America returns to the Moon with Atlas V rocket

June 19th, 2009 - 1:12 pm ICT by John Le Fevre  

The flawless launch of an Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida has signaled America’s return to the Moon.

Powered by twin liquid-fueled engines and two solid-fueled boosters, the moon mission got underway at 5:12 pm EDT with the rocket carrying the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) blasted skywards.

LRO will go into a 31-mile (50km) high orbit around the moon, closely examining the Moon’s surface over the next year, as well as scanning for landing sites for future manned missions.

At the same time LCROSS will guide an empty upper stage of the Atlas rocket onto a collision course with a permanently shaded crater in an effort to kick up evidence of water at the moon’s poles in particles it kicks up.

After it has completed sending data back to Earth the LCROSS will crash onto the Moon’s surface.

NASA TV coverage of the launch will begin at 2 pm June 18. For information about NASA TV streaming video, downlink and schedule information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

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