Thursday, October 08, 2009

NASA satellite & booster to impact Moon Friday

A NASA Lunar observation satellite and it's booster rocket will leave their orbit around the Moon and make pinpoint crashes as the space agency looks for signs of ice in the shadows of a crater.

The double impact early on Friday morning will see the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and it's Atlas-Centaur upper stage booster slam into the crater Cabeus near the Moon's south pole.

Beginning at 7:30 am EDT tomorrow, the Centaur booster will take the plunge first as it hits the shadows of the crater and, as NASA states, creating "10 billion joules of kinetic energy into a blinding flash of heat and light".

LCROSS will be focused on the 4,850 pound Centaur as it provides Live TV of the first impact.

LCROSS will then move in and fly through the Lunar plume of dust and rock photographing and scanning for any form of moisture, as NASA looks for signs of ice in the minus 250 degree shadows.

Four minutes following the first impact, the 1,543 pound LCROSS will begin it's own crash landing into the same crater creating a smaller size plume of lunar soil.

Meanwhile, NASA will have the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Edwin Hubble Space Telescope photographing the first and second Lunar impacts from their postions between the earth and the Moon.

Tony Colaprete, the Lunar mission's investigator stated days ago, "We've just learned that Cabeus may contain relatively-rich deposits of hydrogen and-or frozen water. Cabeus is not as close to the lunar limb as we would have liked, but it seems to offer us the best chance of hitting H2O."

Here on Earth, astronomers will have their own telescopes trained on the Lunar impacts a few hours before the events begin.

Look for the Moon, which will be 82% full, to be high above the horizon at the impact times. will have LIVE TV beginning at 6:14 am EDT on Friday. Follow our updates via Twitter @SpaceLaunchNews.

Read my LRO-LCROSS mission stories from 2009.

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