SETI [ASTRO] Lunar Prospector To Be Crashed To Find Lunar Ice

Larry Klaes (
Wed, 02 Jun 1999 15:25:55 -0400

>X-Authentication-Warning: majordom set sender to owner-astro using -f >Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1999 14:56:23 GMT >From: Ron Baalke <> >To: >Subject: [ASTRO] Lunar Prospector To Be Crashed To Find Lunar Ice >Sender: >Reply-To: Ron Baalke <> > >Office of Public Affairs >University of Texas-Austin >P O Box Z >Austin, Texas 78713-7509 >(512) 471-3151 FAX (512) 471-5812 > >June 1, 1999 > >UT Austin researchers and NASA to crash spacecraft to find lunar ice > >AUSTIN, Texas -- Is there water on the moon? Researchers at The University >of Texas at Austin have designed a quick experiment to find out -- crash a >retired lunar module into the moon's south pole, which is believed to contain >ice. > >UT engineers and an astronomer are teaming up with researchers from >NASA-Ames and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to analyze the debris >created by the crash and check for evidence of water. > >"The discovery of ice on the moon would be of great importance for human >exploration of space. Space explorers could separate the ice into hydrogen >and oxygen and use it for rocket fuel. They could use the liquid water to >build and supply a lunar base," reasons Professor David Goldstein, a UT >Austin aerospace engineer who helped design the experiment, along with >Professor Steve Nerem, also a UT Austin aerospace engineer. > >Goldstein identified a NASA spacecraft now orbiting the moon called "Lunar >Prospector," whose mission will end this summer when it runs out of fuel >and crashes into the moon. > >His group has proposed to make Prospector's end a controlled crash, targeting >a crater at the moon's south pole believed to have ice patches. Using some of >the world's most powerful telescopes, Goldstein's group can measure the >plume of water vapor created by the crash, thereby proving water's existence >on the moon. The crash is planned July 31. > >Prospector, as part of its primary mission, clearly detected hydrogen at the >moon's poles. Hydrogen, along with oxygen, make up water, so Prospector >found strong, but inconclusive, evidence of water at the poles. Prospector >found the hydrogen inside permanently shadowed craters, craters whose >floors never see direct sunlight, which would melt any ice. > >"It really is a long-shot experiment," admits Goldstein. "We are crashing >Prospector into a permanently shadowed polar crater, which means we >cannot see the crash. But we hope to create a barely measurable plume of >debris containing ice crystals, dust and water vapor, which will rise out >of the crater for a few minutes. In addition, although the moon generally >has no atmosphere, we hope the vapor produced by the crash may produce >a very thin atmosphere that we can detect several hours later." > >Goldstein's group is coordinating observations from UT's McDonald >Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory in >Hawaii. NASA has provided preliminary approval for the project, although >final approval is pending. > >Goldstein's plan "Impacting Lunar Prospector in a Cold Trap to Detect Water >Ice" is to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Geophysical Research >Letters and presented at the American Geophysical Union's spring conference >June 1-4 in Boston. > >For further information from the following sources contact: > >American Geophysical Union, Harvey Liefert, 202-939-3212 >NASA-Ames, Lisa Chu Thielbar, 650-604-0182 > >The University of Texas at Austin College of Engineering of maintains a >web site at > > >

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