of two near-infrared spectrometers, a visible light spectrometer, two mid-infrared cameras, two near-infrared cameras, a visible camera and a visible radiometer.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launched with LCROSS June 18, will observe the plumes, as will the Hubble Space Telescope and observatories on Earth.

While previous space missions have found some water in the moon’s dirt, LCROSS is expected to definitively answer how much water might be there. In the end the idea is that should the US or others ever try to establish a human outpost on the moon, the might be able to use the water present on the moon rather than having to transport it up there.

NASA also notes that through the agency’s "Send Your Name to the Moon" initiative, the spacecraft carries a microchip with nearly 1.6 million names submitted by the public. Click here to view a photo of the microchip containing the names as engineers prepare to install it on the spacecraft.

If all goes well, the LCROSS mission would be a huge boost for NASA which has been under the gun of late. In September, the Government Accountability Office slammed the future of the manned space flight program.

NASA is still struggling to develop a solid business case--including firm requirements, mature technologies, a knowledge-based acquisition strategy, a realistic cost estimate, and sufficient funding and time--needed to justify moving the Constellation program, witch includes the two main spaceflight components, the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, forward into the implementation phase, the GAO stated.

In addition, the recent Review of United States Human Space Flight Plan Committee said in its preliminary report on the future of NASA said: ‘[NASA] is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources. Space operations are among the most complex and unforgiving pursuits ever undertaken by humans. It really is rocket science. Space operations become all the more difficult when means do not match aspirations.”

Want to compare network applications products? Visit the IT Product Guides now. The committee’s report was bleak too but ultimately how its results are interpreted will determine the future of any manned space flights.

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