Space & Planetary Science: February 2009 Archives

Detail of a high resolution (raw) Lunar Orbiter II framelet retrieved on 24 February 2009. [More]

Boulders on the Moon

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Progress Report 19 February 2009

"We have had a major milestone accomplished (well 98% of the way there). Figure 1 shows two framelets, from Lunar Orbiter II High Resolution image (we don't know which one yet). ... Figure 1 is an unknown high resolution image from Lunar Orbiter II. These are individual framelets and we are still searching to figure out which whole image that it is attached to. The lines through the images are artifacts from the demodulator that is not quite 100% working - yet. The image has boulders sitting on the surface quite easy to see. We have verified that the intrinsic resolution of these images is going to be very high, to be quantified further after we get the demod at 100% and the capstan motor replaced."

NASA and ESA Prioritize Outer Planet Missions

"At a meeting in Washington last week, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and European Space Agency officials decided to continue pursuing studies of a mission to Jupiter and its four largest moons, and to plan for another potential mission to visit Saturn's largest moon Titan and Enceladus. Both of these proposed missions are grand endeavors that set the stage for future planetary science research. These outer planet flagship missions could eventually answer questions about how our solar system formed and whether life exists elsewhere in the universe."

NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Spacecraft Ships South In Preparation For Launch

"NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft was loaded on a truck Wednesday to begin its two-day journey to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Launch is targeted for April 24."

Editor's 12 Feb note: This is being circulated internally at NASA:

From: Tooley, Craig R. (GSFC-451.0)
Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 9:21 AM
Subject: LRO Launch Date Change


As of this morning LRO was notified that problems with the WSG spacecraft have made it impossible for ULA to launch LRO/LROCSS on 4/24/2009. The next set of LRO/LCROSS launch days opens on 5/7/2009. Both LRO and ULA are replanning for 5/7/2009 as of this morning.

Please note that this is unrelated to the booster tank issues and that there are still unresolved issue with a west coast Delta launch (STSS) that is scheduled for 5/5 and will have to move to late May to enable ULA/KSC to launch LRO/LCROSS on 5/7. The current thinking is this will be arranged but is not yet confirmed.

The details of our replanned schedule, and any changes to planned activities, are not yet sorted out. Once we have the new ULA integration schedule (expected today) we'll replan the details of the LRO schedule and send it to all involved.

CRAIG TOOLEY-LRO Project Manager

Editor's 16 Feb note: Curiously, nearly a week after this internal email was circulated to LRO project staff, NASA has not yet admitted (officially) that LRO's launch date has been slipped. Yet if you visit this KSC visitors center webpage you will see that the launch date listed is 7 May 2009 at 7:30 pm ET.

However, the latest NASA Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report shows a 24 April launch date and states "There is no formal request to NASA from United Launch Alliance, or ULA, to change the launch date of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from April 24. Informal discussions are ongoing between NASA, ULA and the Air Force to understand the needs of ULA's launch clients, including the Air Force and its Wideband Global Satcom spacecraft. LRO and LCROSS continue to work towards the earliest possible launch date until a formal determination can be made otherwise."

So why is the LRO Project Manager teling his team that it is "impossible for ULA to launch LRO/LROCSS on 4/24/2009"?

Editor's 17 Feb update: Someone @KSC must have dumped on the KSC Visitor's Center. Their calendar page now shows a 24 April launch date for LRO. However, this LCROSS press release from ARC won't name a specific launch date and only says "in preparation for a spring launch" instead.

MSL Problems Revisited

Mars Mission Has Some Seeing Red, Washington Post

""Alan Stern, a planetary scientist and former NASA associate administrator for science missions, charged in a New York Times op-ed column last year that the cost overruns of the Mars Science Laboratory are a sign of a "cancer" of spending profligacy that is overtaking the space agency. Stern, now a private consultant, argues that the new rover is too ambitious, with too many new technologies in play, making a cost overrun all but inevitable. "It's not just that it's a bigger rover. It's also an entirely new kind of landing system. It's also that it's nuclear-powered. It's also that it's carrying multiple instruments far beyond what's ever been done," Stern said in an interview. "We need to go to a strategy where we can access Mars frequently and take advantage of what we've already invented."

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Update (LOIRP) 20 January 2009,

"We have submitted a paper to the Lunar Planetary Conference (LPSC) for presentation in March of 2009. This paper will detail the process that we used to bring the first image of the Earth as seen from the Moon back to life and the first determination of its quality as compared to the Lunar and Planetary Science database image."

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Progress Report 5 February 2009,

"The first machine continues to perform well. There are problems that were anticipated that we are dealing with. One of the overall reliability issues is that many electronic parts in the machine are customer Ampex hybrid circuits that are obviously not available anymore."

NASA Restores Historic Lunar Orbiter Image

"NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and Innovative Partnerships Program Office in Washington provided initial funding for the project. Engineering and logistics for the project team were provided by Wingo of SkyCorp, Inc., Huntsville, Ala., with donated services by Keith Cowing from SpaceRef Interactive, Inc., Reston, Va., under the auspices of Alliance of Commercial Enterprises and Education for Space, and the NASA Lunar Science Institute."



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