Friday, 9 October 2009

Moonshot disappointment

In which we proudly present the first and best NASA LCROSS impact photography, complete with massive explosive dust plume and who knows what else. Guaranteed fully authentic and very, very scientific. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the image for which the world has been waiting.

I got very excited about the LCROSS mission and the fact that at 1130 today it was due to smash a great big rocket into the moon. This would create an excitingly massive debris cloud which, the Metro told me, would be visible for a couple of minutes from here, which is a pretty cool proposition, so as I was travelling at that time (long story) I got off the Tube at Kings Cross and went up to the street in the hope of seeing something. What I could see at exactly 1130 was a lot of cloud with maybe an inch or two of blue sky, so I wandered off again to finish the journey. When I got to work, though, it was even more exciting because it was still going on - I think maybe I'd seen 1130 GMT and forgotten we're on summer time, or they'd run out of petrol and had to go back, or something. Anyway, the point was that it was still happening and was live on the Beeb. As the time got closer I watched it and even sent email round the office pointing it out to others. (Sounds a bit didactic of me but, well, I am, plus doing stuff like this has had good results in the past.)

As the moment approached they cut to a camera which I think must have been in the nose of the Centaur upper stage rocket - the first and biggest hitting-the-moon thing - and it showed some quite nice, but not over-exciting, footage of craters getting bigger, then bigger ... then the screen went white, and there was no more. (I conjecture that this was when the camera operator baled out before it hit so he or she could get home safely in their Rocket-Pak™.)

I then thought, great, they will now show us the footage from the other bit of spaceship, or from a big telescope, or something, in which the rocket smacks into the moon and a huge explosion of debris blasts up into the atmosphere (yes I know I know, don't bother me, I'm on a roll here) and it's all dead exciting, because that's what the whole thing was about.

moonshot-disappointment Ermmmm, nothing. No footage, no explosion, no dust plume blowing in the wind (shuttup shuttup), no nothing much really. As I write they still say they're analysing the data but, so far, no wonderful pictures have emerged showing the moment of impact. Well, apart from this one, which was pretty difficult to research. But what actually happened, I wonder? Ho hum ... Onward and, er, downward!

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