Scientists refute online rumors on moon bombing

Internet has been abuzz with rumors of drastic tide changes and a moon off its axis

In the days leading up to NASA's crashing of two halves of a space probe into the moon, doubters turned to the Internet to express fears that the lunar bombing would have negative effects on the Earth.

Scientists and astronomers were quick to step forward to refute any rumors and quell concerns, but rumors are still circulating online.

In a quest to find out if there's water on the moon, NASA sent two separated halves of a spacecraft crashing into a permanently dark crater on the south pole of the moon this morning. The crashes were meant to send up a huge debris plume that could be measured and analyzed for evidence of water ice hiding in the cold, dark crater.

With NASA still hopeful to one day create a viable human outpost on the moon, it would be help to find water already there so it wouldn't have to be hauled up from Earth later.

But detractors were quick to post online warnings about possible negative effects of the experiment.

Amy Ephron, an author and screenwriter, wrote an article for the Huffington Post earlier this week, questioning NASA for taking the risks associated with sending two spacecraft crashing into the surface of the moon.

"Who did the risk assessment? I mean, what if something goes wrong?" asked Ephron. "I could say something scientifically lame and ask, 'What if it gets thrown off its axis?' or something funny and suggest something (that I actually sort of believe), like, 'What if it somehow throws off the astrology?' Or that we're not risking -- as we have the earth with continued experiments of this kind -- sending the solar system out of balance."

Ephron was far from alone in her concerns.

The Chicago Surrealist Movement posted an online petition, which was signed by 560 people, calling for NASA to halt the "bombing" of the moon. People against the LCROSS mission started their own Twitter presence with @helpsavethemoon.

While some people said they felt NASA's plan was simply too aggressive an attack on the Earth's orbiter, some claimed the impacts would change the Earth's tides, throw the moon off its axis or even affect women's menstrual cycles.

Faith Vilas, director of the MMT Observatory, said she's been amazed by such negative reactions to the mission. There's simply no danger, she added.

"The moon is impacted by nature and meteors all the time," said Vilas. "Nature has done much more damage to the moon than we just did. We were not likely to have any effect on the moon at all. What we did was nothing. We didn't have much of an impact at all."

Bruce Betts, director of projects at The Planetary Society, said in an e-mail to Computerworld that this morning's crashes will have no negative impact on the moon or the Earth.

"The spacecraft are far too tiny compared to the moon, in fact, to have any significant effect on the moon's orbit or dynamics," he added. "The impact might be likened to a gnat hitting the windshield of a truck."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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