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NASA to send impactor probe to the Moon
Posted: Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 8:45 PM ET (0045 GMT)
LCROSS spacecraft illustration (NASA) NASA will fly a small spacecraft designed to crash into the lunar surface in search of water ice, the space agency revealed Monday. The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will fly to the Moon as a secondary payload on the EELV-classrocket that will be used to launch NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. LCROSS will fly to the Moon independent of LRO, attached to the upper stage used to send both spacecraft towards the Moon. Shortly before arriving, LCROSS will separate from the upper stage, which will then impact the lunar surface in a crater near the south pole. LCROSS will fly through the debris plume created by the impact, looking for evidence of water ice or other volatiles thought to exist in permanently-shadowed craters there. LCROSS will later itself crash into the lunar surface; Earth-based telescopes and orbiting spacecraft will observe the impact. The $73-million spacecraft will be built by Northrop Grumman and managed by NASA's Ames Research Center. LCROSS was picked from several proposals submitted to NASA earlier this year for secondary payloads that would fly on the same rocket as LRO.
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