Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shooting the moon this summer. Sounds like a viewing party to me!

The next exciting mission to the moon will launch sometime this summer. First of all the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) is going up, and this is the spacecraft with the camera similar to the one around Mars on the MRO spacecraft that can see the rovers, Viking landers, Phoenix, the parachutes they rode down on, and hopefully find some wreckage of ESA's Beagle II someday. So, if they can be seen, we know that the Apollo landing sites will finally be seen. That will finally shut up "Swear on the Bible that you went to the moon Mr. Armstrong" - Bart Sibrel and all those others that think the Apollo missions were just a prequel to Capricorn One.
This spacecraft will also be riding along with the LCROSS spacecraft that is headed directly to the moon's surfae. No, not a soft landing, but more of a bullet like smacking. But first, the booster that takes them out of Earth's orbit is going to crash into a crater that is always in darkness, followed by LCROSS a few minutes later - after it flies through the plume and takes a quick sniff of the contents and radios it quickly back to Earth before it to meets it's doom from a very sudden stop. Why crash into the moon? Because we are searching for water. Not for hidden moon life, but for a source of H2O for future manned missions. The water can be used for many things including fuel if enough energy can be produced to separate it into Hydrogen and Oxygen for other uses.
It even gets better......here on the west coast of the US (sometime betwen May and August this summer - depending on the launch date) we will have a view of the moon and its predicted that the plume from the crashing spacecraft will be visible from here. Amateur telescopes should be able to see the plume rise out of the crater and extend about 6 km above the surface and out 40 km in all directions.
Since it's summer, our chances are a lot better for clear skies and a chance to see it. I think I'll plan a backyard moon bashing party like we did when Deep Impact hit comet Temple 1 back in 2005. Couldn't see the comet in the West, but we had food, friends, and set up a backyard big screen TV with the projector and watched live NASA TV coverage out back. Good fun!

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