NASA Shoots For Moon, Prepares For Collision

The mission hopes to confirm the presence or absence of water and ice in a permanently shadowed crater at the moon's south pole.
NASA will crash a rocket into the moon, creating an explosion that could help scientists identify water vapor, ice, hydrocarbons, and hydrated materials.

NASA announced Monday that it is preparing equipment for a collision with a polar crater on the moon. A satellite will head through the debris to analyze it for water, ice, and similar materials. NASA expects the satellite to also hit the moon's surface, creating the second of two impacts that will be visible from Earth.

"The goal of the mission is to confirm the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at the moon's south pole," Anthony Colaprete, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission's principal investigator at NASA Ames Research Center, said in the announcement. "The identification of water is very important to the future of human activities on the moon."

Next year, the lunar mission satellite will separate into two parts and send the spent Centaur upper stage of the Atlas V rocket crashing into the dark lunar floor. Ames engineers and scientists built hardware with off-the-shelf instruments and worked with commercial manufacturers to test the hardware and instruments to ensure they can withstand spaceflight.

"This payload delivery represents a new way of doing business for the center and the agency in general," Daniel Andrews, lunar mission satellite project manager at Ames, said in a prepared statement. "LCROSS primarily is using commercial-off-the-shelf instruments on this mission to meet the commission's accelerated development schedule and cost restraints. This arrangement has proven to work very well. The vendors work with their products and develop a spaceflight knowledge base, and the LCROSS project gets very mature products for deployment on this mission."

LCROSS is scheduled to launch with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., by the end of 2008. Northrop Grumman is designing, developing, and testing the spacecraft. NASA said the cameras and sensors, which will seek evidence of water after the lunar collision, have been tested and shipped to the satellite manufacturer.

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