Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Moon spacecraft set for crash-landing
Lunar Prospector is near the end of its mission
By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse
The Lunar Prospector went into orbit around the Moon in December 1997, using a suite of sophisticated sensors to survey the Moon's surface.
The indications are that the ice is buried within the first half metre of lunar soil. There may be up to 3 billion tonnes of it at each pole.
Dr Alan Binder, Lunar Prospectors principal investigator, told the BBC: "The mission officially ends at the end of July in the sense that that's the end of the programme and when the money runs out."
To confirm the presence of ice, the plan is to send the satellite into a high-speed dive that would dislodge as much buried lunar ice as possible upon impact.
The impact point would be the permanently shaded region inside a large crater near the lunar south pole.
"This is the confirmation we hope for," said Alan Binder. "We're pretty sure there is ice there. The last act of the Lunar Prospector spacecraft will be to provide the final proof."