NASA hopes to make important scientific discoveries after crashing a rocket into the moon on Friday.
The LCROSS (‘Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite’) mission reached its climax just after 12:30 UK time when two different parts of the spacecraft hurtled seperately into the lunar surface.
Scientists will analyse the cloud of dust thrown up by the collision in the hope of finding evidence of water, which has been long suspected to exist in craters on the moon’s southern pole which are never exposed to direct sunlight.
This mission follows the success of an Indian probe earlier this year which discovered tiny quantities of water in the form of frost on the lunar surface.
John Keith Davis, a staff astronomer at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC) in Edinburgh, says that the discovery of water has several important implications.
“In terms of scientific interest it would be possible to take a core sample… and use it to work out where the water came from.”
Mr Davis says that if more water is found on the moon it would provide evidence for a potential source of both drinking water and rocket fuel.
NASA are also interested in the potential uses that such water would have, describing water deposits on the moon as a “gold mine”.
According to their website; “As NASA moves forward with our exploration programs, one of the most important things we need to figure out is how people can live for long periods, and eventually permanently, off the Earth.”