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Lunar mission hits a glitch

Oops. NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) accidentally burned up most of its extra fuel last Saturday in one of those favored euphemisms of the spaceflight world, an anomaly. earthmoon.jpg

The glitch apparently happened when a sensor that’s supposed to detect how the spacecraft is oriented in space malfunctioned, causing the thrusters to burn up a lot of fuel trying to re-position the probe. Mission managers say they’ve got enough fuel — but only just — to accomplish LCROSS’s primary goal of smashing into a crater near the lunar south pole, in hopes of kicking up evidence of ice there.

Ames center director Pete Worden (worden</a>) is occasionally twittering about it, and says that the mission can still reach any of its candidate target craters as long as nothing else goes wrong. "We're still in the black on propellant, but not by a lot," mission manager Dan Andrews told <a href="http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/090826-lcross-anomaly.html">Spaceflight Now</a>. Follow <a href="http://twitter.com/LCROSS_NASA">LCROSS_NASA on Twitter for the perkiest updates of all.

LCROSS is currently looping along a trajectory to put it on course for a lunar impact on 9 October.

Image: Crescent Earth and crescent moon as seen from LCROSS on 17 August

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    Uncle Al said:

    Given on-board fuel drastically reduced to operating needs, there will be a clean baseline to detect no volatiles in the impact plume. The inevitable managerial decision is to scrub the mission by crashing the spacecraft somewhere “safe.”

    If there is a deposit of water and the impact vaporizes it, is there still a deposit of water?

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