LRO about to hit the Moon!

By Phil Plait | October 9, 2009 4:33 am

LCROSS[Update 11:45 UTC): IMPACT! LCROSS and the Centaur rocket have both impacted the Moon, apparently right on target. Ground-based reports are that no plume has been detected, but the observations from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter itself, still orbiting the Moon, will be downlinked in a couple of hours. Keep your eyes on the NASA TV and the LCROSS sites (linked below) for more info.]

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) is about to hit the Moon! The impact time is 11:31:20 UTC. NASA TV is covering the impact live.

The LCROSS site is getting slammed so you may have a hard time getting in. Wired.com has a bunch of links to places covering the event live too, so try there and see if you an watch this very cool event as it happens!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, NASA, Space

Comments (99)

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  1. Ataraxia Theatre » Archive » Crap Like That | October 12, 2009
  1. Peter

    Watching NASA TV right now..

    I hope LRO stays in orbit, though. :)

  2. Gareth

    I’m watching too. Have to keep ALT-Tabbing so people in work don’t notice…

  3. A lovely wet overcast night here in Sydney :-( so we’re making do with NASA TV :-)
    Go LCROSS Go.

  4. Peter

    @Shane

    Well, here in the Netherlands the sky is clear as it could be. However.. it’s daytime here :) So I have to do with NASA TV as well.

  5. Those darned conspirators, who can’t fly to the moon, managed to move clouds over me, so I can’t see the moon. They’d like us to believe it is a coincidence. Hah! :-)

  6. Tim

    For anyone (like me) who hasn’t had any luck getting any of the streams to work, MSNBC has an alternative NASA stream going. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33215937

  7. Gareth

    It’s ok, Rogue Medic. It’s all a hoax anyway. There’s no LCROSS mission. It’s all very clever CGI. In reality, there is no moon.

  8. SanDiegoWatcher

    Overcast in San Diego – watching NASA TV – was all ready to set my scope up at t-45 minutes but no joy.

  9. firemancarl

    I’m tellin you, this will drive the wooers nutz! ‘See how the flag moved when the satellite crashed into teh moonz’? You know this line o’ crap is coming!

  10. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    NASA has just bombed an alien (Mysteron) base on the Moon with a kinetic energy weapon! :P

  11. well that was a little disapointing for my two little girls who were watching NASA tv with me. All we saw when it crashed was a blank screen. I’m not sure how that will inspire them.
    Oh well…

  12. Jimmy Neutron

    No visible plume :( Looking forward to some good data !!

  13. Matthew G

    That was a waste. NASA TV didn’t show anything even close to resembling an impact. I would have had a better experience staring up at the moon with my naked eyes.

  14. Donutman_64

    Since Mr. Plait didn’t get the picture I sent him…
    The Result Of a certain Yahoo! Front Page headline on this subject and my wacky mind:
    http://carbonwolf.deviantart.com/art/NASA-Attacks-The-Moon-XD-139643277

  15. Daniel

    This is powerful good stuff, this is. Phil What’s your private NASA T.V. password?

    Nathan I’m sorry, but considering the camera was on the impacter, what were you expecting?
    And what flag Carl? The wooers don’t think we’ve ever been to the moon.

  16. MOKA

    NO MOON ON A CLEAR NIGHT IN MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA HOW CONVENCPIDENCE YOU KNEW NO ONE WOULD SEE!

  17. Chas, PE SE

    ARRRRRGGGGG!!!! NASA TV has three babbling heads lamely talking about upcoming missions. Meanwhile, the shots of the control room show all the scientists clustered around monitors with excited looks on their faces!! SHOW THE DATA! SHOW THE DATA!

  18. Daniel

    Yeah, NASA’s choice of focus and production values at times leave a lot to be desired.

  19. Steven Cook

    Daniel: The camera was not on the impactor, it was on the science payload following two minutes later.

  20. Daniel

    Whoops my bad you’re right, just looked that up. I’m sure the clearer images will be coming later however, you know how unimpressive those things look at 3 fps in space.

  21. Doug

    Not all the scientists were watching the footage–one dude left in a huff and shut down somebody trying to give him a high five.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP64qqd88UI

  22. Lee Hadley

    Did anyone else note the guy in the control room that looked like he was pissed off? Seconds after the impact he was packing up his desk. Everyone else was jubilant (high fives, the works) except him. He just packed his rucksack and left.
    Did he have another pressing appointment I wonder?

  23. owlbear1

    After today I think I have a much better understanding of how much energy it takes to make even a little dent in the Moon.

  24. Lee Hadley

    Exciting stuff though. Watched it live on the web sitting at my desk. Beats doing work, thats for sure!

  25. owlbear1
  26. Benjamin Brown

    Lee Hadley Says:
    October 9th, 2009 at 6:02 am

    Did anyone else note the guy in the control room that looked like he was pissed off? Seconds after the impact he was packing up his desk. Everyone else was jubilant (high fives, the works) except him. He just packed his rucksack and left.
    Did he have another pressing appointment I wonder?

    Probably you know, sleep. :) Sure he looked pissed off? Maybe he was just tired.

  27. Daniel

    The pissed off guy in the control room even denied that other guy a hi-5 :(

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP64qqd88UI

  28. Josh

    CNN’s coverage was frustrating. The biggest thing for them was that “NASA spent $79M just to blow something up” and they kept repeating it almost like a mantra the entire time. Then the airhead chick news anchor started laughing when one of the dudes said something about looking at it through a telescope with a 10″-12″ aperture, saying something like “who owns a telescope with a 10 inch aperture?!” followed by laughter from the rest of the anchors, which lead to the next guy they had on the show saying “I don’t know why you guys are giggling about this, this is serious stuff. For those of you with backyard telescopes, God bless you”

  29. Adam

    Anyone follow their twitter feed? Nice H2G2 reference.

  30. Brian Schlosser

    Re NASA production values: last night, when the Centaur stage was going to seperate, the video stream on NASA TV had a countdown clock… consisting of a sentence written in MS Notepad that someone edited once a minute. :-)

    It was amusing. But I’d rather they spent their money on science than glitzy chrome.

  31. Benjamin Brown

    21. Josh Says:
    October 9th, 2009 at 6:20 am

    CNN’s coverage was frustrating. The biggest thing for them was that “NASA spent $79M just to blow something up” and they kept repeating it almost like a mantra the entire time. Then the airhead chick news anchor started laughing when one of the dudes said something about looking at it through a telescope with a 10″-12″ aperture, saying something like “who owns a telescope with a 10 inch aperture?!” followed by laughter from the rest of the anchors, which lead to the next guy they had on the show saying “I don’t know why you guys are giggling about this, this is serious stuff. For those of you with backyard telescopes, God bless you”

    It wasn’t just CNN, it was all the major news outlets. I mean anyone who considers themselves a valid news source and mentions bombing the moon knowing the reaction it’ll have with the populous is either run by an ignorant bunch of bastards or just dishonest.

  32. K

    Pre-impact whiteout? Anyone?

    Mr. Blue ‘n Gold pimpin’ mullet man touched on it briefly (seemed unexpected) and went back into the script.

    Any idea what it could’ve been?

  33. Shunter

    @ Lee Hadley

    I bet that was the guy who has been saying “I’m tellin’ you guys. This will never work!! Mark my words! You’re going to bring that moon down on our heads.”….and now he is just bitter.

  34. Benjamin Brown

    23. Brian Schlosser Says:
    October 9th, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Re NASA production values: last night, when the Centaur stage was going to seperate, the video stream on NASA TV had a countdown clock… consisting of a sentence written in MS Notepad that someone edited once a minute. :-)

    It was amusing. But I’d rather they spent their money on science than glitzy chrome.

    Exactly, we’re talking about a 79 million dollar mission after all. 28 months from idea to spacecraft, 21 months to build it. That is cheap, and that is crazy fast to get a spacecraft complete and flown.

    All the while on budget, and getting it done on time.

  35. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    @ Josh,

    CNN: Cynicism, Not News.

  36. Arrrrrgggghhhh! No moon yet!

  37. Donutman_64

    My picture was funnier than that sound clip. Besides, there is no sound in space, so there is NO EARTH SHATTERING KABOOM. :lol:

  38. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Err… Donutman_64, I know there is no sound in space; I submitted that sound-clip link in jest, OK? :roll:

  39. oh so THE MOON gets to have a missile defence shield.

  40. TS

    Did anyone see that woman explaining the whole thing on the BBC News show this morning? Does anyone know who she is?

    She would be a perfect science speaker at TAM London 2010.

    She spoke with an enthusiasm and a clarity, that matches Phil’s speeches. Something that is rarely seen when TV news programs are trying to explain science. She even brought a bowl of flour and two balls to demonstrate how the thing would unfold.

  41. Andy Gates

    And from the LCROSS twitter:

    Centaur Impact into Cabeus! #lcross Now it’s my turn!

    I’m 300km from the moon! #lcrossabout

    Wow, 150km from the moon! #lcrossabout

    “And what’s this thing coming toward me very fast? So big and flat and round,

    it needs a big wide sounding name like ‘Ow’, ‘Ownge’, ‘Round’, ‘Ground’!”

    “That’s it! Ground! Ha! I wonder if it’ll be friends with me?”

  42. Rowan

    Poor guy at the end trying to get a high five from the chap in black, and was rejected!

    Can’t wait to see the data.

    Could someone post a link to this BBC woman? Sounds like future wife material…

  43. Jamesonian

    I’m sorry, but anyone with a knowledge of NASA history understands the importance of public relations. Thousands of people (myself included) woke their kids early on a school day to watch the amazing plume of debris that NASA– and Phil– told us we could see. I don’t remember hearing anyone– ANYONE– from NASA suggest the possibility of no visible plume. The data hopefully will still be valuable, but someone in the PR department at NASA should be fired over this.

  44. OtherRob

    And did NASA ask the Moon’s permission before crashing the probes into it?

    Joke, it’s a joke.

  45. Josh

    @Rowan I totally saw that! I felt so bad for that guy, even though I was cracking up…

  46. someone in the PR department at NASA should be fired over this.

    Let’s fire the scientists and engineers who told the PR department there would be plumes, instead, if we must fire someone over a scientific experiment not having the expected results.

  47. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    TS:

    Did anyone see that woman explaining the whole thing on the BBC News show this morning? Does anyone know who she is?

    Her name is Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

    Rowan:

    Could someone post a link to this BBC woman? Sounds like future wife material…

    Click here.

  48. Adam

    Rowan I’ll describe how to get there as if I post a link it’ll get held up in mod.

    Go to the BBC page, watch the clip of the impact coverage, at the end it will show you related clips, one of which is Maggie Aderin-Pocock and her description.

    EDIT I’ve been beaten to it anyway.

  49. owlbear1

    Just because we didn’t see a flash or plume over the TV/Internet doesn’t mean one wasn’t recorded.

  50. Peter

    No plume? Well, why didn’t they fake one? They could have easily done so. I saw truckloads of highly grahphics capable computers on NASA TV. Every single one could have produced a fake plume. Further proof that the moan landings where faked.

    . ….. err.. wait..

  51. Jamesonian

    >”…if we must fire someone over a scientific experiment not having the expected results.”

    You miss the point. It’s not that the experiment did not generate predicted results, it’s that someone at NASA chose to trumpet the results before they were assured. I would only put blame on the engineers if they gave 100% assurance of a public relations event, but I seriously doubt that any such claim was made. Except for maybe that guy in the Control Room who hustled himself out tout suite.

  52. Alex

    After watching CNN’s coverage I felt compelled to send them the following comment. Given that it’s unlikely anyone there will read it, I thought I’d post it here.

    ——

    I rarely take the time to write a complaint to a new organization, or any organization for that matter. Unfortunately your coverage of the lunar impact mission this morning was so abysmal I have to let you know how disappointed I am with CNN.

    The lame jokes, complete misunderstanding of the mission, and total disregard for science was unacceptable for a news organization that claims to be the standard bearer in the United States. At one point one of your anchors even commented that no-one would have a ten inch telescope; for your information millions of people have telescopes.

    Given the poor state of science education in our country your reporting was shameful. It hurt more than it helped and gave both children and parents the impression that the mission was a foolhardy venture by propeller heads with nothing better to do. It would have been better if you’d have skipped this story entirely, you turned people away from science and eduction with your poor reporting and lame jokes.

    Where was the excitement at what might be discovered? Where was the discussion of what may come next? How about the details of how the mission was accomplished? Maybe something about how NASA was going to use the data would have been nice? You don’t need a PH.d to understand the basics and be excited by the possibilities, you gave none of that.

    Your science reporting has degenerated to the irresponsible over recent years. You occasionally show a 30 second clip of the shuttle taking off, or maybe some pretty picture of an astronaut on spacewalk, but you no longer take the time to discuss what’s going on behind the pictures. With the exception of pop-medical coverage that seems to focus on weight loss programs, swine flu epidemic scares, and flashy surgical procedures, you have no meaningful science and research coverage on your channel.

    I suppose that’s your choice, if you don’t want to cover what I think are some of the more interesting endeavors of our modern society that’s up to you. But please, do not make matters worse by having uneducated anchors make misleading lame jokes about a mission that should be exciting to youth.

    Kids who watched your coverage of the LCROSS mission have been left with a feeling that science is a foolish, meaningless, endeavor that isn’t worth pursuing and they wouldn’t have learned a thing. It would have been better if you’d have skipped the story altogether, you did more harm than good. SHAME SHAME SHAME!

  53. Zyggy

    I’m normally a night owl, but a few days ago I started a new job that gets me up at 7:00 A.M. Hence, I haven’t seen any of the cool stuff yet.

    I would, however, like to congratulate the folks involved. Sounds like it was a smashing success!

    I know, very punny….but I had to.

  54. TS

    Found a bit with Maggie Aderin Pocock on YouTube.

  55. Gary Ansorge

    Ah, bonkers! We were overcast this morning. Oh well. I probably needed the extra sleep anyway.

    Missed the live feeds. Now, where do I go for an instant replay?

    GAry 7
    PS. Just noticed that our Pres., Barack Obama just won the Nobel peace prize. That should get some attention from Faux News, doncha think?

  56. schism

    Here’s the NASA coverage of the impact, for anyone who missed it.

    Just noticed that our Pres., Barack Obama just won the Nobel peace prize. That should get some attention from Faux News, doncha think?

    Rapture Ready is already throwing a fit about one world governments. Well, more of a fit.

  57. Donutman_64

    @Ivan
    My picture was still funnier. :evil:
    Here, I’ll try posting it:

    NASA Attacks The Moon? XD by ~CarbonWolf on deviantART
    YES! SUCCESS!

  58. I tried to get the plume with a Nextar 11 and webcam. I am kind of a beginner and could tell I didn’t get up early enough to let the tube cool down and got a pretty distorted image. I will try to process it a bit and have Registax pull out the good images and see if I get anything. Nothing obvious at first glance.

  59. BigBob

    I truely feel for the members of the team who, as the guy said had been up for over 36 hours. I appreciate their work and professionalism but we’re 40 minutes into the NASA news conference now, and apart from the congratulations for the team and the many (many) ‘before’ images of the target crater, (which we’re told are very exciting) we saw nothing. If there was no visible plume why don’t they just say “… but there was no visible plume).
    Nearly 45 minutes in to the conference now, nobody is willing to say no visible plume. Just a couple of minutes after impact, Chris Lintott said no plume had been seen from Palomar Observatory. I sympathise with the team, but they’re going to have to say it.

  60. Sespetoxri

    Wait… there wasn’t a massively huge explosion in space?!? Why would we spend money unless it ended with a massive explosion? Seriously, big boom or go home! /sarcasm

  61. Benjamin Brown

    48. BigBob Says:
    October 9th, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I truely feel for the members of the team who, as the guy said had been up for over 36 hours. I appreciate their work and professionalism but we’re 40 minutes into the NASA news conference now, and apart from the congratulations for the team and the many (many) ‘before’ images of the target crater, (which we’re told are very exciting) we saw nothing. If there was no visible plume why don’t they just say “… but there was no visible plume).
    Nearly 45 minutes in to the conference now, nobody is willing to say no visible plume. Just a couple of minutes after impact, Chris Lintott said no plume had been seen from Palomar Observatory. I sympathise with the team, but they’re going to have to say it.

    I also have a sinking feeling in my stomach, but they’re smart to not say anything without looking at all the data first.

  62. Heavy
  63. The media coverage of this event was indeed atrocious. NBC’s Brian Gumball (sic) led with a sensational “NASA is about to bomb the moon.” Others were just as bad. And it’s not just the old media. Yahoo’s homepage had a headline about bombing too.

    I guess Americans just can’t process any news that doesn’t include something getting blown up.

    Oh, and those same idiots will probably go on and on about how no visible plume means those millions of dollars spent on the mission were wasted.

  64. The Other Ian

    well that was a little disapointing for my two little girls who were watching NASA tv with me. All we saw when it crashed was a blank screen. I’m not sure how that will inspire them.

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t see why it’s so hard to inspire kids these days without big explosions. The point isn’t to show them how cool it is to blow stuff up. The point is to give them an awe of science, and the way to do that is to explain the science. For that, it doesn’t really matter whether we were able to see the plume from the Earth, cool as it might have been. The fact is that we have the data that will soon tell us whether there are large deposits of ice on the lunar surface, and that is an awesome thing all by itself.

  65. Flavio

    [EDIT: this comment applies to many space missions, and I stand by it even if there was actually no plume or relevant outcome of the impact]

    I know mainstream media are almost scientifically illiterate, and everything.

    However, I can’t NASA understand that they can make this stuff a lot more appealing by, for example, figuring out how to put out images and videos of the crash/plume/whatever-comes-out-of-the-moon right after, not hours after, the event has happened?

    I’m quite convinced that part of the first moon landing’s success was the worldwide live feed. And Hubble is hugely more famous than other orbiting telescopes because of the many eye-candy images (even if they’re not accurate science).

    @The Other Ian: it’s not just about blowing stuff up, it’s about witnessing with images and telling a story. I think my love for atronomy surfaced when I watched a documentary about the Voyager mission, featuring Carl Sagan.

  66. Daniel

    You would have thought NASA sent up a nuclear warhead with a headline like “NASA to bomb the moon”…lol

  67. jest

    I considered staying up to watch, but it occurred to me that there might be no visible plume (or anything exciting to see) so I didn’t bother. I knew that by the time I got up, there would at LEAST be reports that it was successful, and that I could watch video of it (if any) later on.

    I don’t want to come across as skeptical about the visual aspect of the mission, but I knew it wasn’t about a big explosion/flash of light/fireworks display. It’s about science, and unfortunately this mission might have been thrust WAY too close to the surface of the mainstream media for its own good.

    If it weren’t for public outreach (I swear I’m on damage control on Facebook as we speak.. lol), I’d just as soon not tell the media in the first place. But then it’d be a conspiracy. LOL.

  68. NelC

    “No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There’s always a boom tomorrow.” — Susan Ivanova

  69. Molly

    @TS Thanks for posting that video. She is fantastic!

  70. Jamesonian

    “It’s about science, and unfortunately this mission might have been thrust WAY too close to the surface of the mainstream media for its own good.”

    Agreed. With budgets on their way down, NASA can ill afford a PR nightmare like this. There will always be more money spent on Friday night football than science– that’s just the reality– so the only way to inspire the average person is with something tangible like impressive machinery, immediately practical applications or visual fireworks. If a project doesn’t meet at least one of these criteria, it should be kept out of the PR offices until after the results are in. Doing so protects the projects, scientists and engineers from needless and unwarranted ridicule as well as serving to preseve the always shaky support of Congress, many of whom want to fund efforts like LCROSS but find it increasingly difficult in the face of public dissatisfaction.

    Again, my point is only in regard to how projects are presented to the public, not the projects themselves.

  71. Concerning the “NASA is bombing the moon” coverage–I didn’t watch any news coverage of it, but I did see an idiotic comment on facebook from a 40-somethin’ mom saying ‘Why is NASA spending $1 million to bomb the moon. Doesn’t the government have anything better to spend our tax dollars on…’ etc.

    It makes me sad. And now, reading the comments here, I see that news sources like CNN are responsible for feeding this garbage to people–who then go spread it to their equally ignorant circle of friends (the FB comments to her post were basically ‘lol, you’re funny, that’s so true!’).

    But I shall stop complaining now and go back to my batcave to continue work on my manga comicbook series that promotes science literacy in youth by having super-cool sexy science-loving heroes save the known universe from stupid new agers in epic battle of galactic-scale awesomeness. hmph!

  72. jest

    I think the Cassini mission needs FAR more exposure. I remember when Voyager 2 hit the news with Uranus and Neptune. Truly a proud moment in mankind’s search for knowledge.

    I really do love the LCROSS mission. I think it’s a highly important step towards our return to the Moon. But a lot of that has been lost on the public, thanks to news organizations who are focused on the absurd stories that have no real value (ie. the Jon & Kate + 8 nonsense. Am I the only person who doesn’t care who they are?!)

    I think you’re right, Jamesonian. Though it would have been hard to keep away from the media in the first place (SOMEONE in the media would have learned about it in advance), waiting for the results would have been a better way to go. Heck, that’s what I’m doing as we speak. The difference is, I know that the results will be in the form of data, not pyrotechnics.

    I think Tim Nutt has a good theory on ignorance… (safe for work) skip to 1:45 in to the video to see what he says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEfdXvT40tk

  73. owlbear1

    I am beginning to think we should blame Roland Emmerich…

    ..for all those slow-motion explosions.

  74. alfaniner

    I’d think that for something as important as switching the cameras near impact time, NASA should come up with different verbal signals than “NIR” and “MIR”. The guy receiving the transmission was unsure and had to ask for clarification, prompting a sharp response.

  75. T.E.L.

    Jamesonian Said:

    “With budgets on their way down, NASA can ill afford a PR nightmare like this.”

    That’s one reason why it’s fallacious for NASA to think it needs as much PR as it seeks. It plays both ways: When publicity is good, it’s good, but when it’s bad, it’s bad. There’s no good reason for NASA to be endlessly on everyone’s lips. There are numerous other federal agencies, chartered for public service, none of which seem to hunger so gawdawfully badly for praise like NASA does year after year.

  76. NASA is still in denial about the absence of any plume. Guess they’ll send a couple of H-bombs next time, to be sure about the fireworks 8-)

    The funny thing is, the absence of any plume is as interesting as a big giant mushroom in the lunar sky…

  77. Anchor

    This result was anticipated by a few people, who were either dismissed as overly skeptical or ridiculed as party-poopers.

    First, expectation was wildly over-inflated by the experience of the Deep Impact mission, which struck a much smaller target as well as one that is known to be rich in water and other volatiles: a comet nucleus. Furthermore, the viewing geometry presented to the Deep Impact mother craft while receding from the target was further aided by sunlight scattered FORWARD through the ejecta plume toward the mother craft cameras, substantially enhancing its brightness. Also, the plume was very long-lived since it was easily ejected at escape velocity and no doubt augmented by sustained outgassing.

    But the Moon’s regolith has a much lower albedo, the sun-target-spacecraft viewing geometry presented to Earth-based observers (including HST and other space-based but still near-earth instruments) was greater than 90 degrees, the plume at its earliest and potential brightest was in shadow – un-illuminated by sunlight most of the time it existed – and it was necessarily short-lived by the Moon’s much greater gravitational field. Even the flash of the impact itself was blocked by the crater rim.

    It should come as no surprise that very little visible indication of the impacts would have been visible to Earth-based observatories, let alone amateur instruments. The predictions of a 9 to 12th-magnitude plume were wildly optimistic. Only LRO and LCROSS itself would have been in a position to unambiguously observe a visible-light plume signal. I suspect they will eventually coax that out of the raw images. Whether a visible plume is detected or not, LCROSS is still an exceptionally valuable mission that will yield a great dividend of data, where it counts: spectroscopic detection of water or no. It is a brilliant experiment that has been successfully performed at very low cost. Now patience must prevail while the data is examined.

    The moral of this story (once again) is that skepticism often trumps the bandwagon effect, especially when it comes to the slippery business of prediction or building conceptual models of reality.

    It’s a lesson we may well apply to many another issue! I personally found the looming lunar surface to be as exciting as when I first saw the Lunar Ranger probes doing the same in the mid-sixties!

  78. Anchor

    Alex, your comment to CNN’s “coverage” is SPOT ON.

    It is incredibly depressing that a major news organization (and it isn’t alone!) treats science and discovery with such unabashed contempt and cynicism. It’s as if the news media cultures that have emerged over the last 25 to 30 years have placed a premium on the kind of behavior typified by dull-witted schoolyard bullies who seek out “geeks” to chastise them for knowing a hell of a lot more than they do, for personal gain…that the whole business of acquiring knowledge is something that no “normal” person would ever be engaged in.

    Indeed it is, as you say, a SHAME SHAME SHAME!!! A total reversal of virtue.

    The LCROSS mission was dedicated by its team members to an illustrious journalist who well understood the intrinsic value of space science, and who bothered to learn as much as he could as he reported on them: Walter Cronkite.

    Where are the Walter Cronkites at CNN? Why are “science journalists” in news media firms sequestered within “science divisions”? Why aren’t these people given greater weight than many newspapers lend to their astrology divisions or their “personal interest” divisions or their “comics” divisions?

    CNN (and FOX News and a host of other pop-news concerns that make all kinds of “journalistic” noises) all follow along a bandwagon trajectory that regards excellence with a cynicism guaranteed to kill the essential child-like curiosity we should all hope to sustain in our adult population.

    To paraphrase Cronkite, “That’s the way it once was”.

    There WAS a time, within the living memory of those under a half century old, when a scientific development was unequivocally deemed a vitally important and positive to the greater good of the people. Of the citizenry of the nation. Of the vitality of the economy. As an INSPIRATION to the American people, unmatched by any other cultural phenomenon INCLUDING whether a favorie team won the friggin’ Super Bowl. (NO, I’m NOT talking about the various TECHNOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS of such scientific knowledge, some of which have certainly compromised our mutual safety – but then, one cannot blame science where government, corporate and military decisions hold sway.).

    Unfortunately, this has been replaced with a pervasive marketing mindset that has traded and otherwise eroded and chiseled away at journalistic integrity in favor of the PROPHET. Oops, I meant to say “PROFIT”.

    One thing is quite clear: those “anchors” before the cameras at CNN who so confidently expose their ignorant snidery on the air will never ever be remembered for their “contributions” to broadcast journalistic excellence. Cronkite and Murrow and Huntley and Brinkely and many others of yesteryear they are certainly not. Being schoolyard bullies, they will never amount to that class.

  79. 1freelectron

    An artist’s representation of the impact.

    [IMG]http://img299.imageshack.us/img299/1222/mymoontatxk6.jpg[/IMG]

  80. Spectral

    Worst…lunar…impact…ever

  81. gss_000

    PR nightmare? C’mon. This is science and sometimes you don’t get what you expect. If people actually had been following and listening from the beginning, you would have heard a lot more balanced news out of NASA about the expectations of this mission. Like it was rated one of the riskiest because it was put together at relatively the “last minute.” For NASA, there was a high probability of failure, and this was no failure. It’s just that the media, both new and old, hyped the possibility of seeing something. I saw soem quotes from NASA which weren’t picked up well that would have given people better expectations.

    And why is it so bad that NASA worked to get everyone involved? Isn’t that what it should do, promote science in the US, make it available to the public? Seems to me some people would not be happy unless everything went 100% correctly no matter how things were handled.

  82. Anchor

    Hey, Sara E.M.!…re: your “manga comicbook series that promotes science literacy in youth by having super-cool sexy science-loving heroes save the known universe from stupid new agers in epic battle of galactic-scale awesomeness”?

    KICK

    ASS

    I mean, good idea. Long overdue.

    Up with alternative but recognizable worlds, down with fantasy which is nothing but an imagination who wishes a reader to join her[m].

    Woosh…nothing much there.

    But anybody who can destroy the entrenched stereotype of the geeky scientist in a single sentence is to be unequivocally supported.

    If you do it I PROMISE to be a devoted reader.

  83. jest

    gss_ooo: I kinda think that those who think like me, felt that the mission went according to plan. The “givens” in the experiment went down as planned, but the predictions did not pan out (as far as earth-based visuals were concerned). And I think that’s the fear some of us here had – the “oh great, the news networks will put a negative spin on an otherwise successful mission.”

    I agree, had more people paid more attention to news straight from NASA (I think that’s what you were getting at), far less people would have been so negative about the mission.

    It’s really funny how many people I saw on Facebook whining about “the money they wasted on this mission.” They need to see what the other government agencies are doing with their money…

  84. isn’t anybody else reminded of the Giotto mission, when the ESA people decided to show live a false-color, impossible-to-understand image and the Halley encounter was an absolute dud? Then, months later, finally we were shown the processed black-and-white pictures with the comet nucleus very easy to spot…

  85. Anchor

    Spectral? I’d like to know – diffinitively – whether you are sufficiently aware of any of the details of the OTHER couple of dozen objects of comparable or substantially greater mass that have been impacted into the Moon by NASA and the Soviet Union over the last half-century, at least a quarter of them for good experimental reason, in order to determine whether an impact is to be judged by your idiotically obtuse criterion of what constitutes “worst”.

    Or are you so incredibly dense as to imagine that an important scientific experiment exists primarily to gratify your sense of entertainment, or your evidently preponderant need to cleave your facsimile Hollywoodized expectations to a model of actual reality?

    You DO realize, I trust, that sounding exactly like a first-order fool won’t much enamour readers to your way of, uh, “thinking”…

    The rest of us who actually bother to deliberate seriously on composing a response figure it should remain a Good Thing that fools remain in the minority.

    Perhaps you might disagree with that.

    I don’t care.

  86. Petrolonfire

    69. NelC Says:

    “No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There’s always a boom tomorrow.” — Susan Ivanova

    Boom! Boom! ;-)

  87. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Data reduction takes time and processing the images does too. We’ll get something good from this, hopefully if we wait.

    Even a negative result is a result and helps our understanding.

    We need to keep this in mind and I conclude LCROSS was indeed a success. I look forward to reading the papers & hearing the later more carefully thought through and studied results.

    … That said, yeah its a bit of an anti-climax and its not great PR that the public missed an immediate spectacle. I hope people are good enough and understand enough to appreciate that this isn’t NASA’s fault and there’s more to these mission than spectacular explosions -but I’m not holding my breath. No one has ever lost money by underestimating people’s stupidity sadly.
    _________________

    PS. Uh, BA nothing from you on the Phoebe ring discovery yet? Please can you post your take on that for us all? Pretty please with a Saturnian icecube on top? ;-)

  88. Catchy title Phil…”LRO about to hit the Moon!”

    LRO (Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter) will continue to observe the Moon for the next year or so, so hang in there.

    John — Moon Atlas, Poster, Globes

  89. Spectroscope

    @ 87 Anchor

    The rest of us who actually bother to deliberate seriously on composing a response figure it should remain a Good Thing that fools remain in the minority.

    Fools in a minority? If only .. :roll:

    Mind you, while I understand your reply & broadly agree with your sentiments there, I do
    think you might be over-reacting to what’s just a joke there.

    Haven’t you ever seen the Simpsons and heard Comic Book Guy’s catch-phrase?

    (& btw. no, there’s NO connection betwen ‘spectral’ & me.)

  90. Spectroscope

    @ 90 John : Well spotted! I just read that as ‘LCROSS’ not seeing it as “LRO’ which it is – seeing what I expected to see. Yikes, people *are* easily fooled. Me included. ;-)

    @ 80. Anchor Says: (October 9th, 2009 at 5:45 pm)

    Very true & well said.

  91. @ 92 Spectroscope:
    Yeah…can get kinda confusing at times…Phil was probably just posting out next year’s impact highlight :)

    John

  92. skeptic

    Just some opinion I agree with:
    “I don’t like one shot missions like Deep Impact or this [LCROSS] one. You can’t revisit, you can’t validate. Study long term, use orbiters and landers, validate your results. Don’t count on luck, but take your time and wait for “your crater”…You could see the Deep Impact impact and call it a success. It has been, but only from an engineering point of view, e.g. hitting the moving target. From a science perspective: Not so much. It has been a $400 million 4th July firework. The crater was never seen by the flyby craft because the cloud stayed up much longer than expected, the high resolution imager and spectrometer has been out of focus. Overall science has been marginal. Rosetta will do better science within an hour. Giotto did, Stardust did.”
    +
    “The WFC3 images do not show any evidence for a temporary exosphere resulting from the impacts…A preliminary analysis of the STIS spectra do not show any clear evidence for hydroxyl…” http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2009/26/full/

  93. Spectral

    Wow Anchor, I bet you are a riot at parties.

    Indeed I am aware of the other artificial moon impacts and the science obtained from them (seismic and so forth). And, what the heck, I’m still going to rate this as the “worst” as I don’t think much will be learned from it.

    Nonetheless, it was a Simpson’s reference (I get the sense you dont watch much TV). NASA (and you for that matter) have always been tone-deaf in matters of public involvement. That post impact news conference needed a “Hollywoodized” director.

    You clearly have a passion for science education. I suggest you meet the rest of us “fools” half-way if you want to share it.

  94. Expat Stu

    Funny, no sign of that manned lunar base that Richard Hoagland so confidently said was at the impact site, on Coast to Coast AM. That would be the one that was put up there by the sinister supra-national conspiracy, using anti-gravity technology.

  95. At Cabeus did NASA geeks,
    A swifty Centaur rocket hurl,
    Where dust, and mayhap water reeks,
    ‘Pon craters numberless, and peaks,
    Under the cosmic whirl.

    Sent twice two tons of massy metal,
    To feel out lunar soil’s fettle.
    And also careful cameras set,
    To record impact on lunar rill,
    Ensure the wants of public met,
    Make time long record of the thrill,
    Assure sunny days for budget till.

    But, oh! When stopwatch ended countdown,
    To indicate the mighty crashdown,
    Appeared no hint of fiery flash down,
    There on Selene’s apparition.
    Were the cameras to be faulted,
    For missing flash on Moon assaulted?
    Or had some Lunar Politician,
    Told a junior lab technician,
    Strip down that leftover techy thing,
    From building that new Saturn ring,
    Set a force field strong and watchful,
    Stop this arrogant Earthly mission,
    Enough of supine swallowing guff,
    Set a force field strong enough,
    Halt this impudent Terrine bull,
    Teach those Earthlings they’re not hot stuff!

  96. Anchor

    Spectral: “Wow Anchor, I bet you are a riot at parties.”

    Me: I manage.

    Spectral: “And, what the heck, I’m still going to rate this as the “worst” as I don’t think much will be learned from it.”

    Me: What the heck. I’ll still dismiss your “rating” a flop. “Rating” a science experiment (or an artwork for that matter) is an evaluation based on nothing but personal taste as calibrated by a reference to potential monetary worth. It’s mere marketing analysis, score-keeping. Like film ratings. Top 10 listings. Flavor-of-the-month stuff. And I remain confident that plenty of science will be learned from LCROSS.

    Spectral: “Nonetheless, it was a Simpson’s reference (I get the sense you dont watch much TV).”

    Me: Nope. Is there any compelling reason to? Like obtaining quickie quotes from that awesome bastion of collective wisdom we call tv-land? You know, original stuff like from the Simpsons you can utilize to become that riot at parties?

    Spectral: “NASA (and you for that matter) have always been tone-deaf in matters of public involvement. That post impact news conference needed a “Hollywoodized” director.”

    Me: Well, see, there is a big difference between a news conference (with a freshly-formed dubious cloud hovering over it) and a well-polished package of canned production. (Even you may be able to tell the difference, I trust). I have worked for BOTH NASA and in the film and television industry, and it is abundantly clear to me that much of the “public outreach” efforts of NASA (and many large-scale scientific instituions and universities) which have been fashionably adopted over the last 20-odd years, in which they so strenuously grope to apply the “principles” of success which they borrow from the marketing strategies employed by Hollywood, are often so abominally obnoxious, preposterous and cheesy it is a wonder that they haven’t noticed how often they backfire. Nobody suggests NASA has a duty to inform the public, but it isn’t their job to package their message for a “market”. Hype has no business in that business, and the news media that amplifies everything NASA hypes up to begin with can’t be expected to provide much of a corrective force, can it?

    Spectral: “You clearly have a passion for science education. I suggest you meet the rest of us “fools” half-way if you want to share it.”

    Me: No thanks. I reserve the right to pursue the evidence gleaned from my 35-year experience within the science educational arena before I jump on the tired and rickety bandwagon of your stripe. There are a number of legitimate ways to educate people, and there are a as many ways to gratify them. The first involves serious communication and the latter consists largely of tickling their expectations. Take your pick.

    As for how easily you identify yourself with a wrong-headed consensus, I might point out that your estimation proves my remarks. The “REST” of US are busy doing the actual work of helping to inspire the public without recourse to the false devices of gimmick and hype.

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