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Lunar

Lobate scarps (a type of cliff) on the moon can be viewed in 3D thanks to NASA's LRO (Phot...

It’s time to pull out the old red/cyan 3D glasses for these anaglyphs created with high-resolution stereo images beamed back from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Having revealed the fate of the Apollo lunar flags earlier this year, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) is now enabling the creation of anaglyphs to bring the third dimension to craters, volcanic flows, lava tubes and tectonic features on the lunar surface.  Read More

Sinus Iridum as seen from NASA's Clementine probe, where China plans to land a lunar rover...

The Chinese news agency Xinhua announced on July 31 that China will be sending its first unmanned lander to the Moon in the second half of 2013. Chang’e-3 will be the third lunar probe launched by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the first attempt at a landing. The lander/rover combination will launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China’s Sichuan province as part of China’s continuing Lunar Exploration program.  Read More

Artist's depiction of the twin GRAIL spacecraft that have completed their primary mission ...

After entering orbit around the Moon at the start of the year, NASA’s twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) probes, Ebb and Flow, have completed their primary mission to study the Moon’s interior structure ahead of schedule. Operating around the clock since March 8, NASA says the spacecraft have provided unprecedented detail about the interior structure and evolution of the Moon and the data they have gathered will provide insights into how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed.  Read More

Astrobotic Technology has received a NASA contract to determine if its Polaris rover robot...

While the Moon may or may not contain life forms, precious metals or even green cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it does nonetheless contain something that could prove quite valuable – water ice. NASA has estimated that at least 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the stuff could be deposited in craters near the Moon’s north pole alone. If mined, it could conceivably serve as a source of life support for future lunar bases, or it could be used to produce fuel for spacecraft stopping at a “lunar gas station.” Before any mining can happen, however, we need to learn more about the ice. That’s why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to determine if its Polaris rover robot could be used for ice prospecting.  Read More

The famous photo of Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 mi...

When the moon-walking Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth in 1969, amongst the 47.5 pounds (21.5 kg) of lunar rocks they brought with them were three minerals from Tranquility Base that were thought to be unique to the Moon or lunar and possibly Martian meteorites. They were armalcolite (named after Neil Armstrong, Edwin ‘Buzz' Aldrin and Michael Collins), pyroxferroite and tranquillityite. Both armalcolite and pyroxferrite were later found on Earth, leaving tranquillityite as the last mineral believed to have no terrestrial counterpart. Now tranquillityite has also been struck off the list with its discovery in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.  Read More

Artist concept of GRAIL-B performing its lunar orbit insertion burn to join GRAIL-A in lun...

Nasa’s twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) spacecraft are now in orbit around the Moon. Having achieved lunar orbit at 2 pm PST on New Year’s Eve, GRAIL-A was joined by GRAIL-B at 2:43 pm PST on New Year’s Day. The twin spacecraft are now in a near-polar, elliptical orbit with an orbital period of approximately 11.5 hours. In readiness for the science phase of the mission which is due to start in March 2012, both spacecraft will undergo a series of burns to place them in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 km) and orbital period of just under two hours.  Read More

An artist's impression of GRAIL's formation orbit (Image: NASA)

If all goes to plan, tomorrow at 1:21 p.m. PST, NASA's GRAIL-A spacecraft will enter orbit about the Moon. GRAIL-A is one of two unmanned orbiters launched in September, with its sibling GRAIL-B due to enter orbit the following day (New Year's Day) at 2:05 p.m. PST. Together the two craft constitute the GRAIL mission (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory), charged with mapping the Moon's gravitation field.  Read More

The Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is looking to establish the first operational lunar ba...

Imagine if every time you went for on a trip, you had to carry all the fuel required to get you to your destination and back - even if that trip was to a place far, far away, like say Mars. In space there are no refueling options available (yet), and given that propellant makes up over 90 percent of the weight of a spacecraft, this issue is fundamental to saving costs and driving future space exploration. Now the Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is looking to establish the first operational base to mine ice on the Moon that will be used to produce liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants for distribution to spacecraft via the first gas stations in space ... and the plan is to be open for business by 2020.  Read More

Using a precision formation-flying technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft will map the moon'...

After its planned launch this morning was canceled due to upper wind levels, a Delta II rocket carrying NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) has been rescheduled to tomorrow morning. The GRAIL mission will incorporate two unmanned spacecraft - GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B - which will fly in formation over the Moon’s surface, measuring variations in its gravity. Using this data, scientists hope to learn more about the Moon’s thermal history, and how other rocky planets within the inner solar system developed.  Read More

The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC

True story: when I was a little kid and was at an observatory looking at the Moon through a telescope, I loudly proclaimed "I think I can see one of the moon buggies!" Everyone laughed, and I felt stupid. Well, several decades later, I've been somewhat vindicated. Although it's not an earthbound telescope, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) did recently capture images of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. The Apollo 17 lunar rover is indeed visible, as are the descent stages of the three spacecraft, and foot paths made by the astronauts.  Read More

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