NASA eyes water in Moon mission

May 21, 2009
NASA on Thursday said it was on target for a June mission to scour the Moon's surface for landing sites and water that would allow humans to work and even live on Earth's nearest neighbor.

NASA on Thursday said it was on target for a June mission to scour the Moon's surface for landing sites and water that would allow humans to work and even live on Earth's nearest neighbor.

The space agency hopes to launch a dual craft in June, part of which would survey the Moon's surface from orbit while another unit ploughs into the lunar surface in search for water.

"We had the original target of providing information back for being able to safely return to the Moon for exploration," said Mike Wargo, NASA's chief lunar scientist.

The mission will focus on the little-known lunar poles, hoping to confirm reports of hydrogen accumulation and possible water-ice not found at the equatorial regions that where famously explored by humans in the last century.

It is scheduled to lift-off, strapped to an Atlas V rocket, from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 17.

"One of the (resources) we are looking for is the potential of water ice at the lunar polar regions in these really mysterious permanently shadowed regions," said Wargo.

The permanently shadowed craters, which may not have seen sunlight for one or two billion years, could hold deposits of ice at a temperature of minus 328 degrees fahrenheit (200 degrees celsius).

Project manager Dan Andrews said the discovery of ice could be a crucial resource for future manned missions to the Moon, potentially providing oxygen for astronauts and oxidizer for .

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter -- decked with instruments to measure temperature, topography, radioactivity and hydrogen levels -- will circle the polar areas, producing three dimensional maps and data on 100 sites, some of which could later be used for manned landings.

Another module, the Lunar Observation and Sensing Satellite, will hurtle towards the Moon's surface, crashing into a permanently shadowed crater.

The impact, scheduled for October, will kick-up lunar debris six miles (9.6 kilometers) into the atmosphere, allowing observers to scan for signs of ice-water as the LCO craft flies through the debris.

Although the event will be over in a matter of minutes, it may be visible from earth with the help of a telescope.

It follows up on work carried out by the Lunar Prospector mission, which detected hydrogen on the Moon, but failed to detect water when, like this mission, it crashed onto the lunar surface.

The mission, dubbed LCO/LCROSS, is the latest in a series of lunar missions that have become representative of the agency's work.

In 1969, the Apollo 11 mission touched down on the lunar surface, allowing Neil Armstrong to become the first human to set foot on the Moon.

In 2004, then president George W. Bush vowed to return Americans to the Moon by 2020.

But facing a massive budget deficit, President Barack Obama has called into question the fulfillment of that aim, with a review apparently underway that could delay the program.

There are technical barriers, too. The space shuttle vehicle that could deliver astronauts to the will be retired next year, with a new vehicle not expected in operation before 2015.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: SpaceX making Easter delivery of station supplies (Update 2)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Moon-Impactor Mission Passes Major Review

Feb 02, 2007

NASA's drive to return astronauts to the moon and later probe deeper into space achieved a key milestone recently when agency officials approved critical elements of a moon impact mission scheduled to launch in October 2008. ...

NASA Selects Team To Build Lunar Lander

Oct 03, 2005

NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Doug Cooke announced Friday the selection of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., and Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, ...

Recommended for you

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

17 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

20 hours ago

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

23 hours ago

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 9

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Daein
5 / 5 (5) May 21, 2009
"The space shuttle vehicle that could deliver astronauts to the Moon will be retired next year" The author of this story seems to think the shuttle could get people to the moon. Am I reading this right? The whole point in retiring the shuttle is to make way for development of crafts that can bring people to the moon.
gopher65
3.7 / 5 (3) May 21, 2009
Daein: The story was written by AFP. Nuff said.
Keno_Dan
2 / 5 (2) May 21, 2009
Retiring the Space Shuttle in 2010 is a giant step backward for manned space exploration. Please see: www.cyrus-space-system.com The Space Shuttle should be the backbone of NASA. Help us save the Space Shuttle. Thanks, Daniel Sterling Sample Space Designs
Birger
4.5 / 5 (2) May 22, 2009
The Atlas V to be used for this mission is a relatively low-cost launcher, and a good example of unmanned space research.

The space shuttle -like the Concorde SST- was a great accomplishemt for its time, but -again like the Concorde- the technology for low-cost operation was not there, and it relied on scale of operation to bring costs down per flight. The market was not there, so the cost per flight became excessive. Also, the congress was "penny wise and pound foolish" when it chose a "cheap" shuttle design with solid fuel boosters, and ceramics instead of temperature-resistent metals. A "Shuttle-C" derivative could have become a heavy lift booster similar to Energiya, but the lobby for the contractors of the current project won the battle (politics again).
Archivis
4 / 5 (2) May 22, 2009
Can someone tell me why we don't have people actively working on designing a craft capable of multiple re-entries? A light weight craft that is able to leave the planet without the aid of a huge fuel container to get it there.

With all the advancements we've made, why hasn't this been done yet? I know a number of years ago there was a grant, or some sizable amount of money being offered for just that type of design, whatever happened to that?
zzthree
4 / 5 (1) May 22, 2009
Can someone tell me why we don't have people actively working on designing a craft capable of multiple re-entries? A light weight craft that is able to leave the planet without the aid of a huge fuel container to get it there.



With all the advancements we've made, why hasn't this been done yet? I know a number of years ago there was a grant, or some sizable amount of money being offered for just that type of design, whatever happened to that?


there is a private company called Reaction Engines from UK developing single stage to orbit vehicle
more info on http://www.reacti...s.co.uk/
gopher65
3 / 5 (2) May 22, 2009
Archivis: NASA was working on such a research program, for well over a decade. It was called VentureStar. It was intended to be a single-stage-to-orbit, reusable, low-maintenance vehicle.

It was cancelled due to lack of funding, but NASA got reasonably far in their research, and even built a couple initial prototypes. The US Airforce was also involved in the project (a small amount of funding came from them), and a small piece of the project has now been picked up by them.

It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it. (If you've ever watched Star Trek: Enterprise, the ship that you see undocking from the completed ISS is suppose to be one of the end results of VentureStar.)

Wikipedia:
http://en.wikiped...tureStar
Archivis
4 / 5 (1) May 22, 2009
So then, what you are saying is, in order to save money, they pulled the plug on this so that they would have to spend even more money to go anywhere...

Yeah that sounds like how we do things in the states... thanks for the info :)
blackle4ps3
not rated yet May 30, 2009
maybe there's water deep inside asteroid moon

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.