Back to the moon with a blast

Here's a story that has been quietly developing and will come to the forefront later this summer and fall.

Forty years after man first walked on the moon, NASA has a mission underway to study the feasibility of establishing human outposts on the moon. The space agency launched a rocket last month that has two missions: the first is to precisely map the moon's surface; the second is to look for evidence of water in a spectacular experiment that has a few people worried. Scientists will slam an empty Atlas V Centaur rocket into the moon's surface at an impact speed of about 9,000 kilometres per hour. This kinetic impact is expected to create a crater as big as 8 kilometres wide and send a plume of dust high into space, such that it will be easily visible from earth.

NASA will be looking for evidence of ice or water in the gigantic dust cloud. If ice or water droplets are found in the debris or on the surface, scientists say living on the moon may be possible. Water molecules (H2O) could be separated into their component elements: hydrogen could be used for propellant and oxygen for breathing.

The big collision on the surface of the moon is scheduled for October near the moon's south pole. You can anticipate lots of news stories in August and September.

If you'd like to know more, see NASA's page here. It also has a video presentation that illustrates the experiments.

Photo is courtesy of Thomas Pate, who snapped this shot of the full moon in Tampa, Florida, on December 13, 2008. (

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