This morning, around 7:31 EST, NASA’s “moon bombing” went off without a hitch as the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite captured footage of its Centaur counterpart impacting a crater on the moon’s south pole at 5,600 miles per hour. The impact displaced about 350 metric tons of lunar terrain, leaving a new crater about 65 feet wide and 13 feet deep.
Just after Centaur’s impact, as the LCROSS satellite makes it’s approach.
Following four minutes behind, the LCROSS satellite analyzed the resulting plume of soil, rock, and (hopefully) water ice, beaming its observations back to its NASA handlers on Earth before crashing on the lunar surface as well.
Scientists believe they’ve already detected plenty of water at the lunar south pole, but there’s no detecting quite like actually touching the stuff, hence NASA’s mission to throw some ice up into the air and empirically observe its presence there. Confirmed sources of water on the moon would have vast implications for the future establishment of a long-term moon base, as well as for engineering ways for lunar explorers to refuel via fuel-cells or to refill their oxygen tanks during prolonged moon missions.
Details about what LCROSS found won’t be available immediately. In the meantime, a rather enthusiastic LCROSS left us with a Twitter feed detailing its final minutes racing toward certain demise. As the LCROSS team eulogized on said feed: “The LCROSS mission has ended. But the scientific discovery continues.”