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With $79 million on the line, NASA hopes a crash landing detected by a companion spacecraft will yield valuable data about lunar ice. (Paul Dimare)

Lunar Smackdown

A spacecraft bites the lunar dust.

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(Continued from page 1)

“We’re trying to recapture the excitement of the Apollo missions,” says John Marmie, deputy project manager. Marmie, who moonlights as an amateur songwriter, wrote and recorded “Water on the Moon” with a colleague in an effort to put to music NASA’s vision for exploration. (The song can be heard on http://lcross.arc.nasa.gov.) “We’re hoping a new generation of scientists and engineers will take up the challenge to inhabit the moon,” he says.

Naturally, amateur astronomers are excited by the chance to see a spacecraft come crashing to an end, and several astronomy clubs through the West are making plans to celebrate the event. “We expect that the impact will fill about one minute of arc, less than the size of Jupiter if you are viewing that planet through the same telescope,” says Richard Baldridge of the Peninsula Astronomical Society in Mountain View, California. “This is a rare chance to see something amazing. Even the not-so-die-hards should stay up for this.” Baldridge and others will be in Los Gatos, taking turns at two observatory telescopes owned by the society and living it up at an Impact Party.

Mohi Kumar is a journalist in Washington, D.C.

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