NASA Spacecraft to Crash into Lunar Crater

Two unmanned NASA spacecraft are heading for the moon to crash into a lunar crater in a search for ice.

If all goes well, the impact will be beamed back live to Earth.

The first and much bigger crash is set for 7:31 a.m. EDT. That's when an empty rocket that weighs 2.2 tons should hit the crater Cabeus and create a minicrater about half the size of an Olympic pool. It should kick up a plume of lunar debris about six miles high.

The idea is to confirm the theory that water — a key resource if people are going to go back to the moon — is hidden below the barren moonscape.

Trailing behind the rocket is the lunar probe LCROSS, short for Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite and pronounced L-Cross, beaming back to Earth live pictures of the impact and the debris plume using color cameras. It will scour for ice, fly through the debris cloud and then just four minutes later take the fatal plunge itself, triggering a dust storm one-third the size of the first hit, The Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, for more than a century, the idea of Earthlings taking a swipe at the moon has permeated popular culture. The most enduring image is from the 1902 classic movie, "A Trip to the Moon," in which a bullet-like rocket wincingly lodges in the eye of the man in the moon.

Novelist Amy Ephron doesn't understand the hoopla surrounding NASA's moon crash and wondered whether the public would be as excited about the mission if a country like Iran were in charge.

Ephron created a "Help Save the Moon" Twitter campaign — part tongue-in-cheek and part serious — to prevent future lunar dustups and to start a debate about who owns the moon.

"I really am a pacifist. I don't like the idea of sending a missile to Afghanistan or to Iraq or to the moon," said Ephron, while stressing that she's not against space exploration.

Still the moon beckons as an inviting target, The Associated Press reports.
It was also reported, if everything goes according to plan, a NASA satellite will steer the Centaur into the Cabeus crater at 4:30 a.m. Friday. Four minutes later, the satellite, called the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Sateite, or LCROSS, will fly through the dust raised by the Centaur's crash. When it does, its nine spectroscopes and cameras will sample the debris cloud for traces of water.
Many scientists have speculated that large amounts of ice could lie hidden in permanently shadowed polar craters.

Finding water on the moon would be as important as finding gold, since it would make building a colony on the moon much easier than transporting water from Earth at $50,000 a pound, The Los Angeles Times reports.

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