“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?