After “bombing” the moon in early October, NASA now confirms they have discovered water there (see related blog post, Oct 9 below).
A month ago, NASA’s “LCross” space craft accomplished extensive mapping in orbit around the moon, and then its two sections crashed directly into a lunar crater. Only recently have scientists even questioned if the moon might be anything other than a dry, dusty rock, but analysis of the residual dust clouds from the two impacts confirm; water is indeed present.
“We are ecstatic,” said NASA Principal Investigator, Anthony Colaprete. “Multiple lines of evidence show water was present… ”
Colaprete goes on to hint the moon may contain even more surprises: “The full understanding of the LCross data may take years – the data is that rich.”
Finding water and other useful material on the moon should enhance NASA’s efforts to fly manned missions not only back to the moon, but also Mars some time in the next decade.
NASA had previously found evidence water was once on Mars, but new images indicate it still flows at the surface, if only for brief periods before it evaporates or freezes.
Scientists say the crater shown left was photographed dry in 1999, but the second image indicates water flowed through the same area as recently as 2004.
The presence of liquid water raises the probability that microbial life may exist on Mars.
Billing it the “First Flight of a New Era,” NASA successfully test-launched the “Ares I – X” (experimental version) rocket minutes ago following multiple delays. The 327-foot-high spacecraft (world’s tallest) is a key component of NASA’s new “Constellation” rocket systems, set to replace the ageing Space Shuttle (launch videos posted below).
The six-minute flight from Cape Canaveral follows up successful tests of the rocket engines last September in the Utah desert (see Sep 11 blog below). In today’s launch, the vehicle reached a height of more than 150,000 feet and then splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean about 150 miles down-range from the Cape. Scientists are collecting data from the first two minutes of the flight NASA says is key to moving the $3 billion program forward.
When fully operational, the Constellation program includes the two-stage Ares I rocket, designed to lift an “Orion” crew capsule perched atop into space. Astronauts could then either dock at the International Space Station or rendezvous with a second “Ares V” rocket, which would carry necessary supplies for a manned flight to the moon, Mars, or beyond. The Orion crew capsule returns to earth using parachutes and an ocean splashdown not unlike the Apollo capsules of the early 70s.
Success of the Constellation program is critical. The space shuttle fleet is planned to be retired next year, forcing US astronauts to hitch a ride with the Russians to service the International Space Station. As it is, only weeks ago a government audit questioned the viability of the entire program, given NASA’s projected budget. The commissions conclusions have already all but killed expectations to land on the moon by 2020 (see Jul 30 and Aug 14 blogs below).
With the success of this launch, NASA hopes to keep alive its vision for manned flights into deep space beyond the earth’s orbit.
Here is the actual launch:
And here is a NASA simulation of the flight:
In scant seconds of this posting, the first section of NASA’s “LCROSS” satellite is crashing into the moon (see related blog June 18 below).
NASA is deliberately crashing the craft into the bottom of a lunar crater as a grand experiment to find water beneath the surface. Scientists will analyze the enormous dust cloud generated by the crash in hopes of finding water because water on the moon makes future manned missions far more efficient.
Amateur astronomers are encouraged to send their observations of the dust cloud to NASA for further study.