Over the eons, the Moon has taken quite a beating. Space rocks have gouged millions of craters that range from the size of an SUV to the size of a state. And the Moon is scheduled to get two new craters early tomorrow -- not from space rocks, but from a spacecraft and its booster rocket.
NASA Launch Control: 3, 2, 1, main engine ignition, and liftoff of the Atlas 5 rocket with LRO/LCROSS -- America's first step in a lasting return to the Moon. [continue under narration]
The craft is known as LCROSS. It launched back in June with a companion mission, known as Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. That craft will snap the sharpest pictures of the lunar surface ever taken to help plot landing sites for future human exploration. It'll also look for sites at the lunar poles that might harbor frozen water that the explorers could use.
LCROSS, on the other hand, will try to dig up some of that ice. Tonight, it'll separate from the upper stage of its rocket booster. Early tomorrow, the booster will slam into one of the sites that might contain some of that ice.
The impact will spray material high above the lunar surface. LCROSS will fly through this plume, and transmit its findings back to Earth. A few minutes later, it will also hit the surface.
Astronomers will watch the impacts from Earth. Their observations should be able to tell us whether the collisions dig up any ice -- pointing the way to valuable resources for lunar explorers.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009
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