Feeds

NASA unleashes Moon-attack probe

Successful launch of lunar suicide mission

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) were successfully projected Moonwards yesterday atop an Atlas V rocket.

The Atlas V rocket blasts off yesterday. Pic: NASAThe launch from Cape Canaveral was at 21:32 GMT. The LRO separated from the upper stage at 22:16 GMT and will arrive at the Moon on Tuesday.

Its mission is to spend "at least a year in a low polar orbit approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles)" above the lunar surface, deploying seven instruments to "find safe landing sites, locate potential resources, characterize the radiation environment, and test new technology".

The LRO's payload includes the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER), designed to "characterize the lunar radiation environment, allowing scientists to determine potential impacts to astronauts and other life", the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA), which will "measure landing site slopes and lunar surface roughness and generate high resolution three-dimensional maps of the moon", and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) - intended to "retrieve high-resolution, black-and-white images of the lunar surface, capturing images of the lunar poles with resolutions down to 1 meter".

Centaur rocket separates from Shepherding Spacecraft. Pic: NASALCROSS, meanwhile, is still attached to the Atlas V's Centaur rocket upper stage, which it will guide in an elongated Earth orbit towards an eventual impact with the Moon's surface. On 9 October, LCROSS will release the Centaur (see graphic) on its suicide "heavy impactor" mission.

NASA predicts a substantial debris plume from the crash, "expected to be visible from Earth - and space-based telescopes 10-to-12 inches and larger". Four minutes after the Centaur's demise, LCROSS will descend through the plume sniffing for possible water and other compounds of interest.

For this purpose, it's packing "two near-infrared spectrometers, a visible light spectrometer, two mid-infrared cameras, two near-infrared cameras, a visible camera and a visible radiometer".

NASA elaborates: "As the ejecta rises above the target crater’s rim and is exposed to sunlight, any water-ice, hydrocarbons or organics will vaporize and break down into their basic components. These components primarily will be monitored by the visible and infrared spectrometers.

"The near-infrared and mid-infrared cameras will determine the total amount and distribution of water in the debris plume. The spacecraft’s visible camera will track the impact location and the behavior of the debris plume while the visible radiometer will measure the flash created by the Centaur impact."

Its work done, LCROSS will also end its days in pieces on the lunar surface.

NASA has an LRO/LCROSS press pack here (pdf). ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.