Crashing Into the Moon
This morning, I was driving to school and listening to NPR. The topic of the hour was about NASA's latest project: purposefully crashing an empty rocket into a crater of the moon, to look for traces of water in the form of ice. I was initially surprised, since I had heard nothing of this story previously in the news. Apparently, although the soil of the moon is drier than any desert on Earth, some scientists believe that it's possible that some craters contain more than we've ever thought. So much of the moon has yet to be explored, and it's dark craters are still unknown to us. The initial impact of the rocket was expected to send dust and debris miles up into space. However, as people all around the country watched the footage filmed by another space craft following behind, there was no such reaction. Although it didn't happen as expected, scientists are calling the mission a success, that they have been able to collect spectroscopic measurements that will allow them to determine whether or not the moon contains any water. This story made me once again realize that there is so much about the universe that we still have not exactly figured out. In the early morning on my way to school, this story was a wake-up call and a necessary reminder that there is always more to learn and discover.
At 7:31 a.m. EDT, the LCROSS mission sent an empty rocket part that weighs as much as a large SUV crashing into the target crater with a force expected to be around 5,600 mph.
"It will kick up whatever is on the floor of the crater. That may very well include water ice. That is the whole point of the mission," Dan Andrews, NASA's project manager for LCROSS, said before the impact.
Four minutes later, an observation spacecraft equipped with five cameras and four other scientific instruments hit the lunar surface. It was to fly right through the plume created by the first impact, and the instruments were to study the cloud's composition and send data back to Earth in real time.
All the information had to come back immediately because the probe had only minutes to gather data before crashing into the moon. "And game over, we're done," Andrews said.