NASA's plan to establish permanent manned bases on the moon may hinge on the results of a "suicide mission" by a spacecraft that resembles a 6-foot-diameter sewer pipe, the Daily Breeze reports.

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite is scheduled to launch this autumn in search of ice on the moon that would help astronauts sustain long-term stays on the lunar surface.

In the process, the spacecraft dubbed LCROSS will smash into a dark crater that has never seen sunlight at the moon's south pole.

Northrop Grumman Space Technology is building and testing the satellite at the company's Space Park campus in Redondo Beach.

"Ours is a suicide mission. When we impact, we don't survive," said Stewart Moses, Northrop's director of space science and exploration for civil missions. "The vast majority of our spacecraft are built to last a very long time. Suicide missions are not very common."

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