On Friday morning (October 9th) a spacecraft the size of a VW bus will crash into our only moon. LCROSS, or: the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite is meant to shake up the surface of the moon in attempt to determine what can be upturned (water please?) following a huge punch in the moon’s face. The mission is part of a larger goal to map the moon’s resources to determine just how much chicken salad workers on a moon base would need to bring with to survive.
If you’re lucky enough to 1) live on the west coast 2) own a pair of binoculars you’ll be able to see this lunar effacement as it happens. Four-thirty AM PST. Set your alarm! (viewing information here). Here’s how it will go down:
On final approach, the Shepherding Spacecraft and Centaur will separate and the Centaur upper stage will act as a heavy impactor to create a debris plume that will rise above the lunar surface. Following four minutes after impact of the Centaur upper stage, the Shepherding Spacecraft will fly through this debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth before impacting the lunar surface and creating a second debris plume. NASA expects the impact velocity will be over 9,000 km/h (5,600 mph). [via Wikipedia]
The following video is a great into to the mission:
LCROSS Animation on KQED Public Media.
More imagery of the moonsplosion:
If you’d like more information, visit the NASA LCROSS site.