Jeffrey sez, "Our esteemed interplanetary panorama enthusiast, Andrew Bodrov, has done it again (previously, this time being the first to stitch a 360 from the new Chinese moon lander!
Lunar panorama: Chang'e 3 lander
NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer was watching as China's Chang'e 3 landed on the Moon. But the landing didn't register on any of LADEE's sensors. Why? The answer teaches us a lot about both the orbiter and the Moon itself. — Maggie
"The Chang'e 3 lander took this photo of the rover Yutu on December 22, 2013. The rover had completed a semicircular tour of the lander and was departing the lander due south. This version of the image has been white-balanced and color-corrected." Image: CNSA / Gordan Ugarkovic
Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla has posted a roundup of what China's lunar rover Yutu has been up to on the Chang'e 3 unmanned space exploration mission. Lots of pictures.
Former NASA developer Katy Levinson explains why we should care about the Moon as much as Mars–even if its dust is a killer problem.
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The China National Space Administration has launched Chang'e 3, a plutonium-powered lunar lander on-board a 185-foot-tall Long March 3B rocket. The lander is on a four-day trajectory for the lunar surface, and will brake and enter lunar orbit on December 6th. It is scheduled to land on December 14th, in the Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridum). The rover masses 140kg, with nuclear heaters to keep systems alive during the two-week-long lunar nights, and will use radar to probe the lunascape as it roves during its mission. It is also outfitted with high-resolution panoramic cameras and telescopes. The Chinese space program's stated goal is to establish a space-station and autonomous landers that can return to Earth with samples.
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Despite all the attention lavished on Moon dust, we still don't know what effect the stuff has on human lungs ... which is kind of a big deal, considering the fact that the dust has busted through every vacuum seal its ever faced. And eaten through layers of moon boots. Basically, you can imagine Moon dust as those tiny shards that get left on the floor when you break a glass and inevitably end up embedded in your foot four days later. At The New Yorker
, Kate Green writes about efforts to better understand the effects of Moon dust on various materials
and how engineers are trying to find new ways to control it before humans return to the lunar surface. — Maggie
The Moon is about 400,000 kilometers from Earth. The International Space Station is 1000 times closer to Earth. What would the Moon look like at 420 kilometers from Earth? YetiPC1 made a video visualization. Don't miss Yeti's other amusing video that shows how much the US national debt grows each day, in the form of gold bars getting dumped on a table.
In an alternate universe — one where Americans had a LOT more enthusiasm for spending money on massive space projects
than we've ever actually demonstrated — the 1970s and 1980s might have been the era of manned missions to Mars and Venus. Amy Shira Teitel writes about how this could have been possible, using only the now-antiquated technology
that got us to the Moon and back. — Maggie
I'd never seen this NASA photo of Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan before. It was taken after one of his three moonwalks with crewmate Harrison Schmitt, though you could be forgiven for assuming that Cernan just came in from a shift at the coal mine rather than a jaunt across the surface of the Moon.
At the Life, Unbounded blog, Caleb Scharf writes about the Moon dust you can see clinging to Cernan, describing it as sticky, abrasive, and gunpowder-scented. It's also not something we totally understand yet — at least, we still have a lot to learn about how Moon dust behaves on the Moon. On September 6, NASA is launching a satellite to study this very phenomenon. One thing it might figure out: Whether electrically charged particles of Moon dust might form an extremely thin and vanishingly temporary "atmosphere" that hovers and falls over the Moon's surface.
There is water on the Moon. We've known that since 2009 and we keep finding evidence of more of the stuff. That's not the really fascinating part about this article by Joseph Stromberg. Instead, there two really cool things that you should learn: 1) The water on the Moon probably came from Earth and 2) the water on the Earth probably came from outer space
. — Maggie
The University of California, Berkeley recently found 20 vials of Moon dust in an archival warehouse
. Apparently, these were all loaned research samples that should have been returned to NASA more than 40 years ago. This is not the only institution to suffer from the same problem. At least 12 states had (and then lost) collections of small Moon rocks. Minnesota found theirs last year
in a display case at the state Veteran Services Building, crowded into a cluster of lesser memorabilia, including an 8th-place award in a shooting competition. It could happen to anybody. — Maggie
The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project
(LOIRP) was started by Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing in 2008. They obtained the original analog tape drives from lunar missions in the '60s, which were literally covered in dust in a farmer’s barn, and they also got their hands on a complete collection of Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes that held a full set of all images carried back to Earth by the five spacecraft that flew between 1966 and 67.
Amazing, historic stuff. But all of these old media formats are fragile, and preservation can be a long and tedious process.
Cowing and Wingo funded the archival effort themselves in the beginning, then secured some funding from NASA. But the NASA funding was modest, and has run out; the guys have been funding the project themselves, and they don't have the resources they need. They have exceeded the requirements of NASA’s funding, but just haven't been able to retrieve and digitally archive all of these irreplaceable historic space images—yet.
So they're crowdsourcing funds on RocketHub. They've raised about 1/3 of their goal at the time of this blog post, and they have only 5 days left.
Miles O'Brien did a "This week in Space" webshow episode about the project back in 2010; check it out above.
Below, more on the project from Cowing, who is also the guy behind NASAwatch.
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Gravity isn't uniform. Denser planets and objects in space — that is, things with more mass to them — experience a stronger pull of gravity. But even if you zoom in to the level of a single planet (or, in this case, our Moon), gravity isn't uniform all the way around. That's because the mass of the Moon isn't uniform, either. It varies, along with the topography. In some places, the Moon's crust is thicker. Those places have more mass, and thus, more gravitational pull.
This map, showing changes in density and gravity across the surface of the Moon, was made from data collected by Ebb and Flow — a matched set of NASA probes that mapped the Moon's gravitational field before being intentionally crashed on its surface last December. By measuring the gravitational field, these probes told us a lot about how the density of the Moon varies which, in turn, tells us a lot about topography.
You can read more about the probes (and see some videos they took of the lunar surface) at the NASA Visualization Explorer.
It was forty years today (at 22:54:37 UT) that human beings left the moon for the last time. Miles O’Brien remembers Commander Gene Cernan’s last words from the moon, lofty, rehearsed and memorized: “as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind.”
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