Tuesday, July 31, 2012

LROC: "Splash Mark" at Necho crater

Meandering line of boulders at the bottom of Necho crater. Image width is 690 m, LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) observation M167390131L, LRO orbit 9802, August 7, 2011; incidence angle 47.08° at 0.69 meters resolution, from 60.11 km. Sunlight is from west (left side) [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]
Hiroyuki Sato
LROC News System

Today's Featured Image highlights the southern edge of an impact melt pond, located on the floor of Necho crater. Necho is a relatively young, Copernican-aged crater (meaning, it formed between ~1.1 billion years ago and the present) with a diameter of 30 km, located on the farside of the Moon (5.25°S, 123.24°E).

As seen in the WAC context image below, the crater floor is filled by impact melts. The meandering line of boulders in the opening image was found near the bottom of a north to northeast facing slope. There is no clear relief or texture difference on the surface except this boulder line. How was it formed?

Necho crater as viewed on the digital terrain model available in the Google Earth application, overlaid with the 604nm monochrome data from LROC Wide Angle Camera observation M165041995C, LRO orbit 9456, July 11, 2011; resolution 86.15 meters from 61.3 km. The locations of full NAC frame (blue box) and the field of view highlighted in the LROC Featured Image (yellow arrow) are indicated [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Probably this line of boulders was formed as a splash mark or wave front coming from the melt pond, driven by secondary impacts or debris dumped into the melt pond. In fact, impact melt flows frequently retain similar boulder lines along the edge of each flow unit (see Scale-like Impact Melts, A molten flood). Also, discontinuous boulder marks at the upper part of this image extend downslope, near the relatively level melt pond area, which might be a side of the splash flow.

Explore the full NAC view of Necho's impact melt pond HERE.

Related Posts:
Necho Crater (August 22, 2009)
A molten flood (July 28, 2010)
Necho's terraces (August 31, 2010)
Impact melt at Necho crater (September 1, 2010)
The jumbled floor of Necho crater (September 2, 2010)
Impact melt in Anaxagoras crater (May 31, 2011)
LROC: Jackson Waves, (August 10, 2011)
Scalelike Impact Melts (April 19, 2012)

'Man's First Wheels on the Moon,' at 41 years

Loading up the first of the Apollo lunar rovers, lunar module pilot Jim Irwin paused to memorialize the placard commemorating 'Man's first wheels on the Moon, Delivered by Falcon, July 30, 1971. Forty-one years later, the relatively low mileage electric car still sits on the plain north of Hadley Rille. Strictly speaking, the Lunokhod teleoperated rover on the opposite side of Mare Iridium were the first "wheels," on the Moon. In American parlance, however, this first of the three Apollo J mission Lunar Electric Rovers, operated by men behind the 'wheel,' were correctly designated the first "wheels" on the Moon AS15-88-11862 [NASA/JSC/ALSJ].
J. Terry White
President and CEO
White Eagle Aerospace, LLC
American Aerospace blog, Seattle Post Intelligencer

Forty-one years ago today, Apollo 15 landed in the Hadley-Appennine region of the Moon. The fourth manned lunar landing, Apollo 15 was one of the most scientifically successful and geologically diverse of the Apollo Lunar Landing Program.

The Apollo 15 Lunar Module Falcon, with Dave Scott and Jim Irwin onboard, landed at 22:16:29 UTC in the Hadley-Appennine region of the Moon on Friday, 30 July 1971.  High overhead, Al Worden orbited the Moon alone in the Command Module (CM) Endeavor.

Read this mission summary, HERE.
And explore the full mission record, videos and pictures 
at the Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal, HERE.

Apollo 15 Related Posts:

Newt Space

Paul D. Spudis
The Once and Future Moon
Smithsonian Air & Space
During a recent talk to a gathering of students, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke of his longstanding interest in space by mentioning the dust-up over comments he made about a Moon colony during the GOP primary.  He expanded this episode into a teaching moment about the nature of innovation and progress in space.  Gingrich is vigorous in his enthusiasm for space exploration but is not a devotee of the current agency and its programs.  In his considered opinion, we need to re-think our approach to space exploration and use more innovative, non-bureaucratic approaches to develop space systems and capabilities.

A historian by training, Gingrich often uses historical analogies to illustrate his point.  On this occasion, he spoke of the experiences of the Wright Brothers and Samuel P. Langley in the development of the first airplane.  As Gingrich relates it, after several failed attempts the Wright brothers finally achieved flight on December 17, 1903, spending in total about $500.  In contrast, Langley (the recipient of a $50,000 government grant) failed in his attempt to fly when his “aerodrome” crashed into the waters of the Potomac River (the actual amounts spent were “less than $1000” and $70,000 respectively, according to James Tobin’s excellent book on the subject).  That powered aircraft might have military use was not a new idea and the then-recent war with Spain led to a re-examination of our defense posture, with the military eager to fund Langley’s aeronautical experiments.

Gingrich contrasts the “faster, cheaper, better” (and successful) approach of the Wrights to the supposedly bureaucratic, measured failure of Langley and suggests that this incident parallels the current differences between the approach of “New Space” (an umbrella term referring to the variety of current efforts by the private sector to develop spaceflight capability) and our federal civil space program.  In other words, it’s not the lack of resources or technology that’s holding us back – it’s our business model.  He suggests that many of the central tenants of “New Space” (including the offering of prizes as technical incentives and “lean” management models) will accomplish more in space than we’ve received through government programs and for much less expenditure.

First flight of Langley's aerodrome - one second after launch and one second before impact
The historical story is interesting but did Gingrich draw the correct conclusion?  Should the success of the Wright brothers be attributed to how they approached the problem or to how much it cost?  In contrast to Gingrich’s suggestion, Samuel Langley did not represent an enormous, bloated and hidebound bureaucracy.   At the turn of the century, the Smithsonian Institution was not the behemoth it is today.  Langley had been hired as an assistant secretary for international affairs at the Smithsonian.  Secretary Spencer Baird died eight months after Langley reported for work, leaving open that position, which Langley accepted.  He wanted to continue his aeronautical experiments and used the facilities of the Smithsonian (including its shops and technicians) to build and test his flying machines.

Langley built a high-powered internal combustion engine for his aircraft, producing greater horsepower per unit weight than any other effort of the time, including the one used by the Wright brothers.  The failure of Langley’s aerodrome largely resulted from its design; the dihedral cross-section of its wings led to instability in any type of wind.  Wilbur Wright described this problem in a June 1903 talk – an understanding that came from the brothers’ experiments with wing shapes on kites at Kitty Hawk.  The Wright flyer used wing-warping to create control surfaces, which made it possible for a pilot to steer the airplane in variable wind conditions.  The Langley aerodrome was naturally unstable; with its wing shape, any gust or cross-wind rendered the aircraft uncontrollable.  In other words, the success of the Wright brothers was due to a superior technical approach, not to their management model.

For anyone who has dealt with bureaucracy, freedom from the ponderous administrative overhead of a government agency is always an enticing vision.  But in many ways, it is orthogonal to the real issue – what are you trying to accomplish and by what means or mechanism?  The Wrights and Langley both knew what they were trying to do, but only one of them had the correct technical approach.  Their technical choices determined the outcome of their efforts, not the total amount of money spent nor the managerial structure of their respective projects.  If so, can we draw any conclusions from this and apply it to the current model of our national civil space program?  The idea that government cannot do anything right is understandably attractive and in vogue, but not completely borne out by the evidence.

As a counter-example to Gingrich’s history of early aviation, consider a technical development project closer to us in time and memory.  A nuclear ship that has to refuel only every few years has an enormous advantage over one that needs near-constant refueling.  The United States possesses a nuclear navy (both aircraft carriers and submarines) largely because of the vision and persistence of one man, Admiral Hyman Rickover.  A true visionary, Rickover believed that nuclear reactors could be made small enough to fit into a ship and safe enough to entrust the lives of thousands of men to such vessels.  For years he fought the navy and the Defense Department to sell the advantages of nuclear sea power to the Congress and President.  Today we have such a fleet largely because of his vision and determined efforts.  And nobody ever took a poll to see if a nuclear navy would “excite and engage” the public.

Newt Gingrich is a true believer of humanity’s future in space.  I admire his dedication and courage in speaking the truth as he sees it.  However, in this case, I believe he has drawn the wrong lesson from history.  Compelling national interests sometimes require the marshaling of our combined will and resources.  We need a dedicated federal space program with a clear strategic direction and the know-how to pull off difficult technical tasks.  No cult of management or prize money will have us walking again on the Moon or using its resources.

For our country to remain vibrant and strong, it is vital that Americans be called upon to engage in the mental and physical challenges of a national space program, coupled to the realities and challenges inherent in an expanding cislunar territory and new markets.  Our pioneering space legacy needs to be embraced and celebrated through a renewed commitment from our government.  If Americans forfeit this direction and opportunity because their government cannot see the danger in the current path, we will have grievously failed in our promise as a nation and our obligation and duty to future generations..

Originally published at his Smithsonian Air & Space blog The Once and Future Moon, Dr. Spudis is a senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute. The opinions expressed are those of the author and are better informed than average

Ranger 8 impact on 'new' Lunar Orbiter photograph

Thumbnail of newly retrieved medium resolution frame 2069-M, a roughly 27 km-wide field of view northwest of the eventual landing site of Apollo 11, captured by Lunar Orbiter II, November 20, 1966. One year and 9 months earlier, almost to the hour, on February 20, 1965, the Ranger 8 spacecraft, performing as it was designed, impacted this part of Mare Tranquillitatis at the spot indicated by the blue arrow. Newly retrieved from original tapes by the Lunar Orbiter Image Restoration Project (LOIRP) and released July 30, 2012 [Lunar and Planetary Institute reference - Large at LOIRP and very large at the NASA Lunar Science Institute].
It helps to know precisely where to look. Because the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera has previously surveyed and identified the location of the Ranger 8 impact with the Narrow Angle Camera (see below), and because such a large version of the Lunar Orbiter II medium resolution photograph was made available by LOIRP on the NLSI servers, it took little work to separate out the impact rays from the general washout of the terrain. The resolution above appears to be between 1.5 and 2 meters per pixel [NASA/JPL/LOIRP/NLSI].
The Ranger 8 impact at 1 meter per pixel resolution, picked out from the background (2.635°N, 24.784°E) of the LROC NAC/WAC global mosaic available using the LROC QuickMap. The slight increase in elevation running north-south through the impact zone (the Ranger 8 spacecraft arrived from the west by southwest - from the left side of these fields of view) is genuine. The terrain, at just over 2000 meters below the global mean elevation, is comparable to what was explored by Armstrong and Aldrin in 1969 [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The most recently released of several LROC high-resolution NAC observations including the Ranger 8 impact (at center). The wide variety of illuminations in the record-breaking survey allows for detailed examination of the impact site. LROC NAC observation M185719511L, LRO orbit 12450, March 7, 2012; angle of incidence 11.8° with a resolution of 0.92 meters, from 107.7 kilometers altitude [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Probably among the best shots of the central impact zone augered out by Ranger 8, from LROC NAC observation M170579736R, orbit 10272, September 13, 2011; angle of incidence 16.1° at 0.49 meters resolution, from 44.64 kilometers.
Earlier Posts and background on LOIRP (Moonviews.com):
Anniversary of Ranger 8 (February 20, 2009)
LOIRP recovers image of Ranger 8 impact (June 9, 2009)
Ranger 8 (April 4, 2010) 
LROC: Coordinates of Robotic Spacecraft (April 9, 2010)
The Spirit of the Lunar Orbiters lives on at LOIRP (July 12, 2012)

TASC: NASA 'essential for national security'

Support for NASA and Space Exploration in the U.S., as essential public policy and vital to national security, is not expressed as often or as acutely in the 21st century as it was when the civilian space agency was founded in 1958. Instead, considering the agency in the context of the Cold War, as part of an arms race with the former Soviet Union, is often dismissed as ancient history. The agency's role in serving an essential national security interest is usually, at best, remembered only as secondary to its contributions to the quality of life of Americans.

But in the background, in congressional cloakrooms and committee hearings, NASA's role in service to American national security is paramount, even over and above pork barrel politics, and more now as budgetary constraint becomes less abstract with each increase in the national debt ceiling.

The public voice in support of NASA being vital to American national security is rarely heard above the noise of debates over NASA's future exploration roadmap and over the self-continuity concerns of a vested bureaucracy.

Former U.S. Senator and Apollo veteran Harrison Schmitt and  others, have, on occasion, reminded us that NASA's most basic constitutional reason-for-being is still the role it plays as a vital arm of America's national security.

Now a study has been released by The Analytic Sciences Corporation (TASC) expressing this national security raison d'etre in the context of the 21st century. As a think-tank arm associated with the aerospace industry the think tank behind the study may not be a totally dispassionate one, but it at least puts forward the effort as justifying NASA's expense not as either a museum curator or an enabler purely of the dreams of academia or futurists, but as a federal arm serving an over-arching "compelling state interest."

"For the United States," the study's introduction reads, "maintaining a leadership role in space is an essential component of national security, providing the U.S. and our allies “unprecedented advantages in national decision-making, military operations, and homeland security.”* NASA is essential for national security, not only because of its role in developing new space capabilities and technologies, but also because it is explicitly excluded from military activity by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. Simply stated, NASA is uniquely positioned to facilitate international collaboration on peaceful uses of space in ways the military cannot.

"This paper explores the important roles of international cooperation, cost-reducing technology development and game-changing innovation, as well as NASA’s role supporting a strong commercial space industry. NASA can improve its national space security posture even during times of budget austerity."

The paper can be read online, HERE, or downloaded as an Adobe Reader (pdf) file, HERE.

* National Security Space Strategy, January 2011, DOD and ODNI

Monday, July 30, 2012

Update: ISRU mission simulations on Hawai'i 2012

The Canadian Space Agency test platform Artemis, Jr. is fitted with NASA's RESOLVE instrument, Day 3 of field testing on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i, 2012 [CSA].
NASA has just completed a another annual field test on the Big Island of Hawai'i to evaluate new exploration techniques for the surface of the Moon. These analog missions, are performed at remote locations on Earth to prepare for robotic and human missions to the Moon and Mars.

The In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) analog mission is a collaboration of NASA partners, primarily the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), with help from the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES).

The ISRU analog mission will demonstrate techniques to prospect for lunar ice. The testing site (on Mauna Kea) features lava-covered mountain soil similar to the ancient volcanic plains on the moon. The two main tests under way are the Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) and the Moon Mars Analog Mission Activities (MMAMA).

Review the NASA press release, HERE.

Roving for resources on an Analog Moon, astronaut for hire (July 23, 2012)
NASA conducts mission simulations in Hawai'i AmericaSpace (July 30, 2012)

Related Posts:
Lunar robotic tests on the 'Big Island' (September 2, 2008)
Carnegie Mellon tests Scarab on Mauna Kea (October 15, 2008)
Turning Lunar Dust into Gold (January 8, 2009)
Spotlight on Carnegie-Mellon's Scarab (April 10, 2009)
Mauna Kea hosts space tests (February 7, 2010)
Field testing of In-Situ Resource Utilization (July 1, 2010)
ISRU: NASA KSC prototype rover photo op (June 11, 2012)
KSC shows off Resolve, ISRU and lunar analog study platform (June 13, 2012)
A Resolve to mine the Moon (July 15, 2012)

China as emerging space power, U.S. opportunity

China's new Long March heavy-lift first stage engine passes 200-second test (HT: Jack Kennedy, Spaceports). The test took place in an valley 50 kilometres from Xi'an, capital of Shaan'xi province, in northwest China.The new engines will be used with the Long March-5 rocket beginning in 2014.

Frank Klotz
The Atlantic

"The U.S. could have much to gain by cooperating with China's growing space program."

Liu Yang, China's first female in Space,
waves during a departure ceremony at
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center [Reuters].
Commentators often refer to China as an "emerging space power." This characterization understates China's current space capabilities. China has in many respects already reached the top tier of spacefaring nations--with profound implications not only for America's own interests in space, but also for the much-touted "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region.

While initially starting well behind the two original space powers, China has slowly but steadily added accomplishments to its space portfolio. In 2011, it conducted nineteen space launches--twelve less than Russia that year but one more than the United States. It has manufactured satellites for domestic use and marketed satellites for export, with customers in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. Chinese spacecraft already have orbited the moon, and Beijing has signaled its intention to land an unmanned probe and possibly even astronauts on the lunar surface.

In late June, China's space endeavors captured headlines across the world when three Chinese astronauts manually docked their Shenzhou-9 spacecraft with the orbiting Tiangong-1 module. In doing so, China became only the third nation besides the United States and Russia to accomplish this complex maneuver. It also demonstrated a capability it will need to one day assemble and operate a permanently manned space station.

Two optional configurations for China's Long-March V heavy-lift, now
in development
HT: Craig Covault, AmericaSpace [CNSA].
Western experts note that a fundamental purpose of the Chinese space program is to bolster the image of China--and the ruling Chinese Communist Party--both at home and abroad. It also aims to spur the development of Chinese science and technology.

Chinese activities in space also have an undeniable military purpose. By their very nature, certain space-related capabilities--launch, earth observation, long-distance communications, precision navigation--can serve both civil and military objectives. In China's case, the overlap is substantial. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) in fact directs major elements of the nation's space program, including manned spaceflight.

As Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation has noted, Chinese military writings emphasize the roles space systems can play in supporting air, land and sea operations. These include finding and attacking American forces operating in the Asia-Pacific region. With this end clearly in mind, the PLA is expanding its current constellations of reconnaissance, navigation, meteorological and communications satellites.

Likewise, Chinese strategists understand the growing extent to which the United States and its allies depend upon space-related capabilities in conducting their own military operations. Accordingly, China appears intent on developing capabilities to disrupt an adversary's ability to use space systems, either by attacking satellites directly or by interfering with the ground stations and the communications nodes essential to satellite operations.

For example, in 2007, China conducted a test of a direct-ascent antisatellite interceptor that literally blasted an aging Chinese weather satellite into thousands of metal shards. In the process, it created a cloud of debris that will pose a serious hazard to satellites flying in low-earth orbit for many years to come.

Read the full article, HERE.

Frank Klotz is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, as well as the former commander of Air Force Global Strike Command and the former vice commander of Air Force Space Command. The opinions expressed are his own.

Schematic of Earth-orbit/Lunar-orbit rendezvous plan for China's eventual lunar landing mission is similar to that of the Soviet Union in the 1960's and (in part) the U.S. Constellation scenario prior to the recent cancellation of the Antares lander. Click to enlarge. HT: Craig Covault, AmericaSpace [CNSA].

Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 Lunar Science Forum talks now online

Recorded sessions during the recently-held 2012 Lunar Science Forum have been uploaded and are now available online

The NASA Lunar Science Institute, at Moffett Field, California, made the widely anticipated announcement Sunday, July 29.

The 2012 NASA Lunar Science Forum was perhaps the best yet! If you missed the three-day meeting (July 17-19, 2012) at NASA Ames Research Center or if you just want to relive some of the best talks, the public Adobe Connect sessions are now available online at: http://lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov/lsf2012/agenda

More than 300 scientists attended the fifth NASA Lunar Science Forum, sponsored by the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) at Ames Research Center. With data analysis from five U.S. spacecraft currently studying the Moon, plus several others that completed their missions in recent years, discoveries and advancements abound.

“The NLSI catalyzes collaborative research within and among its seven teams, but also strives to include and support the broader lunar science community in a variety of ways,” said Yvonne Pendleton, Director of the NLSI.

In his summary review of the conference, distinguished planetary scientist David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston said “We have made more progress in three years with the NLSI than was made in the previous 30 years of lunar studies, but a lot of questions remain unanswered that require a return to the lunar surface, using both robot and human explorers.”

In addition to discussing science results, the Forum attendees also focused their attention on the future. NASA officials praised the performance of the current NLSI and announced an expansion of the charter to allow additional emphasis on research that will support both science and exploration. In NASA organizational terms, this means a closer alliance between the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and the NASA Human Exploration and Operations Directorate (HEOMD).

The joint presentation at the Forum by NASA Associate Administrators John Grunsfeld (SMD) and William Gerstenmaier (HEOMD) outlined their rationale for the expansion of the Institute, providing insight into the new era of enhanced collaboration between science and exploration.

NASA's Space Launch System Passes Major Agency Review, Moves to Preliminary Design

Artist rendering of the various configurations of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) together with a quick comparison with the Saturn V (1967-1972) [NASA].
The rocket that will launch humans farther into space than ever before passed a major NASA review Wednesday. The Space Launch System (SLS) Program completed a combined System Requirements Review and System Definition Review, which set requirements of the overall launch vehicle system. SLS now moves ahead to its preliminary design phase.

The SLS will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft and other payloads, and provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

These NASA reviews set technical, performance, cost and schedule requirements to provide on-time development of the heavy-lift rocket. As part of the process, an independent review board comprised of technical experts from across NASA evaluated SLS Program documents describing vehicle specifications, budget and schedule. The board confirmed SLS is ready to move from concept development to preliminary design. 

Read the NASA announcement, HERE.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A new 'hit-and-run' Giant Impact scenario

Figure 1a: Five snapshots from the 30° impact angle and 1.30vesc impact velocity case (cC06) showing cuts through the impact plane. Colour coded is the type and origin of the material. Dark and light blue indicate target and impactor iron; Red and orange show corresponding silicate material. The far right shows the situation at the time of impact. At 0.52h, it can be seen how the impactor ploughs deep through the targets mantle and pushes considerable amount of target material into orbit. A spiral arm of material forms and gravitationally collapses into fragments. The outer portions of the arm mainly consist of impactor silicates and escapes due to having retained a velocity well above escape velocity. The silicate fragments further inward are stronger decelerated and enter eccentric orbits around the target. The impactor's iron core also looses much of its angular momentum to the outer parts of the spiral arm and re-impacts the proto-Earth. -  Figure 1b: The origin of the disk material highlighted, half a collisional timescale ( (Rimp + Rtar) / vimp ) after impact. In the grazing reference case (cA08), the majority of the proto-lunar disk originates from a spill-over of the impactor. In the head-on cases (cC01, fB06, iA10), much more material comes from the target mantle, being pushed out into orbit by the impactor core. Colours are identical to figure 1. Turquoise on the right shows water ice for the icy impactor case iA10.
Reufer, Meier, Benz & Wieler
Universität Bern
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
Lund University, Sölvegatan

The formation of the Moon from the debris of a slow and grazing giant impact of a Mars-sized impactor on the proto-Earth (Cameron & Ward 1976, Canup & Asphaug 2001) is widely accepted today. We present an alternative scenario with a hit-and-run collision (Asphaug 2010) with a fractionally increased impact velocity and a steeper impact angle.

Hydrodynamical simulations have identified a slow, grazing impact in being able to reproduce the Moon's iron deficiency and the angular momentum of the Earth-Moon-system. But in this canonical scenario, the Moon forms predominantly from impactor material, thus contradicting the Moon's close geochemical similarity to Earth. Furthermore, due to the slow impact velocity, only limited heat input is provided for the aftermath of the collision. Post-impact mechanisms (Pahlevan & Stevenson 2007) required to match the impact scenario with the compositional observations, depend on the thermal conditions in the post-impact debris disk. We show that a new class of hit and-run collisions with higher impact velocities and a steeper impact angles is also capable of forming a post-impact debris disk from which the Earth's Moon can later form, but leads to a much hotter post-impact debris disk. Furthermore, the ratio of target body material in the debris disk is considerably larger, compared to the canonical scenario. This new class of impacts was previously rejected due to the limited resolutions 26 of early simulations (Benz 1989).

View the (pdf) Icaris manuscript, at arXiv 1207.5224
Figure 2: Comparing post-impact temperatures of the proto-Earth between the grazing reference simulation left (cA08) and the head-on case on the right (cC06). Color coded is temperature in K in logged scale. The initial average temperature before the impact inside the target mantle is ~2000K.

"While the Moon has an iron core like Earth, it does not have the same fraction of iron - and computer models supporting the Theia impact idea show just the same thing

"However, the ratio of the Earth's and the Moon's oxygen isotopes is nearly identical, and not all scientists agree on how that may have come about.

"Confounding the issue further, scientists reporting in Nature Geoscience in March said that a fresh analysis of lunar samples taken by the Apollo missions showed that the Moon and the Earth shared an uncannily similar isotope ratio of the metal titanium."

Moon formation: Was it a 'hit and run' accident?
BBC News, Science & Environment, July 27, 2012

"A World, A Moon"

"A World, A Moon," Stan Polito, VISIONS, Naples, Italy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"O! say can you see by the dawn's early light..."

LROC's most frequently asked question answered:LRO slewed 19° down-Sun allowing the illuminated side of the still standing American flag to be captured at the Apollo 17 landing site. LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) observation M113751661L, LRO orbit 1897, November 25, 2009; 52.5 cm resolution, angle of incidence 56.73° from 44.87 kilometers [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Mark Robinson
Principal Investigator
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera
Arizona State University

The most common questions to the LROC team before launch concerned what will we see at the Apollo sites? Will we see the Lunar Module descent stage and rovers? What about rover tracks, or the American flags? As we now know, the NAC images clearly show all of the above items (see links to earlier posts at the bottom). Personally I was a bit surprised that the flags survived the harsh ultraviolet light and temperatures of the lunar surface, but they did.

What they look like is another question (badly faded?). Much has been written about the Apollo flags, a comprehensive summary is available at the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal.

Charlie Duke captures John Young saluting the flag while jumping, (twice). A great demonstration of the lower gravity on the Moon. Apollo 16 Lunar Module (LM) Orion and the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) are in the background. View the re-master original indexed at the Apollo 16 Lunar Surface Journal, HERE - MET: 120:25:42 - (AS17-113-18339) "He is off the ground about 1.45 seconds which, in the lunar gravity field, means that he launched himself at a velocity of about 1.17 m/s and reached a maximum height of 0.42 m. Although the suit and backpack weigh as much as he does, his total weight is only about 65 pounds (30 kg) and, to get this height, he only had to bend his knees slightly and then push up with his legs." Video Clip ( 3 min 21 sec 0.9 Mb RealVideo or 30 Mb MPEG ) [NASA].
The opening image was taken early in the mission, and is one of the best views of the American flag because the spacecraft was pointed towards the illuminated side of the flag, and Sun was low enough (56° incidence angle) such that distinct shadows were cast.

The flag was captured in this image of the Apollo 16 site with the spacecraft slewed 15° towards the Sun; the shadowed side of the flag is seen by LROC. NAC frame M175179080L, orbit 10950, November 6, 2011; native resolution 40.4 cm per pixel, angle of incidence 41.91° from 23.56 kilometers [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

From the LROC images it is now certain that the American flags are still standing and casting shadows at all of the sites, except Apollo 11. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin reported that the flag was blown over by the exhaust from the ascent engine during liftoff of Apollo 11, and it looks like he was correct! The most convincing way to see that the flags are still there, is to view a time series of LROC images taken at different times of day, and watch the shadow circle the flag (see movie below; the flag is just above the LM descent stage).

Visit the full resolution NAC of the Apollo 16 site HERE. A full resolution version of the Apollo 12 time series is available HERE.

Explore all the Apollo sites on LROC's new Featured Sites webpage!

Related Posts:
Exploring the Apollo 17 Site
Apollo 11 Low Altitude
Apollo 12 Low Altitude
Apollo 14 Low Altitude
Apollo 15 Low Altitude
Apollo 16 Low Altitude North Ray Crater
Apollo 17 Low Altitude
Apollo 17 Low Altitude Shorty Crater

Scientific Preparations for Lunar Exploration with the European Lunar Lander

Working schematic of the ESA Lunar Lander [Astrium].
James Carpenter, et al

Abstract - Recent Lunar missions and new scientific results in multiple disciplines have shown that working and operating in the complex lunar environment and exploiting the Moon as a platform for scientific research and further exploration poses major challenges. Underlying these challenges are fundamental scientific unknowns regarding the Moon’s surface, its environment, the effects of this environment and the availability of potential resources. The European Lunar Lander is a mission proposed by the European Space Agency to prepare for future exploration. The mission provides an opportunity to address some of these key unknowns and provide information of importance for future exploration activities.

Approach and Landing Profile The baseline design of the ESA Lunar Lander mission is unchanged since development began in 2010. In addition to real world testing and evaluation of robotic navigation, terminal descent and hazard avoidance, the array of on-board experiments and instruments eventually carried to the lunar surface in 2018 have continually been updated to match the growing knowledge base accumulated by an international fleet of spacecraft. The Carpenter study details the surface mission as projected in July 2012 [Astrium].
Areas of particular interest for investigation on the Lunar Lander include the integrated plasma, dust, charge and radiation environment and its effects, the properties of lunar dust and its physical effects on systems and physiological effects on humans, the availability, distribution and potential application of in situ resources for future exploration. A model payload has then been derived, taking these objectives to account and considering potential payloads proposed through a request for information, and the mission’s boundary conditions. While exploration preparation has driven the definition there is a significant synergy with investigations associated with fundamental scientific questions.

This paper discusses the scientific objectives for the ESA Lunar Lander Mission, which emphasize human exploration preparatory science and introduces the model scientific payload considered as part of the on-going mission studies, in advance of a formal instrument selection.

Download arXiv study 1207.4965.pdf

ESA Lunar Lander still on target for 2018

Lunar Lander is a robotic explorer that will demonstrate key European technologies and conduct science experiments. The mission is a forerunner to future human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars. Like the SMART-1 program, the ESA Lunar Lander is intended to establish European expertise and encourage "strong international partnerships in exploration" [ESA].
HT: Jason Major, Universe Today

European Space Agency - After more than 30 years, the Moon is once again in the spotlight of space agencies worldwide, as a destination for both robotic missions and human explorers. Europe’s ambitions for lunar exploration begin with a lander on the Moon in 2018.

Plans call for launching the ESA Lunar Lander on board a newly designed Soyuz 2.1B, attached to a high-performance fregat upper stage, from the Russian launch facility adjacent to Europe's busy Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, near the equator on the Atlantic coast of South America. Utilizing a low energy transfer orbit, boosting the height of perigee in successive orbits, the Lunar Lander will rendezvous with the Moon and brake into a polar orbit.

Lunar Lander is a robotic explorer that will demonstrate key European technologies and conduct science experiments. The mission is a forerunner to future human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars. It will establish European expertise to allow strong international partnerships in exploration.

Lunar Lander’s primary goal is to demonstrate the advanced technologies needed to land precisely and safely. The spacecraft will find its landing site without human intervention, recognising and avoiding hazards such as craters and boulders autonomously. 

On the Moon, it will prove European technologies for surviving and working while exploring the environment around the landing site. The choice of the high rim of Shackleton crater, location of the Moon's south pole, should allow long periods of near-constant availability of solar energy.

Before operating more ambitious equipment and conducting human activities on the Moon, many questions need to be answered. How hazardous is lunar dust to equipment and astronauts? Does the Moon offer resources that could be used by future missions?

Lunar Lander will touch down near to the Moon’s south pole, an interesting location for future exploration missions, where no craft has landed before. The technologies developed to reach this site, together with a deeper understanding of this challenging environment, will equip Europe’s scientists and engineers for future cooperation on even more ambitious exploration missions.

Related Posts:
ESA: more about its Lunar Rover (March 16, 2008)
ESA input sought on multi-purpose lunar lander (March 2, 2009)
ESA demonstrates lunar life support system (June 6, 2009)
Astrium study of ESA NEXT lunar lander underway (June 10, 2009)
Russia comes to South America (June 18, 2009)
Remembering SMART-1 (September 17, 2009)
ESA: Fly us to the Moon's South Pole (March 31, 2010)
NEXT step for ESA's first lunar lander (September 16, 2010)
Scientific Preparations for Lunar Exploration Workshop (November 14, 2011)
Astrium tests ESA Lunar Lander thrusters (March 5, 2012)
ESA's MoonNEXT boosted by ATV development (April 30, 2012)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Team Phoenicia teams up with Tyvak and Cal Poly

From Team Phoenicia Lunar Payload Delivery Rack (aka "Legion" System) Sat Deployment Simulation [Team Phoenicia].
Team Phoenicia announced in Menlo Park, California, Wednesday, they are teaming up with Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, LLC and California Polytechnic State University of San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) to work together on lunar and small interplanetary satellite and CubeSat opportunities.

The teaming arrangement includes collaboration on winning the total $30 million purse of the Google Lunar X-Prize, future interplanetary and lunar nanosat projects and a sharing of knowledge bases for future developments.

Details with the announcement on their Team Blog, HERE.

Remote-operated Moon-based deep space telescope concept demonstrated in Hawai'i

h/t: moontoday.net

The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA), led by American businessman and educator Steve Durst, plans to place an astronomical observatory on the Moon to capture never before seen images from that unique vantage point, and in turn broadcast them back to Earth in support of the worldwide Galaxy Forum 21st Century Education program.

A Galaxy Forum was held earlier this month in San Jose California.

A "Global Demonstration" of the International Lunar Observatory precursor instrument (ILO-X) was conducted by ILOA and Moon Express and hosted by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope during the late hours of July 23 from Mauna Kea summit, on the Big Island of Hawai'i.

Astronomers from the United States, Canada, China, Japan and Europe took part, demonstrating international collaboration enabled with the participation of the commercial space sector. The instrument was made available through the Internet, operating as though on the Moon and capturing the galactic center at First Light. and images of deep sky objects inside and outside of our Milky Way Galaxy.

"The primary goal of the International Lunar Observatory is to expand human understanding of the galaxy and beyond through observation made from the Moon," Durst said.

Durst, ILOA founder and director, said, "we are very encouraged by our Global Demonstration and are excited about sending the ILO-X to the Moon."

A notional minimal lunar lander with
space telescope (1990).
ILOA also announced plans to strengthen their presence on Hawai'i by setting up an international headquarters and research center in Waimea this year. Preparations for the deployment of the teleoperated ILO-X observatory on the Moon are under development by Moon Express, a commercial lunar transportation company based at Ames Research Center in California.

Moon Express is among teams in competing in the Google Lunar X-Prize contest.

Moon Express has completed designs and is presently building ILO-X as a first Moon-based observatory. About the size of a shoe-box, ILO-X will utilize advanced optical and technology to deliver unique Deep Sky images of the galaxy and beyond.

"We're thrilled to be part of the ILO team, reaching for the Moon," said Moon Express CEO and co-founder Bob Richards.

The ILO-X is the planned precursor to a permanent installation of a larger, more powerful International Lunar Observatory near the Moon's south pole. ILOA and Moon Express have established a Joint Venture Agreement for the South Pole mission, currently in planning. The ILO missions are expanding the model of commercial space investment to the South Pole of the Moon to do science, education, exploration and commercial activities - such as Lunar Broadcasting of Space Calendar and Lunar Enterprise Daily through affiliated Space Age Publishing Company.

Malapert Massif, part of the rim of the vast South Pole Aitken basin, most of which is in the farside's southern hemisphere, has been the subject of multiple studies as a possible lunar outpost, in line-of-sight with both the Earth and the Moon's south pole. LROC Wide Angle Camera monochrome (604nm) montage swept up over the course of twelve sequential orbital passes in November 2010. Following a successful demonstration of the ILO-X concept, deployed by Moon Express closer to the Moon's equator, a larger and more robust remote-operated facility is planned for higher elevations in and around the permanently shadowed lower elevations near the Moon's south polar regions [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
International Lunar Observatory Association
Moon Express

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

LROC: 'Bulls-Eye' or Volcanic Vent?

A circular depression (700 m diameter) sits atop of a circular mound 3.7 km in diameter. It is either a perfectly placed impact crater on the hill's summit, or a volcanic vent. Mosaic of LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) observations M181173832L & R, LRO orbit 11,814, June 22, 2012; native resolution 1.5 meters per pixel. View the cropped field of view (1000 px) framed and released as the LROC Featured Image, July 27, 2012, HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Jeffrey Plescia
The origin of many features within the mare remain ambiguous. 

Crater or vent? Flow or tectonic feature? 

Since the mare are generally older than 3 billion years, small features are worn down and rounded from meteorite bombardment. 

Thus their true mode of origin is not easy to discern. To the south are the mare units of Palus Putredinis, and to the north is the ejecta from the crater Autolycus.

Broad view of the hill in question and the adjacent plains. Mosaic of LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) observations M181173832L & R, LRO orbit 11,814, June 22, 2012; native resolution 1.5 meters per pixel. (1200 px - reduced by a factor of 4) HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The fact that the crater is centered on the summit, the symmetry of the topography and the presence of a crater on the east side that appears to have dark ejecta suggest the feature might be a volcanic cone. The hill stands about 250 m above the surrounding plains and has a slope of about 8°. The slope is steeper than expected for a low basaltic shield, more consistent with a cinder cone.

Regional view of the hills. The arrow shows the feature in the NAC images above. Mosaic of LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) observations swept up in sequential orbital opportunities around M117488146ME, LRO orbit 2448, January 7, 2010; angle of incidence 82.64° averaging 56 meters resolution from 39.85 kilometers. View the 2200 px context mosaic accompanying the Featured Image HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The grouping of hills seen in the WAC mosaic was originally mapped as Fra Mauro Formation (basin ejecta) and crater rim material by Hackmann (1966). Looking around the area south of Autolycus, there are several hills that have craters near their summit or are symmetric in shape, both attributes that might suggest a volcanic origin. Elsewhere on the Moon, there are fields of volcanic vents that look similar to these. This may be a volcanic complex that has not yet been recognized.

Map the entire NAC mosaic at full resolution HERE.
Try and decide for yourself: basin ejecta or volcanic?

Related Featured Images:
Marius Hills

An out of the ordinary view looking east by southeast over the 132 kilometers of Palus Putredinis from the subject (crater or vent) detailed in the LROC Featured Image released July 25, 2012 and the landing zone and area along Hadley Rille explored by the Apollo 15 expedition in 1971. LROC Global 100 meter mosaic over LOLA elevation model using NASA's ILIADS LMMP application [NASA/GSFC/LMMP/Arizona State University].

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

LROC: Rupes Cauchy "Watch That First Step!"

Above and below, LROC Narrow Angle Camera oblique observations M196308138 L & R, looking east over a small part of the long Rupes Cauchy scarp, slicing through 200 km of Mare Tranquillitatis. The scarp is 300 meters high. Cauchy B crater (6 km) becomes visible in the context of the wider field in the next image. [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
From LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) observations M196308138L & R, LRO orbit 13931, July 7, 2012, native resolution approximately 5 meters. The yellow rectangle matches the field shown in the first image. View a much larger (1600 x 1600 px) version of this image HERE  [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Jeffrey Plescia
LROC News System

There are many tectonic features on the Moon, although most are wrinkle ridges (thrust faults). Normal faults, where one block drops down against another, are relatively rare on the Moon (but are common on the Earth).

However, there are a couple of spectacular examples of giant normal fault scarps cutting across the mare; Rupes Cauchy is one, Rupes Recta is another.

Boulders scattered along the slope (Figure 1) are eroding ancient mare lava rocks that form the local bedrock.

Figure 1. Vertical view of a small section of Rupes Cauchy (broad brighter band from upper left to lower right), note the boulders and generally worn down craters. The scarp metes out a 300 meter change in elevation; the field of view is 1500 x 1500 meters. LROC NAC observation M180930426L, orbit 11780, June 22, 2012. The inset shows a 3D representation of the topography derived from Wide Angle Camera interferometry. Explore the full 1.19 meter resolution observation HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Note that there are not many boulders piled up at the base of the slope. This paucity suggests that once exposed, the boulders are destroyed in place by micrometeorite bombardment before they have a chance to roll downhill.

Figure 2. Wider range field of view from LROC NAC mosaic M180930426LR (showing the area within figure 1 in the 1.5 meter wide square outline) features the varying morphology of Rupes Cauchy along its long length. View the much enlarged original context image, HERE ( NAC M180930429LR )[NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The broad mare plains to the southwest are 300 m lower relative to the plains to the northeast (Figure 3 and 4). Along its length, the height of the scarp varies, eventually disappearing at the ends, and in a few places the scarp breaks into two strands forming a pair of steps (Figure 2). The slope of the scarp is around 15°, which is considerably shallower than what would be expected for the dip of a typical normal fault (~60°). Probably the scarp was originally steeper, but over time micrometeoroid bombardment of the surface moved material off the scarp and reduced its slope. The fact that there are many degraded small craters at the top and bottom of the scarp is consistent with an old age.

A second tectonic feature parallels the Rupes, about 40-50 km to the northeast. This feature, Rima Cauchy, is an en echelon graben (i.e., a graben system that is formed by individual segments that are offset from one another). Both Rupes Cauchy and Rima Cauchy are the result of tensional / extensional stresses. In the case of Rupes Cauchy, a single giant fault formed; in the case of Rima Cauchy, two faults (facing each other) formed and dropped a narrow block between them.

Figure 3. LROC Wide Angle Camera monochrome (689nm) mosaic the Cauchy region within Mare Tranquillitatis stitched together from seven sequential opportunities January 4, 2010. View the much larger and more detailed WAC mosaic originally accompanying the LROC Featured Image release, July 24, 2012, HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
A WAC digital elevation model (WAC DEM) of the area shows the dramatic topography (Figure 4). The abrupt change in elevation along the scarp is clearly seen, as well as the craters Cauchy, Cauchy D to the northeast, and Zähringer to the southeast. Compare the WAC image and the DEM (Figures 3 and 4).

Figure 4. DEM of the Rupes Cauchy produced from LRO WAC stereo images. Shades of grey represent elevation: dark regions are low and bright regions are high. View the much larger original demonstration, HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Inspect the LROC NAC oblique view of Rupes Cauchy HERE, and the vertical view NAC HERE.

Related Posts:
Rupes Recta
Linear Graben (Apollo Metric)