Big Splash: How Water on the Moon Was Found

Crash Course

On Oct. 9, NASA plans a close-up test of the theory that there might be ice near the moon's south pole. It has launched a mission called LCROSS -- a small satellite and its spent booster rocket. If all goes as planned, the rocket will crash in a deep crater, sending dirt and rock flying in all directions, and the satellite will measure the chemical makeup of what the rocket kicks up.

"If we find water there, it will change the course of exploration," said Rusty Hunt, an LCROSS flight director. "If there's water near the south pole, we'd go there. The people who settled the old West were able to live off the land, so to speak, and we'd do the same."

It conjures up images of the "moisture farm" where the young Luke Skywalker lives in the first Star Wars film -- but Pieters says all that is a long way off.

"Like most scientific discoveries," she said, "it raises more questions than answers. And that's what drives us."

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