Pro-Con | Is NASA's new rocket launch to explore the moon necessary?

In an unprecedented scientific endeavor — and what may be one of the coolest space missions ever — NASA is flying a rocket booster into the moon, triggering a six-mile-high explosion that scientists hope will confirm the presence of water.

The four-month mission of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite is to discover whether water is frozen in the perpetual darkness of craters near the moon’s south pole. As a source of oxygen for life support and hydrogen for rocket fuel, that water would be a tremendous boost to NASA’s plans to restart human exploration of the moon.

NASA launched two spacecraft to the moon on a single Atlas V rocket — Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a probe that will map the surface in a search for safe landing sites.

The first week will be an intense period for the controllers. Working overlapping 13-hour shifts, they will turn the spacecraft on after the orbiter separates, confirm the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite was not damaged during launch, perform a critical trajectory burn and complete the 40-minute lunar flyby, which NASA will stream on its Web site.

| Mike Swift, The Mercury News, San Jose, Calif.


With more than $1.7 trillion in deficits in 2009, the U.S. is hardly in a position to retain its place as leader in space flight.

NASA’s funding has been severely reduced, despite President Barack Obama’s support during the campaign for space exploration and sending people to the moon.

Pro-Con | Is NASA’s new rocket launch to explore the moon necessary?

Many believe that a nearly collapsed America simply does not have the financial strength required to send people back to the moon by 2020, and to Mars a decade later. With the shuttles scheduled to be retired next year, the country will be left without human flight abilities for at least five years, until Project Constellation is completed. However, the new replacement program is already over budget.

Another serious problem facing space exploration in the U.S. is the ever-diminishing popular support for spending large amounts of money on missions to the moon, Mars or the international space station. Rocket launches have become a common sight, with several going on every year, so there is nothing drawing the masses to support the efforts. The data obtained from satellites, which are invaluable to science, do not incite any kind of response in Average Joe, who simply no longer cares about the shuttles or the Atlas V rockets.

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