Debris

Nasa televised live images of the LCROSS as it crashed into a crater near the Moon's south pole.

Nasa televised live images of the LCROSS as it crashed near the Moon's south pole [AFP]
Minutes before its impact, the satellite guided a rocket into the Cabeus crater in an effort to kick up enough lunar debris (as high as 10km) to help the LCROSS find whether there is any water in the Moon's soil.

The answer will be vital to the planning of future manned missions, including plans for a lunar base and missions further into the solar system.

Bicay said an infrared camera showed changes that suggested an explosion.

Scientists hoped an analysis of the debris would confirm the theory that water - a key resource if people are going to go back to the Moon - is hidden below the barren moonscape.

LCROSS – standing for Lunar Crater Observing and Sensing Satellite – was launched on an Atlas V from Cape Canaveral in Florida on June 18 and entered lunar obit five days later.

Manned missions

Hours before Friday's scheduled impact, the probe successfully separated from the rocket hull, sending it on its way to the lunar surface.

The discovery of water on the moon will have a big impact on future manned missions [Nasa]
The Cabeus crater is in permanent shadow at the Moon's south pole, in an area that has not been exposed to sunlight for two billion years.

Scientists have long regarded the lunar poles as a possible location of water ice, although that has never been proven.

The discovery of water and other life-sustaining minerals on the Moon would have a dramatic impact on plans for long-term manned Moon missions, including the construction of a lunar base.

At present, Nasa estimates the cost of transporting a single one litre bottle of water to the lunar surface to be about $50,000.

But if usable reserves of water were found on the lunar surface, that would make human habitation a much more viable prospect.

Nasa's Jim Garvin said the eventual hope was that future lunar explorers "might be able to live off the land … rather than bringing it all with us".

Plans for manned missions to the Moon, he said, were "kind of like the ultimate family vacation - if you have to bring everything, you might as well stay home".