"Today the Google Lunar X Prize announced that the deadline for the competition deadline had been extended again, this time to the end of 2016. Also announced today were two milestone prizes being won by Astrobotic."
Recently in Moon Category
"NASA is marking the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing this month. Here in a series of videos from the archives are some of the events of that fateful mission."
Marc's note: The post now includes a restored Apollo 11 EVA just released today.
"Long before man journeyed to the moon and looked back at the tiny, fragile planet that houses humanity, remote orbiters were sending back pictures of home. Sent to scope out potential landing sites on the Moon, the series of five Lunar Orbiters also sent back the earliest views of Earth from another celestial body. This image, taken in 1966 by Lunar Orbiter 1, is among the first views of Earth from the Moon. In the black-and-white image, a crescent Earth floats majestically behind the lumpy surface of the Moon."
"Ground controllers at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., have confirmed that NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft impacted the surface of the moon, as planned, between 9:30 and 10:22 p.m. PDT Thursday, April 17. LADEE lacked fuel to maintain a long-term lunar orbit or continue science operations and was intentionally sent into the lunar surface. The spacecraft's orbit naturally decayed following the mission's final low-altitude science phase."
The 'Other' Lunar Orbiter 1 Earthrise Image, Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project
"A newly enhanced image of Earth taken from lunar orbit 47 years ago has been released. The image, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966, is the latest in a series of images released by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). This image is actually one of a pair of images taken of Earth by Lunar Orbiter 1. Its twin image, taken first, was much more famous and captured the world's imagination when first released by NASA nearly half a century ago. That "Earthrise" image, as it came to be known, was also the first image re-released by the LOIRP in November 2008. These two pictures were not included in the original mission plan. Taking these images required that the spacecraft's attitude in relation to the lunar surface be changed so that the camera's lenses were pointing away from the Moon. Such maneuvering meant a calculated risk and, coming early in the flight, the unplanned photograph of Earth raised some doubts among Boeing management about the safety of the spacecraft - especially on the very first Lunar Orbiter mission."
Dr. Andy Aldrin Joins Moon Express as its President, SpaceRef Business
"Moon Express, the ambitious Silicon Valley commercial venture aiming to be one of the first Moon resource companies, announced last night at the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference that Dr. Andy Aldrin was joining the company as its new President.
Dr. Aldrin, the son of Buzz Aldrin, is leaving United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of mega-companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the relative uncertainty of a small yet growing "NewSpace" company with promise but no guarantees of success."
"Getting a spacecraft to land on the moon is both expensive and difficult. To date only three countries, Russia, the U.S. and most recently, China, have done so, and this through government programs.
It's with this daunting task in mind that teams of students and professionals globally began the challenge in 2007 of trying to send a small spacecraft to the surface of the moon and have it, or a deployed rover, travel a distance of no less than 500 meters and return high definition video and imagery."
... "However, as each team has discovered, winning the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) is an incredibly difficult task. And it's not just the technical challenges they must surmount, their primary problem is finances, or lack thereof."
"NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, observatory has been approved for a 28-day mission extension. The spacecraft is now expected to impact the lunar surface on or around April 21, 2014, depending on the final trajectory. The extension provides an opportunity for the satellite to gather an additional full lunar cycle worth of very low-altitude data to help scientists unravel the mysteries of the moon's atmosphere."
Another Lunar Orbiter Earthrise Retrieved and Enhanced, Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project
"The other day, as we were going through tapes from Lunar Orbiter IV we came across a picture of the Earth and the Moon - one that was not instantly familiar to us. This image is not included in the LPI Lunar Orbiter IV image gallery but is listed in another, more obscure document at LPI. So we downloaded the data and set to work on restoring and enhancing the image."
Keith's note: Space Artist Don Davis Has Re-imagined our newly emhanced Lunar Orbiter IV Earthrise.
Adam Mann (@adamspacemann) at @wiredspacephoto and @wiredscience was nice enough to tweet a link to our Lunar Orbiter IV earthrise image to over a million followers as the WIred's Space Photo of the day - thanks, Adam!
Clementine - The Mission, Twenty Years Later, Paul Spudis
"In the twenty years following the end of the Apollo program, the lunar science community tried to interest NASA in sending a robotic orbiter to the Moon to map its shape, composition and other physical properties. Such a mission would not only document the processes and history of the Moon, but would also serve as an operational template for the exploration of other airless planetary objects through the collection of global remote sensing data and use of surface samples to provide ground truth."
China's Chang'e-3 Heads For The Moon (with video), SpaceRef
"China's Chang'e-3 lunar rover Yutu ("Jade rabbit") left Earth today aboard a Long March IIIB rocket today. Liftoff occurred at 12:30 pm EST from Xichang launch facility in in China's Sichuan province. Chang'e-3 will take approximately four days to reach the Moon and will enter orbit on or around 6 December. A week or so later Change'e-3's large landing stage will deliver the Yutu rover to a landing site in Sinus Iridum - The Bay of Rainbows. The current expected landing date is 14 December."
Listening to the Deep Space Music Network, Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP)
"Dennis Wingo: A funny story from today. I was running a Lunar Orbiter tape today and all of a sudden I started hearing music coming from the audio speaker. It was really nice, staring out with a piano solo and then a couple of other pieces then a full on concert by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. It was really cool to hear this old sixties music coming across the deep space network."
Keith's note: All of the data tapes from the Lunar Orbiter program had an audio track that contained technical information by the tape drive operators at ground stations in Woomera, Goldstone, and Madrid. Usually it is technobable. Quite often there is also chatter about things in the news, and in this case, inadverdently, what was playing on the radio. Right now the LOIRP is going though a series of tapes recorded in Madrid.
- Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project website
- 1967 Audio Recording on First Anniversary of Lunar Orbiter 1 Launch
- Lunar Orbiter Photo Techs talk About Looking for Surveyor 1 & Luna 9 Landing Sites
- Video: Lunar Orbiter Techs Talk About Crater Kepler in 1967
Keith's note: According to someone at NASA: "LADEE just completed a successful firing of its main engine in the second lunar orbit insertion (LOI-2) burn! We are now in a 4 hour elliptic orbit, with the perilune at our commissioning altitude. This follows the LOI-1 burn on Oct 6 that first got us into lunar orbit. The accuracy of the LOI-1 burn was such that we did not need to do the LAM-1 (apolune) maneuver. The final of the three LOI burns is scheduled for October 12. This will settle us into the commissioning orbit."
"High resolution imagery from the Lunar Orbiter program, forgotten for nearly 50 years, has been retrieved from original data tapes. The five Lunar Orbiter missions, flown between 1966 and 1967, were rather heavily documented. This extensive documentation has helped us at the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) to locate images on the original analog data tapes and retrieve them at a resolution that was impossible in the 1960s. While the Lunar Orbiter program was methodical in documenting everything, every now and then imagery slipped through the crack. Often times the misplaced images are unremarkable and incomplete. However, in this case, we have found complete high resolution imagery of a location close to the Apollo 15 landing site at Hadley Rille. The imagery we have uncovered is number 5105 taken by Lunar Orbiter V in 1967."
Keith's note: According to someone at NASA: "Early this morning (October 6), we fired LADEE's main engine in a braking maneuver known as the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) burn. This slowed the spacecraft's velocity enough for it to be captured by the Moon's gravity. This critical burn went flawlessly and LADEE is now in lunar orbit! Two more main engine burns, on October 9 and 12 will adjust LADEE's trajectory, settling it into its commissioning orbit."
Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration, SpaceRef Business
"The plans laid out in this draft document embody a radical departure from the current approach to awarding prizes i.e. one winner, one big prize with several smaller runner-up prizes. Now, multiple teams will be able to get even smaller cash prizes for efforts already completed or near completion - but far short of actually sending a mission to land on the Moon.
If approved, this approach would help inject some much needed cash into the coffers of several competitors. No word yet on whether this plan will be formally adopted or when it will be adopted but a quick turn around time for comments suggests that there is an interest in getting these new rules in place soon."
Keith's note: This document has been widely circulated among several hundred people inside and outside of the Google Lunar X Prize community for several weeks. No markings were placed on this document to note that it is either confidential or proprietary. Indeed, the cover memo encouraged its wider distribution for review and comment.
Marc's note: Changes to the Google Lunar X Prize have been rumored for some time. It should be noted that the competition deadline of end of 2015 has not changed. The changes should they go forward will energize a competition which seemingly had stalled. While some teams have had some success in raising funds, none to my knowledge, had raised enough to actually launch and successfully land on the money.
Loony or logical? Bill favors national park on moon, Florida Today
"Imagine a U.S. National Park like Yellowstone or the Great Smoky Mountains on the moon, one that would protect artifacts left behind by the Apollo astronauts. Sound crazy? It's not as far-fetched as it seems.
A bill introduced in Congress recently would "endow the artifacts as a National Historic Park, thereby asserting unquestioned ownership rights over the Apollo lunar landing artifacts."
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, are co-sponsoring "The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act" -- also known as H.R. 2617."
Marc's note: Protecting the Apollo sites within the legal framework of the U.S. is one thing, and might makes sense. Using UNESCO to make the sites "World Heritage Sites" is an international legal conundrum. While the U.S. is a signatory of the 1969 Outer Space Treaty it has not signed the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. The Bill might protect the sites from U.S. citizens disturbing them but has no international legal standing. However, merely passing the Bill might deter other nations citizens from disturbing the sites.
"NASA Tuesday issued a Request for Information (RFI) that will help agency officials better understand current plans in the U.S. commercial space industry for a robotic lunar landing capability. The RFI will assist NASA in assessing U.S. industry's interest in partnerships to develop a robotic lander that could enable commercial and agency missions.
NASA does not envision an exchange of funds between the agency and any industry partners. Potential NASA contributions to a partnership could include the technical expertise of NASA staff on integrated teams, providing NASA center test facilities at no cost, or contributing hardware or software for commercial lander development and testing."
Marc's note: No doubt commercial entities will be intrigued to have access to NASA expertise etc. but at what cost? They have to think about their business plan, intellectual property (IP) etc. What does NASA get out of it? There's no exchange of funds and there's definitely an IP issue to consider. How will Congress react? Is this a possible model for private/public commercial exploration of the moon?
"A supermoon rises behind the Washington Monument, Sunday, June 23, 2013, in Washington.
This year the supermoon is up to 13.5 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a typical full moon is. This is a result of the Moon reaching its perigee - the closest that it gets to the Earth during the course of its orbit. During perigee on June 23, the moon was about 221,824 miles away, as compared to the 252,581 miles away that it is at its furthest distance from the Earth (apogee). "
"In conjunction with the memorial service and tree dedication at NASA's Johnson Space Center on June 20, 2013, the center created this video honoring the legacy of Neil Armstrong. The video takes a look at the accidental legend that Armstrong became, and the history-making flight that he took with his colleagues Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins."
"NASA will honor the life and historic achievements of astronaut Neil Armstrong during a memorial service at 10 a.m. CDT Thursday, June 20, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Armstrong made history on July 20, 1969, when he became the first person to walk on the moon as commander of Apollo 11.
JSC Director Ellen Ochoa, fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, family members and longtime associates will pay tribute to Armstrong. He was 82 when he died on Aug. 25, 2012, in Cincinnati."
The Call of Mars, Buzz Aldrin Op-Ed, New York Times
"I am calling for a unified international effort to explore and utilize the Moon, a partnership that involves commercial enterprise and other nations building upon Apollo. Let me emphasize: A second "race to the Moon" is a dead end. America should chart a course of being the leader of this international activity to develop the Moon. The United States can help other nations do things that they want to do, a fruitful avenue for U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy."
"A step in the right direction is creating an International Lunar Development Corporation, customized to draw upon the legacy of lessons learned from such endeavors as the International Geophysical Year (whose purpose was to get scientists all over the world to focus on the physics and atmosphere of the Earth), the International Space Station program, as well as model organizations such as Intelsat and the European Space Agency. Space collaboration should be the new norm, including the tapping of talented Chinese, Indian and other space experts from around the globe."
"In my view, U.S. resources are better spent on moving toward establishing a human presence on Mars. I envision a comprehensive plan that would lead to permanent human settlement on Mars in the next 25 years. "
Marc's note: Buzz, I like it in a big picture kind of way. However, I see a few practical problems with your plan. 1) The economics of it. How are you going to sell this grand vision? And who's going to pay for it? We've got ventures trying to get to the moon now, but no ones got there yet and funding is very hard to come by. 2) Some in Congress won't like the idea of working with China, so how are you going to sell that. 3) What's the cost of implementing your Mars settlement plan? And who'se going to pay for it?
The public needs more than to be inspired by grand visions. They need to be sold on the economics of it and how it will benefit them. The Collins and Lampson op-ed below, "Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration", has part of the answer, but people need to be convinced that the investment for innovation will lead somewhere. They certainly don't want to pay for someone else to settle on Mars.
"After being forgotten for nearly 47 years, three high resolution images taken by the Lunar Orbiter II spacecraft have been rediscovered by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). It is unlikely that anyone has seen these images since they were sent back to Earth. Indeed, it is unlikely that very many people saw them at that time either. The three high resolution images were taken along with a medium resolution image on 23 November 1966 at 17:05:39 GMT. The center point of the images was 26.94 West Longitude, 3.196 degrees North Latitude. The images were taken at an altitude of 43.6 km and the image resolution is 0.93 meters."
Water on the Moon (video), NASA Goddard
"Since the 1960's, scientists have suspected that frozen water could survive in cold, dark craters at the Moon's poles. While previous lunar missions have detected hints of water on the Moon, new data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) pinpoints areas near the south pole where water is likely to exist."
"NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission has uncovered the origin of massive invisible regions that make the moon's gravity uneven, a phenomenon that affects the operations of lunar-orbiting spacecraft."
"Because of GRAIL's findings, spacecraft on missions to other celestial bodies can navigate with greater precision in the future. GRAIL's twin spacecraft studied the internal structure and composition of the moon in unprecedented detail for nine months. They pinpointed the locations of large, dense regions called mass concentrations, or mascons, which are characterized by strong gravitational pull. Mascons lurk beneath the lunar surface and cannot be seen by normal optical cameras."
Copernicus Crater Mosaic, NASA Lunar Science Institute
"This mosaic of the floor of crater Copernicus was created by combining the following 24 high resolution images taken by Lunar Orbiter V on 16 August 1967. By comparing old images of the Moon to recent images, LOIRP offers a time machine of sorts, whereby changes in the lunar surface over the past half century can be identified. LOIRP has also done original science by comparing their highest resolution images with the latest high resolution lunar images to look for changes that could indicate quakes, meteor impacts, or volcanism. But more work remains to be done."
Keith's note: Please Support Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) at RocketHub
"The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) is seeking support from the public as it continues its efforts to recover and enhance Moon images from the 1960s using modern technology. The LOIRP was started with funding by several volunteers in 2008. The original volunteer effort was followed by financial support from NASA which has now been exhausted. Five Lunar Orbiter missions were sent to the Moon between 1966-67 to map the lunar surface to help select landing sites for Apollo human missions.
The LOIRP managed to obtain original tape drives from the 1960s (covered in dust in a farmer's barn) and a full set of original Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes (threatened with erasure) containing all images sent back to Earth by the five spacecraft. None of this had been functional or usable since the late 1960s. From the onset the LOIRP has been run on a shoestring budget. Housed in an abandoned McDonalds restaurant at Moffett Field, California, the LOIRP team used spare parts bought on eBay, developed new hardware reverse-engineered from math equations in original documentation, modern laptops, the expertise of retired engineers and scientists, and the dedication of young students."
According to Science magazine: NASA Dives Into Its Past to Retrieve Vintage Satellite Data:
"They cleaned, rebuilt, and reassembled one drive, then designed and built equipment to convert the analog signals into an exact 16-bit digital copy. "It was like dumpster diving for science," says Cowing, co-team leader at LOIRP. In November 2008, the team recovered their first image: a famous picture of an earthrise taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 on 23 August 1966. The team's new high-resolution version was so crisp and clear that it revealed many previously obscured details, such as a fog bank lying along the coast of Chile. "We thought if the Earth's surface looks that good a quarter of a million miles away, what does the moon's surface look like 100 miles beneath it?" says Cowing."
Keith's note: A number of us have been donating time and money to this project since 2008. Please support the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at RocketHub as our team works to finish this project.
More information on this image can be found here and here as we overlaid Nimbus II imagery on a Lunar Orbiter image of Earth. Oh yes, on this date, in New York City, just over the Earth's limb as seen from lunar orbit, the Beatles were preparing to play at Shea Stadium ...
Keith's note: This newly retrieved high resolution image, frame 3121_H1, was taken by Lunar Orbiter 3 on 19 February 1967 at 19:22 GMT. The prominent feature in this image is Tsiolkovskiy, a large impact crater located on the far side of the Moon. We'll be posting a total of 4 recently retrieved Lunar Orbiter 3 images of the Tsiolkovskiy region this week at the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project.
Back to the Moon--For a Fraction of the Old Price, Charles Miller
"As a former NASA executive, I am saddened by the media response to Newt Gingrich's proposal that we return to the moon. The mockery and ridicule does America a great disservice. Space exploration and development is an important national issue. It's not only possible and necessary to safeguard our future--it can be a lot cheaper than anybody dreams."
Guest Commentary: Moon base is not a loony, Denver Post
"The moon continues to surprise and enthrall us with possibilities for scientific breakthroughs, resource utilization, and human exploration. We only scratched the surface of the moon's potential during the Apollo program, covering an area smaller than Coors Field during Apollo 11. It's time to go back to the moon -- and, this time, to stay."
"Lost in the laughter over the past two weeks has been GOP presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's core point about America's future in space. We shouldn't just explore space, we should develop and even settle it, using the same enterprise-friendly approaches that helped open the West and the skies."