Moon-bound NASA spacecraft passes tests

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. space agency engineers said final testing has started for the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite that’s to be launched later this year.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite, nicknamed LCROSS, is designed to confirm the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed lunar crater.

NASA said a thermal vacuum test completed earlier this month subjected the spacecraft to 13 1/2 days of heating and cooling cycles, with temperatures ranging from 230 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

After launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, LCROSS and its Atlas V rocket’s Centaur upper stage will execute a fly-by of the moon and enter into an elongated Earth orbit to position the satellite for impact on a lunar pole. On final approach, the spacecraft and the Centaur will separate. The Centaur will strike the surface of the moon, creating a debris plume that will rise above the surface. Four minutes later, LCROSS will fly through the debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth before it also crashes onto the lunar surface and creates a second debris plume.

Scientists will observe both impacts from Earth to gather additional information.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International
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