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Lunar Prospector Ready To Land On Moon 70

SEWilco writes "Lunar Prospector survived dead batteries caused by eclipse. Shoemaker will hit the moon at 09:51 GMT [05:51 EDT], July 31 1999. At least 21 telescopes will be watching for a water or dust plume. Amateur astronomers see "
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Lunar Prospector Ready To Land On Moon!

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  • by Pulsar ( 4287 )
    Don't worry, people like you are *well* represented in Congress and have seen to it that NASA is dying though ever more and more restrictive budget cuts.

    Oh, and they're not looking for evidence of life - they're looking for water and mapping out other resources so that they can improve the life on Earth. But I'm not even going to detail the benefits man could reap from going to the moon - it's kinda obvious you (and tons of other /.'ers) are just going to reply and say it's all a waste of money.

    "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" - Einstein
  • You have a good point about social programs - most of these programs actually are based on programs began in the 30's and were an attempt to pull America out of a depression. And for some reason the government is still pumping obscene amounts of money into them and ignoring exploration, both physical and technological.

    Except, that is, whenever they take credit for the advances of scientists they've never even met and probably cut the salary of in yet another round of partisan budget fighting.
  • Yup - interesting fact I heard - DS-1 flew closer to the asteroid than any craft has flown by an object without landing. Or so the news said.

    Another cool thing - I never realized it was a semi-autonomous probe, I knew it was testing new tech, but I didn't know AI was one of them. This little probe is basically piloting itself and NASA is talking about releasing a flock of them to all explore the solar system.
  • Anyone else notice the title of this story? "Lunar Prospector Ready To Land On Moon"

    Erm, this is equivalent to crashing your car at 1,100mph. Somehow I think "land" isn't quite the right word.
  • by Gregg M ( 2076 )
    I think they'd fare better to spend that money improving the life they've already found.. on Earth.

    Yea, Like feeding all of the hungry children. Yea that's a good idea!

    Never mind the fact that no matter how good it's been in the US we never... ever had enough to feed all of the children. We might as well wait till we fix all of the problems on earth before going to the moon.
  • From one of the NASA reports -

    "Lunar Prospector was the first of NASA's competitively selected "faster, better, cheaper" Discovery-class missions. The $63 million mission is managed by NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA."

    Discovery-class missions? Anyone know what these are, what missions are planned, etc? It's nice to hear NASA is still alive despite Washington's best attempts to kill it through massive budget cuts (have you written your congressmen about that yet? maybe you should).
  • ...does it bother anyone else that they didn't plan for the eclipse? Aren't they supposed to KNOW about that sort of thing?
    "Gee, sir, won't the batteries go dead when the sun is blocked by our big fat earth?"
    "Shut up, twit, I'm the boss! Me! I'M THE BOSS! You're NOT! ME! ME! --- LAUNCH!!!"

    The Divine Creatrix in a Mortal Shell that stays Crunchy in Milk
  • There was no visible dust plume seen from the
    impact. So basically, this didn't work. There may
    still be results but there seems to be some disappointment.

  • It's not $63 million to crash the lunar prospector into the moon. This is, in effect, value added. The original project was to survey the moon using remote sensing techniques.

    That project is over. The satellite has lived out it's useful life time and planned mission. The possibilities are: 1) leave it as space junk, orbiting the moon until it's orbit decays or 2) get more science value out of it.

    I doubt the whole effort to crash it cost much at all.

    And $63 million is dirt cheap for a space project anyways. To see what you can get for the price,
    check out the vegetation canopy lidar:

    As someone who works with remote sensing, this is the coolest idea to come along in ages.

  • On any missions it's better to forget it. Russia is battling to at least save MIR. NASA's budget was axed once more and now even Earth-bound satellites were cutted down. China will probably try to send someone to orbit but it is already clear that it is a pure PR boost.

    So be happy. You have lived not only in a time when Man walked over the Moon but also satellites crashed on it...
  • I hear that a portion of that guy's remains will be aboard the thing which crashes into the moon. Talk about an expensive burial. ;)

  • the article mentioned that it was a $63 million dollar [project].

    Good grief! What do they think they're doing? Spending money like that, simply so they can go to the moon and look around for evidence of life?!? I think they'd fare better to spend that money improving the life they've already found.. on Earth.
  • You are kidding, right? How big do you think Lunar Prospector is for cripes sakes? It's akin to a fly running into you, less than that even...
  • Well, IIRC the back story of Space:1999 has it that the moon will be knocked clear out of the solar system on September 13, 1999.

    Somehow I doubt the Prospector packs enough wallop to do that though ;)
  • Yeah, like buying another round for everyone in Florida! Or, any of a thousand other worthy projects. Naturally, if you give government a lot of money, it will eventually find ways to offend all of us. Me, I'm not offended by this one... After all, it is cheap! ;)
  • Maybe i'm humor impared, but this is written just on the line to make me wonder whether it's a joke or not...

    I *hope* it's a joke. $63m is *absolutely nothing* today.

    Joseph Foley
    InCert Software Corp.
  • I can see it now,.

    Prospector smashes into the only place on the moon that could have sustained life. Whoops.

    Wouldn't that be a bummer.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "So we're actually going to land in a minute?" said Arthur.

    "Well, not so much land, in fact, not actually land as such, no... er--"

    "What are you talking about?" asked Ford sharply.

    "Well," said the Captain, picking his way through the words carefully, "I think as far as I can remember we were programmed to crash on it."

    "Crash?" shouted Ford and Arthur.

    "Er, yes," said the Captain, "yes, it's all part of the plan, I think. There was a terribly good reason for it which I can't quite remember at the moment. It was something to do with... er..."

    Ford exploded.

    "You're a load of useless bloody loonies!" he shouted.

    "Ah yes, that was it," beamed the Captain, "that was the reason."

    (Fair use quote from Douglas Adams [], The Restaurant at the End of the Universe [], chapter 24.)

  • It is a fitting end, considering how much has been learned from his discovery of the comet that impacted on Jupiter. His discovery eliminated any doubt as to what would happen to the Earth if a comet or large asteroid shoul impact. What better than to be part of another impact which could potentially change our future with respect to the moon.
  • It wouldn't be a bummer, it would be an evil government conspiricy :)

    or something
  • So like, is the next mission to the moon going to be manned? What ever happened to that silly idea of TAKING THE SHUTTLE TO THE MOON. Hook me up with a leet moon pad.
  • The shuttle can't make it to the moon. (Not enough fuel.) Even if it could, you really wouldn't want to use it to get there. The shuttle's wings (for example) are utterly useless in an airless environment, and are just one more thing that'll need to be accelerated into a lunar transfer orbit.

    The right way of doing it is to use the shuttle to launch a crew module, and use a shuttle-C or an EELV or some other large cargo ship to launch the fuel.

    (Of course,.we can all hang out and wait for the day that nanotech makes it possible for us to extrude a Saturn V right in our backyard. (But what would the negihbors say?))

  • Yes, when it ran out of fuel Lunar Prospector probably would have crashed on the Moon. Another choice was to use the last fuel to put it in higher orbit to let the instruments run a little longer. But the Moon's attraction is weak enough that it would have been too easy to escape from the Moon, and then there would be a piece of debris wandering about that could have been tossed anywhere in the Solar system by the Earth-Moon gravity (although it probably would have simply incinerated above the Earth, it would be a shame if it hit something else we'd put in orbit).

    This end of mission was a brilliant way of using that convenient package of kinetic energy to try to gather a little more data. And although this is within the mission's purpose of searching for water, I would not be surprised if future Lunar missions with different purposes will duplicate the experiment.

  • Well, we're wandering off topic. Although humans probably are producing enough food, it is not evenly distributed. That might be easier if all humans were in one place. Did you know that all 6 billion people could fit in Texas with 1200 squar feet each? Multiply the 260,000 square miles [] by the number of square feet (5280*5280) and divide by 6,000,000,000. Grouping family square footage, installing roads, and space for business is left as an exercise for the developer. Bonus: Everyone becomes a Texan!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You shouldn't discount China. They have one of the largest growth rates (GNP) in the world, AND they have a growing unemployment problem. Chinas way of getting rid of unemployment is to start huge projects - thus you have for instance gigantic dam projects, plans to lay a country wide fiberoptic network, AND their space program. Basically, their strict government controlled economy allow them to throw huge resources at gigantic programs just to keep people employed.

    After all, they have to pay whether people work or not, so it's much better for them to put people to work in projects like this.

    The paradox here, is that their space program is one of the areas that require relatively low tech (after all, we're talking 1969 tech here to reach the moon), and thus is a lot easier to reach than for instance building up a up to date consumer electronics industry. It also has a very high PR value, as you noted. Just consider how the Soviet Union used Sputnik to scare the US into the realization that Soviet actually was a force to be considered, and the resulting race to beat them to the moon.

    What do you think would happen if China would launch a moon mission? (Yeah, they have a lot of work to do, have they even launched a manned mission yet?) They would be the second nation to reach it. And it could spark another space race...

    For imagine the PR consequences for the US if the Chinese end being the first to send a manned mission to Mars?

  • NASA is trying to change how these missions are put together. Rather than have large projects that have multiple objectives, are designed by comittee, and run by NASA, these are smaller self-contained projects.

    Basically the PI, conntrols the whole project from sensor design through the collection and analysis of data. NASA gives a fixed budget and then is not involved, other than for oversight is my understanding.

    The idea is that the mission can be put together faster and for less money than the tradtional apporoach.

    There are examples of their earth science projects following this approach at:

    I'm not familliar with their space exploration projects along this line.
  • Fortunately businesses are starting to move toward space. We should have been using suborbital flights ten years ago for intercontinental travel. Our first trip to the Moon should have involved several landing craft. The Lunar missions should have been assembled next to the first space station thirty years ago. Maybe we'll do better when we don't funnel everything through governments.
  • Actually, the burial's free, it's just the funeral procession that cost a bit.

    Seriously, though, this is quite fitting, and I have no problems at all with NASA doing something like this to honor a man who said that his greatest disappointment in life was "not going to the moon and banging on it with my own hammer."

    This seems to me to be the next best thing.

  • It may not be pretty but you could burn to the moon and back with the shuttle without spending another $64 million.. but yer, I agree.. it's not the way to go.

    NASA's plans to build a self-assembling station on the moon are far fetched at best, nanotech will save the day but that's not for another 8 years.. oops.. I mean 25.. yes.. that's what I mean.. (I have no future knowledge).
  • Well it probably wouldn't have gotten knocked out of its' orbit if it hadn't been for the runaway planet that hurtled between the Earth and the Moon in 1994, according to such a sage source as Thundarr the Barbarian.

    Just imagine the cool new OSS projects in an age of 'savagery, super-science, and sorcery.'

  • by Anonymous Coward
    By the way, what ever happened to that ion propelled craft? Is it still going ever faster?
  • If the impact has been delayed by one minute owing to a stronger de-orbiting burn than planned, doesn't this mean that the satellite won't land in the intended crater after all, and that therefore the likelihood of releasing water vapour from a cold crater is now greatly reduced?
  • 63 million is peanuts. Bill Gates could pay for it out of petty cash, and vastly more is wasted away on completely worthless political campaigns.

    Giving money to politicians and governments is *not* the way to improve life on Earth, but the way to destroy it.
  • Yeah that's it. 30 years from the first landing. Almost 25 since anything there we are back! By crushing a spacecraft in to the surface...

    It looks like we passed all these years of Space exploration to return to the years of Surveyor's and Luna probes. A typical "back to the trees" mood.

    Sincerly isn't any other way to explore the Moon? Can anyone take the care of sending at least a Pathfinder-like robot to explore those same craters? Let us note that there is some good probability that this "experiment" will be unsuccessful. A boulder will be enough for its failure.

    So we maybe we will still not know anything about water on the Moon for the next 30 years. When another Surveyor/Luna probe is sent to crash on the surface. Great way to study our neighbor!
  • Don't worry about it. Nanotech isn't too many decades away from giving us total control over materials and dropping the main added-value cost of manufactured goods to near zero. When that does finally happen, the Moon will become just another tourist trap.
  • This will not affect the Moon's orbit. It's like a car hitting it. If the impact point were in the center of the visible side of the Moon it would be too small to see. And with the naked eye you can see that there have been impacts a lot larger and the Moon is still in a reasonable orbit.
  • Or they could go get $20,000 Billion in precious metals [] from a single near-earth asteroid. []
  • Funny you should say that...

    12 Clangers Dead in Moon Crash []
  • maybe that explains why people get so mad when i "park" my car sometimes.
  • This BBC article [] suggests that the first unmanned launch of China's manned rocket may happen in October, on the nation's anniversary. They've also been refitting space tracking ships. []
  • You asked for it.
  • Actually, this would be much less possible than you seem to think. The shuttle's heat shield wouldn't be able to stand the lunar reentry, and there's still no need to lug along things like wings which don't help, but merely add to the weight which needs to be brought to and from the moon.
  • If plans are made for another manned mission, there certainly would be more unmanned missions to study the possible landing areas. Remember the many Surveyor crash landings before Apollo? Taking pictures down to impact...but the data rate was too slow back then to get good closeups just before impact.
  • by SEWilco ( 27983 )
    Deep Space 1 flew by asteroid Braille [] on Thursday. 15 miles above asteroid at 35,000 MPH (KPH in above link).
  • Several people are trying to put rovers on the Moon. Long-lived devices which people might pay to drive remotely for a few minutes.
  • ... is that it wasn't a strong de-orbit burn, but rather a strong initial burn. That would have put Prospector into an orbit slightly higher than predicted. The de-orbit burn could then be adjusted, to aim at the same spot from a slightly different angle than was previously planned.

  • :)
    Ok can you tell me where's the nearest dealer? Besides are there any rules on how to drive them? As far as I know someone has been selling Moon lots for quite a sometime now. What if I trespass private property while driving my li'll LegOS/Linux HeavyStorm Moon Rover? Really I don't want to be fined for such thing. So it would be cool to get a roadmap of the Moon also... ;)
  • While taking two nanorobots and having them build a nanoconstruction crew and then a space cruiseliner is sweet idea and all, I'm not holding my breath. :)

    I suspect we are going to go back much sooner than that, for very practical reasons.

    Constellations of communcication satellites are up and down linking huge amounts of data at wavelengths at or near those radio astronomers need to observe at. Since the number and bandwidth of these constellations is not going to go down, radio astronomers are going to become more and more blind.

    I suspect, then, that the next people to walk on the Moon will be radio astronomers. They will tend radio telescopes on the other side, using the Moon as a shield to block all of the stray interference from Earth.

    It's just a thought, but it seems to be the way things are going, especially given the amount that launch cost are expected to plummet over the next few years.

  • as others have noted, 63MUS$ is pocket change in reality. It is likely the amount of money Americans spend on snacks PER DAY. George W Bush raised 40M$ for his OWN political campaign.

    You do touch on an issue. There are people that believe that the NASA money should be spent on social problems, poverty or disease, but really, those programs have been around for decades with trillions down the tube with little improvement (our poverty level hasn't changed by much more than a percent since the 60's). And the NASA budget is peanuts compared to the social programs that we have.

    The issue is rarely money. This government has not proven that it is capable of wisely spending what it has, and making all sorts of strange and costly stipulations in order for companies to get a government supplier contract.

    Don't forget that mankind should always keep an eye on the future. Eventually our sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us, it'll take with it Marylin Monroe, Lao Tzu, Einstein, and everything we've accomplished was for nothing, unless we leave the cradle and go to the stars. (Babylon 5 plug)

    I would like some of the money I earn go to something that won't just be consumed by me or someone else without some investment into the future.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.