Feeds

Moon orbiter detects pole-plunge hotspots in dark bottom

NASA: LCROSS may have caused 'significant heating'

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Pics NASA has released new images from its spy satellite orbiting the Moon, showing the twin impacts at the lunar south pole of the iceberg-hunting probe which struck there on Friday.

LRO Diviner thermal imagery of the LCROSS hits overlaid on a daytime Moon map. Credit: NASA

Hotspots produced by the pole-diver craft.

The LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission saw a spent Centaur rocket stage make a high-angle, high-speed dive into the Cabeus crater in the lunar antarctic. This was followed minutes later by a "shepherding spacecraft" (SSC), specially built to first steer the empty rocket in, and then dive through and sniff the cloud of debris kicked up by the Centaur.

The freezing crater deeps of the lunar poles contain many areas which never see sunlight, and it is possible that there are substantial deposits of water ice there. Minuscule amounts of water are also thought to exist in normal sunlit regions, but this would be very hard to extract.

Exploitable reserves of water would be hugely useful for exploration of the Moon and perhaps for space operations in general. Water could be used to produce hydrogen for rocket fuel, and this could be important even for operations in Earth orbit - it would potentially be easier and cheaper for spacecraft and operations there to use fuel from the Moon, rather than supplies boosted up through Earth's more powerful gravity and troublesome atmosphere.

Hence NASA's efforts to find out if there might be water deposits in the chilly, eternally dark polar craters. The LCROSS impacts were watched with great interest on Friday, but disappointingly it appeared that no debris was thrown high enough above the obscuring crater walls to enter sunlight and so be visible to ordinary visual observation. Neither Earthly telescopes nor the plunging LCROSS follower saw any sunlit plume after the two-ton Centaur smashed into the deeps of Cabeus, and the follower craft similarly appeared to have little effect.

However, NASA had another card to play. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which went into space atop the same booster stack as the LCROSS, has been orbiting the Moon since June. Given the lack of any lunar atmosphere, the satellite can orbit safely just 30 miles up, scanning the surface beneath with an array of instruments.

Just 90 seconds after the LCROSS craft plummeted into Cabeus, the LRO made its first pass overhead. Over the weekend NASA assembled imagery of the strike zone, and pictures were released yesterday.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Free virtual appliance for wire data analytics
The ExtraHop Discovery Edition is a free virtual appliance will help you to discover the performance of your applications across the network, web, VDI, database, and storage tiers.
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.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.