Friday, October 09, 2009

With a bang, but with a barely visible bang

Well, it wasn't very showy, but at least the scientists got something to work with.

Scientists said NASA's moon-smashing mission produced enough data on Friday to address questions about lunar water ice — but the crash didn't come close to meeting public expectations as a cosmic fireworks show.

"Today we kicked up some moondust, and all indications are we are going to have some really interesting results," said Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center in California. Ames served as the mission control center for the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission, or LCROSS.


The LCROSS blast promised to show how much water ice might lie within a cold, dark crater known as Cabeus. And judging by that scientific standard, members of the LCROSS team said Friday's closely observed crash was shaping up as a smashing success. The spacecraft hit the crater in a shadowed area, just as hoped. All of LCROSS' instruments appeared to be working as expected, and observations were streaming in from a network of ground-based telescopes monitoring the impact.

But there was no big flash, as was expected and hoped for. Disappointing to the watchers, no doubt, but I guess they can't all be Tempel 1. Now that was a blast.

Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

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