'Countdown To Impact'

In a search for water, NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will crash into the moon at approximately 8,000 miles per hour. The event will take place 4:30 a.m. on Friday.

ScienceWorks Museum will have a preview of the event, which is expected to send a plume of dust six miles above the surface of the moon. "Countdown To Impact" will take place in the ScienceWorks auditorium from 7 to 8 p.m. and, according to ScienceWorks President Mark Dirienzo, will offer an interesting explanation of the event.

"We felt it was important to educate the public on what is going on," Dirienzo said. "This is becoming a national event."

ScienceWorks Science Advisory Board member Richard Levitt said the event is "a piece of the overall scientific effort we are spearheading."

The event will include a slide show to explain the mission and a NASA video to provide a view of the mission from space, both of which will tackle the issue of why it is important to find water on the moon, Levitt said.

The mission is a two-stage process, and a ScienceWorks press release explained the Centaur upper stage of the launch rocket will crash into lunar crater Cabeus A, at the moon's south pole. After observing the event, LCROSS itself will crash a few minutes later.

Both Dirienzo and Levitt said NASA is encouraging amateur astronomers to observe and report back as to what was seen on the Web site lcross.arc.nasa.gov. Along with numerous professional ground-based telescopes, the impact will also be observed by the space-based Hubble Telescope and LCROSS's sister mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Beginning at 4 a.m. Friday, the Southern Oregon Skywatchers will host a star party at a White City flying field. Skywatchers President Colin White said an 8- to 10-inch scope will be necessary to view the impact, which is expected to last only a couple of minutes. Normally, people would be able to use fellow skywatchers' scopes, but for this event, everyone needs to have their own.

White believes the mission could have an enormous impact on the future of space exploration.

"If we are going to the moon, and can find water there, it is a game-changer," White said. "Taking water there is incredibly expensive. If we can find it there, all the better."

According to White, the moon is a wealth of commercial resources as well as a good staging post for further space exploration. He said NASA's objectives benefit all.

"A lot of NASA's pre-concepts can be played back on Earth," White said. "NASA brings a lot of side benefits to us."

The sky watchers are excited about the event and ScienceWorks' presentation is key to the future of space exploration, White said.

"Kids get excited about these things," he said, "and you need to reach out to the next generation to keep the interest up."

The Southern Oregon Sky Watchers can be reached at orskywatchers.org.

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