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October 9th, 2009
06:15 AM ET

NASA to give moon 1-2 punch in search of water

(CNN) - Two U.S. spacecraft are set to crash on the moon Friday. On purpose. And we're all invited to watch.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="An artist's rendering shows the LCROSS spacecraft, left, separating from its Centaur rocket."]

NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite is scheduled to drop its Centaur upper-stage rocket on the lunar surface at 7:31 a.m. ET.

NASA hopes the impact will kick up enough dust to help the LCROSS probe find the presence of water in the moon's soil. Four minutes later, the LCROSS will follow through the debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth before crashing into the Cabeus crater near the moon's south pole.

The LCROSS is carrying spectrometers, near-infrared cameras, a visible camera and a visible radiometer. These instruments will help NASA scientists analyze the plume of dust - more than 250 metric tons' worth - for water vapor.

The orbiting Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will watch, and photograph, the collisions. And hundreds of telescopes on Earth also will be focused on the two plumes.

NASA is encouraging amateur astronomers to join the watch party.

"We expect the debris plumes to be visible through midsized backyard telescopes - 10 inches and larger," said Brian Day at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. Day is an amateur astronomer who is leading education and public outreach for the LCROSS mission.

Ames will host "Impact Night," an event with music and food starting Thursday evening before a live transmission of the lunar impact will be shown around 4:30 a.m. PT Friday. Other science observatories and amateur astronomy clubs across the country will be hosting similar events. iReport: Are you planning to watch?

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Filed under: NASA
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. erica north

    There are benefits to space exploration beyond simple colonization of other planets/moons. Also, NASA has been hurt by the recession and cutbacks like many other areas. There was a segment on NPR just the other week about how they are running out of materials and funding as well. If that's your argument (that there are better uses for our money) then we should shut down the Snickers, M&M, Pepsi, and Budweiser factories as well. Every planet/celestial body works differently and holds clues and answers to the solar system in general. By studying other bodies, especially those nearest to us in the Goldilocks zone we may make discoveries that will some day help our own planet. The only legitimate concern I have read in your comments is in regards to messing up the pull the moon has on the tides. Good point, I've been trying to find if NASA has addressed that.

    October 9, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  2. Sean Blumenhein

    Does anyone really think that a spacecraft this small will really have any effect on the moons orbit or on the tides? There have been much larger explosions on this planet and we have not gone spiralling out of control out of the Solar System. As far as the use of funds is concerened, I do concede that NASA spends alot of money. However, how much is spent on welfare in comparison? Is it really my job as a taxpayer to ensure that every person in this country who has lost a job or who refuses to get a job should get fed? I shop at Walmart and I see people all the time using their food stamp card getting food that is better than what I buy. All I'm saying is that I think that the money that NASA uses, is at least used to better our understanding of the Universe and science as a whole. And the moon is NOT a planet.

    October 9, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  3. lisa lampton

    Scientists KNOW that to every action there is a reaction. EVERY time someone has tested underwater/underground NUKS, it has been followed by severe earthquakes within 2 weeks. We're idiots.

    October 9, 2009 at 8:52 am |
  4. lisa lampton

    why can't we clean up the underwater TRASH DUMP off the coast of California that is 3 times the size of Texas? What about all the trash in the Persian Gulf from 18 years of US aircraft carriers that dump our trash in their ocean everyday? THE FANTAIL IS OPEN FOR DUMPING!

    October 9, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  5. lisa lampton

    i wonder how we'd feel if someone bombed our frozen south pole. TO EVERY ACTION, THERE IS A REACTION. how rude of us to bomb a planet so important to OUR OWN solar system.

    October 9, 2009 at 8:41 am |
  6. Larry Guy

    O.K. J.R. not all of us dumb rednecks watch FOX day in day out NASCAR is a sport not a blood bath for those that do not understand. to even think that the demise of anyone in racing to be entertainment is really throwing a cruve you may get back one day when you are at the track.

    October 9, 2009 at 8:27 am |
  7. Florence Church

    Does NASA know if there will be any damage to the rythem of the universe? What about the tides?

    October 9, 2009 at 8:17 am |
  8. gloria lewis

    Am i crazy or is everyone crazy all this money to blow up the moon when this country is in such turmoil .I think that money could be spent in mush better ways . People and goverment has their piorities all screwed up .By april next year unemployment will be at 15 % mark my words .

    October 9, 2009 at 7:43 am |
  9. Stephen

    I am very concerned about crashing a rocket into the moon. I fear that the US has started another war with the inhabitants of the moon. We really cannot afford ANOTHER war! What's next MARS?!

    October 9, 2009 at 7:39 am |
  10. Kelly Chang

    How many millions are we burning up here on a whim? Yes space exploration is important, but at the moment we have bigger fish to fry. Those many millions could have been better spend at home.

    October 9, 2009 at 7:37 am |
  11. Sherri

    This is just so wrong! Where do we get the right to do this in the first place, we do not own the moon!
    If we were meant to live on the moon then that's where we would be instead of on the earth. No one could live where it is 280 degrees below zero, it takes more than water to live on!
    There never seems to be a shortage of money for NASA projects, but people here are out of work, homeless, and hungery. People in New Orleans are still struggling how many years after Katrina!
    Let's start trying to better the planet we were put on and the country we live in first, then if there is money left over the boys can go play with their science projects!

    October 9, 2009 at 7:34 am |