Shortly after 7 A.M. Eastern, NASA’s LCROSS satellite will separate into two craft wile over the south polar region of the moon. One of those craft, an empty fuel tank named Centaur, will crash into the moon’s surface. The impact should create a six-feet deep crater inside an already existing crater and kick up a plume of debris six miles high. the other craft will then fly through the impact ejecta cloud and take a plethora of measurements. Then, that craft will crash near the first impact point, creating a second plume that NASA will observe with a number of ground and space-based instruments.
Why is NASA crashing perfectly good, and expensive, spacecraft into the moon? They’re looking for evidence of water. Specifically, it’s looking for water-ice in the ejecta cloud and this mission should not only definitively determine if there’s water on the moon, but about how much water there is. For anyone who believes that we should establish anything resembling a permanent presence on the moon, this information is critical. LCROSS is, as missions go, relatively inexpensive and, as this article notes, it can give us fairly immediate answers to a number of questions we have about our nearest celestial neighbor.
And it serves as a warning to the Moon Men. We don’t need Hercules. We have kinetic weapons!