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Space observer takes stock of morning moon crashes

Friday, October 9, 2009 | 5:05 p.m. CDT; updated 10:05 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 9, 2009
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Early Friday morning two satellite components crashed into the moon in an effort by NASA to gather data about possible water on the moon.

COLUMBIA — At 6:31 a.m., a piece of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite slammed into the bottom of a crater on the moon’s surface, and Val Germann, president of the Central Missouri Astronomical Association, wasn’t going to miss it.

“I was on my cell phone with a fellow CMAA member watching NASA’s live feed of the event because Columbia’s weather had canceled our plans of observing the event in the observatory,” Germann said. “As it turns out, we didn’t see anything watching the live feed either.”

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The bus-size chunk of the satellite excavated hundreds of tons of the moon. A few minutes later, a second piece of the satellite also hit the crater. Scientists turned the the satellite chunks, which were no longer needed and otherwise would have been space junk, into projectiles in an effort to determine whether there is ice deep in the crater.

The live images sent back were disappointing to many viewers because they did not capture the plume created by the first impact.

Germann said it might be “that the spacecraft’s impact didn’t throw debris high enough to reach the sunlight, the terrain may not have had the right density or the aperture of one of the satellites monitoring the impact could have not been big enough.”

Data results could play a large role in determining whether settlements could be sustainable.

“Now we just have to wait and see what they find through the data,” Germann said. “They’re hoping to find water, but you never know."

Discussions he had with other space buffs this morning were about where NASA goes next.

“About half the people I have talked to want to junk the moon and go somewhere else, such as Mars,” Germann said.

“I’m a little doubtful that the moon will be successful because, in my point of view, you are going to have to find a big chunk of ice that you will have to mine, and having an industrial operation on the moon is going to drive the cost up,” he added.

Germann said he thinks that, regardless of whether it is the moon or Mars, the high cost of research is going to be too expensive for one country alone and will have to be a multinational event.

“Astronomy is a slower and different type of science," said Germann, who has been watching the heavens since childhood. "You have to enjoy the natural beauty of the night sky. It pays you back every time you go out.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 


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