Searching for water on the moon, the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) crashed two spacecraft into a lunar crater on Friday, hoping to splash ice and catch it on camera.
The two spacecraft slammed into the crater in the lunar south pole within four minutes of each other. A camera on the second spacecraft did not capture an image of the impact as hoped but scientists were confident the explosive hit took place.
“We didn’t see a big splashy plume like we wanted,” said Michael Bicay, director of science at NASA’s Ames Research Center. But he claimed that an infrared camera showed changes that suggested an explosion.
Other instruments on the second craft, a lunar orbiter, and telescopes on earth captured data that could show in days if there is ice on the moon, he and other scientists said.
On September 25, the Indian Space Research Organisation had said its Moon Impact Probe on board the Chandrayaan I — its maiden lunar craft — had discovered water on the moon, a finding confirmed by NASA.
Hidden in the lunar crater, out of sunlight, could be concentrations of two to three per cent ice in the lunar soil, which would be usable. “You’re going into a place where the sun hasn’t shone for a billion years,” said NASA Lunar Science Institute director David Morrison.