Moon bombed; little green men ticked

“They’re going to do WHAT?!,” I bellowed.

So okay, maybe I didn’t exactly bellow. And maybe I didn't even raise my voice all that much. But trust me, I uttered the question with heartfelt incredulity.

It all started when I got home this evening. I was tired, I was hungry, and I was looking forward to a nice warm welcome from my family. That’s not too much to ask, right?

Instead, the first thing I hear when I get in the door is, “Hey dad, did you hear about NASA?”

“Of course,” I say, “The dudes that do the space shuttle, the space station, and all that other space stuff.” (I'm annoying like that.)

“No, no,” my son says, “I’m not asking if you heard of them, I’m asking if you heard what they’re going to do tomorrow.”

“I give up. What are they going to do?”

“They’re going to bomb the moon.”

“They’re going to do WHAT?!” I bellow… oh, hold on, I think we already went over that part.

I must confess, I made most of this up. Except for the bit about bombing the moon. That part is real.

Tomorrow morning, at approximately 4:30 am Pacific time, the Centaur upper stage of an Atlas V rocket will plow into the moon. The impact will create a debris plume that rises above the lunar surface. Four minutes later, a spacecraft that previously separated from the Centaur will fly through the debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth. That spacecraft will then plow into the lunar surface and create a second plume.

So why is NASA spending precious tax dollars to create all this mayhem? Because of water. Or, more precisely, the suspicion that water exists below the moon's surface.

You see, if any water, hydrocarbons, or organics exist in the debris, they will become exposed to sunlight. The sunlight will then vaporize these items and break them down into their basic components. Spectrometers can then determine the amount and distribution of water in the debris plume -- if, indeed, any such water exists.

If you think I'm pulling your leg, check out the LCROSS page on the NASA website. You'll see that I'm telling the truth.

Unless, of course, you're one of those folks that refuse to believe the Apollo moon landings were real.

Um... they were, weren't they?


Sameer said...

The thing having happened yesterday, it was with typical American panache, more bombastic fizz than simple bang. And I do not understand the Western obsession with the Moon. How does it matter whether it takes one ton or 4 tons of regolith to extract five litres of water. The Soviets left the Moon alone long back. As written in Mars Crossing by Geoffery Landis, Mars is for Heroes. And so Moon is for non-event countries.

But I will watch the soon-coming film Moon.

Speaking of non-event countries, a few days ago Indian Space Research Organisation ( ISRO ) made public its buying the use of a Russian Soyuz capsule which can carry two pilots and a passenger. So ISRO who could build its own manned craft in perhaps fifteen years, will now never have to. The Soyuz is reliable. Unlike what ISRO could ever produce. Their next moon schedule will have a Russian moon lander and rover. Why does Russia have to do this?.

On the same day of ISRO's announcement, SpaceX spoke of successful test of the first and second stages of their Falcon-9 rocket which can carry more or less 5 tons to 35000 kms up. Much more than what 50-year ISRO can manage.

There's the SpaceX Dragon manned / luggage capsule which sits on top of Falcon-9. Dragon is scheduled for a early 2010 trip to ISS.

And China has a military space-station being launched in five or six years.

Sameer said...

Actually, there may be one use of the Moon after all. That of learning how to build concrete structures in open space and microgravity. This would be put to use in the Asteroid Belt, building bunkers on and within the asteroid. But all that could be done in the Belt itself in five years time, instead of playing with moon dust.

There are quite a few ways a asteroid could be used, and I am not talking about mining. But since your audience may have indians, I will not say here.

By the way, posting this comment from Mozilla Firefox ( Windows ) gave me some authentication-certificate error, but I used the Proceed Anyway button. Hoping its posted.