Friday, November 13, 2009

"NASA finds 'significant' water on moon"


Full Disclosure - The graphic above came from this Flickr account and is in no way related to the facts of this story.


(CNN) -- NASA said Friday it had discovered water on the moon, opening "a new chapter" that could allow for the development of a lunar space station.

The discovery was announced by project scientist Anthony Colaprete at a midday news conference.

"I'm here today to tell you that indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit; we found a significant amount" -- about a dozen, two-gallon bucketfuls, he said, holding up several white plastic containers.

The find is based on preliminary data collected when the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, intentionally crashed October 9 into the permanently shadowed region of Cabeus crater near the moon's south pole.

After the satellite struck, a rocket flew through the debris cloud, measuring the amount of water and providing a host of other data, Colaprete said.

The project team concentrated on data from the satellite's spectrometers, which provide the best information about the presence of water, Colaprete said. A spectrometer helps identify the composition of materials by examining light they emit or absorb.

Before I cut loose with a major SQUEEEEEEEEEE I have to get a couple of things out of my system, because this type of sloppy reporting, hell, just sloppy writing drives me nucking futs!

Let's start with the very first sentence.

"NASA said Friday it had discovered water on the moon, opening "a new chapter" that could allow for the development of a lunar space station."

OK, a "space station" is an orbiting facility like the ISS. It's called a space station because it's you know, IN SPACE. A facility on the moon would be a "Lunar Base" or a "Lunar Outpost" or a "Lunar Research Station". Saying "lunar space station" is like saying "suburban aircraft carrier".

"The find is based on preliminary data collected when the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, intentionally crashed October 9 into the permanently shadowed region of Cabeus crater near the moon's south pole.

After the satellite struck, a rocket flew through the debris cloud, measuring the amount of water and providing a host of other data, Colaprete said."

]]BANGING HEAD ON DESK[[

No, no, sweet bleeding Jebus, NO! Fuck!

The "Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS" was the satellite. Know how I know it was the satellite? Because the word satellite is part of it's fucking name!

The rocket referenced is the spent Centaur upper stage of the Atlas V that launched the LCROSS.

After putting them both on the proper trajectory to impact Cabeus crater, the booster and satellite swung around so that the now empty and useless booster was the leading edge of the stack with the satellite trailing.

On final approach, the two separated and the Centaur became the primary impactor followed by the LCROSS which contained the all of the instrumentation, recording and transmission equipment needed to test the ejecta of the Centaur's impact for the presence of water vapor and send the information back to Earth for analysis.

So if, as the story reported, "After the satellite struck, a rocket flew through the debris cloud, measuring the amount of water and providing a host of other data" then this mission would have been a massive, monumental, biblical FAIL and some former aerospace engineer would be asking some stoners "Do you want to SuperSize that and make it a Combo?"

Now, I'm fairly knowledgeable about space stuff. But I wasn't entirely sure about the details of the mission. I wanted to make sure I wasn't talking out of my ass.

"How did you do that XO?"

I'm glad you asked.

I did not fly to the Northrop Grumman clean-room facility at Redondo Beach, California and interview payload scientist Kimberly Ennico or software engineer Mark Shirley.

Nor did I pay a visit to NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California which is managing the mission, conducting mission operations, and developed the payload instruments to interview the NASA Project Managers.

No, I took a different approach.

I FUCKING GOOGLED "LCROSS MISSION PROFILE"!!

Guess what? Very top of the list!

You don't need a degree in journalism or a huge news-gathering budget and corporate infrastructure to fact check a news story. But you do need to be able to type 3 words into Google.

That's the sloppy reporting part.

The sloppy writing part was in the very next fucking sentence.

"The project team concentrated on data from the satellite's spectrometers, which provide the best information about the presence of water,"

WHOA! Wait! What? The "satellite's" spectrometers were able to provide data AFTER it had impacted the moon, followed by the "rocket" that flew through the satellite's plume of debris?

Holy Fuck! Those NASA engineers really know their shit! Their Kung Fu is STRONG!

I'm sorry. I meant for this to be about how important this discovery is but I got distracted by the shitty reporting.

And here's the thing. I notice these things because I am freakishly well versed in all things aeronautical and astronomical. Most folks wouldn't know that they were being misinformed.

But the fact that a major news outlet could get the story wrong when it is so incredibly fucking easy to get it right begs the question: How many other news stories do you hear that are also just plain wrong?

My guess is, almost all of them.

I'll try to write about the importance of lunar water again and will attempt to stay focused.

Sorry!

4 comments:

Hyperblogal said...

CNN-Completely Nonsensical News.

Lee said...

CNN's error-reporting page is here:

http://www.cnn.com/feedback/forms/form6a.html?3

I strongly urge you to drop them a line, or at least a link to this post. The reason this kind of sloppy reporting goes on is that no one calls reporters on it. There are other reasons for other kinds of crappy reporting...

Al said...

You promised to have a post on the importance of moon water.

So if I may politely ask,

"Where the fuck is it?"

Al said...

The Altair Lunar Lander post was pretty good but too short.

You're right, this is interesting shit!