At 7.31am on Friday, a large empty rocket hull the size of an SUV and travelling at 9 000km/h smacked into the moon’s surface in what will go down in history as one of the oddest and most expensive ways to go divining for water.
The impact, in a crater called Cabeus at the south pole, was supposed to kick up a 10km-high plume of debris. Four minutes later, a following probe, the Opel Corsa-sized Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS for short, followed the rocket through the cloud of dust and rubble, taking a flurry of pictures before smashing into the smoking hole left by its predecessor.
Sadly for rocket science, the pictures, which the scientists hoped would determine whether there is water on the moon – and which cost $79m to take – were fuzzy.
It is not known whether the scientists were cross with LCROSS. An Associated Press report quoted NASA officials who said their instruments were working, but live photos of the actual crash were missing. One possibility for the lack of pictures is that, given the poor lighting, the exposure was wrong.
Project manager Dan Andrews told AP: “What matters for us is: What is the nature of the stuff that was kicked up going in? All nine instruments were working fine and we received good data.”
It will be at least two weeks before science knows what they found. After three years of preparation and four months of space travel, what’s 14 days?
Meanwhile, they can chew over the recent data from India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe and NASA’s own Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which recently confirmed that there is in fact water on the moon’s surface.
Finding water is important to future plans to set up really expensive gas stations on the moon – astronauts need to rehydrate and water could also supply rocket fuel for the last leg back to Earth. But it’s unlikely that moon settlements will look anything like the Utopian gated community conjured up by space writer Isaac Asimov (above) whose vast works include the classic The Tragedy of The Moon.
Space exploration is usually important work, and NASA doesn’t get a lot of funding (its 2008 budget was $17.6bn, the equivalent of four months’ spending on the war in Iraq in 2003). But sending probes to Jupiter and beyond is one thing, firing empty rockets at the poor, battered moon is another.
If they really wanted to spend money looking for water, why not come to Alexandra township, drill some boreholes and help clean up the Jukskei River? Seventy-nine million dollars would buy a lot of taps.
This is ridiculous !
for 79 million dollars they could drill THOUSANDS
of wells in developing countries so people could have clean water ..
totally crazy !
We have taken photos from the darkside of the moon herein Oz, the size of the hole is amazing. Now that mining has started up there please send Malema to manage the operation
Typical Americans. Going all out to bomb innocent defenceless inhabitants of the moon, whilst their president gets congratulated with a Nobel Prize. Iraq, Afghanisatn, Vietnam!
Okay lets look at the other side, if there is water on the moon we could colonize it.
Also I’m not sure developing countries deserve clean water, who are we to presume otherwise?
“Typical Americans”? “Inhabitants of the Moon”? I hope for the sake of your country that you have some mental disorder and that the other citizens there don’t think the way you do. First off, the only reason Canada isn’t part of America is because America tried to invade them early on and couldn’t (when BRITAIN was fighting their battles) and then the Americans started trading and making more money than they would stand to gain from conquering Canada. America makes more money, has more freedom, and is your bodyguard whether Canada likes it or not. Second, in Afghanistan there are radical islamic terrorist who want to kill every non-Arabic and non-Muslim person on the planet and even a lot of the Muslims that don’t agree with them; their main targets are the people of America and Israel. America retalliated after being attacked and Afghanistan was harboring them. Iraq was being run by a sadistic tyrant who slaughtered his people and buried them in mass graves all around his country oh and not to mention the whole violating the treaty that let him stay in power from the early 90s. As for Vietnam, the North Vietnamese were being funded by the Soviets and the Chinese and would have (and did) set up a communist government had America not attempted to intervene. The North were slaughtering the South in civil war. America jumped in the war and would have won but politics got involved and it was pinned on Nixon as if it were his fault that Johnson brought America into the war.
As for the comment earlier about the developing countries, it’s not NASA’s job to find water here. It’s their job to find a way to set a permanant station on the Moon so that we as a planet can be that much further to timely space travel. To the moon is four monts. To Mars it’s about 8 and a half or more. Being able to cut four months out of a trip like that and being able to refuel would mean the difference between decades and centuries of trial and error and experimentation.
Before you people go bashing on whatever sounds like incompetence, why don’t you do some research first? This is an editorial not a report.
Duh, everyone knows that the moon is made of cheese!
Anita, you’ve stated that for the price of the building and launch of this probe, we could have drilled thousands of clean wells for humans in developing nations. While this would help thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, it wouldn’t be forwarding the long term survival of the human race.
This launch is a small step to building a permanent human settlement on the moon, which would be a great step towards global unification and moving some of our eggs out of the giant basket that is earth.
the abbrvation behind the 79 billion not million
excuse me 17.6 bn is not 79 million it is $17.6 billion your right thats a lot of money to be wasting
the moon is there for a reason no need for us too touch it……
Freeze dried coffee is made by applying a vacuum to the frozen liquid. Space is a vacuum. Liquids on the moon would be frozen. After billions of years, even at verrry low temperatures there should be very little left.
Zachary is exactly right, and those who think he is way out there, either aren’t thinking or are very self absorbed.
Earth is indeed in an extinction phase, hence the longing from some for a new planet to live on.
But when the day comes that there are colonies on other planets, I bet it won’t be the descendents of Earth’s poor, huddled masses who are chosen to go and live there. Unless, they’re required for menial labour, of course.
Ok so NASA laid a big goose egg, but I hearken to the memory not to long in human past when many trials and errors were occuring at Kitty Hawk, NC. I think it was Orville Wright who said the day before their 3 successful test flights that “..it is improbable that man was ever meant to fly..”. Seems we humans always throw up our hands and want to quit just before we hit the real truth of the matter. We are meant as a species to go out and colonize space. If not the moon well its a real big world out there–err excuse me –its a real big universe out there lets get at it!!
Indian technology can find the water but US technology cant. LOL
This made me laugh. Thank you – I needed it much more than the glass of water the moon well promised!
MOON IS THE WAY OF LIGHT PROVIDED BY THE GOD FOR HUMAN BEINGS AND EVERY LIVING THINGS ON EARTH
DESTORYING IT IS NOT TOLERETD BY GOD BE CAREFUL
If they find that there is water in Moon, that will be a great turning point in science. Kudos to NASA
1. The inhabitants of developing countries should dig their own wells. It is not rocket science though.
2. Looking after the poor is not the wealth’s requirement.
3. The mines on the moon CAN and SHOULD be nationalised. As Malema recently completed a crash course in grabbing everything.
4. There is no water on the moon. Not enough gravity to retain the H2O molecules during lunar day when temperatures rise to 130C