NASA Didn’t ‘Bomb’ the Moon

No, this isn’t another moon hoax, just a misreporting by mass media.  Contrary to several reports, NASA didn’t “bomb the moon” today.  A bomb is a device relying on combustible elements to create a mass expansion and release a lot of energy in a very short period of time.  What NASA sent to the moon is more comparable to a bullet or a cannonball, but on a much larger scale.

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Sattelite (LCROSS) swung around the moon after reports came in last week of water vapor being identified on its surface and prepared to carry out its final mission.  Interestingly, India’s Chandrayaan-1 disappeared shortly after first sending information about water vapor on the moon back to Earth.  Also to be noted, NASA at first denied the possibility of anything more than water vapor on the moon even after Chandrayaan’s data was received.  All previous documentation of water on the moon was claimed to be “sensors malfunctioning,” due to terrestrial water still clinging to them.  Chandrayaan also sent back several “unexpected” and “surprising” discoveries, although about what, the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) and the Indian government are still not saying.  LCROSS, however, has been shot into the moon to see if deposits of water can be found beneath the surface of the moon at the craters, or if the official story of the water being “just vapor” can be confirmed.

The impact happened at 12:31 GMT when the 2,200 kg rocket slammed into the Cabaeus-A crater with twice the speed of a bullet, and the bearing the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. The impact immediately shot up somewhere around 350 metric tons of Lunar debris into the air at altitudes of over six miles.  The next shuttle, following Centaur closely, descended four minutes later opening an array of detectors to scan the plume of dust for ice as it plummeted into the crater.  The sensors picked up information about the composition of the particles at lightning speed and transmitted them to earth just before the “shepherding shuttle” was slammed into the crater as well and destroyed instantly.  The second impact’s dust plume was only a third the size of the first.  These impacts, when they happened should have been observable from earth even through commercial telescopes.  

Already, scientists have confirmed that an estimated one quart of water exists for every cubic meter of Lunar soil.  While this may seem like a lot, it would be difficult to extract without some massive mining operation or a machine significantly in advance of anything we have today.  Readily available water, however, may prove to be a valuable resource to any colonization attempts as well as moon-based platforms designed as an intermediary between earth and other planets for colonization.  The LCROSS probe was a $76 million add on to the orbiting lunar platform, but if it discovers useable water on the moon, may turn out to be worth its weight in gold.

As we wait out this new development, eager to hear if the moon really contains one of the key components for sustaining life, I can’t help but wonder what the future may hold.  After all, if we’re planning another manned trip to the moon in the next ten years, is it possible that with the assistance of Lunar water we could create a semi-permanent base there complete with agriculture?  Sometime within the next week we should know if this development will breath new life into the idea of Lunar colonization.