NASA To Crash Impactor into Moon in Water Search
10 Apr 2006
(Source: NASA Headquarters)
NASA will send an impactor spacecraft to the moon with the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scheduled for October 2008. The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite will travel independently of the orbiter and crash into the lunar surface to search for water ice.
First, the craft will direct the upper stage used to leave Earth orbit to crash into a permanently-shadowed crater at the lunar south pole, creating a plume visible to Earth-based observatories. Next, the satellite will observe the plume and fly through it using several instruments to look for water. At the end of its mission, the satellite will itself become an impactor, creating a second plume visible to lunar-orbiting spacecraft and Earth-based observatories.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is the first of many robotic missions NASA will conduct between 2008 and 2016 to study, map, and learn about the lunar surface as we prepare to return astronauts to the moon. Early missions like this one will help determine potential lunar landing sites and explore whether resources, such as oxygen, hydrogen, and metals, are available.
Robotic missions like this will work in tandem with humans as we chart a new course into the cosmos, laid out in the Vision for Space Exploration announced by President Bush in January 2004. The Vision calls for landing humans on the moon before the end of the next decade, paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond.
We're well on the way to this goal, with development moving forward on the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the next generation spacecraft which builds on the best of shuttle and Apollo technology.