Make Room at the Moon

Lunar orbit is getting to be a busy place, with several different countries sending spacecraft to the moon. Currently orbiting the Moon are Japan’s Kaguya (also known as SELENE) spacecraft, which has been sending back 3-D movies of the lunar surface, and China’s Chang-e 1, which will gather information on the Moon’s chemical composition with its various cameras, spectrometers and other scientific equipment. In addition, two new missions to the moon will launch this year: India’s Chandrayaan-1 and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Chandrayaan, which means “journey to the moon” in Hindi, will study the moon at many wavelengths, from X-ray, visible and near-infrared to microwave. It will orbit the moon at just 100 km above the surface. The mission is scheduled to launch on April 9.

“The low orbit will give us really high resolution data,” says Detlef Koschny, Chandrayaan project scientist. The principal mission objective is to map the Moon’s surface in unprecedented detail. Current lunar maps show detail from 30 – 100 meters across. Chandrayaan will produce maps with a resolution of between 5 and 10 meters across the whole surface of the moon.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is collaborating with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for the Chandrayaan-1 mission. A Compact Imaging X-ray Spectrometer will produce x-ray spectroscopic mapping of the moon, and the Infrared Spectrometer will observe the Moon’s chemical composition. Another ESA instrument is the Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyzer, which will study the interaction between electrically charged particles from the solar wind and Moon’s surface.

Eight other instruments complete the suite of science instruments, including a 29-kg landing probe which will be dropped onto the Moon’s surface at the beginning of the mission to conduct investigations.

Meanwhile, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is currently undergoing testing at Goddard Spaceflight Center to get ready for its launch on October 28 of this year. LRO will spend at least a year mapping the surface of the moon. Data from the orbiter will help NASA select safe landing sites for astronauts, identify lunar resources and study how the moon’s environment will affect humans.

Engineers at Goddard are building the orbiter and testing spacecraft components to ready them for the harsh environment of space. After a component or entire subsystem is qualified, it is integrated into the LRO spacecraft. The core suite of avionics for the orbiter is assembled and undergoing system tests.

“This is a major milestone for the mission,” said Craig Tooley, LRO project manager at Goddard. “Our team has been working nearly around the clock to get us to this point. Reaching this milestone keeps us on the path to sending LRO to the moon later this year.”

Once fully integrated, the spacecraft will ship to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida in August in preparation for launch. The orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket. LCROSS will study the poles of the moon to confirm the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed craters. The trip to the moon for the spacecraft will take approximately four days. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter initially will enter an elliptical orbit, also called the commissioning orbit. Once moved into its final orbit, a circular polar orbit approximately 31 miles above the moon, the spacecraft’s instruments will map the lunar surface.

Original News Sources: Chandrayaan Press Release, LRO press release

3 Replies to “Make Room at the Moon”

  1. Strange, we’ve been to the moon, China is heading toward the moon, India has a space program, but I don’t see arab countries doing any great science. Considering that arabs were the original scientists and now they are the richest group of people, I wonder why the lack of basic research on their part.

  2. It was the Turks who established the Ottoman empire which flourished from 1400-1700 AD. The leaders of the empire were progressive and advanced far beyond European powers in science and technical innovations. Unforutnately the Ottomans eventually became progressively religiously conservative and eventually this caused regression in the field of science and innovation. Western Europeans were influenced by Ottoman success and adapted their methods of success, eventually surpassing them by 1700 AD while the Ottomans continued to regress scientifically. The moral of this story is that increasing religious conservatism brought down Ottoman scientific efforts and eventually their empire itself. Such lessons still apply today in empires such as the USA.

  3. The science in the Golden Era of the Arab’/Ottommon is highly commendable.But the present scenario is highly deplorable.Firstly they commit /ahve committed atrocities a lot throughout the past 1400 years.

    Here I simply insinuate to the POLITICL MINDEST OF ARABS not the Religion or Social part.Because I am none to point fingers at the ANY religion ,but as a world citizen of a global family have every right to say that Arab politics is wrong and does not encourage science.

    The bloodbath of Arabs is highly under documented and under reported!The present scenario is not at all different.Human rights are shamelessly abused and Arabs take satanic pride in these abuses.They hide under the fig-leaf of religion.How do they get away with it? Simple they have the Liquid Gold!
    .As one great man had said that Religion is the opium of masses…it cannot be more true for the Arab World!They seem to be high on wealth and the opiate of Religion.For them creepy wealth and ossified/ pestilential religious bigotry is more important than science.
    For Example….Abdul Samar ,a Pakistani who was the first and only muslim to win an Nobel prize in Physics.He was shameless insulted for the simple fact that he belonged to an minority sect in Islam….a kind of Pariah for the orthodox islam.So much so he was not even allowed a honorable burial.

    Here I simply insinuate to the POLITICL MINDEST OF ARABS not the Religion or Social part.Because I am none to point fingers at the ANY religion ,but as a world citizen of a global family have every right to say that Arab politics is wrong and does not encourage science.They will pay the price when there is an alternative for the Liquid Gold.Till then no one can really take action against their abuses.Once we get past that Liquid gold,I hope we can atleast call a spade a spade.

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