NASA to Bomb the Moon Friday Morning
by Anthony - posted 5:58 pm, October 8, 2009
While it may sound like a headline straight off the presses at The Onion, I assure you it is not. NASA will be “bombing” the Moon tomorrow morning – not once, but twice. To be accurate, there is no bomb per se. The NASA LCROSS mission will slam a spacecraft into the Moon’s Cabeus crater at 7:31AM EST time on Friday.
The mission will happen in two stages: a rocket delivering the impact payload will send the payload craft at close to 6,000 miles per hour into the crater. The delivery rocket, specially equipped to detect the presence of water will chase behind, fly through the debris cloud, and then smack into the crater approximately four minutes later. The hope is, that by kicking up enough Moon stuff into the “air,” scientists will be able to detect the presence of water that may be hidden just under the surface. The crater was chosen as a likely candidate because it lives in the shadows and hasn’t seen sunlight in perhaps millions of years. It’s cold temperatures may have allowed for frozen water to remain locked away, whereas moisture exposed to the heat and light would have boiled off into space countless ages ago. It’s likely the moisture itself was delivered from violent impacts in the past, when ice laden meteorites crashed into the lunar surface.
So what’s the point? The discovery of water on the Moon may mean it can support life. Not life native to the Moon of course, but it could help support human life. A “Space Base” on the Moon may some day make use of the moisture for drinking water, and even splitting it into its constituent parts to make breathable air. If moisture is detected, NASA has plans for follow up missions to drill several feet into the Moon to get a better look.
Aside from being able to detect moisture, the chase craft is also equipped with high definition video cameras. NASA has an entire event planned, including a stream of the live footage. The event can be seen on the NASA channel on cable, or live at the NASA LCROSS website. It begins at 6:15AM. The debris cloud from the impact is expected to be large enough that it should be visible to the amateur astronomer with a typical hobby telescope.
Just some final notes: For those of you who spend more time hugging trees than reading science books, please take a moment to put this impact in context. The force of the impact in relation to the size of the Moon is on the order of a mosquito hitting the windshield of a dump truck at highway speed. It pales in comparison to the impacts that have rained down on the surface of the moon for millions of years. This will not harm the Moon – how do you think the giant crater NASA is targeting got there in the first place? And… for the conspiracy theorists who think it’s cover to test weapon capabilities – I’m not even going to try to convince you otherwise. We already know sending things to the Moon is ripe for spinning convoluted tales…
I’ll leave you with this prophetic clip from Mr. Show.