Tuesday, July 17, 2012

JAXA announces SELENE-2 now slated for 2017

Japan's SELENE-2 follow-up to the versatile Kaguya (2007-2009) orbiter has remained essentially the same in design since originally proposed. Participation by Japan's experienced astronaut corp in any future manned mission to the Moon carried out by the United States government may now be some distance beyond 2017 [JAXA].
A representative of Japan's space agency JAXA announced Sunday in India that planning is definitely underway to launch the long-anticipated sequel mission to that nation's first lunar orbiter, "Kaguya" (SELENE-1) in 2017. Because budgeting for the mission has been "delayed" twice through Japan's own sovereign debt difficulties news that JAXA has not abandoned the mission design is encouraging.

Tatsuaki Okada, representing JAXA, made reiterated Japan's determination to carry out the SELENE-2 mission at the 39th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (Cospar) now underway at Mysore, Karnataka State, in India. According to a report posted by Srinivas Laxman of AsianScientist "nearly 3,000 space scientists from 74 countries are participating in the meeting."

Originally anticipated for a launch in 2012, 2015, and then lost on the budgetary cutting room floor, Okada said Japan's plans for SELENE-2 still included an orbiter, lander and rover. 

“It is for developing and for the demonstration of key technologies for future human exploration," Okada said. "It is a multipurpose mission which is a precursor for human exploration,” he told a Cospar session on lunar sciences. Okada later told Asian Scientist Magazine a future manned lunar mission "will be in collaboration with NASA."

“While the rocket and the lunar lander will be from NASA," Okada said, according to Laxman, "the astronaut will be from Japan. There will be science exploration and moon utilization by the Japanese astronaut.”

Okada also, according to Laxman, "did not rule out SELENE-2 being delayed once again, because of budgetary constraints."

The SELENE-2 design calls an orbiter weighing 700 kg, a lander at 1,000 kg and a small 100 kg rover, though the lander, in line with earlier reports, may have additional capacity for an additional 100 kg payload.

Okada said eleven landing sites were under consideration, including the Fra Mauro region explored by Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell of Apollo 14 in 1971. The SELENE-2 lander is not being designed for long-duration stay on the lunar surface, requiring survival through a lunar night. The mission will begin with arrival at local sunrise and come to and end with the loss of solar power at sunset, 14 days later.

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