NASA to 'bomb' the Moon's surface

Early this Friday morning (Eastern Time, US), the LCROSS satellite will do something remarkable: blow a hole in the moon’s South Pole.

LCROSS, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, is still carrying part of the rocket that launched it to the Moon on June 18. The plan is to fling the near-empty rocket into a crater known as Cabeus.

NASA isn't doing this for fun - or as an act of war against the moon - but as part of ongoing experiments to investigate water on the moon. Recently we reported on evidence confirming the presence of H2O on the moon’s surface.

Water is thought to have been left on the moon by the colossal numbers of comets that have bombarded its surface over billions of years.

Much of the water will have evaporated due to the Moon's low atmospheric pressure.

However it is hoped that craters on the Moon's shadowy poles may have trapped a substantial amount of water in the form of ice. The tests are hoped to give an idea of how much there is.

The 2,270kg Centaur engine will strike the crater at a sharp angle with a speed of 5,600mph.

If you are sufficiently knowledgeable about when and where to look, it will be possible to view the event with a good home telescope.

Alternatively, the event can be seen on NASA TV - but it will probably last only a couple of minutes.

LCROSS will then analyse the plume for the chemical signature of water. In theory, this could help support further manned missions, but NASA has no intention of funding any in the forseeable future.

For now, the only source of moon memorabilia remains the Apollo missions.

Paul Fraser Collectibles currently has three pieces of such memorabilia available: a photo of Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins; seperate individual photos of them, all signed; and Michael Collins's flight suit.

The LCROSS blast will take place at 7:30am ET which is 11.30am GMT/UT or 12.30pm BST.


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