After Apollo: Water on the Moon?

Lunar Base

Why does it matter if there's ice there? Because NASA's current mandate, laid out by President Bush and so far backed by President Obama, is to use the moon as a base for human exploration of Mars and beyond. As part of Project Constellation, they would set up camp in their Altair landing ships. If there is frozen water there -- H2O -- it can be used for drinking, or broken down into its components of hydrogen and oxygen for fuel, air to breathe, and myriad other uses.

LCROSS, by NASA standards, is a low-cost mission, with a fixed budget of $79 million -- a good chunk of money, but remember that "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" grossed about $160 million in its first five days.

One can debate the merits of sending astronauts back to the moon (and you're invited to make a comment below), but if LCROSS finds water, it will make the lives of future astronauts much simpler.

"It's a pretty simple mission with profound implications," said Hunt, who is scheduled to be in charge at the key moment. He added that Oct. 9, impact day, is his birthday.

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