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NASA picks a moon crater for LCROSS probe's double smash landing

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LCROSS impact crater siteOne of NASA's moon probes, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), will complete a relatively simple mission next month: releasing a spent rocket stage toward a shadowy crater, then following it to see what the impact stirs up before crashing the mother ship itself into the crater. All the while, Earth-based and orbiting telescopes will be watching, looking for any evidence of water ice that might be hidden in the crater's depths.

Today, NASA unveiled its target of choice for LCROSS's double impact on October 9: a south-polar crater known as Cabeus A. The 48-kilometer-wide crater is named for 17th-century Italian astronomer Niccolo Cabeo. According to NASA, Cabeus A was chosen both for its potential for harboring water ice and for its location, which will allow Earth observers to track the plumes thrown up by the LCROSS impacts. For a fuller description of the LCROSS mission, see our coverage from June, just before the spacecraft launched.

Radar image of Cabeus A crater: JPL/NASA

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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