Tag Archives: The Moon

The most detail photo featuring the very first lunar landing site, as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Released recently by NASA, in the image one can clearly see even the very first historic footprints left behind by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, perfectly preserved on the moon's surface. (c) NASA

Most detailed photo of the Apollo 11 lunar landing site released [visible astronaut footprints]

July 20th, 1969 marked the day man first set foot on the moon, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin gracefully stepped out of their lunar lander and made history. A recent photo snapped by NASA‘s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured the most detailed view of the monumental landing site – it even shows remnants of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first foot steps on the moon.

The most detail photo featuring the very first lunar landing site, as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Released recently by NASA, in the image one can clearly see even the very first historic footprints left behind by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, perfectly preserved on the moon's surface. (c) NASA

The most detail photo featuring the very first lunar landing site, as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Released recently by NASA, in the image one can clearly see even the very first historic footprints left behind by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, perfectly preserved on the moon's surface. (c) NASA

The photo is extremely clear, revealing some impressive details, still in place and kept prestine by the moon’s environment to this very day. For instance, one can easily see things such as the camera the astronauts placed upon landing, a  discarded cover from the Laser Ranging RetroReflector or, amazingly, the astronauts’ footprints – the dark regions around the Lunar Module that lead to and from various scientific experiments that were set up on the surface of the moon.

This is the most detailed image of the lunar landing site captured thus far. The photo was shot from 15 miles away, revealing an area about the size of a typical city block, showing just how restricted the Apollo 11 astronauts were. Future manned missions to the moon allowed astronauts to explore much more freely, and Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions were actually equipped with a Lunar Roving Vehicle, which greatly increased their autonomy.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, no larger than a car and worth $504 million, has been circling the moon since its launch in June 2009. This particular photo was released March 7 by NASA.

The Earth facing side of the moon (left), featuring a human face-like pattern, and the opposite facing side (right). (c) NASA

Physics explains why the “man in the moon” stares at the Earth

The human brain is wired to see all kinds of patterns in various shapes. The most common one is that of the human face, most often encountered in our day to day lives, be it in the coffee, a fire hidrant or a cut off potato (I saw Jesus!). The moon makes no exception either. For millenia, man has worshiped the moon and thought a god, the “man from the moon”, was watching down on the rest of us mortals during the night. Scientists now explain why this particularly fascinating side of the moon faces the Earth, and not the other.

The Earth facing side of the moon (left), featuring a human face-like pattern, and the opposite facing side (right). (c) NASA

The Earth facing side of the moon (left), featuring a human face-like pattern, and the opposite facing side (right). (c) NASA

The moon is covered by lunar maria that form dark spots and lighter highlands on its surface, all of which come together in such a manner that it bears a striking resemblance to a typical human face (eyes, nose, mouth), however its also often been interpreted as a rabbit, dragon, frog, buffalo and all kinds of critters.  Ever noticed, though, how night after night the moon is facing Earth from the exact position every time?

Yes, the moon does spin. The reason why it’s always facing from the same direction is due to the fact that the moon is locked in a synchronous orbit with Earth, causing it to rotate exactly one time with every complete orbit around Earth. From down here, it looks as if the moon doesn’t ever spin. The study we’re discussing in this present article doesn’t discuss this, though.

Instead astronomers at Caltech sought to address the life-long question of why does the moon face Earth with that particular side, and not the other. For years, scientists seemed to have come to the conclusion that in the end, it was all just a flip of a coin matter – 50/50. The researchers, however, argue that it’s far from being that simple.

Around four billion years ago, the moon was a nothing more than a molten rock, constantly changing and morphing. Back then, the moon was rotating at a much faster velocity than it is now, and was much closer to Earth as well, providing for a shifting scenery of the moon during the night. Over the years, Earth’s gravitational pull slowly slowed down the moon until it stabilized into a synchronous position, however it also elongated the natural satellite – the moon isn’t a sphere. These tips of lunar ellipse are actually the two major candidates for the Earth facing sides. Still, it’s still 50/50, right?

Here’s well the physics get really interesting. Besides these elongation, the moon is also subjected to tidal forces, which tugged on the moon, creating a slight bulge in the process. This bulge caused the moon to always position itself towards Earth pointing alongside the bulge’s axis. As time passed, this constant shifting of position caused internal friction and acted as a sort of break, slowing down the moon’s orbit until it reached today’s level. Still doesn’t explain the whole man on the moon side, thing.

The researchers ran a computer simulation and discovered that the main factor which determines which side of the moon is facing Earth is rate of rotational energy dissipation. If the moon had lost its rotational energy at a rate 100 times faster than it really did, than indeed the chances would’ve been 50/50. However, at its actual rate of energy dissipation the man in the moon side had about two-to-one odds of facing us.

The real coincidence is not that the man faces Earth,” said Oded Aharonson, professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Instead, the real coincidence is that the moon’s dissipation rate was just the right amount to create such fascinating physics and load the coin

The findings were reported in the journal Icarus.

Caltech press release via Discovery News

Partial Solar Eclipse

Partial solar eclipse in the southern hemisphere

Partial Solar Eclipse

There’s a lot going on today, besides rabid shopping sprees. This Friday (Nov. 24), a partial solar eclipse will occur above the Earth’s southern hemisphere, a delight for residents lucky enough to cross its path, albeit quite small in numbers. This is the forth time the moon will block the sun in a spectacle of dark and light this year, after previous partial eclipses around the world in some parts of Europe, Alaska and Canada and Antarctica, respectively.

Penguins will have another reason to rejoice, as today yet another partial eclipse will cover the sun, most visible   at a point in the Bellingshausen Sea along the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula. As far as humans are concerned, besides the handful of scientists staged in the arctic continent, South African residents will also be lucky enough to witness the spectacle, in the southern and western portion of the country, as well as Tasmania, and most of New Zealand.

Tonight, close to 90% of the sun’s disk will be covered over by the moon, the most close to a complete eclipse then any other event this year. The eclipse will begin at 9.53 a.m and end at 1.47 p.m, local time, and the whole event will last around four hours.

The next solar eclipse visible to a decently sized populace of the world will be on May 20, 2012. Expected to be a stunning event, it will be visible from China, Japan and parts of the United States.

Local eclipse times for November 25, 2011 in the Southern hemisphere on Earth.


South Africa

Cape Town
Eclipse begins: 6:28 a.m. local time
Maximum eclipse: 6:53 a.m.
Eclipse ends: 7:18 a.m.
Obscuration: 4%

Australia

Hobart, Tansmania
Eclipse begins: 6:30 p.m local time
Maximum eclipse: 6:49 p.m.
Eclipse ends: 7:08 p.m.
Obscuration: 1.57%

New Zealand

Dunedin
Eclipse begins: 8:03 p.m. local time
Maximum eclipse: 8:41 p.m.
Sun sets before eclipse ends
Obscuration: 19.45%

Timaru

Eclipse begins: 8:07 p.m. local time
Maximum eclipse: 8:42 p.m.
Sun sets before eclipse ends
Obscuration: 17.46%

 
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Chang'e 1 Chinese probe

China’s Chang’e 2 finished moon orbiting mission, now headed for outter space

Chang'e 1 Chinese probe

Last year, in October, China launched its second moon orbiter, as part of the country’s rapidly growing reformed space program . The Chang’e 2, as it was dubbed, has seen a great deal of improvements compared to its predecessor, including a more powerful rocket that delivered the probe to the moon more quickly. Today, after finishing all its scheduled missions above the Moon, the probe has been launched out of orbit into interplanetary space, with a destination more than 930,000 miles away from Earth.

During its programmed six months lifespan, Chang’e 2 has completed all its design tasks a bit earlier, so scientists from the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) gave it additional missions, including snapping images of the lunar poles and flying into low-orbit to get a better glimpse of the Bay of Rainbows, a potential future landing site for Chinese moon missions.

Surprisingly enough, the Chang’e surplus fuel for staying on the “safe side” didn’t have to be used, which the SASTIND used to catapult the probe deeper into space, for a ride which is set to last 85 days. It won’t be sent with a clear examination purpose, however. Instead, it will be more of a capability testing run, one to see how the Chinese instruments on the probe behave further into space like communication, data downlink, and control challenges which often arise. Its destination – a Lagrangian point.

Lagrangian points are locations in space where gravitational forces and the orbital motion of a body balance each other. They were discovered in 1772 by the French mathematician Louis Lagrange, who was working on a solution to the “three-body problem”. The problem arose after scientists began wondering how a third, small body would orbit around two large bodies that are also in orbit.

There are five Lagrangian points in the Sun-Earth system, and the Chang’e-2 will fly to one of those nearest the Earth.

This will mark the furthest  a Chinese space vessel has traveled into outer space so far, making for an important landmark in China’s space program.

“If the Chang’e-2 can get there, that will lay the groundwork for China’s future exploration of deep space,” Pang Zhihao, a researcher and deputy editor-in-chief of the magazine Space International, said.

Like I reported earlier, China has set very high goals for the future concerning space exploration, intending on building its own ortibint space station by 2020, sending a rover to the moon surface – the Chang’e 3 mission – which will collect sample and return on its own back to earth in 2017, and a manned mission to the moon by 2025. Meanwhile, NASA is underfunded, and can’t really do much to satisfy its ambitions (not really their fault), and the Russian space program has been stagnating for some time now.

via China Daily

An image of the Chang'e-3 Chinese Lunar Rover presented at the IEEE's International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Shanghai. (c) IEEE Spectrum

China on the moon: rover by 2013, samples by 2017 and manned landing by 2025

An image of the Chang'e-3 Chinese Lunar Rover presented at the IEEE's International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Shanghai. (c) IEEE Spectrum

An image of the Chang'e-3 Chinese Lunar Rover presented at the IEEE's International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Shanghai. (c) IEEE Spectrum

How’s your Mandarin? If it’s as rusty as mine, we’d do best and brush up on it since it seems we’re heading towards an age of Chinese domination. Capitalizing on its tremendous financial growth, China has some incredible programs which officials hope to catapult the people’s republic in front of the new space age.

A few weeks back, I told you all about China’s plans of building its own space station by 2020 – very ambitious plans indeed, but Chinese space program officials have even more stellar goals in sight, namely plans to send a robot to the moon within two years and also to bring a lunar sample home by 2017. The plans were made public by Chinese officials att he international robotics conference in Shanghai this week.

That’s not all either, according to Ziyuan Ouyang, the chief scientist of China’s lunar exploration program, stated that after the lunar sample mission, the agency’s main goal will be to put a Chinese astronaut on the moon and also build a permanent outpost on the Earth’s natural satellite. A particular date for this goal is this very ambigous, but last month it seems a Chinese officials came out and stated that China will put a man on the moon by 2025.

Last year, in October, China launched its second moon orbiter, as part of its newly risen lunar program. The Chang’e 2, as it was dubbed, has seen a great deal of improvements compared to its predecessor, including a more powerful rocket that delivered the probe to the moon more quickly. Chang’e 3 is supposed to launch sometime in 2013 and land in Sinus Iridium, where it will deploy an autonomous rover.

The robot will be able to choose its own routes, avoid obstacles, and perform science experiments with a suite of sensors, including cameras, x-ray and infrared spectrometers, and a ground-penetrating radar. For power, the Chinese lunar rover will use solar panels, as well as a supplementary power source in the form of a plutonium-238 nuclear battery, the same type installed on the forthcoming Mars Science Laboratory rover.

Concerning the 2017 lunar sample mission, China will launch a temporary lunar drill, which will alight on the surface, take a sample and then rush back to Earth for data collection.

Ultimately, China wants its own moon base by 2025. Some US congressmen issued a bill in which they directed NASA to build its own moon base by 2020; it won’t probably last, and as a key difference the Chinese usually keep to their word.

If you still fancy a trip to the moon, remember there’s still a chance to get on the 2015 private flight round and back. Oh, it’s only $150 million a ticket.

 

A propulsion and habitation module at left, linked up with a Soyuz spacecraft at right to create a complex designed for flying around the moon and back to Earth. Artist impression (c) Space Adventures

$150 million for a trip round the moon and back – one seat left

A propulsion and habitation module at left, linked up with a Soyuz spacecraft at right to create a complex designed for flying around the moon and back to Earth. Artist impression (c) Space Adventures

A propulsion and habitation module at left, linked up with a Soyuz spacecraft at right to create a complex designed for flying around the moon and back to Earth. Artist impression (c) Space Adventures

Like i reckoned in some of my past articles, space tourism is getting more and more popular each year, as more aeronautical companies begin to see the high potential of catering for millionaires’ orbital ambitions. One of the most sought after and ambitious space taxi projects is the highly publicized civilian lunar trip, in the works for a number of years now and scheduled to launch in 2015.

The company handling the trip is Virginia-based Space Adventures, which announced yesterday it will add another seat to a Soyuz spacecraft that will take space tourists round the moon, amounting to a total of two seats. The first has been already been taken, while the second one is still vacant. The announcement came as part of a ceremonial procedure celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first tourist flight to the International Space Station, as well as the 50th anniversary of NASA’s first manned spaceflight.

“Space Adventures will once again grace the pages of aerospace history, when the first private circumlunar mission launches. We have sold one of the two seats for this flight and anticipate that the launch will occur in 2015,” Richard Garriott, vice chairman of Space Adventures, said in a statement. “Having flown on the Soyuz, I can attest to how comfortable the spacecraft is, but the addition of the second habitation module will only make the flight that more enjoyable.”

The trip involves a launch inside the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, a 10-day stay on the International Space Station, and a 3.5-day trip to slingshot around the moon and a 3.5-day return to Earth. Eric Anderson, the Virginia-based company’s chairman, said he hopes the second seat will be sold by the end of the year, that would fill out the mission’s crew, which would be headed by a professional astronaut flying in the Soyuz’s third seat.

So far, Space Adventures has flown seven spaceflight participants on eight missions to the ISS, and estimates that by 2020, about 140 people will have been launched into orbital space from various civilian fields, like private individuals, corporate, university and non-profit researchers, lottery winners, or journalists.

“The next 10 years will be critical for the commercial spaceflight industry with new vehicles and destinations coming online,” said Eric Anderson, Space Adventures chairman. “But, in order to truly develop the industry and extend the reach of humanity over the course of time, there will need to be breakthrough discoveries made and innovative propulsion systems designed that will bring the solar system into our economic sphere of influence.”

related: SpaceX unveils world’s most powerful private rocket

I agree with Anderson, space tourism as it is today is highly exclusive, hard to develop and extremely resource demanding to enterprise, but it’s growing – a lot.

Initially, back in 2005 when the project was initially announced, the price tag for a set was $100 million but since then due to currency changes, inflation and of course the Russian inflated cut have amounted to nearly $150 million. Currently, the Russian Soyuz is the only orbital passenger spaceship, which grants Russia the monopole.

In addition to the Soyuz, a Block-DM upper stage and an extra habitation module would be launched into orbit. After the Soyuz finishes up its zero-G familiarization visit to the International Space Station, it would dock with the other modules, forming a complex capable of taking on the seven-day circumlunar odyssey. “You can think of it in many ways as your miniature space station that you take along with you,” said Richard Garriott.

Although Anderson generally refuses to identify future orbital spacefliers, he made an exception today: “There’s at least one person who will plan on flying into orbit in the next decade, and that’s me,” he said.

Well, does anybody have $150 million lying around? I’d advise you give it up for the chance of becoming the first human being to see the Moon up close in nearly 45 years.

LK Lander: The Soviet Moon Landing Program [PHOTOS]

One of the most intense Cold War fronts, and probably the only one to actually provide mankind a monumental legacy, was the so called space race. Each of the behemoth nations battled each other for space supremacy for decades raising hopes for millions of people as to someday the stars may belong to man and spending billions of dollars/rubles.

In the early space rage stage the soviets clearly dominated the US having successfully launched the first orbiting satellite in space, the first spaceship to carry a living being (primates, then dogs), the first man-made probe to land on the moon and the first manned space flight (Yuri Gagarin). The grand prize however was taken by the US in 1969 when the most memorable space flight, Apollo 11, took off with a three man crew into outer space on course for the moon. On the day of July 20th 1969, the Neil Armstrong, an American, was the first man to set foot on the moon, bringing glory to his homeland and ruin to the soviet’s own moon landing mission.

The main soviet lunar mission revolved around the LK lander, a module very similar to the infamous Eagle, which after a series of partial unsuccessful unmanned tests, the project was retired in 1972. Currently, the LK lander is hidden away at the Moscow Aviation Institute, away from curious eyes. A student managed to take some quick, but incredible photographs of the lander, much of the docking equipment, and diagrams, after which he posted them on his livejournal.

Behold the engineering relic.