Next Stop,the Moon

Two boxy little satellites colored gold and bronze that represent NASA’s return to the moon have reached the final stop before their big day. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite are stacked and mated aboard their Atlas V rocket and now waiting in the wings for rollout to the launch pad on June 16. After one more night on Earth, the companions will blast off for the moon June 17.

Two satellites outfitted with high-tech instrumentation, looking fairly clunky here on Earth will soon slip the bonds of Earth’s gravity and travel weightlessly to their final destinations, the moon. NASA is sending these satellites to the moon to learn more about our home planet’s nearest neighbor, which is also a geological wonderland. Did you know the moon has mountains that are many miles high, lava flows several hundred miles long and enormous lava tubes and craters of every size?

Most people don’t realize that only twelve human beings have set foot upon the moon, exploring only six locations on the lunar surface. There are spectacular vistas on the lunar surface that no human has yet seen — and equally spectacular scientific discoveries to be made. The knowledge gleaned from the fieldwork and sampling performed during the Apollo expeditions fundamentally changed our views of the solar system and the larger universe around us.

Our two missions readying for launch will provide data that will be useful for future exploration of the moon. LRO carries a full suite of instruments to tell us more about the moon than we’ve ever known before. Want to travel there someday? Even if you can’t, LRO will send the data to create high resolution 3-D topographic maps that will give us a detailed understanding of the lunar terrain and possibly help future explorers decide where to land. One instrument carries a plastic that resembles human tissue that will help us understand how the lunar radiation environment can affect living organisms. LRO is a bit nosy and will perpetually peer into permanently shadowed craters, sometimes using only the starlight as a guide. And it can tell us about the peaks where the sun never sets, too. These could be valuable for solar power if people learn how to stay on the moon long term.

And 1.6 million passengers will go along with LRO. The microchip with all the names from around the world that were collected in the Send Your Name to the Moon campaign are securely onboard and ready to go out into the cosmos.

LCROSS is a foot soldier with a more finite and focused mission. For four months, it’s going to hold on to the spent upper stage Centaur rocket that lofted it and LRO out of Earth orbit (something that has never before been done with a Centaur). LCROSS will then separate from the Centaur and send the 42 foot, 5200 pound rocket directly into the moon to create one of the biggest man made fireworks in history. The moon won’t be harmed, but a crater 66 feet wide and 13 deep will send up a plume of material that hasn’t seen the light of day perhaps for billions of years. In the refracted sunlight, LCROSS will quickly scan for water ice and other mineralogical data before heading for an impact on the moon’s surface itself.

Across the world, amateur astronomers and scientific institutions will be focused on LCROSS’ impacts. From hundreds of miles in space, the Hubble Space Telescope will turn to witness the event. The globe will share a moment of staring at the moon.

And then as the dust settles, LRO will continue to circle, and scan and send back data, taking images of the Apollo landing sites, cataloguing craters and mountains and boulders. Until humans can once again do it in person.

20 thoughts on “Next Stop,the Moon”

  1. Why are we focusing so much on a new version of the old Lunar Lander with a return “splash down”?

    Would it not be better to pilot to the moon and back? Why not refit the Shuttle with vertical landing/ take-off capabilities like Harrier Jump Jet?

    Drop lunar remote vehicle to test surface for suitable landing area, land Shuttle, conduct exploration, lift-off, and return home. Would this not be safer than “splash down”? Seems like greater risk, and greater limitation to the amount of resources available for the Astronauts. The Shuttle’s cargo bay would offer so much more, maybe even the beginning structures for a Lunar Space Center.

  2. Forgive me for my confusion.. but as the key thing is depth here.. well, 13 feet seems rather small. One could dig further than that with a spade?

  3. First of all, life on Earth requires the moon. The Earth is able to maintain it’s axis and rotation because of the gravitational pull from the moon. This allows for the constant change of seasons (and other things). Life, as we know it on this planet, requires the constant change of seasons (go see Planet Earth). Second, use what works. The Apollo missions proved that the command module & lunar lander is a very reliable system. Not counting Grissom, White & Chaffee (God rest their brave souls) we never lost an Apollo astronaut on liftoff, splashdown or anything in between. The Shuttle, although a technical marvel, is an aging technology and would not be reliable tool for moon missions.

  4. A return to the moon is very exciting. I remember the excitement of Apollo and the pride that it brought to the USA. It was amazing what was accomplished in the eight years between 1961 (Kennedy’s speech) and June 20, 1969. It is both amazing and disappointing to read the negative comments in this thread.

  5. At least when man goes back to the moon, there’s going to be enough scrap metal and other assorted rubbish to build a whole new space craft, in other word why can’t we reuse it. And why don’t we keep the space shuttle to act as a lifboat till the glitches are ironed out of these new manned moon missions?

  6. well you know what might be a rusk but ine that could benfit is send a rocket or something more techish lol and send it to the astroid belt and send it too the moon. so you could mine it on the moon and have exxtra materials for building, or send it to earth. yea it could crash into the earth right i know. but if they could get a rover to mars and hit the exact spot they wanted then i think that man can get a astroid to hit the moon. i mean the moon is already hit with astroids another crator shouldnt make to much of a differnece. and then ppl could see what happends when an object hits a moon. kinda like the shoemaker comet that hit jupitor. but just a thought that i had and had to share i know stupid but i felt like saying it.

  7. as it is found that there is water availability in the moon, is it possible that there can be life the water formed in the base of liquid or ice.Why cant we send a human robo to collect the samples of water formations in moon.If the water is in the form of liquid i beleive that an astro can take a live fish and drop it into the water there finding whether it can survive there.

  8. I’m very excited about the future moon missions, but is this not against the law to harm/destroy/modify celestial objects?

    Why bomb the moon? And by who’s authority is this being done? Should the people of the world have a say in whether NASA bombs the moon of our world? This is mind-boggling.

  9. dear sir
    it become a great news a hopeto isolate water on moon. the collonization on the moon it is a dream of humanbeing . if presece of water molecule on the south pole of the become a realy great news or a hope for devloping base camp for next step of other planet. like mars and titan like hope ful planet. for human . so in early year around 2020 become possible perform collony on the moon civilization.

  10. Next time you are planning a moon mission, could you drop off an amateur radio beacon, perhaps on 50MHz or 144MHz? Just a simple yagi antenna pointing back to earth, could do some useful atmosphere and space experiments.

    Thanks for your time


  11. I'm very excited about NASA's new mission. They should explore more and more of the moon. I wish NASA and ISRO all the best for their future missions.

  12. I have always been a very strong supporter of the space program. I remember, at the age of 10, when man first landed on the moon. It gave all us the feeling that anything is possible.

    I can only hope that I live long enough to experience our return, and this time, permanently. If given the chance I would be on the first commercial flight.

    I heard that the next moon landing had been cancelled or postponed due to federal budget constraints. Unbelivable, just more jobs lost.
    I hope this was not true.

  13. I like where Wes going with the shuttle idea! first we would need test the shuttle to see if it would make a round trip around the moon or achieve orbit then return home. maybe modify the cargo bay and add extra fuel and oxygen. then when perfected we could possibly build a lunar orbiting science station. then attempt to land. with a station orbiting the moon we would have a safe way-point. I seriously think NASA should start calculating the possibilities and overall phesability of such a project.

  14. I think this is really awesome to see. I’m really looking forward in seeing this huge, blast in the moon, where you can see from Earth!
    Also, Viewing the moon in 3-D on your own computer!

  15. fact is we never set foot on the moon
    its to hot in the sun and to cold in the shade.
    200+f above and 200+f below
    it was faked to clim we won the space war with russia.
    thats also why most every one from the program died in a stange way.
    it never happened and any one who thinks we walked on the moon had better research the facts about the radiation and extreme conditions that are on the moons surface and then look at the junk equipment we had bck then,
    if we had landed on the moon as they say we would already know if there were water on the moon.

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