NASA will send an impactor spacecraft to the moon with liftoff of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scheduled for October 2008. The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will travel independently of the orbiter and crash violently into the lunar surface, at a speed of 5,592 miles per hour (or about 2.5 kilometers per second) to search for water. It should blast out a crater about a hundred feet wide and 15 feet deep.
First, the craft will direct the upper stage used to leave Earth orbit to crash into a permanently-shadowed crater at the lunar south pole, creating a plume visible on Earth through a telescope. Next, the satellite will observe the plume and fly through it using several instruments to look for water. At the end of its mission, the satellite will itself become an impactor, creating a second plume visible to lunar-orbiting spacecraft and Earth-based observants.
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