October 9, 2009

NASA Studying Data From Successful Lunar Crash

NASA sent one of its own rockets in for a crash landing on the surface of the moon Friday morning in search of visible signs that would indicate water's existence on the planet.

The $79 million Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission took place in two stages. The first collision came from the Atlas V's Centaur rocket at 7:31 a.m. ET.

The mission's shepherding craft followed just minutes behind the Centaur's impact, gathering information as it plummeted through the plume on its way to make the second impact at 7:35 a.m. ET.

Both plumes were documented by space and land-based observatories. NASA is currently mulling over the information collected during the controlled crash.

LCROSS was equipped with two near-infrared spectrometers, a visible light spectrometer, two mid-infrared cameras, two near-infrared cameras, a visible camera and a visible radiometer.

All of the instruments were chosen to give scientists multiple views of the debris plume to determine whether or not water is present.

"Today, we kicked up some moon dust and all indications are we are going to have some really interesting results," said Pete Worden of NASA's Ames Research Center.

NASA had estimated that the crash would kick up a plume of about 6.2 miles in height.

"We don't anticipate anything about presence or absence of water immediately. It's going to take us some time," said Anthony Colaprete, the mission's principal investigator.

NASA says images of the crash are still forthcoming and will be posted on the space agency's Web site.

"The LCROSS science team is making their preliminary assessment of approximately four minutes of data collected from the LCROSS Spacecraft. Observatories involved in the LCROSS Observation Campaign are reporting in," said NASA.


Image Caption: Artist's rendition of the 4,400-pound (2,000-kilogram) Centaur upper stage rocket hitting the moon's surface near the south pole. The impact with the moon is expected to excavate about 220 tons (200 metric tons) of material from the lunar surface. The LCROSS shepherding satellite will observe the plume of material with a suite of six instruments to look for water ice and examine lunar soil kicked up by the impact. Image Credit: NASA/Roger Arno


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