The Moon was once a geologically active place characterized by volcanoes, lava flows, and a magnetic field generated by action in its interior. The Moon’s airless environment has perfectly preserved evidence of this past and can be seen today as dark deposits, volcanic domes, and cones. But the most recognizable features are known as “sinuous rilles,” which are believed to be ancient lava tubes that have since collapsed. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) recently captured images of a rille that extended 48 km long (30 mi) across the northern hemisphere.Continue reading “Is This a Collapsed Lava Tube on the Moon?”
Poor Russia. They can’t seem to get much right. Their most recent failure is their Luna 25 spacecraft. It was supposed to land near the Moon’s south pole but instead crashed into the surface on August 19th.
Now NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has spotted Luna 25’s final resting place.Continue reading “NASA Satellite Spots the Crash Site for Luna 25”
Where on the Moon will the first crewed Artemis mission Land? While NASA is still deliberating on the exact location, they’ve chosen several candidate landing sites near the lunar south pole. This new image captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals what the astronauts might see out the window as they approach their destination.Continue reading “Here’s Where Artemis III Might Land. It Looks… Inviting”
NASA has granted mission extensions to eight different planetary missions, citing the continued excellent operations of the spacecraft, but more importantly, the sustained scientific productivity of these missions, “and the potential to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the solar system and beyond.” Each mission will be extended for three more years.
One of the most exciting extensions gives a new mission to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, sending it to one of the most infamous asteroids of them all, the potentially hazardous asteroid Apophis.Continue reading “Eight Missions are Getting Extensions, Most Exciting: OSIRIS-REx is Going to Asteroid Apophis”
On Tuesday, December 1st, at 10:11 EST (07:00 PST) the Chang’e-5 sample return spacecraft landed safely on the Moon. This mission is the latest in China’s lunar exploration program, which is paving the way for the creation of a lunar outpost and a crewed mission by the 2030s. The day after it landed, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) passed over the site and acquired an image of the lander.Continue reading “Here’s Chang’e-5, Seen From Lunar Orbit”
This may be one of the strangest craters you’ll ever see.
Ryder crater is located near the south pole of our Moon, and it has a bizarre oblong shape (approximately 13 x 17 km in size), with a ridge cutting across the middle.
The majority of impact craters are round. How did Ryder crater end up in this odd shape?Continue reading “Why Does the Moon’s Ryder Crater Look This Way?”
In 2009, NASA launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the first mission to be sent by the US to the Moon in over a decade. Once there, the LRO conducted observations that led to some profound discoveries. For instance, in a series of permanently-shaded craters around the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin, the probe confirmed the existence of abundant water ice.
Based on the temperature data obtained by the LRO of the Moon’s southern polar region, the ESA recently released a map of lunar water ice (see animation below) that will be accessible to future missions. This includes the ESA’s Package for Resource Observation and in-Situ Prospecting for Exploration, Commercial exploitation and Transportation (PROSPECT), which will be flown to the Moon by Russia’s Luna-27 lander in 2025.Continue reading “Mapping Out the Water on the Moon”
On May 20th, 2018, the China National Space Agency (CNSA) launched the Queqiao spacecraft, the vehicle that would deliver the Chang’e-4 mission to the Moon. This vehicle was also responsible for transporting a lesser-known mission to the Moon, known as the Longjiang twin spacecraft. This package consisted of two satellites designed to fly in formation and validate technologies for low-frequency radio astronomy.
While Queqiao flew beyond the Moon to act as a communications relay for the Chang’e-4 lander, the Longjiang satellites were to enter orbit around the moon. On July 31st, 2019, after more than a year in operation, the Longjiang-2 satellite deorbited crashed on the lunar surface. And thanks to efforts spacecraft tracker Daniel Estévez and his colleagues, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was able to photograph the impact site.Continue reading “The Impact Site of China’s Longjiang-2 Spacecraft has Been Found on the Moon”
This image of the lunar highlands is from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. You’d need superhuman eyesight to spot it, but India’s crashed Vikram lander is in there somewhere. The lander attempted to land on the Moon on September 6th, but when it was only 2.1 km above the surface, within reach of its objective, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) lost contact with the spacecraft.Continue reading “India’s Crashed Lander is In This Picture, Somewhere”
In addition to being the only solvent that is capable of supporting life, water is essential to life as we know it here on Earth. Because of this, finding deposits of water – whether in liquid form or as ice – on other planets is always exciting. Even where is not seen as a potential indication of life, the presence of water offers opportunities for exploration, scientific study, and even the creation of human outposts.
This has certainly been the case as far as the Moon and Mercury are concerned, where water ice was discovered in the permanently-shadowed cratered regions around the poles. But according to a new analysis of the data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the MESSENGER spacecraft, the Moon and Mercury may have significantly more water ice than previously thought.Continue reading “There May be Thick Ice Deposits on the Moon and Mercury”