We do try to appear sophisticated, but really, when it comes down to it, any mission which involves hitting something is going to do well in the PR stakes. It was fantastic to spend the day in the company of the LCROSS team. LCROSS is the sister spacecraft to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and is due to crash an impactor the size of a large bus (and we did find a bus to film for comparison purposes) into the lunar South Pole just three months after launch, which should be in October. The time from being selected to launch is 30 months, which must be some sort of record, but everything seems to be going well. The stated goal is to provide the definitive yes or no as to whether there is water ice in substantial quantities in the region; very controversial evidence from previous missions and from radar has suggested there might be (and I, personally, wouldn’t put it any more strongly than that) and if there is then the South Pole becomes the absolutely default choice for future manned bases. Not because you’d need to drink it, but because it provides hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel. Anyway, regardless of whether the water is there or not, this is a way of digging beneath the surface of the Moon in a landscape very different from those which Apollo sampled. Even better, the flash LCROSS produces will be magnitude 6 (best guess), bright enough to be seen in binoculars and thus visible to almost anyone. I would suspect that the impact, in January 2009, will have more people looking at our nearest neighbour simultaneously than at any time since Apollo. In the meantime, you’ll only have to wait until March to see the wonderful interviews we filmed today, along with the bus.
November 15th, 2007
Posted by chrislintott in Moon