A new mission to the Moon will have a big impact on future lunar exploration. The upper stage of its booster rocket will slam into the surface of the Moon to try to dig up some ice. The ice could be a resource for the people who live in lunar colonies.
The mission is called LCROSS. It'll share a ride to the Moon with another craft, called Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. But while that craft will reach the Moon in about four days, LCROSS will take about four months to get there. It'll use that extra time to build up speed and to point itself at exactly the right spot on the lunar surface.
The "right spot" is inside a crater at one of the Moon's poles. Earlier craft found evidence of frozen water inside deep craters at the poles. Sunlight doesn't reach the bottoms of these craters, so they're like deep freezes. If they do have any ice, it could supply drinking water, oxygen, and rocket fuel for lunar colonies. That would reduce the amount of supplies they have to bring from Earth, which would reduce costs.
When LCROSS gets close to the Moon, it'll separate from the top stage of its booster rocket. The booster will then slam into the Moon. LCROSS, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and telescopes here on Earth will look for water vapor in the cloud of debris blasted out by the impact.
If they find any, then lunar explorers may someday settle at the Moon's poles -- the only source of water on our satellite world.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009
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