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NASA's $73 Million Water-Finding Trick 294

An anonymous reader writes "The folks at NASA, obviously looking for new ways to explore the universe, are planning to crash a two-ton probe into the moon. The goal? To find water." From the article: "NASA plans a series of robotic precursor missions including the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, which will plow into the crater, and the mapper, called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. When LCROSS strikes the crater, it is expected to create a hole 16 feet deep and send up a 2.2 million-pound (998,000-kg) plume of debris for sensors and cameras stationed on a second spacecraft to monitor. Dozens of ground-based telescopes, as well as possibly space observatories, such as the Hubble telescope, will be trained on the plume as well."
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NASA's $73 Million Water-Finding Trick

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:26PM (#15103395)
    That's no moon, it's a.... ... pinata?
  • by Shifty Jim ( 862102 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:27PM (#15103400) Homepage
    Now if they'd just started making this one of the secondary objectives in every mission, there would hardly ever be any failed missions. It's a Win/Win situation.
  • by EGSonikku ( 519478 ) <petersen.mobile@gmail. c o m> on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:34PM (#15103423)
    Since i'm positive someone will post it, i'll debunk it ahead of time.

    "WHAT IF WE DESTROY THE MOON!?"

    It won't. A good anaology would be crashing the empire state building into Wyoming. It would look sorta cool, but that's about it.

    "WHAT ABOUT DESTROYING NATURE!?"
    Well, the moon in a dead chunk of former Earth material which has no atmosphere and certainly no ecology. And as stated previously, the explosion won't be all that neat on a planetary scale. The Moon has taken much much worse hits from meteors and what not.

    So basically, break out your telescopes in '08 and enjoy the show.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:51PM (#15103508) Journal
      The Moon has taken much much worse hits from meteors and what not.

      Moon: "Mom, finally my acne has started to clear up after four billion years."

      Ffffffuump!

      Moon: "Oh shit! Just before my big date with Titan!"
             
    • It would look sorta cool

      Only sort of?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      A good anaology would be crashing the empire state building into Wyoming.

      I think that would be a bad analogy.

      • mass of moon [google.com] = 7.36 × 10^22 kg
      • mass of impactor: 1 x 10^6 (from the /. blurb)
      • mass of empire state building: 5 x 10^8 (googling gives the oft-cited stat that the mass of the great pyramid is ~ 13 x the empire state building, and the mass of Great Pyramid of Giza is listed as 6 x 10^9
      • mass of wyoming: Not easily determined.

      Your analogy is bad since the mass of wyoming is not eas

    • "It won't. A good anaology would be crashing the empire state building into Wyoming. It would look sorta cool, but that's about it." This is perhaps the worst analogy designed to combat irrational fears ever.
    • Close; I believe the usual question is actually "WHAT IF WE CHANGE THE MOON'S ORBIT?", actually.

      Also something about wondering if we smash enough things into the moon if we'll lower the Earth's gravity and make the Moon heavier. For extra bonus points ask if someday (presumably "someday" in the near-enough future that the question actually concerns the asker) that will cause the Earth and Moon to collide.

      For double extra bonus points, be worried about the possible effect on the Earth's climate all these mas
      • You seem to think that the majority of Slashdot readers have some scientific background ;-)

        I assumed that this never happens, but did actually bump into a few recently :-D
      • For double extra bonus points, be worried about the possible effect on the Earth's climate all these massive cosmic changes will be having.

        I can assure you that this isn't a problem. After all, the last time the Moon collided with Earth, there was no significant impact on Earth life.

    • Actually, I thought the Empire State Building analogy was fairly good. The sizes are kinda irrelevant; neither the building nor the probe will destroy Wyoming nor the moon, and both would look pretty cool. ^_^

  • by rijrunner ( 263757 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:35PM (#15103433)

        They used to crash the upper stages of the Saturn 5 to gain scientific data from the Moon. Learned a lot that way.

        Hard to say if this will work though. The theoretical plume size has a lot of unknowns involved. To date, they have never directly observed water on the Moon, but have only identified a certain amount of hydrogen, which would correspond to a certain amount of water, if that hydrogen was bound in water molecules. If the hydrogen is hydrated minerals, that plume will be much, much smaller than projected.
    • They used to crash the upper stages of the Saturn 5 to gain scientific data from the Moon. Learned a lot that way.

      Its a shame they switched off the original ALSEP seismometers, they might actually be able to tell us something about the structure under the south pole.

      I wonder how long those RTG's were going to last anyway?

  • by HermanAB ( 661181 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:36PM (#15103438)
    I guess NASA did learn something from all the Mars impacts after all... ;)
  • by martyb ( 196687 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:37PM (#15103440)

    FTA: NASA astronauts visited the moon during the late 1960s and early 1970s under the Apollo program but have not returned.

    I think it's a little late, now, to think of sending up missions to bring them back to earth.<grin>

  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:37PM (#15103444) Journal
    Shouldn't they study the ecological effects before maring the pristine surface of our neighbor?

    Have they no respect for the environment?

    • Phase II = MoonRaker!

      And if that doesn't clear things up, well, we'll send in MoonLeafBlower!
    • Given that the moon has only slightly more life than Tulsa on a Sunday night, I don't think that there will be much of a problem.
    • Shouldn't they study the ecological effects before marring the pristine surface of our neighbor?


      They did, and after spending $94M on the ecological study, Halberton Scientific concluded that there would be "a near-zero probability of killing any significant life on the moon".

  • by andytrevino ( 943397 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:38PM (#15103448) Homepage

    They better not hit the sites of any of my future summer homes! [lunarregistry.com]

    ;)

  • by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:39PM (#15103449) Homepage
    "... it is expected to create a hole 16 feet deep and send up a 2.2 million-pound (998,000-kg) plume of debris"

    I think they're most likely ballpark figures for a 5 metre deep crater, and 1000 tonnes of debris. Convert these to imperial measurements and back again without thinking too much, and you gain many significant figures of accuracy!
    • Good point, although you're actually talking about precision, not accuracy. They don't mean the same thing.
    • No, no, if they do that they run the risk of soft-landing the impact probe. Or missing the Moon altogether.

      (that's a joke, by the way).

  • Hubble (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:39PM (#15103453) Journal
    Dozens of ground-based telescopes, as well as possibly space observatories, such as the Hubble telescope, will be trained on the plume as well.

    It does not look like Hubble will be around long enough. Without shuttle-based repairs, it is not expected to last more than a few more years unless it gets luckier than the Mars rovers.

    This collision mission sounds similar to the comet-crash mission last 4th of July, Deep Impact [wikipedia.org].
    • The instrument degradation isn't the key reason why the Hubble won't matter much on this mission.

      The key instrument for a detetion of water is most probably a spectrograph (IR, UV, etc), which the Hubble has none at this point. Unless there is a servicing mission AND the NASA decides to repair the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, the Hubble won't do us any good.

      You cross your finger that there are other IR spectrograph in orbit. Or you could do this sort of things from 8m class ground telescopes, perha
    • Without shuttle-based repairs, it is not expected to last more than a few more years unless it gets luckier than the Mars rovers.

      Just in case you didn't realize it, 2009 is only a few years off. Actually a pretty good chance of Hubble being able to get spectacular shots for public consumption. Will they be of any scientific value, hard to say, but likely not, the correct instrumentation isn't there. Doesn't matter tho, a few color corrected visible spectrum shots for public consumption is more than a

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:39PM (#15103454)
    When you need to crash a spacecraft, NASA are the go to guys.
  • by wbren ( 682133 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:40PM (#15103462) Homepage
    But... But... The Enterprise doesn't smash a Class 1 Probe into planets when it wants to scan for water, so why does NASA have to? Or maybe this is another instance where I'm inappropriately placing elements of Star Trek technology into contemporary science problems? I'm so confused...
  • Scary idea (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:41PM (#15103468)
    Good Lord,
    In space there's hardly any gravity. I've seen pictures of ordinary humans being able to perform great feats of strength in space, like upside down pushups with the tip of their finger while wearing an orange jumpsuit and gobbling floating blobs of water like a chameleon. I've also seen astronauts on the moon take great flying leaps that no human could do on Earth. If an ordinary human can do those things in space, then obviously a 2 ton weight should be able to do unimaginable damage. It's likely that the moon will either crack into 2 pieces, or possibly fly off into space where it will be gobbled up by Jupiter or become a tenth planet. I can't imagine what these "scientists" are thinking. We seriously need to put a stop to this now.
  • Moon Missions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by biocute ( 936687 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:43PM (#15103478) Homepage
    One thing I like about Moon missions is we can see the results pretty much immediately, we can even see the mission via a telescope!
  • "NASA's mission to crash a probe into the moon came to an unfortunate end today as the probe suffered a glitch and settled into a stable orbit around the Moon instead of the planned death-dive. Officials said they believe the cause of the problem was engineers mistakenly using the metric system in a system where imperial measures should have been used."

    ~Philly
  • Is this really necessary?

    I'm glad that banging stuff together when bored and frustrated is still an accepted practice.

    Now to take care of some coworkers...
  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @12:01AM (#15103547)
    Okay, I admit, I'm a bit of a bumpkin when it comes to understanding the scale of all this. I was just curious: Would this be visible to the naked eye?

    Why do I ask? I was watching some show on Discovery or History Channel several years ago. They said that in the 1600's or so some monks prayed for a sign, then they looked up at the sky and saw the moon on ... of all things... fire. There was a theory that a large meteor struck the moon and put on a light show. I was just curious if a.) Anybody knows about the story I'm referring to and can point me at the right search terms to find it and b.) if there's an off-shoot chance that Nasa's going to pull a stunt that'll result in some group of people suddenly dropping to their knees and praying.
    • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @12:20AM (#15103622)
      Is this [bbc.co.uk] maybe what you're referring to? From the linked article:

      There is also a very old historical account that could also be explained by a meteor hitting the Moon. This was recorded by Gervase of Canterbury who, in 1178, along with five other monks, saw a very bright flash on the Moon:

      "There was a bright New Moon, and as usual in that phase its horns were tilted towards the east. Suddenly, the upper horn split in two. From the midpoint of the division, a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out fire, hot coals and sparks."

      Some astronomers believe that the crater Bruno, one of the youngest on the lunar surface, may have been formed in this event.


      More information in this [nasa.gov] article. Hope this helps.
  • Assuming they do find water, I can't help but wonder what the quality of it would be. Would it be drinkable? Would it need to go through a 24 stage modern filtration system? What about the posibility of consumers of the water getting moon cooties? You gotta be careful about moon cooties...>_>
  • by revery ( 456516 ) * <[charles] [at] [cac2.net]> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @12:15AM (#15103596) Homepage
    The project, called "Deep Orbital Water Sensing Emitter" or DOWSE, is NASA's most ambitious project in years. Current plans call for the capital-Y-shaped vessel to be finished and ready for launch in early 2007 and while the execution may be complex, the basic idea is simple. Engines in the craft's stems will propel it toward the moon, while the actual navigational commands will be issued from the hollow body of the vessel. "What will be in that half-mile long tude issuing these complex water-seeking commands," you ask? As much of the US's growing psychic population as NASA can cram in, comes the almost predictable answer. And while the psychics will certainly be killed on lunar impact, NASA feels that this will more than offset the cost of what is almost certain to be a failed mission.
  • by dartarrow ( 930250 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @12:18AM (#15103616) Homepage
    ...planning to crash a two-ton probe into the moon."

    To ensure the probe actually crashes I suggest we use MS Windows.

    :D
    COuldn't resist
  • NASA's $73 Million Shovel

    I'm pretty sure I could make something from a few car batteries and a thousand bucks at the hardware store that would do the job better than a $73M small bomb, provided they supply the rocket to send it up. Is this really the best we can do? Heck, why bother with the probe if it's just going to crash? Surely the rocket alone would be much cheaper.

  • Maybe they should mount a dowsing [randi.org] rod onto the guidance system...
  • Ok, this sound like fun and games until someone gets hurt. When they wake up Godzilla, I think he might be pretty pissed off, kindof like Napolean returning from Alba or something!
  • Heh... (Score:4, Funny)

    by wolf369T ( 951405 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @01:12AM (#15103809) Homepage
    An they will *accidentally* crash the probe on the Apollo 11 landing site. Then listen to the conspirationists...
  • According to this CNN article [cnn.com], it's actually a $600 million mission. The probe itself is capped at $80 million, yes, but the entire mission's cost also includes getting the probe and its mother ship into lunar orbit, dropping the probe, and getting the mother ship to fly through the plume and search for water vapor.
  • by RMB2 ( 936187 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @01:19AM (#15103836)
    From TFA: NASA astronauts visited the moon during the late 1960s and early 1970s under the Apollo program but have not returned.

    Those astronauts, who sacrificed so willingly, sitting up there all alone on the Moon for thirty years...
  • by cje ( 33931 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @01:45AM (#15103899) Homepage
    It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!)

    Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you. Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "moon" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "moon" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "moon" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night!

    Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "moon" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950. That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the moon", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "moon" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.

    (Hey, I've seen enough people plagiarize this piece over the years, I thought I might as well post it myself for old time's sake.)

  • Why don't they just use two bent sticks?
  • this probe will probably land, begin running experiments and set up a biosphere before quietly and uneventfully returning to earth
  • "He who breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom." - Gandalf the Grey

Five is a sufficiently close approximation to infinity. -- Robert Firth "One, two, five." -- Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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