The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency announced that they’re giving their SELenological and ENgineering Explorer (aka SELENE) a new nickname: Kaguya. Now I know it’s not the hugest news in the aerospace industry, but I haven’t actually given many words to this lunar mission. So, now I’ve got an excuse. For those of you with some Greek mythology knowledge, Selene was the Greek Moon goddess, so the name SELENE is actually pretty clever.
The mission will consist of 3 different spacecraft: a relay satellite, the VRAD satellite, and the Orbiter. If all goes well, they’ll launch together on July 1, 2007 atop an H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center into a lunar trajectory. 5 days later, the trio will reach the Moon, and then go into an extremely eccentric orbit, varying between 120 and 13,000 km (75 by 8,100 miles).
Over time, the relay and VRAD satellites will move to lower, but still eccentric orbits. The orbiter will go into a nice, tight 100 km (62 miles) circular orbit.
The purpose of SELENE will be to perform a global survey of the Moon, determining its elemental abundance, minerals, topology, gravity and other aspects that will help future lunar exploration – especially important when humans set foot on the Moon again.
The VRAD satellite has a different job to do. It’ll measure the position and precession of the Moon very very carefully. Once again, very important when you’re sending future missions back to the Moon.
So, by a popular vote in Japan, SELENE was nicknamed Kaguya. This comes from a 10th century Japanese folktale. You can read the Wikipedia entry for a full description.
Original Source: Jaxa News Release