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NASA to crash probe into Moon

Hunt for water ice hots up

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NASA has announced its intention to crash a probe into the surface of the Moon to analyse the resulting plume of material for possible water ice.

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite is part of the agency's raft of planned robotic missions slated for 2008 to 2016, dedicated to studying the lunar surface as a prelude to future manned missions. It will launch in 2008 as a secondary payload along with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, subsequently travelling independently to the Moon.

The plan is to impact the vehicle's upper stage into a "permanently-shadowed crater at the lunar south pole". The plume created will, NASA says, be visible from Earth-based observatories and available for visual and physical inspection by the satellite component of the craft.

Its mission completed, this in turn will be crashed into the Moon, thereby brewing up a second plume for Earth and Moon orbit-based observation. ®

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