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LCROSS (Lock this please mods. post in _J_'s thread, people)
Curly_BraceNot a Robot SkeletonA Robot Skeleton PartyRegistered Userregular
What's going on this morning? Why, the American space agency, NASA, is impacting a Centaur rocket stage into a crater at the Moon's South Pole and observing the resulting ejecta with the LCROSS space probe.
Here is an artist's rendering of the spacecraft and Centaur stage:
Why, might you ask, is NASA doing this? Well, the prominent hypothesis postulates the existence of water ice just underneath the surface on the Moon, namely at the poles where sunlight is less likely to heat up any ice hidden in deep craters.
By impacting the Centaur rocket stage, NASA scientists hope to kick up a large plume of lunar material, and using the LCROSS probe and Earth-based telescopes (plus good ol' Hubble and its new cameras!) to observe and analyze the impact plume for signs of water. The impact is designed to throw up materials below the top layer of lunar regolith, material that may hold said water ice.
If we do find water ice in abundance on the Moon, this would mean long-term stays on the Moon would be much, much easier. Namely, because water (besides it obvious uses) can be used as fuel (in hydrogen fuel cells) and in rocket fuel (as liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen).
You can watch the impact on NASA TV, with coverage starting at 6:15am EDT. (If you watch it now, they are setting up the COLBERT!)