The LCROSS lunar mission in which the Centaur rocket stage was destined to be shot into a crater in the Southern Lunar Hemisphere to find water is in danger of not happening:
Officials are hurriedly looking for ways to save fuel on NASA’s $79 million lunar impactor mission after a crisis Saturday caused the spacecraft to burn more than half of its remaining propellant.
The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite used about 140 kilograms, or 309 pounds, of maneuvering fuel to maintain the probe’s orientation in space Saturday, according to Dan Andrews, the mission’s project manager at Ames Research Center.
LCROSS is tugging a 41-foot-long Centaur rocket stage on a circuitous route through space. Scientists are preparing for a fleeting series of observations as the spent booster is released for a suicidal plunge into the moon on Oct. 9.
The goal is to hit a shadowed crater near the lunar south pole to see if water ice deposits reside there.
The 6-foot-tall shepherding spacecraft’s attitude control system was specifically designed to handle the unusual job of positioning the 47-foot-long stack as it flies toward the moon.
“It was a tough day, as you can imagine,” Andrews said. “But what it’s done is given us a razor’s focus on how to manage the remainder of the propellant.”
LCROSS is now perilously close to its built-in propellant margins, and Andrews said the team will probably have to cancel some activities that are not crucial to the mission.
“Our estimates now are if we pretty much baseline the mission, meaning just accomplish the things that we have to (do) to get the job done with full mission success, we’re still in the black on propellant, but not by a lot,” Andrews told Spaceflight Now late Tuesday.
LCROSS now has between 20 pounds and 40 pounds of extra propellant that could be used in unplanned activities, a relatively thin margin for satellite operations.
“We can finish this mission, but it makes our sensitivity to something happening quite high,” Andrews said.
Conspiracy theorists such as Richard Hoagland have speculated that NASA was planning to bomb existing Lunar colonies (inhabited by whom, we do not know) using the fuel laden Centaur stage as a super-kinetic weapon.
Now it seems the stage has used up most of it’s fuel because of an un-named ‘crisis.’
Why is the cause ‘un-named’ or ‘unknown?’
“Curiouser and curiouser”, said Alice.
What do you think?