Bruce Betts sent me some notes he took when he attended the NLSI Lunar Science Conference held at NASA's Ames Research Center last week. Included in his notes was the news (reported already elsewhere) that the launch of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, erstwhile planned for late November, has been pushed to the end of February or early March. The reason is that another payload -- Internet rumors state it's a Defense department payload -- wants to get bumped up in the launch schedule to get off the ground before the end of 2008. Bruce noted that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team is not arguing with the slip because it gives them a little more leeway in the final stages of their assembly and testing, and that the launch opportunities are more favorable for a February-March launch period.
This, of course, also delays the launch and impact of LCROSS, which is hitching a ride on the same launch vehicle with the orbiter. Bruce's notes indicate that once it eventually launches with Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, LCROSS will take a three or four month cruise around Earth before impacting the Moon.
The "Send Your Name to the Moon" deadline has been extended yet again, to July 31 -- that is, Thursday. I think this time it's really the end. They say they've already collected 1.45 million names -- quite impressive!