Friday, July 31, 2009

Koichi Wakata changes his underware; first time in a month.

Japan's first ISS expedition crew member arrived back on Earth on-board Endeavour, with STS-127 on Friday.

For the entirety of Koichi Wakata's final month on-board ISS may have been his most uncomfortable for more than one reason. Koichi wore the same experimental under-garments for four weeks.

There was no report immediately available on how soon the first calibrator of Japan's new ISS Kibo module changed his clothes after Endeavour came to "wheels stop."

According to C/NET, "Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who returned to earth Friday, had been on the International Space Station since March," wrote Chris Matyszczyk. "And, well, I don't know quite how I am to put this, but he didn't change his underwear for a month."

"I know what you're thinking. We're both thinking the same thing.

"Not even in the the darkest, most slovenly days of our student youth did we wear the same pair of knickers for 30 days. Around seven days was our limit. Then we'd at least manage a hand wash in a sink.

"But here was the intrepid Wakata, prepared for the sake of all our futures to don anti-static, flame-resistant, odor-eating, bacteria-killing, water-absorbent underpants. Yes, water-absorbent."

Read the posting HERE.

Terraced Wall of Bürg

Under control of Arizona State University, the Narrow Angle Camera of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has not been idle this lunation. Above, our 400 px wide inset cannot begin to give proper context to this latest release, showing astounding detail of a favorite telescopic target of the Near Side's northern hemisphere, Bürg Crater, surrounded by the warped Lacus Mortis, not far from Atlas and Hercules. Follow the ray that bisects Mare Serenitatus through south central Bessel (does that ray only seem to originate with Tycho?). It will lead you to a squarish plateau, where Bürg sits almost directly in the middle. The sides of the apparent plateau are sliced by rilles, some of which pose questions only LRO seems well equipped to answer.

The news release and a links to the image HERE.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Al Worden honored with Moon Rock

Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden displays a flag which, like himself, was flown to the Moon. On the return leg of the record-setting trip, Worden performed the first space walk in Deep Space, over 200,000 kilometers out from re-entry, half-way between Moon and Earth, to retrieve photographic canisters on the service module.

Hat Tip to Klaus Schmidt Space Fellowship

NASA will honor Apollo astronaut Al Worden with the presentation of an Ambassador of Exploration Award for his contributions to the U.S. space program.

Worden will receive the award during a ceremony Thursday, July 30, at 4 p.m. EDT. The ceremony will be held at the Apollo Saturn V Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, where the moon rock will be displayed.

Reporters interested in covering the ceremony should contact Andrea Farmer at 321-449-4318 or Jillian McRae at 321-449-4273.

NASA is giving the Ambassador of Exploration Award to the first generation of explorers in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs for realizing America’s goal of going to the moon. The award is a moon rock encased in Lucite, mounted for public display. The rock is part of the 842 pounds of lunar samples collected during six Apollo expeditions from 1969 to 1972. Those astronauts who receive the award will then present the award to a museum of their choice, where the moon rock will be placed for public display.

Worden served as command module pilot for the Apollo 15 mission, which set several moon records for NASA, including the longest lunar surface stay time, the longest lunar extravehicular activity and the first use of a lunar roving vehicle. Worden spent 38 minutes in a spacewalk outside the command module and logged a total of 295 hours, 11 minutes in space during the mission.

Worden was born in Jackson, Mich. He received a bachelor of military science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1955, and master of science degrees in astronautical and aeronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1963.

Apollo 8-type test for Orion considered

Like Apollo 8 in December 1968, mission planners are considering a test-flight in lunar orbit for Orion, as part of the run-up to surface expeditions, in tandem with Constellation's Altair lander.

Shelby G. Spires, The Huntsville Times

Engineers and managers at Marshall Space Flight Center have been conducting initial studies that would configure the in-development Ares V heavy lift rocket into a vehicle that could be used to take a crew to orbit the moon or place large probes in space, Marshall managers said this afternoon.

"We are back in the concept stage," Ares V managers Steve Creech told members of the Augustine review panel, which is chartered to look at NASA's future. "It is cheap to look at different alternatives, and we continue to look at options."

Currently, NASA chief plan is to use a smaller Ares I rocket for crew missions, and the larger Ares V for cargo missions. This plan would use only the large rocket.

Read the Article HERE.

U.S. return to Moon in 2028?

General Lester Lyles and LeRoy Chiao, of the U.S. Human Spaceflight Review Committee continue to listen and consider, here as seen in Cocoa Beach by Red Hubers of the Orlando Sentinel. The Aerospace Corporation claims U.S. return to Moon within budget constraints "all but impossible before 2028."

Mark K. Matthews and Robert Block
Orlando Sentinel

NASA's goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2020 is all but impossible to achieve, a presidential panel was told Wednesday.

An independent analysis concluded there is little hope NASA could replicate any time soon what Apollo 11 accomplished 40 years ago. And sources said an undisclosed part of the study showed it may take until 2028 — nearly 60 years after America's first moon landing — to get back.

"We can't see [the gap] closing," Gary Pulliam, an analyst with Aerospace Corp., told a near-silent audience in Huntsville, Ala., where engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center have spent the past four years designing new rockets for NASA's Constellation program.

One NASA analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of NASA or the review panel, said astronauts might be able to return to the moon by 2028, although another source said 2035 was more likely.

Read the full Article HERE.

It's time for mankind to return to the Moon

Joe Culpepper
Editor - Gulf Breeze News

In this week's paper, I share with readers some of my impressions of a recent visit to the Kennedy Space Center that by design coincided with the 40th anniversary of man's first walk on the moon.

The space program always has fascinated me. I was but 10 years old as I sat on the living room floor of my house in Mississippi and watched on television as the Apollo 11 astronauts first reached the moon and hours later set foot on its dusty soil.

When I moved my family to Florida five years ago, one of the promises I made to myself was that we would travel to Cape Canaveral and witness a space shuttle launch. I've since realized that shuttle launches often are postponed, seemingly at the very last minute, due to unforeseen problems. If you want to see a launch in person, you must be prepared to stay a few days.

My visit to Kennedy Space Center on July 20 was a consolation of sorts. My family still was able to see many of the sights you see on TV before, during and after a launch. It baffles my mind that there have been 127 such launches through the years, and sadly there are only seven more scheduled.

Critics say the space program is too costly. Granted, it does cost billions to explore the heavens.

But mankind must continue to be challenged. There are frontiers to explore, much knowledge to be gained. We answered President John Kennedy's challenge by doing what only a few thought possible. Too much time has passed since man last walked on the moon in 1972. It's time to reenergize, return to the moon and reach further into the cosmos.

HSF Panel: Moon within reach

Norman Augustine

Nonetheless, the panel will offer at least two options for future human spaceflight programs that could be done within the $81.5 billion budgeted for NASA through 2020.

And people on the Space Coast will be among the first to hear about "destination-based" scenarios for missions beyond Earth orbit when the committee is briefed on the topic for the first time at a public hearing today in Cocoa Beach.

On Wednesday, NASA officials steadfastly defended plans to develop the Ares I and Ares V rockets for moon missions at a hearing near NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"The Ares I and V development is the fastest and most prudent path to closing the human spaceflight gap while enabling exploration of the moon and beyond," NASA Ares Program Manager Steve Cook said.

Cook and other NASA officials noted that Columbia accident investigators recommended that NASA replace its shuttle fleet with spacecraft designed to give overriding priority to crew safety.

The Ares I, which is being developed to carry moon-bound astronauts into low Earth orbit, would be 10 times safer than the shuttle, Cook told the panel.

It also would be a factor of two, and in some cases, a factor of three safer than the alternative launch systems that the committee is examining, Joseph Fragola, an independent risk analyst, told the panel.

Read the Balance of the Article HERE.

Jack Schmitt headlines International Clean Energy Conference

Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, geologist Dr. Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt headlines The seventh annual Energy Conversion Engineering Conference will be held Sunday through Wednesday at the Colorado Convention Center.

Denver Business Journal

Engineers and business executives from several nations will attend an international conference starting Sunday in Denver to discuss the future of clean and alternative energy systems.

The seventh annual Energy Conversion Engineering Conference will be held Sunday through Wednesday at the Colorado Convention Center.

The conference is sponsored by Battelle Memorial Institute and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Monday, the conference will feature a panel on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon-landing missions. Scheduled panelists include several NASA officials as well as Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, the last astronaut to set foot on the lunar surface.

Monday's schedule also features a panel on "Energy Policies for a Green Future."

Dale Gardner, associate laboratory director at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will deliver the keynote address Wednesday; Gov. Bill Ritter, who has made new energy a key theme of his administration, will also speak.

Click here for more conference details.

Draft Lunar Exploration Roadmap

Google Moon looking eastward over the virtual landing site of Apollo 11, including laser altimeter relief from Japan's Kaguya and shading as seen days ago at local sunset by the Narrow Angle Camera on-board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The presense of the Eagle Ascent Stage, and perhaps the upright flag too, betray this is only a computer generated Google "street view," but it is the place of a small beginning. The Lunar Exploration Analysus Group has released a summary of the reasons it cannot be the beginning of the end of the human story of the Moon.

The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group is pleased to announce that a draft of the first version of the Lunar Exploration Roadmap is available for community comment. As some of you know, this has been a very involved process that has attempted to be "inclusive". The LEAG and the team that put this together feel that this is a good start and view the roadmap as a living document, which will be revised and updated as new data/situations arise in order to keep it relevant. In other words, the roadmap should NOT be viewed as "complete".

The roadmap has been constructed because of a request from the NASA Advisory Council and has been sentto them for approval. Only when/if the NAC approves this roadmap and the Administrator blesses it will the term "draft" be removed.

The Roadmap information is presented in two forms - a PDF (descriptive) version and an Excel spreadsheet in order to see the linkages (i.e., the actual roadmapping of Objectives and Investigations) between the three main themes: Science, Feed Forward, and Sustainability. As you can see, this roadmap goes beyond Science, which we feel is needed in order to make lunar exploration sustainable and affordable.

The files containing the roadmap can be found at:
Comments can be sent to:
Best regards
Clive R. Neal(LEAG Chair)

Abu Dhabi backs Space Tourism

Steven J. DuBord
The New American

Aabar Investments of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates agreed on July 28 to buy a 32 percent stake in Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism venture known as Virgin Galactic. The $280 million deal was inked on the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual AirVenture fly-in event held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

WhiteKnightTwo, the specially designed aircraft that will carry Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft to high altitude and then launch it, had flown to the EAA convention and formed a suitable backdrop for the signing ceremony.

Read the feature HERE.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Study of Earth-Moon distance wins Silver for Gary graduate at NAACP's annual ACT-SO awards

Anita Thomas of Gary Indiana, 2009 graduate of Lake Central High School, brought home a silver medal the Annual NAACP Afro-American Cultural, Technological and Technological Olympics, this week.

Her project's title was "The Model Relationship," of the dynamics of the Earth-moon system.

"The purpose was to examine the effects of lunar distance deviation on Earth -- or in simpler terms, if the moon was closer or farther away, how would that affect Earth?" she said.

She said she chose the project after reading an article in the Scientific American. "I came across evidence that the moon is pulling away from Earth as time goes on," she said.

Her study took seven months.

According to Lisa DeNeal of Gary's Post Tribune, Thomas now is attending an intense mathematics camp at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stick to the Vision, Coats says

Augustine's Committee hears from Houston

Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle
The United States needs to stick with the vision laid out in 2004 by President Bush to first go to the moon, and then Mars, the director of Houston's Johnson Space Center today told a committee that will recommend options on the future of human spaceflight to the White House.

"We have changed directions too many times over too many administrations," Mike Coats said during the daylong meeting. "We need to pick a direction, frankly, and stick with it for a while."

The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, led by Norman Augustine, former chairman of Lockheed Martin, has until Aug. 31 to deliver its report to President Barack Obama.

Coats' sentiment was echoed by Steve Lindsey, chief of the astronaut office at Johnson Space Center, who said he wasn't sure the space agency could survive another canceled human spaceflight program.

Read the Article HERE.

Thank You Team Kaguya

By now "iconic" JAXA/NTK's lunar orbiter Kaguya (SELENE-1) took the most natural-looking Earthrises and this Earthset, behind Malapert Massif and the south pole of the Moon in 2007. Billions of datapoints from several racks of experiments gathered during the two-year mission have yet to be thoroughly analyzed, let alone released to the public. Among the accomplishments known already to the mission team's credit is best resolution of the Moon's true size, it's lowest and it's highest points.

For a detailed review of the historic mission, click HERE.

JAXA's Kaguya team dissolves

"Everything has its start and end," writes Junya Terazono, "Kaguya, too."

Terazono emailed the world-wide community of lunar scientists, Sunday, though it was not to announce the latest astounding release from the first Five Star lunar mission on the 21st Century.

Kaguya project manager Susumu Sasaki, Terazono wrote, "stated today Kaguya's project team will be dissolved at the end of July."

The Japanese language version of this announcement can be read here.

"Of course, this does not mean JAXA terminate all Kaguya-related activities. Data analysis and processing will continue, as well as publication and outreach activities. These will be conducted by JSPEC, JAXA Space Exploration Center (

Junya Terazono

Designing a Lunar Rover

Scarab NASA Precursor Robotics notional rover for extremes, like two-week lunar nights, lofty heights and abyssal crater depths. Lunar rovers could be quite different than rovers previously developed for Mars. The Scarab was designed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University to be agile enough to travel over the moon's dusty, rocky surface and also serve as a stable drilling platform in a location where gravity is only one sixth that of Earth. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Astrobiology Magazine
Based on a Planetary Science Institute news release

Study Aims to Maximize Scientific Return from Moon Rovers

Researchers are preparing a robotic return to the lunar surface in preparation for future human missions. However, lunar rovers could be quite different than the Mars rovers of past years. The moon is a much different environment than Mars, and robotic explorers on the moon will have different research goals

NASA and other national space agencies are again focused on lunar exploration, which raises the question of how to best use semi-autonomous rovers to explore the moon’s surface.

R. Aileen Yingst, a senior scientist at the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute, is leading a group of Mars-rover veterans who are conducting field studies to answer that question.

Read the Feature HERE.

Chandryaan images centuries longest Solar Eclipse from lunar orbit

The Shadow of the Moon moves over Asia, during the solar eclipse July 22, the longest in duration until 2132, is plainly seen from lunar orbit by India's Chandrayaan-1 (Slide 7 of 8, Indian Space Research Organisation)

Bangalore (The Economic Times of India) - India's first lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 has captured the shadow of the moon on the earth's surface during the July 22 total solar eclipse, an Indian space agency official said Tuesday.

The images were captured by the special terrain mapping camera (TMC) on board the spacecraft.

"Chandrayaan tracked the movement of shadow of the moon on the earth's surface during the total solar eclipse. The high resolution images shot by the TMC from 7.45 a.m. shows the moon's shadow spreading from north-eastern China to northern parts of Australia," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Director S. Satish said.

The dark shadow of the umbra region can be clearly seen in the series of images the space agency has released after they were received at ISRO's deep space network (DSN) at Baylalu, about 40 km from this tech hub.

"The digital images were processed and scanned at our space applications centre in Ahmedabad and telemetry, tracking and command network (Istrac) in Bangalore. The capturing of the celestial event confirms that the spacecraft is satisfactorily orbiting the moon at 200 km with all its payloads," Satish said.

The nine-month-old mooncraft suffered a setback in April-May when its star sensor malfunctioned and it lost orientation due to excessive radiation of the sun when it was orbiting at 100 km above the lunar surface.

ISRO scientists overcame the disorientation by using antenna-pointing mechanism and gyroscope on board the spacecraft, which is orbiting around the moon at a height of 200 km.

Images from ISRO HERE.


Getting used to the Amazing is back in fashion, if you study Earth's Moon. From the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), a 1.8 by 1.8 kilometer thumbnail from a larger scan of the northern hemisphere. Distinct is the boundary between basin and highland terrain, the former flooded with lava and the latter, the brighter anorthosite of far older terrain. A distant shoreline preserved from a time before the continents, as we know them, come into being here on Earth. Upon it is preserved a record of the environment of Earth's neighborhood in the inner Solar System long since erased from Earth itself. That record awaits us to interpret it, and the message it has to tell us of the past and possibly the future. (A mare-highlands boundary in northern Mare Frigoris. Image width is 1.8 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]).

Relative Timing of Geologic Events in Mare Frigoris

Detail from a NAC frame centered on an impact crater that formed on the contact between two different geologic units: a highland massif (lighter gray, higher albedo, top-right side of image) and mare lava flows (darker gray, lower albedo, bottom-left side of image) in northern Mare Frigoris. Contacts such as this one are important to geologists because they provide information on the relative time of formation between the features. In this example, the lava flowed against the pre-existing massif, so we can infer that the lava flows are younger. The crater formed across both the massif and the lava flows, therefore we can infer this impact event occurred after the volcanic eruptions that formed the lava flows. Notice that the rim of the crater is no longer discernable on the massiff side because it is partially buried by material from the steep slope that has slumped down after the crater formed. The crater rim is more prominent along the side with the lava flows, because this area is flat and stable. Boulders are also more prominent along the crater wall within the lava flow versus the part of the crater wall along the massif because any boulders that may have ben on the rim were buried by slumping. A quick analysis of this small area illustrates the principles of stratigraphy used by geologists to unravel the geologic history of a location. The same stratigraphic principles are applied on a regional scale to create geologic maps of the lunar surface which are important for determining the timing of events that shaped the Moon. LROC images will allow scientists to examine contact relationships at a very high resolution. Such detailed information will sharpen the ability of mission planners for future human and robotic exploration of the Moon. Browse the whole NAC image!

Virtual Journey to 'Peak of Eternal Light'

European Space Agency - IYA

The first public showing of 'The Peak of Eternal Light', a new movie created using images taken by ESA's SMART-1 lunar orbiter, took place on 20 July 2009 at the Ars Electronica Center (AEC), Linz, Austria. This movie was shown as part of a special event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, during this International Year of Astronomy.

A method known as shape-from-shading was used to produce the 3D lunar surface featured in the movie. The method was used in a novel way, applying it simultaneously to five images taken in diverse lighting conditions by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft. This model was originally developed for research purposes before being converted into a movie for AEC, Austria.

The movie will be showing in the high-tech 'Deep Space' projection room at AEC until the end of August. The movie is also available to download...

Read the Article HERE.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Robotic arm for lunar missions

NASA has developed a robotic device that can help astronauts live and work on the moon and eventually Mars. LSMS is moving a simulated lunar oxygen generation plant from a lunar lander mockup to the surface during a test in Moses Lake, Washington. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

Brittany Sauser
MIT Technology Review

It looks like a lightweight crane, but NASA's new robotic arm can do more than just lift objects. Called the Lunar Surface Manipulator System (LSMS), it could be a strong helping hand for astronauts living and working on the moon. It could, for example, move large payloads and precisely position scientific experiments.

NASA's plan is not just to return to the moon by 2020, but to build a lunar outpost there. To do so, astronauts will need help lifting large and sometimes awkwardly-shaped payloads, and getting to spaces too high for them to reach. The device is similar to the space shuttle's robotic arm, which has been essential for moving equipment and checking for damage to the shuttle's heat shield.

The LSMS will be able to carry loads between 100 to 3,000 kilograms, and the arm and forearm would be able to rotate up 45 degrees and extend as high as about 9 meters. When reach is more important, it can be configured as a 3.75-meter-tall horizontal boom capable of stretching out 7.5 meters. The system will be modular so that other devices can be added to it. And it will be made out of lightweight, high-stiffness graphite-epoxy composites.

The manipulator system, which is being built at Langley Research Center, was first tested in 2008. "The manipulator did everything we wanted it to, from lifting large simulated airlocks and habitats to more delicate tasks, such as precisely positioning scientific payloads," said John Dorsey, a senior aerospace engineer at Langley and a task led for LSMS development and testing, in a NASA press release.

Read the Article HERE.

Odyssey Moon LTD gets serious

Common Spacecraft Bus, under development at NASA Marshall, is the Ford T-Model for a future lunar precursor robotics in need of standard "Quick Change" unmanned landers for a wide variety of mission needed before "extended human activity on the Moon." Now Google Lunar X-Prize competitor Odyssey Moon is reportedly teaming up with industry, and will use the CSB as model for it's planned "M-1" lander.

Joining the Odyssey Moon venture is:
• Near Earth LLC: a leading investment bank specializing in satellite, media and telecom
• The Brand Union/WPP: one of the world’s largest marketing and communications companies
• Aon International Space Brokers: the leading global space risk advisor and provider of space related insurance
• Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP: a leading global law firm experienced in telecommunications and space

“This is a power house team, a dream team,” said Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards, Odyssey Moon’s CEO. “We are combining the very best from the global satellite industry with the very best of the space exploration community to make this company and its historic first mission a success.”

“Odyssey Moon’s team now includes world-class leaders from the areas of finance, insurance, law, marketing, communications, advertising, and technology,” said Odyssey Moon chairman Dr. Ramin Khadem. “Each of these are esteemed firms that have been highly successful in their own right and now for the first time they have come together to support our lunar venture.”

"Odyssey Moon has also announced the addition of veteran investment banker Ms. Carol Goldstein to its executive team. With a career spanning 25 years on Wall Street specializing in financing and corporate transactions in the commercial satellite and telecommunications industries at ABN AMRO and Morgan Stanley, Carol is leading the company’s financial activities focused on its fundraising requirements. “I am very excited to be working with this world class group,” she said. “While providing attractive returns to investors, Odyssey Moon creates new opportunities for public and private companies in lunar science, exploration and commerce."

Read the post HERE.

Apollo 11 samples still crucial

Small rock fragments from the lunar "soil" collected by the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969. The background grid spacing is 2 mm. - Photo by Randy Korotev

A lunar geochemist at Washington University in St. Louis says that there are still many answers to be gleaned from the moon rocks collected by the Apollo 11 astronauts on their historic moonwalk 40 years ago July 20.

And he credits another WUSTL professor for the fact that the astronauts even collected the moon rocks in the first place.

Randy L. Korotev, Ph.D., a research professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences, has studied lunar samples and their chemical compositions since he was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin and "was in the right place at the right time" in 1969 to be a part of a team to study some of the first lunar samples.

"We know even more now and can ask smarter questions as we research these samples," says Korotev, who is mainly interested in studying the impact history of the moon, how the moon's surface has been affected by meteorite impacts and the nature of the early lunar crust.

"There are still some answers, we believe, in the Apollo 11 mission.

Read the feature HERE.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Russian Moonrace Surplus Sale?

Hat Tip to Doug Messier at Parabolic Arc

Russia Today is not the most credible source for well-researched news. For more than a year, for example, someone has been promoting the Russian news site with news that the late Cold War Space Shuttle knock-off Buran was going to "save NASA." Because the actual Buran, which unsuccessfully flew a single unmanned orbit around the world before the fall of the Communist government, is now a scrapped piece of playground equipment.

Nevertheless, now RT is reporting The Russians are in discussion with Americans on a joint venture to revive the NK-33 engine, which was developed for the Soviet manned lunar program.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Job Markets and Lunar Landings

James Austin
Science Careers Blog

These last few days have put me in a pensive and sentimental mood. I'm a child of the 1960's, 5 years old when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. Those were times when people were excited about science and jobs were--apparently--abundant. Stephen Shafroth, a senior colleague during my physics years (we also co-edited an esoteric book together), told me once (if memory serves) that he had 7 offers after his Ph.D., with no postdoc. That would have been, I think, in the early 1970s, not long after Apollo 11. Stephen was a good physicist, but he was not Einstein. Those were good times to be a physicist.

Today, multiple offers are relatively rare, and only a minority of scientists who pursue academic careers ever attain them. Our recent worldwide economic woes, and the resulting state-university budget cuts and private-university endowment losses, have made things quite a bit worse. The sputtering drug pipeline means poor prospects in the pharmaceuticals industry, and the generally weak economy means generally weak private-sector employment.

Which is why it gives me such great pleasure this week to illustrate, on Science Careers, not one but two career paths where prospects are good and multiple offers are not rare.

The first area--as illustrated by Chelsea Wald--is research on mathematics education, which offers excellent opportunities in--and, surprisingly, beyond--academia.

The second area doesn't really have a name, but you might call it network science. As Siri Carpenter shows us, this new field--or set of fields--offers excellent job prospects across many disciplines. How often do you find a discipline that's equally loved by physicists, ecologists, sociologists, and whatever you call people who study e-mail and cell phones? Even the Department of Homeland Security, and all the branches of the military, are interested in network science.

It's a tough economy, and people in traditional fields are feeling the pain. So it's nice to be able to show off at some areas of science that offer real professional promise. We'll see what other bright spots we can turn up in the coming months.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Google Moon's great promise

Demonstrating the potential of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC, AZU) and showing off the timely, definite usefulness of Google Moon as a place to peg the millions of pieces together of the multi-layered lunar jig-saw puzzle. Zooming in on a strip of Taurus-Littrow, one-time address of Apollo 17, earlier detail (l) and a preliminary scan by LRO's Narrow Angle Camera (r), the valley floor south of North Massif and west of the landing site can be toured "at Street Level."

The potential is breath-taking.

If new data from LRO's WAC and NAC is added with promised regularity, Google has provided serious students of the Moon the world over with a workspace unlike anything seen since the U.S. Geological Service first delivered and continuously improved availability of on-the-fly imagery of the Solar System. (USGS PSD Imaging Node)

Terry Fong wrote, July 22: I'm very pleased to announce that "Moon in Google Earth" went live this morning:

"Moon in Google Earth" was co-developed by Google and the Intelligent Robotics Group and features historic satellite imagery, historic maps, 3D models, and guided tours.

You can explore this for yourself (Windows, Mac, and Linux) by downloading the latest version of Google Earth (, then switch into "Moon" mode via the planet icon (looks like Saturn) on the top toolbar.

If you'd like more information, please let me know. Also, if you have any suggestions for a future update, I'd welcome your suggestions!


Terry Fong

Shuttle Dreams

History has established beyond doubt that the Space Shuttle, however admittedly impressive that program has been, never lived up to its chief 1971 selling points of safety and economy. The restrictions placed on the program after the loss of Columbia in 2003 sent clear notice, long ago that the program's days were numbered.

The billion dollar project of its retirement, which includes an elaborate environmental review statement has already begun, as has competition among 20 institutions who want to ultimately host one of the three remaining Orbiters.

So we can undoubtedly expect more stories like the one that follows, from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Tulsa Air and Space Museum is among 20 contenders for one of three retiring shuttles.

Space shuttle effort takes wing

David Harper
Tulsa World

The space shuttle has not yet landed in Tulsa.

But if Commander John Herrington has his way, that could change soon.

Herrington spoke Thursday in his role as chairman of a committee commissioned by the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium, which is aiming to have Tulsa selected as the permanent home of one of the three retiring shuttles.

The museum at 3624 N. 74th East Ave. is one of about 20 sites across the country being considered to house one of the shuttles, which NASA is scheduled to retire next year.

Herrington, who flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 2002, said it would be a "tremendous thing" for Tulsa to be selected because of the positive effect it would have on young minds in this area.

Read the article HERE.
Learn MORE about Tulsa Air & Space Museum's "Land the Shuttle" campaign

Apollo 11 in isolation in Hawai'i

Crowds gathered to watch the Apollo 11 astronauts in their mobile quarantine facility on the move from Pearl Harbor to Hickam after being unloaded from the deck of the carrier Hornet. (Honolulu Advertiser Library)

Will Hoover
Honolulu Advertiser

When the Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth 40 years ago today, their first destination was Pearl Harbor — a fact history books tend to overlook.

Taken to O'ahu, sealed inside a special Airstream Mobile Quarantine Facility, the astronauts reached Pearl Harbor on July 27, where they were greeted by 25,000 cheering fans. Through the sound system in their airtight trailer they listened to welcoming comments from Hawai'i Gov. John Burns and other dignitaries.

Then, after the ceremony, the Airstream was lowered to the dock and hauled by a motorized pallet loader to Hickam Air Force Base — followed by a throng of well-wishers. At Hickam, the trailer was loaded onto an Air force C-141 transport and flown to Texas.

Read the story HERE.

Ralph Hall honors Apollo 11

Rockwall Herald Banner

America’s economic, educational and technological strength can benefit from a clear, challenging, and adequately funded human space flight goal,” Hall said. “We must not default on our vision for space.

If we lose our vision, we lose a sophisticated workforce; we lose world leadership; we lose world partners; and we could lose a space station that might spawn a cure for cancer. We must not permit other nations to take away our leadership in exploration and research and our ability to defend our nation from space.”

Read the Article HERE.

Apollo and the USS Hornet

Now a museum at Alameda Naval Air Station, ready for restoration, the CV-12 Hornet floats, silent witness to the fulfillment of John Kennedy's vision, not just of landing a man on the Moon, but "returning him safely to the Earth." (The Hornet Museum.)

Peter Hegarty
Oakland Tribune

Astronaut Neil Armstrong may have been alone when he made his first "one small step" on the moon, but it took hundreds of U.S. Navy sailors to guarantee he made it home safely.

As Armstrong and fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were hurtling back to Earth in July 1969, the USS Hornet was on hand, ready to pluck the men from the Pacific Ocean after they splashed down.

"Just about everyone aboard the Hornet played some role in the recovery," said Bob Fish, who has written a book about the aircraft carrier's role in the mission. "And everything needed to work precisely."

The Hornet is now a floating museum docked at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, where Fish is also the curator of its permanent Apollo exhibit.

While researching his book, "Hornet Plus Three: The Story of the Apollo 11 Recovery," Fish tracked down dozens of the ship's former crew, who provided him with rare photographs and anecdotes about the recovery.

His book contains some fascinating nuggets.

Read the review and Article HERE.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Pet Moon Rock flies again

As CollectSpace first reported as secretly launched to the International Space Station in March, and the 21 gm sample of the Sea of Tranquility, retrieved by Dr. Neil Armstrong forty years ago on Apollo 11, was unveiled this week in celebration of that anniversary.

It's next mission, "the United States' next trip to the Moon."

Read the article HERE.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Astrobiotic's new lunar rover

Astrobotic Technology has revealed more information about its lunar rover. This company is led by William “Red” Whitaker and hopes to win the $20 million Lunar X Prize.

Earlier this month Astrobotic Technology unveiled the Moon Digger that they hope to use to win The NASA Regolith Excavation Challenge.

The new rover will be used to travel the moon’s equator, where it gets hotter than boiling water. The rover will keep a cool side aimed away from the sun and will generally travel east or west, but can tack north and south like a sailboat.

The robot will also serve as an internet node and be able to transmit back high resolution photographs of the moon’s surface. It will use 2 motors with bicycle like chain drives as opposed to a motor in each wheel hub.

Link via (Space Ref)

DIY: 1969 Lunar Module Computer

Here’s a project for a rainy year: a DIY Apollo Guidance Computer with 4K RAM, 32K words of ROM, and a 1Mhz processor.

John Pultorak built his own replica in 2004 and released the plans to the world, giving us a glimpse into what was essentially the first pocket calculator on the moon.

Read about it HERE.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why go back to the Moon?

Apollo barely scratched the surface: Charlie Duke samples the "disappointing" enigma of Stone Mountain, integral to the mysterious Descartes Formation, long-time landmark for earthbound observers. Despite its distinct, brightly unusual structure Stone Mountain turned out to be composed of more of the anorthosite known to be common everywhere else on the Moon, though the landing site chosen for Apollo 16, a Cayley basalt-filled basin between the equally famous North and South Ray craters, was an unnecessary attempt to link volcanic activity to lunar morphology, its mystery persisted.

Later, the most intense magnetic field detected on any of the Apollo missions was discovered to be the strongest on the Moon, from data collected by Lunar Prospector (1998-1999), and linked to surface brightness on the Mountain in a confounding way that may indicate the region is naturally shielded against solar radiation. The 'disappointment' following Apollo 16 did not persist, and the landing site is now ranked high among 50 high-priority sites for future manned exploration.

By Richard Hollingham BBC News

The Apollo Moon landings were a remarkable technical, scientific and political achievement and their 40th anniversary is undoubtedly a cause for celebration.

I've been privileged enough to interview seven of the men who walked on the Moon and I'm enjoying this Apollo nostalgia-fest as much as anyone.

One phrase though always sticks in my mind, and it came from the last man on the Moon, Gene Cernan. He asked: "When are we going back?"

Perhaps now, the more important question is: why are we going back?

Read the Article HERE.

NASA seeks its place in space

Ambitions in collision with costs, naysayers

By David R. Sands

The future of NASA is very much up in the air.

The agency behind the spectacular triumph of the 1969 moon landing and the equally spectacular Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters is getting a new chief -- former astronaut Charles F. Bolden Jr. -- at a time when it faces major budget and technological uncertainties, a looming five-year "gap" in manned space flights when the shuttle program is retired for good next year, and the scrutiny of a high-powered outside panel ordered up by President Obama to chart the future of the U.S. space exploration program.

Read the article HERE.

Ed. Note: The future of NASA may, indeed, be very much in doubt, a saga more telling of the Manifest Destiny of the United States than of mankind. History alone will tell if, like Portugal, the U.S. blazed a trail, showing what human could accomplish, only to abandon a new age of exploration to others.

It isn't a question of whether humans should or even whether they will travel further into Deep Space, or even whether the Moon is essential to that progress. The only question the American People and their Congress must ultimately answer is whether the United States is a partner or a pioneer in the destiny of Human Beings.

That destiny is settled, because in the end, the grim reality is that the Human Race will survive life in a Cosmos we now know to be materially hostile to carbon-based life forms if we are to survive at all.

This may also prove true for freedom and liberty in a shrinking political world, also, because in the end, just like war, space exploration really is a matter of life or death for the nation and all mankind. All the peace we might accomplish among ourselves here on Earth will not protect us from the manifold dooms the history of our planet shows clearly must eventually return in one form or another.

"Behold, today I set before you life and death.
Therefore, choose life."

Longest Solar Eclipse until 2132

Following on to our summary of the, so-called, "triple eclipse" phenomena posted June 26, NASA Science News has released a discussion on the Total Eclipse of the Sun by Earth's Moon, very late Tuesday, June 21 (UT), or well into Wednesday, June 22 local time in Asia and the Pacific and within the path of Totality as seen early morning in India, midday in China and in late afternoon in the Western Pacific.

When next the Moon is New it will cross the Descending Node in its orbit and arrive also at a predicted perigee of 354,923 kilometers. The longest period of Totality along the path traced by the Umbra Cone of the Moon's deepest shadow will be an astounding 399 seconds (6 minutes, 39 seconds) or only 49 seconds shy of a theoretical maximum, a record not to be surpassed for almost 123 years, on June 13, 2132.

Occurring as it does within a persistent Solar Minimum, that is nevertheless slowly coming to an end with the onset of Cycle 24, the Eclipse provides more than fodder for those predicting Doomsday in India and elsewhere or entertainment. It provides an opportunity for science.

Read the NASA Science News article HERE.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How would a modern lunar landing play?

NASA still retains hope tapes with the raw black & white television downlinked to Honeysuckle, Australia still exists, somewhere. Meanwhile, a Lowry Digital Company has released the first footage from a CGI restoration project that will be released later this fall.

The historic view of the two-hour-long first lunar EVA was incorrectly translated from a slower-scan . lossy scan per second directly to the 525 line resolution and frame rate in the U.S. from 1939 until 2009. When relayed to Houston, and to a billion viewers throughout the world, project engineers were happy to have anything at all ro show. CCD-TV cameras used on the Moon through 1972 continued to improve, though audiences were never as great.

The first color television accompanied Conrad and Bean to the Oceanus Procellarum in November 1969, though only 21 minutes of that mission were rebroadcast before the camera was accidently ruined Apollo 13 followed in April 1970. The first sucessfull live color television from the Moon did not happen before Apollo 14, in February 1971, though Shepard and Mitchell were off camera for most of their mission. A second color camera on the lunar rovers kept the action of the final three missions, by which time audiences had dwindled away. How much of a "entertainment factor" played in reducing audience participation before Apollo 15 has never been calculated.

Andrew Chalkin /

Here's a question: If Apollo 11 were happening right now, how long would we pay attention? Forty years ago, the TV networks — all three of them -followed every phase of the mission. On July 20, 1969 they went on the air with 30 straight hours of uninterrupted coverage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's "giant leap for mankind."

For a 13-year-old space nut like me, it was nirvana: I spent most of that 30 hours parked in front of the TV with my maps of the moon, models of the spacecraft, and articles about the mission, my own little "mission control" in the den. But I had the sense that the whole country, even the world, was sharing the excitement of witnessing a turning point in human history.

That feeling didn't last long. In November 1969, on the day after Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean made their own lunar touchdown, the New York Times ran a story entitled, "Second Moon Visit Stirs Less Public Excitement."

In the article, one of the quotes from man-on-the-street interviews around the country brought home just how fickle Americans can be: "It's old hat; it's not like the first time." Looking at that clipping now, I can hardly believe it: You were already bored?! And that trend continued even as the Apollo missions got more ambitious, and the live TV pictures from the lunar surface got better and better with each new landing. By the time of the final Apollo moonwalks, on the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972, the networks no longer covered the moonwalks in their entirety. We had already stopped watching.

Read the Article HERE.

Much is left to discover with Space exploration

Kip Hodges
Arizona Republic

Hiding among the songs on my iPod is a recording of the communications between Mission Control and the crew of the Eagle during those anxious minutes before the first lunar landing 40 years ago today.

I put it there long ago so that, every once in a while as I am shuffling through songs, it comes up as a reminder of that seminal day when humankind first explored another world.

For most Americans, sadly, lunar exploration is ancient history, an event that we recall only every decade or so as something of a patriotic duty. Not so for my friends and acquaintances, from astronauts to junior engineers, who were among the thousands of people who made the Apollo Program a success.
Read the Opinion HERE.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rediscovering Tranquility Base

In the relief of advancing shadows of sunset, in the southwestern Mare Tranquillitatus on July 12, 2009, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) works as designed. Below Center sits the Descent Stage of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle, continuing its uninterrupted forty-year-long vigil over the first human footprints on another world.

Just in time for the 40th anniversary of Dr. Neil Armstrong's first manned landing, and his tentative first steps on the Moon, Dr. Mark Robinson, principal investigator for the LRO wide and narrow angle, high-resolution cameras (LROC) and his team at Arizona State University have released the first pictures of Tranquility Base since 1969.

The deck atop Eagle's Descent Stage, used as a launch pad for the Ascent Stage, was last seen only briefly after a tensely anticipated lift-off when the departing vehicle pitched forward before continuing its acceleration back into lunar orbit, for rendezvous with the Command Module Columbia and the return to Earth.

A long sunset shadow from Eagle's lower stage, also well-within a remarkable 50 cm per pixel resolution of LRO's NAC, points directly opposite from the direction it had when it landed on July 20, 1969. A week less than forty years later, the shadow points toward the direction of its arrival with a long-ago sunrise.

This isn't the first time Apollo vehicles on the surface have been imaged from orbit. Apollos 15, 16 & 17, the last and primarily science, or "J," missions, of the program each came equipped with both powerful panoramic, wide-angle and 70 mm cameras that collected what were, until now, the highest resolution images of the lunar surface ever taken. Those last missions photographed their respective landers on the surface, when also near perigee.

Such close up pictures of the earlier landing site of Apollo 11 were not possible. Each of the better equipped last missions, carrying the powerful cameras on-board their Service Modules, were aligned with landing sites far from the equator when passing through the longitude of Tranquility Base.

High resolution photographs of each of the Apollo landing sites were available, of course.

Very recently, the Lunar Orbiter Image Restoration Project (LOIRP) reproduced an outstanding photograph of the landing site of Surveyor 3 and, 18 months later, Apollo 12. Unfortunately, it was first imaged even before Surveyor 3 landed, making the later, very precise landing of Apollo 12, only 150 meters from Surveyor 3, in November 1969 all the more remarkable.

A Lunar Orbiter did photograph Surveyor 1, however, where it must still rest inside the ancient Flamsteed crater, in the wide expanse of Oceanus Procellarum.

The uncalibrated image from the LRO NAC has renewed hope of locating the precise, sometimes even controversial fates of crash site, impact sites and the landing sites of many "lost" artifacts of the First Age of Lunar Exploration. The actual final resting place of the Soviet Union's Luna 9, the first successfully soft-landed vehicle on the Moon, for example, is not precisely known.

Though the U.S.S.R.'s Luna 17 nuclear-powered rover was equppied with a French-built laser-ranging reflector, no one knows exactly why not a single photon has been detected, reflected back, since it was parked in Sinus Iridum in 1971.

The final resting place of Luna 21, on the otherhand, still weakly confirms its location near Le Monnier, with GPS precision, a dim reflection of laser light counted by the photons per hour returned to the Apache Point Obervatory Lunar Laser ranging operation (APOLLO).

Though Japan's just-deorbited Kaguya carried highly capable instruments, including its famous HDTV, it was not designed to detect anything so small as an Apollo lunar module descent stage, though JAXA did release good surveys of the landing sites of Apollo 11, 14, 15 & 17, it produced no close-up images of Apollo 11.

One HDTV image of the southwestern Sea of Tranquility was useful in showing the color and composition of the surrounding area, and it demonstrated why Apollo mission planners picked what appeared to be a very smooth first landing site, even after the near-by televised impact of Ranger 8 or the soft-landing of Surveyor 5 only 22 kilometers to the northwest of what would become Tranquility Base.

In fact, it was not until the guidance computer, on-board Eagle, nearly landed Apollo 11 within an unsurveyed, stadium-sized crater, and Armstrong took control to lander nearly a half-mile "long," that the true nature of the "smooth" landing area was seen for the rough patch of ground that it is. Now we can see it again, for the first time.

Comparing Kaguya with LRO

For comparison, the most detailed image of the Apollo 11 landing site yet released from Japan's Kaguya, a Terrain Camera image from 300 kilometers overhead taken in late 2007.

The image was used to compare a visual scale representation with a false-color image of the same area, taken from data collected by Kaguya's Multi-Band imager. The area shown is the eastern half of that TC image.

The image is a not a fair demonstration of the what was later shown to be a very impressive range for the JAXA's Terrain Camera. At this altitude, at 5 meters per pixel resolution, the Descent Stage of Eagle was invisible. The white smudge to the left of the tip of the arrow added, west and in front of Eagle is still believed by some to be evidence of rougher, more reflective regolith that may have been exposed when an overhay of aeons of dust was scattered great distances by the arrival of Eagle.

It's not a fair comparison.

The Terrain Camera's computer-generated, small-scale image of the Apollo 11 landing area in 2007 was not taken to uncover human artifacts. Immediately below is an LROC image taken six times closer to the surface, using a camera designed to map detail.

The Terrain Camera was designed to provide baseline for Kaguya's other experiments.

Nevertheless the Kaguya TC image from 2007 and the still-uncalibrated LRO image gathered only a few days ago are, together, the most detailed small-scale images of Tranquility Base ever released.

More and more, even amateur telescopic images of the region come very close to the color resolution of Kaguya's HDTV in lunar orbit. But, just as seen in the TC image, the deeply "gardened," boulder-strewn, ancient and very rough patch chosen for man's first landing on the Moon has really only been seen twice. First, by Armstrong & Aldrin, in those moments just prior to the first landing, and now by the Narrow Angle Camera of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Above, a roughly 300 percent blow-up of the Kaguya TC image from 300 kilometers in 2007 shows how deceptively smooth the region was thought to be before the Apollo 11 landing.

That "white smudge" is definitely seen, directly ahead of where Eagle's Descent Stage came to a rest, arriving from the east and descending from orbit from the right, the "swept" area is consistent with what might have been produced by a vehicle briefly pitched back to slow forward momentum. And yet, a glance at the LRO image below seems to show only a naturally depressed area ahead of the landing spot. The LRO NAC image is closer to the "Ground Truth."

At smaller scale than the first image from the LRO NAC at the beginning of this post, this image is good for demonstrating how much our understanding of one of the best studied, best known areas of the Moon has improved almost overnight with the arrival of LRO.

Soon we will see the entire Moon as only those who have actually been there saw it forty years ago, and then only in the immediate vicinity of six small patches of ground on a planet with surface area the size of Africa. With the arrival of LRO, we will, in many ways, be exploring the Moon for the first time.

Children's book on Chandrayaan released

Composite detail of Ricco taken June 15

ISRO has an updated Chandrayaan page with a booklet for children and more images from the lunar surface.

An illustrated booklet for children by B. R. Guruprasad titled, "Chandrayaan 1: India's Giant Leap to Moon". This is available HERE:

And additional images, from Chandrayaan 1 new, higher altitude have been uploaded. Plaskett from Chandrayaan's 2714th orbit, taken June 22, can be viewed HERE.

From the South polar region, on Chandrayaan's 2640th orbit, taken June 15, can be viewed HERE.
- Generous HAT TIP to
Pradeep Mohandas

Chandrayaan completes primary mission

2.5 mpx TMC image of Coulomb-C among updated releases from ISRO's Chandrayaan-1, reported out July 17.

The fortieth anniversary of Apollo 11 was far down the list of news stories deemed important in the United States, this past week, until Thursday, July 16 when word spread of the death of famous American newsreader Walter Cronkite at 92.

Cronkite was an icon of broadcast television's heyday, and no one journalist is associated more with the Apollo Era.

His color commentary of Neil Armstrong's first words on the Moon are being replayed endlessly on television, radio and the Internet this weekend, along with other actualities long-associated with Cronkite, such as breaking news of the assassination of President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

News of Cronkite's passing has done more to capture public attention regarding the voyage of Apollo 11 than NASA's long-planned 40th anniversary events or release of spectacular high-resolution images of five of the six Apollo landing sites taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

Far down the list was a press release July 17 from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) about the other advanced mission Chandrayaan 1 after completing 3,000 orbits during its eight months in lunar orbit.

Pradeep Mohandas passed along the ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 milestones to an international membership of the United Nation's Space Generation, detailing the latest news.

Chandrayaan-1 orbit was raised on May 19 to a 200 kilometer circular orbit on May 19.

"The higher altitude is expected to reduce image resolution but provide a wider swath. So far," Mohandas reports, images from Chandrayaan's new station have "been of good quality."

April 26, a navigational sensor on Chandrayaan began to malfunction. "The Star Sensor is used to determine the attitude of the space craft. ISRO overcame this using redundant sensors - gyroscopes, antenna pointing information and the perspective of known locations on the Moon to determine attitude."

"There has also been a failure on the bus management unit," Mohandas reported. "Other than these failures, the spacecraft is healthy.

"A recent review by scientists confirmed that Chandrayaan 1 has accomplished all primary objectives," and the spacecraft "continues to send good quality data. Detailed review of performance and results are expected within 3 months, with a full report of results expected next year.

"Data collected by Chandrayaan 1 has been forwarded to partner scientists throughout the world.

The ISRO press release is available here:

More detailed information, on various attitude controlling instruments can be reviewed here:

A May 20 update of various images and craters, is available here:

Friday, July 17, 2009


Still very early in the calibration phase of what will be its long-awaited two-year mission exploring the Moon, Arizona State University's stewards of the LRO wide and narrow angle camera system have delivered just preliminary photographs of five of the six Apollo lunar module descent stages (which turned out situated precisely where they were supposed to be when left behind almost forty years ago.

Naturally, the Lunar Pioneers can't think of a better way to celebrate the accomplishment of Apollo 11. (The intensive tracking left behind by the boots of Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell on Fra Mauro in February 1971 can easily be seen, having left an obvious trail between the ALSEP and Antares.)

LROC Site Link HERE.

Ares I-X launch delayed

Thrust Oscillation concerns worsen

Last month, Sentinel Space Editor Robert Block reported on the likelihood that the first test flight of the Ares I-X -- a mockup of the Ares I intended ot test performance of the solid-fuel first stage -- would be delayed past its scheduled date of Aug. 30. Officially, he reported, NASA was holding to the August date for liftoff at Kennedy Space Center but that September was "more likely."

Now comes the officially revised date, courtesy of a memo from Johnson Space Center's Robert Ess, the Ares I-X mission manager: Oct. 31.

"This is still a very aggressive schedule and requires a lot of tasks to complete on or before their planned dates," Ess wrote in a memo obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

And there's word from Marshall Space Flight Center, where Ares I is being designed, that engineers there are continuing to wrestle with the issue of "thrust oscillation." A blog post by Dan Kanigan, a public information officer at Marshall, explains the problem this way:

"The vibration that is produced by the burning of the solid rocket propellant in the first stage booster is called thrust oscillation. These vibrations -- or oscillations -- come in the form of waves, which travel up and down the length of the rocket like a musical note through an organ pipe. One of the biggest challenges in any rocket design is developing avionics (aviation electronics) that can function in this vibrating environment."

Kanigan confirms that the Air Force's 45th Space Wing’s Range Safety team remains concerned, As Block also reported, that thrust oscillation will vibrate Ares I so badly that it will disable both the Thrust Vector Control system that steers the rocket and the Flight Termination System that would be used to blow it up if the rocket veered of course.

Read The Write Stuff posting HERE.

Five Apollo landing sites photographed

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has returned its first imagery of the Apollo moon landing sites. The pictures show Apollo lunar module descent stages from five of the six successful manned landing site resting on the moon's surface, as long shadows from a low sunset phase angle make the modules' locations distinct.

All six manned lunar landing missions took place at or soon after local lunar sunrise, so the long shadows fall away close to the direction from which they arrived.

The Apollo 12 site, around 100 meters from the earlier landing site of Surveyor 3, is expected to be photographed in coming weeks.

"The LROC team anxiously awaited each image," said LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson of Arizona State University. "We were very interested in getting our first peek at the lunar module descent stages just for the thrill -- and to see how well the cameras had come into focus. Indeed, the images are fantastic."

NASA Science News Release HERE.