Today, ten years ago (October 9), NASA threw a pile of space debris into the moon and forever changed our perception of Earth's next neighbor.
Space Agency's Mooncrater Observation and Survey The Satellite (LCROSS) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) missions were launched on June 18, 2009 along with a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
LRO raced into the lunar orbit, where it operates until today. LCROSS however, stuck to the upper level of the Atlas V-centaurs and walked around the earth on a long, elliptical path that purposely put him on a collision course with the Moon.
Related: The Search for Water on the Moon in Pictures
The goal was to smash into a permanently shaded polar crater to determine if it contained water ice cold depths ̵
Near the Moon South Pole, early in the morning of October 9, 2009, large amounts of debris are blasted high above the lunar surface. The LCROSS spaceship flew through this ejection cloud and examined its composition in detail. LCROSS returned his measurements to the mission team and met Cabeus 6 minutes after the centaur.
The results of this suicide mission were exciting for anyone who wants humanity to explore and colonize the moon. LCROSS found that Cabeus & # 39; soil contains 5.6 mass% of water ice (plus or minus 2.9%). That's about twice as wet as the soil in the Sahara, mission team members said.
"When the LCROSS results became known, the entire concept of the Moon and its water inventory changed dramatically," said Tony Colaprete, Principal Investigator of LCROSS at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, said yesterday (October 8). in a NASA Q & A . "This was in addition to several other missions that revealed suspected signs of orbital water, and it was enough for governments around the world to turn and direct their attention to the moon." for a landing with crew in 2024, the first human mission on the lunar surface since Apollo 17 in 1972. The new work is part of the Artemis program of the Space Agency which aims to establish a long-term and sustainable presence on Around the Moon by 2028.
The lessons of this ambitious lunar exploration campaign will enable NASA and its international partners to achieve the ultimate human spaceflight target: Mars Colaprete said the walls of government space agencies were also erected.
"It has also triggered a new industry to extract water on the moon," he said in NASA's questions and answers. "Identifying water and other potential resources through LCROSS and other missions has motivated companies to develop services for the Moon, and NASA is helping to do so by doing business for these young commercial services." Company Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines will upgrade NASA's science and technology equipment as well as payloads of other customers to the lunar surface in 2021.
Other companies, such as Moon Express and ispace, are also building lunar surface vehicles to facilitate access to and exploitation of the moon's vast water ice stocks. Not only does this resource keep human explorers alive, it can also be turned into rocket fuel so that spaceships can fill their tanks on the move. Off-earth propellant depots could be a major breakthrough, enabling more ambitious missions, NASA officials and proponents of exploration said.
Mike Walls book on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life, " 19659018] (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate ) is available now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook .