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NASA launches unmanned moon shot, first in decade
Posted on: 19-06-2009 , 04:: | DY365 Bureau

NASA launched its first moon shot in a decade on Thursday, sending up a pair of unmanned science probes that will help determine where astronauts could land and set up camp in years to come.An Atlas V rocket carrying the 583 million two spacecraft blasted off in late Thursday afternoon, and are expected to reach the moon in four to five days or by early next week. One will enter into an orbit around the moon for a mapping mission. The other will swing past the moon and go into an elongated orbit around Earth that will put it on course to crash into a crater at the moon's South Pole in October.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will provide a high-precision, three-dimensional map of the lunar surface. It will circle the lunar poles and, via its seven science instruments, provide a new atlas of the moon as well as a guidebook for future explorers. The second probe, called the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), will be aiming for a spectacular collision that should be visible from the United States. The liftoff occurred just a month away from the 40th anniversary of the first lunar footprints. The mission is a first step in NASA's effort to return humans to the moon by 2020.


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