With the successful landing of its Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite on the moon this month, Northrop Grumman Corp. scored a publicity coup – and possibly pushed science a big step forward.

The satellite hit the moon’s Cabeus crater, where it is transmitting data that will help NASA better detect if there is water on the moon. Any water could be used in establishing lunar outposts.

Northrop’s Redondo Beach advanced space lab built the satellite in just 29 months for $79 million – a tight budget and schedule compared with most NASA projects, said Sally Koris, spokeswoman for Century City-based Northrop.

The satellite’s landing ended a 112-day mission that started in June and generated a lot of buzz among space enthusiasts who stayed up into the early morning of Oct. 9 to see the landing. It has been anticipated that the landing – which was intended to be hard in order to kick up soil and dust –would resemble a bombing. The landing turned out to be lackluster and disappointed spectators, but NASA scientists were pleased and said the mission could yield revolutionary data.

“According to NASA, the debris cloud created by LCROSS’ impact produced good telemetry, and was recorded by space- and ground-based observatories,” Koris said. “NASA will gather and analyze the impact data from professional and amateur astronomers worldwide over the next several months to determine if water ice is present.”

NASA expects to discuss preliminary results in December.

C-17 Near Takeoff

More orders for the C-17 cargo plane are just a presidential signature away – a nail-biting conclusion to a tumultuous year at Boeing Co.’s Long Beach assembly plant, where 5,000 workers are employed.

If President Obama signs the defense budget approved by the Senate earlier this month, the $2.5 billion order for 10 more planes would keep the plant open through spring 2012. The bill is expected to reach the president’s desk by the end of October.

The extra funding was nearly derailed this year by powerful opponents, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who twice tried to cut funding for the C-17, which he considers a “pork barrel project.”

But the C-17 program had widespread bipartisan support among lawmakers around the country as the plane assembly requires parts from suppliers in 44 states – supporting an additional 25,000 workers. The Senate approved the defense budget Oct. 5 on a 93-7 vote.

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