[This piece was originally hosted on my now-defunct MA course blog.]
It wasn’t the expected display of fireworks.
NASA’s LCROSS lunar probe (a name that reminds me of LCARS) crash landed onto the moon last Friday, though it didn’t provide the dust display moon-watchers all over the world were hoping for. The purpose of this mission was to verify the existence of water on the moon, after NASA’s instruments aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 were said to have detected it. NASA has plans to set up a permanent base on the moon which will require a supply of water, and the initial detection boosted NASA’s plans of doing so.
NASA expected that the probe, travelling at 1.6 miles per second (approximately 2.6 kilometres per second), would impact the moon with enough force to raise a plume six miles high, visible with a simple telescope. However, the results weren’t as expected, and the impact only covered a few pixels on NASA’s detector and lasted very few seconds. NASA said that the data collected from this impact was significant and would prove to be very useful, despite the impact not being as spectacular as they predicted.
Despite my fascination with science and space, I find it hard to come to terms with the amount of money spent on crashing an expensive probe onto the moon. And I’m not the only one: National Geographic has a similar view. I agree that space has fascinated mankind for millennia, and our closest extra-terrestrial body is the easiest to observe and conduct experiments on. But what purpose will it serve to seek another place to dwell if we are unable to solve the problems afflicting the one home we do have?
[On a lighter note, the impact has left people suggesting that earth is at war with the moon. :D]