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Small Crash on Moon Could Have Big Scientific Impact

Scientists hope crashing a probe into the moon will shed light on whether there is much water there.

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  • NASA MISSION CONTROL:

    We're watching the remaining few seconds of the LCROSS mission, as we approach very rapidly the surface of the Cabeus crater.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    As scientists at mission control watched a rocket careen toward the moon at nearly 6,000 miles an hour and hit, this is what they expected to see, a spectacular six-mile-high plume of lunar dust kicked up by the impact, big enough to be seen by telescopes on Earth.

    But, when the rocket hit at 7:31 this morning, this is what the world saw: foggy images, with a fuzzy white mass.

  • NASA MISSION CONTROL:

    The shepherding spacecraft has hit the surface of the moon.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Still, NASA scientists hailed the mission at the press conference afterwards.

    ANTHONY COLAPRETE, LCROSS principal investigator, NASA Ames: I can certainly report there was an impact. We saw that impact. We saw the crater.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Anthony Colaprete is the mission's principal investigator.

  • ANTHONY COLAPRETE:

    We got good measurements, spectroscopic measurements, which is what we needed, of the — the impact event. So, we have the data we need to actually address the questions we set out to address.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The mission was designed to confirm, one way or the other, scientists' long-held suspicion that there is frozen ice — maybe lots of it — in the dark poles of the moon. Ice could generate water and even oxygen, a boon for future missions to the moon and beyond, says former NASA-scientist-turned-space-reporter Keith Cowing.

  • KEITH COWING, NASA Watch:

    Now if there's water on the moon, a lot of water, you could use it to make fuel, water to drink, and air to breathe. And every bit — it's kind of like the old trains going through the West. They would stop somewhere. And if they had to carry everything with them, they would have no room for passengers.

    And, if stuff is there, it makes it a lot easier and perhaps less expensive to send people to go to the moon and perhaps to stay there.

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