Coming up

Don't miss




No strategy and a beige suit

Read more


The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more


The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more


Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more


France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more


Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more


More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more


Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • EU leaders choose Tusk and Mogherini for top jobs, discuss Russia sanctions

    Read more

  • Dozens of UN peacekeepers still held by Syrian jihadists

    Read more

  • Opposition protesters clash with Pakistani police outside PM's house

    Read more

  • Austerity row overshadows French Socialist’s annual rally

    Read more

  • Egypt sentences Brotherhood leader Badie to life

    Read more

  • Ceasfire allows Gaza families to relax on the beach

    Read more

  • S. Africa condemns 'military coup' in Lesotho

    Read more

  • Kerry calls for 'coalition of nations' to battle IS militants

    Read more

  • Ukrainian plane with seven on board crashes in Algeria

    Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns Russia of more sanctions

    Read more

  • IMF backs Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more


NASA 'bombs' the moon to find water

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-10-12

The US space agency NASA has crashed a rocket into a crater on the south pole of the moon in the hope of detecting water. This is the first mission of the Constellation programme, which aims to take Americans back to the moon by 2020.

AFP - The United States blasted the surface of the moon Friday with two rockets on a mission to look for water below the lunar surface that could be used by astronauts on future space missions, NASA said.

At 1130 GMT the LCROSS satellite crashed into the Cabeus crater floor near the moon's south pole at around 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) per hour, followed four minutes later by a shepherding spacecraft equipped with cameras to record the impact.

Grainy thermal images carried on the US space agency's television station showed colder blue sites and warmer red sites on the moon's surface, but there was no apparent light flash as the rockets made impact.

NASA said the blasts would kick up a plume of lunar dirt to an altitude of about 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) and produce a flash lasting about 30 seconds.

Cameras mounted on the 1,965-pound (891-kilogram) shepherding spacecraft were to beam live footage of the initial impact as the craft flew through the debris plume, collecting and relaying key data back to Earth before it too plows into the moon.

"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," the mission website said after the impact.

"We don't anticipate anything about presence or absence of water immediately. It's going to take us some time," cautioned Anthony Colaprete, project scientist and principal investigator for the 79-million-dollar LCROSS mission, which is also the first preparatory mission of the Constellation program that aims to send Americans back to the moon by 2020.

Colaprete projected it would take several days for analysts to evaluate the data and several weeks to determine whether and how much hydrogen-bearing compounds were found.

Ahead of the launch, Victoria Friedensen, LCROSS program executive, said she was feeling "a lot of exhilaration, a little sadness."

"I never thought I'd work on something as interesting," she told NASA television.

NASA scientists will be looking at what spews out after 350 tonnes of debris is ejected from the cold, dark Cabeus crater, staking its hopes on water in the form of ice.

The crater is 62 miles (100 km) across and between 1.6 and 2.5 miles (2.5 to four km) deep.

"We're hunting for how water ice was stored and trapped in these permanently shadowed areas over billions of years and we want to find out how much there is," explained Peter Schultz, a professor of geological sciences at Brown University who helped design the mission.

The mission comes just two weeks after India hailed the discovery of water on the moon with its Chandrayaan-1 satellite mission in partnership with NASA.

Scientists had previously theorized that, except for the possibility of ice at the bottom of craters, the moon was totally dry.

Finding water on Earth's natural satellite would be a major breakthrough in space exploration and pave the way toward future lunar bases for drinking water or fuel, or even man living on another planet.

"This could be the place that we could go to mine water for a permanent lunar base," said Schultz.

"It tells us something about how water was delivered to the moon and other planets in a sort of cosmic rain, meaning impacts from comets over eons."

Friedensen said interest levels in the project were high because of the potential if water were found.

"If we had it there, we could actually make exploration be a bit more sustainable," she said. "We could make fuel on the moon."

But much uncertainty surrounds NASA's future missions to the moon, as a key review panel appointed by President Barack Obama's administration said existing budgets bar a return to it before 2020.

The last manned mission to the moon, Apollo 17, took place in 1972.


Date created : 2009-10-09