Saturday, October 27, 2012
You may remember ARTEMIS from last year, the two of five probes circling Earth that were sent to the moon on a whim instead of letting them perish in an increasingly sunless orbit around our planet. What they did was this:
Something similar may happen with another mission, whereby the Herschel space telescope would be set into a lunar orbit followed by a crash into a place of high scientific interest, meaning where water could be present and observable when kicked into the air by such a collision. The reason: after March the telescope will become useless (no more superfluid helium) and it will either just sit in its Lagrange Point and possibly eventually come back to Earth, or be set into a solar orbit, or be put to use crashing into the moon.
Whatever decision is made (this is still just a proposal), such stories serve as good reminders of just how close the moon is to us and what an easy destination it is to reach. No other body in the Solar System can be visited time and time again as little more than an afterthought.