Sep 5, 2009

Shooting (for) the moon

The latest activity to capture the interest of the fringe and lunatics (never was that description more apt) is the fact that NASA/the US is going to set off a nuclear bomb and blast our dear Luna out of its orbit.

Following the sage advice of others to consider Google my friend (though there are some that would disagree even with that), I have found what the current paranoid hoopla is about: It is the LCROSS mission, which is about finding water on the moon, to see if the moon can support a human space station there.

NASA intends to shoot (or crash) a missile into the moon. Some people believe "missile" only means something loaded with explosives, and nuclear ones are the most likely. That has led some people to interpret this as not only damaging the moon, but as damaging it so much it would shift in its orbit or its shape would be changed forever. The truth is, it's all just simple mechanics and physics, and no nukes: Slam something hard enough into the ground and it'll kick up dirt. (Interestingly, the missile is named Centaur. Perhaps that's why it grabbed this Sagittarian's attention.)

What's really happening is akin to getting a shot in the arm, except we want to draw a bit of blood. The idea is to have a strong enough impact that any water in the ground would show up in the impact dust as water vapor. That is what the scientists want to see and measure. That is why we're shooting the moon. We want to, once again, shoot for the moon. Actually leave some folks up there. But we'll need a local source of water. As before, whenever humans went anywhere, we stayed only if we found a local source of water.

My initial reaction, too, was what the heck are they trying to do now? But after reading the mission description, I'm all for it. I'm all for space exploration. As NASA says in its own presskit:

By going to the moon, a new generation of explorers will learn how to work safely in a harsh environment. The moon is a stepping stone to future exploration of other bodies in our solar system and offers many clues about when the Earth and the other planets were formed.

The magic date: October 9, 11:30 GMT. NASA will televise for those of us without telescopes (10" or better) or a view of the moon.


Protege said...

Ah, I have missed this totally! I will for sure watch this. I agree with everything you say; even if a part of me feels that at times we should try to be happy here with our own planet, I also know that the curiosity of mankind and the will to move forward and know more is the most appealing of her traits.

Thank you for this post.;))

Sravana said...

Wow. First I've heard of that!

Tom said...

I've pretty much given up trying to educate these lunatics (and it's a very good word you chose by the way!). There have been several missions in the last few decades that have smashed things into the moon and some more recent ones that included ground observations of the impact to look for water. Unlike LCROSS they were not specifically designed to look for water and not surprisingly weren't too successful in that department (SMART-1 is a good example).

You only have to look at the huge craters on the moon to see that it has suffered some really massive impacts in the past and what a surprise, it's still there! No impact we will create will come anywhere near what the cosmos has already done!

Even if no water is detected in this mission I doubt it will stop the next manned lunar mission - NASA are just looking to see what their options are.


Keera Ann Fox said...

Protege, even if we never explore space, we learn so much from trying. A number of innovations made for space exploration have benefited us (like felt-tip pens :-) ).

Sravana, if it weren't for a chance comment on Facebook, I wouldn't have known, either. The thing is, NASA is currently doing dozens of explorations, and I was surprised to discover that.

Tom, I'm getting so tired of every thing being instantly (it seems) mangled into some conspiracy/nazi ploy/what have you. As you point out, the evidence that Selena would easily handle another thump shows plainly on her face. (Had to work in the moon's other name. :-) ) I'm very curious about options. What NASA discovers may help our own water situation here on Earth.