NASA's Moon Probes Lift Off

By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 18, 2009 5:10 PM CDT
Today's launch marks NASA's first mission to the moon in a decade.   (Flickr)
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(Newser) – NASA launched its first moon shot in a decade today, with an unmanned rocket blasting off from Cape Canaveral. It carried a pair of science probes that will scout out potential landing spots for astronauts. It's a first step in NASA's effort to return humans to the moon by 2020.

One probe will orbit the moon and provide a 3-D relief map of the lunar surface. The other satellite will drop its spent upper-stage rocket into a shadowed crater at the moon's south pole. This satellite will measure the matter that's kicked up, send the data to Earth, then also crash into the surface. The goal is to determine if frozen water is present.