Hakuto-R completes five of ten milestones on test flight

Ispace’s private commercial lunar lander, Hakuto-R, has now completed five of the ten milestones the company had established before launch as its goals on this first test flight to the Moon.

The first five milestones completed are:

  • Completion of launch preparations
  • Completion of launch and deployment
  • Establishment of a Steady Operation Status
  • Completion of the first orbital control maneuver
  • Completion of stable deep-space flight operations for one month

The next five milestones involve entering final lunar orbit and landing successfully, the most difficult milestones of all.

Russia delays three planned lunar probes because of sanctions

The research division that is building Russia’s Luna 26, Luna 27, and Luna 28 probes to the Moon announced today that these missions will likely be delayed up to two years because many needed components are no longer obtainable due to the international sanctions imposed on Russia because of its invasion of the Ukraine.

“Previously, we designed equipment using foreign components that we could buy from our foreign colleagues. Now that the sanctions have been imposed, we will [be switching to] Russian-made components,” Mitrofanov explained. According to him, researchers have to change design solutions amid the Western restrictions.

Some of these components cannot be so easily replaced by Russian versions. Assuming the Ukraine war does not end soon, expect even longer delays for these unmanned lunar missions.

Lunar Flashlight cubesat in trouble

The mission of NASA’s test cubesat Lunar Flashlight is now threatened because of a problem with its experimental thrusters that use what the agency labels a new “green” propellant.

The spacecraft, called Lunar Flashlight, launched last month on a mission to seek out water ice on the moon. The probe was also expected to test a new “green” propellant during its four-month voyage to the moon, but its thrusters have a problem, NASA said on Thursday (Jan. 12). “While the smallsat is largely healthy and communicating with NASA’s Deep Space Network, the mission operations team has discovered that three of its four thrusters are underperforming,” NASA wrote in an update. “Based on ground testing, the team thinks that the underperformance might be caused by obstructions in the fuel lines that may be limiting the propellant flow to the thrusters.”

Engineers are now devising a plan to fire the thrusters longer and more frequently to make up for the lower thrust. If successful, the cubesat will enter its planned lunar orbit in about four months, where it will use infrared lasers to search for ice in the permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles while testing a variety of other new technologies.

American camera snaps picture of shadowed floor of Shackleton crater

floor of Shackleton Crater
Click for original image.

Using ShadowCam, a NASA-funded camera designed to take high resolution images of the permanently shadowed regions on the Moon, scientists have snapped the first picture of shadowed floor of Shackleton crater.

That image, reduced to post here, is to the right. I have added some labels to clarify what we are seeing. The arrow points to a boulder track caused when the boulder rolled down the crater rim slope.

The camera will be used to image the moon’s permanently shadowed regions with a resolution of better than 6.6 feet (2 meters) per pixel

ShadowCam is one of six instruments on the South Korean lunar orbiter, Danuri, which is now in lunar orbit and beginning its science phase. This was therefore only a successful test image to make sure the camera was working as planned.

Though the area photographed was in shadow (otherwise it would have saturated ShadowCam’s sensitive camera), this first image appears to show no ice at the base of the crater. This simply could be that this part of the crater floor is not permanently shadowed, but gets illuminated enough to melt off any ice. Or it could be that no ice exists in these places. We need to wait and see.

General Atomics wins Air Force contract to build technology test lunar satellite

General Atomics yesterday announced that it has been awarded an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) contract to build a satellite to test a variety of technologies in near lunar space.

The AFRL Oracle spacecraft program is intended to demonstrate advanced techniques to detect and track objects in the region near the Moon that cannot be viewed optically from the Earth or from satellites in traditional orbits such as geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO). The anticipated launch date for the Oracle spacecraft is late 2025.

While this is good business for General Atomics, the company is not selling its product to the Air Force, but building what the Air Force wants, making the spacecraft government owned. This is how the space industry functioned in the United States for almost a half century after Apollo, generally accomplishing little for great cost. Much better in the long run if the military bought this kind of product from private companies, who developed it for profit and for sale not just to the military.

Private lunar rover to fly on private lunar lander

Yaoki deployed from Nova-C
Yaoki deployed from Nova-C

The Japanese based robot company Dymon has now purchased payload space on Intuitive Machines second lunar lander, Nova-C, in order to fly its own lunar rover, dubbed Yaoki, to the Moon.

Yaoki is expected to be flown to the lunar south pole on board Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar lander in the second half of 2023. After landing, Yaoki is expected to deploy from Nova-C to demonstrate Dymon’s lunar mobility technology designed by its Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Shin-ichiro Nakajima.

The agreement with Dymon leverages Intuitive Machines’ Lunar Access Services and Lunar Data Services business segments to land the Yaoki rover on the Moon and control it via secure lunar communications.

The main passenger on this mission is NASA, but Inituitive Machines is free to make money by selling payload space to others. The graphic, from the press release, is intriguing, as it does not show how the rover will be deployed.

China releases first update on status of Yutu-2 since September

Yutu-2's travel path through December 2022
Click for full image. The red flag marks the landing site.

China today released its first update since September on the status of its Yutu-2 rover on the far side of the Moon. The map on the right shows the rover’s travels through December 2022.

As of today the rover has traveled 4,774 feet total, and about 450 feet since September. The goal, as stated in April 2021, was to “move northwest toward the basalt distribution area located about 1.2 km away.” At the time the rover was only averaging about 100 feet travel per lunar day. According to these numbers, it picked up the pace in the past year, though it is unclear whether it has reached that goal.

Could the Apollo 11 lunar module still be orbiting the Moon?

According to one researcher, at least two of the Apollo lunar modules that took astronauts up and down from the Moon could still be in lunar orbit, though their location is presently unknown.

His paper outlining the possible survival of the Apollo 11 LM Eagle can be found here. From his abstract:

The Apollo 11 “Eagle” Lunar Module ascent stage was abandoned in lunar orbit after the historic landing in 1969. Its fate is unknown. Numerical analysis described here provides evidence that this object might have remained in lunar orbit to the present day. The simulations show a periodic variation in eccentricity of the orbit, correlated to the selenographic longitude of the apsidal line. The rate of apsidal precession is correlated to eccentricity. These two factors appear to interact to stabilize the orbit over the long term.

More details here.

Hat tip to reader Mike Nelson, who sent me this story today. I am certain I reported it previously, but searching on Behind the Black failed to find it, so I decided to post again. As the researcher concludes:

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could find this amazing little vessel and bring her back to Earth!!!!

South Korea’s Danuri orbiter enters lunar orbit

South Korea’s first lunar orbiter, dubbed Danuri, has successfully entered lunar orbit after a four-month journey designed to save fuel and weight.

The Danuri spacecraft was expected to begin entering lunar orbit at on Friday (Dec. 17) at 2:45 p.m. EST (1945 GMT, 2:45 a.m. Dec. 17 in South Korea), according to a statement (opens in new tab) from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). The maneuver, the first of five planned engine burns through Dec. 28 to refine Danuri’s orbit around the moon, will clear the way for the probe to get started on its lunar science objectives.

Danuri, also known as the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), began its long and circuitous journey to the moon on Aug. 4, launching on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The moon probe has traveled over 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) on its journey so far, KARI officials have said.

Its six instruments, including one American camera designed to look into the permanently shadowed craters on the Moon, will study the Moon from a polar orbit.

NASA, Boeing, and the UAE negotiating partnership for building Lunar Gateway airlock

According to press reports in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), that country is negotiating with NASA and Boeing on a partnership to build an airlock module for NASA’s Lunar Gateway Moon space station.

US aerospace company Boeing said it has held discussions with Emirates officials about the UAE providing an airlock module on the Lunar Gateway. This is an airtight room that astronauts would use to enter and exit the space station.

John Mulholland, vice president and International Space Station programme manager at Boeing, told The National that the company was “actively working” with the UAE on the concept and design.

It appears the UAE is offering to pay Boeing to build it for NASA, and would expect in exchange a larger share in the use of the station.

If this deal works out, the UAE will essentially replace Russia as a Gateway partner. Russia had signed an agreement with NASA in 2017 to build that airlock, but that deal is now null and void following the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and its desire to partner with China instead.

For the U.S., this is a win-win, since it will now be an American company building the airlock, not Russia.

Remembering Apollo 17, fifty years after the last manned mission to the Moon

LRO oblique view of Apollo 17 landing site
Click for full image.

Link here.

The article comes from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) science team, and includes a number of LRO photos of the landing site, including the oblique annotated image to the right, reduced to post here. As the article notes:

The Apollo 17 crew was the last of an era in human space exploration and the last to set foot on the Moon. Fifty years later, the landing sites, hardware, and footsteps remain delicately preserved on the lunar surface. Join the LRO team as we commemorate their inspiring achievements with additional images, research, maps, interactive sites, and a dedicated video. LRO continues to image the Apollo sites whenever possible, under multiple lighting conditions, and combine these images into interactive sites, like the Apollo 17 Temporal Traverse. The Lunar QuickMap 3D tool can be used to preview the Apollo landing sites and search for LROC images of the areas. For downloadable maps of the Taurus-Littrow Valley, visit the Map Sheets section on our downloads page here. Finally, the Apollo 17 fiftieth anniversary video below presents highlights of the mission with landing site views reconstructed using LROC images and topography.

I have embedded that video below. It does a marvelous job summarizing this mission, which in many ways remains the most daring human exploration mission since Columbus dared cross an ocean in a tiny ship only slightly larger than many lifeboats.
» Read more

Update on the ten cubesats launched by SLS

Link here.

At this moment six of the ten cubesats either accomplished their mission successfully or are still operating, while four cubesats failed entirely.

Of those still working, two will go into lunar orbit and try to find evidence of both hydrogen and ice on the Moon. A third is testing “solid iodine” thrusters, while a fourth will observe how yeast samples react to a long exposure in deep space. A fifth cubesat is a joint NASA-JAXA mission, and is testing how to fly a smallsat in the low gravity of a Lagrangian point.

Finally, an Italian cubesat was used to successfully take images of the Moon and Orion, and has completed its mission.

SpaceX successfully launches Ispace’s Hakuto-R private mission to Moon

Lunar map showing Hakuto-R's landing spot
Hakuto-R’s planned landing site is in Atlas Crater.

Using its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX tonight successfully launched Ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander, the first private mission attempting to softly land on the Moon.

The Falcon 9 first stage completed its fifth flight, landing successfully at Cape Canaveral.

Hakuto-R, which is actually the first of two missions, carries seven payloads, including two small rovers, Rashid, which is the United Arab Emirates first lunar mission, and a smaller rover built by Ispace. Both will operate for about a week, one lunar day. Hakuto-R will land on the Moon in April, 2023.

A second payload is a cubesat from JPL, called Lunar Flashlight. It will go into lunar orbit, testing new fuel technologies while also attempting to identify water in the permanently shadowed craters at the lunar south pole.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

57 China
56 SpaceX
21 Russia
9 Rocket Lab
8 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 80 to 57 in the national rankings, but trails the entire world combined 87 to 80.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander passes launch tests

Astrobotic’s first demonstration lunar lander, dubbed Peregrine, has passed its vibration and acoustic tests, demonstrating it can survive launch on ULA’s Vulcan rocket, presently scheduled for the first quarter of ’23.

The lander is now undergoing electromagnetic interference testing, which will be followed by thermal vacuum tests. Once those tests are complete, the company said, it will ship the lander to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to be integrated with the Vulcan Centaur for a launch currently scheduled in the first quarter of 2023. That launch will be the inaugural flight of the Vulcan Centaur.

A great deal will be riding on that first Vulcan launch, both for Astrobotic and ULA.

The steep interior rim of Aristarchus Crater

Aristarchus Crater
Click for larger image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, is a just released image taken by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, looking across the top of Aristarchus Crater on the Moon from a height of only 60 miles, with the dark surrounding plateau in the foreground contrasting sharply with the bright crater interior. For scale, the distance from the floor of the crater to the top of the rim is about 9,000 feet. The bright central peak is about 1,300 feet tall. The contrast in brightness inside and outside the crater is explained thus:

Adjacent to Aristarchus crater is the Aristarchus plateau, one of the largest volcanic centers on the Moon. Here we find one of the largest rilles [on the Moon, dubbed Vallis Schröteri], a massive pyroclastic deposit, and the source of extensive flood basalts.

These volcanic materials are considered relatively young (for the Moon) – 1.5 to 2.5 billion years. The pyroclastic deposit formed when magma was explosively ejected from the vent and broke into small droplets quenched as glass in the cold vacuum of space as they fell back to the surface. Due to their high glass content, the pyroclastic deposits are distinctly low in albedo (relatively dark), providing a dark background for the bright Aristarchus crater. Within the crater, some of these pyroclastic deposits may be visible as the darkest areas on the far wall, and glassy impact melt is moderately lower in reflectance than the bright, rocky materials exposed on areas of the crater floor and walls.

The overview map below shows both the crater and the vent from which Vallis Schröteri belched.
» Read more

Orion fires engine, leaves lunar orbit

After firing its engines yesterday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft has left lunar orbit and begun a long looping route that will zip past the Moon and then head back to Earth.

The burn changed Orion’s velocity by about 454 feet per second and was performed using the Orion main engine on the European Service Module. The engine is an orbital maneuvering system engine modified for use on Orion and built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The engine has the ability to provide 6,000 pounds of thrust. The proven engine flying on Artemis I flew on 19 space shuttle flights, beginning with STS-41G in October 1984 and ending with STS-112 in October 2002.

The burn is one of two maneuvers required ahead of Orion’s splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11. The second will occur on Monday, Dec. 5, when the spacecraft will fly 79.2 miles above the lunar surface and perform the return powered flyby burn, which will commit Orion on its course toward Earth.

The spacecraft will splashdown on December 11, 2022, if all goes right.

SpaceX postpones launch of Ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander

SpaceX tonight canceled the Falcon 9 launch of the private Hakuto-R lunar lander, built by the Japanese company Ispace and carrying the UAE’s Rashid rover.

After further inspections of the launch vehicle and data review, SpaceX is standing down from Falcon 9’s launch of ispace’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. A new target launch date will be shared once confirmed.

The first stage had flown four times previously. Apparently during their standard dress rehearsal countdown and fueling before launch they detected something that cannot be immediately resolved.

NASA awards construction company $57 million development contract for lunar construction

Capitalism in space: NASA today awarded a $57 million development contract to ICON, a Texas-based company that specializes in building 3D-printed homes on Earth, to begin work on designing habitats for the Moon.

As noted in this report:

The newly announced NASA contract, granted via the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program, will help the company mature its tech and procedures. ICON plans to use the money to learn how lunar soil, or regolith, behaves in lunar gravity using simulated samples and real ones brought back by the Apollo missions, company representatives said.

The company will also test its hardware and software on a space mission that simulates lunar gravity. And there will be an even more ambitious trial, if all goes according to plan. “The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement,” [CEO Jason] Ballard said in the statement.

ICON has already built a prototype 3D-printed Mars habitat that NASA plans to use to train astronauts for long missions.

Orion enters retrograde lunar orbit

Engineers today successfully completed an engine burn that put Orion into the retrograde lunar orbit in which it will remain for the next week.

Due to the distance of the orbit, it will take Orion nearly a week to complete half an orbit around the Moon, where it will exit the orbit for the return journey home. About four days later, the spacecraft will harness the Moon’s gravitational force once again, combined with a precisely timed lunar flyby burn to slingshot Orion onto its return course to Earth ahead of splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, Dec. 11.

As of now all systems seem to be working as intended.

Launch of Ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander delayed two days

Ispace yesterday announced that the launch of its Hakuto-R lunar lander, carrying a number of private and government payloads including the UAE’s Rashid rover, has been delayed two days to November 30, 2022 due to weather and scheduling issues.

The spacecraft will be launched from Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket. The weather and the Thanksgiving holiday forced NASA and SpaceX to push back the launch of a cargo Dragon to ISS to November 26th. This in turn impacted Hakuto-R’s launch date.

Controllers lose contact with Orion for almost an hour

NASA engineers unexpectedly lost all contact with Orion for 47 minutes just after midnight last night.

NASA’s Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston unexpectedly lost data to and from the spacecraft at 12:09 a.m. CST for 47 minutes while reconfiguring the communication link between Orion and Deep Space Network overnight. The reconfiguration has been conducted successfully several times in the last few days, and the team is investigating the cause of the loss of signal. The team resolved the issue with a reconfiguration on the ground side.

At present the loss of signal caused no issues with the spacecraft. However, its cause has not yet been pinpointed.

Orion successfully enters its preliminary lunar orbit

NASA’s Orion capsule today successfully completed a 2.5 minute engine burn this morning to put it in its preliminary lunar orbit around the Moon.

At the time of the burn, Orion was 328 miles above the Moon, travelling at 5,023 mph. Shortly after the burn, Orion passed 81 miles above the Moon, travelling at 5,102 mph. At the time of the lunar flyby, Orion was more than 230,000 miles from Earth.

The outbound powered flyby burn is the first of two maneuvers required to enter the distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft will perform the distant retrograde orbit insertion burn Friday, Nov. 25, using the European Service Module. Orion will remain in this orbit for about a week to test spacecraft systems.

NASA has been bragging that when this orbit sends Orion 40,000 miles past the Moon, it will be the farthest a man-rated spacecraft has flown from Earth since Apollo. Though true, this fact is somewhat trivial. First, SpaceX could have easily put a Dragon capsule on its first Falcon Heavy launch, instead of a Tesla, and sent that capsule into interplanetary space beyond Mars. Second, Orion is not capable of taking any astronauts farther than lunar orbit. Thus, NASA’s achievement here is somewhat overblown. Orion is not an interplanetary spaceship. It remains nothing more than an overpriced, overweight, and over-designed ascent-descent manned capsule.

Japan to stay on ISS to 2030 in exchange for an astronaut flight to Gateway

NASA yesterday announced that Japan has agreed to remain on ISS through 2030, the first international partner to do so, and in exchange will get a Japanese astronaut flight to the Lunar Gateway station.

Under the Gateway Implementing Arrangement, NASA will provide an opportunity for a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut to serve as a Gateway crew member on a future Artemis mission. This formally represents the first commitment by the U.S. to fly a Japanese astronaut beyond low-Earth orbit aboard NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft.

I remain very doubtful in the long run these flights will occur on SLS, which simply cannot launch frequently enough to make the entire program viable. More likely with time the rocket will be replaced by other commercial carriers.

NASA awards Starship a second manned lunar landing contract

Capitalism in space: NASA yesterday modified its manned lunar lander contract with SpaceX to award Starship a second manned lunar landing for $1.15 billion.

Known as Option B, the modification follows an award to SpaceX in July 2021 under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) Appendix H Option A contract. NASA previously announced plans to pursue this Option B with SpaceX. The contract modification has a value of about $1.15 billion.

…The aim of this new work under Option B is to develop and demonstrate a Starship lunar lander that meets NASA’s sustaining requirements for missions beyond Artemis III, including docking with Gateway, accommodating four crew members, and delivering more mass to the surface.

NASA is also accepting bids for a competitive second manned lunar lander, but has awarded nothing as yet.

Combined with earlier investments and contracts, SpaceX now had garnered about $13 billion for developing Starship and Starlink, about $9 billion from private investment capital and about $4 billion from NASA, with most of the cash used for Starship. In addition, the company plans another investment funding round that will raise its valuation to $150 billion.

SLS might have flown once, but it appears both NASA and the investment community is increasingly putting its eggs in the Starship basket.

The lunar surface is arid

The uncertainty of science: According to a paper published at the end of October, scientists have used data from the LADEE lunar orbiter (that circled the Moon in 2013-2014) and found that the surface of the Moon is extremely arid, and if there is any ice trapped in the permanently shadowed craters at the poles it did not come from meteorite impacts elsewhere on the Moon. From the abstract:

The upper bound for exospheric water derived here from data collected in 2013–2014 by the neutral mass spectrometer on the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft [LADEE], about three molecules/cc, pales in comparison to the concentration of ∼15,000 molecules/cc needed to sequester the meteoritic water influx. The only pragmatic conclusion is that the hypothesis for water ice accumulation at the poles due to exospheric transport is false.

The theory had been that any water from these meteorites could have been transported by various processes to the polar cold traps. This data says that did not happen, and if there is water ice in the polar cold traps, its origin remains unknown, though comet impacts at the poles might have been a source.

This result also appears to contradict other orbital data that has suggested there is some water in the lunar regolith at mid and low latitudes.

Watching the first SLS launch tonight

At this moment, with weather 90% favorable and the countdown underway, the first launch of NASA’s SLS rocket appears go for a 1:04 AM (Eastern) launch tonight.

You can watch the live stream on NASA TV here, which will begin at 3:30 pm today and mostly be NASA propaganda intermixed with descriptions of the rocket, its payloads, its full mission, and updates on the launch countdown.

NASA’s live stream is now embedded below, beginning at 10:30 PM (Eastern) when actual coverage of the final countdown begins. I would still suggest that you wait until at least 12:30 AM (Eastern) before watching, as those first two hours will still be filled with a lot of NASA propaganda blather.
» Read more

CAPSTONE successfully enters lunar orbit

CAPSTONE successfully entered orbit around the Moon today, putting it into the planned Lunar Gateway halo orbit to test operations in that location.

CAPSTONE is now in a near-rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO. This particular NRHO is the same orbit that will be used by Gateway, the Moon-orbiting space station that will support NASA’s Artemis missions. CAPSTONE is the first spacecraft to fly an NRHO, and the first CubeSat to operate at the Moon.

Mission engineers plan two more engine burns over the next five days to refine the orbit more precisely.

Advanced Space wins lunar orbiter contract with Air Force

Advanced Space, the company that is presently running the CAPSTONE mission that will arrive in lunar orbit on November 13th, has won a $72 million contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory to build and operate a new experimental lunar orbiter.

The mission, dubbed Oracle, is targeting a 2025 launch and will operate in lunar orbit for two years.

“Our primary goals for the program are to advance techniques to detect previously unknown objects through search and discovery, to detect small or distant objects, and to study spacecraft positioning and navigation in the XGEO realm,” said James Frith, the principal investigator. XGEO refers to the space beyond geosynchronous orbit out to the moon. Oracle will operate in the vicinity of Earth-moon Lagrange Point 1, about 200,000 miles from Earth. The GEO belt, by comparison, is about 22,000 miles above Earth.

An additional goal of Oracle is to help mature AFRL’s green propellant technology. “While there are no specific plans yet to refuel Oracle, AFRL wants to encourage civil and commercial development of on-orbit refueling services,” said Frith.

The federal government’s transition from the building rockets, spacecraft, and satellites to simply buying them from the private sector continues. In the past, when the Air Force attempted to design and build everything, a project like this would have cost at least five times more and taken two to five times longer to get launched. Now, it hires Advanced Space to do it, and gets what it wants quickly for lower cost.

Japan issues license allowing Ispace to do private business on Moon

With the launch of Ispace’s first lunar lander, Hakuto-R, only two weeks away, the private company has obtained a license from the Japanese government to conduct private transactions on the Moon.

The license allows Ispace to complete a contract awarded by NASA in December 2020, to acquire regolith from the lunar surface to sell to the space agency. During M1, Ispace is expected to collect regolith that accumulates on the footpad of the landing gear during the touchdown on the surface, photograph the collected regolith and conduct an “in-place” transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith to NASA. After ownership transfer, the collected material becomes the property of NASA, under the Artemis program. Under the contract, the lunar regolith will not be returned to Earth.

Under a second contract awarded to Ispace’s subsidiary [Ispace EU] … Ispace EU will acquire the lunar material on its second mission scheduled for 2024 as part of the HAKUTO-R program. An application for Mission 2 will be submitted to obtain a separate authorization.

This mission will also land the UAE’s first lunar rover, Rashid.

According to the Outer Space Treaty, it is the responsibility of each nation to regulate the private operations of its citizens in space. This action thus follows the laws that Japan has passed to supervise commercial space companies.

Streaks on the Moon

Streaks on the Moon
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, reduced and enhanced to post here, is an oblique view taken by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of the rays that were created when four million years ago an object smashed into the Moon’s far side and produced the 13.75 mile-wide Giordano Bruno crater.

Rays are formed as material ejected from an impact event slams into the surface and churns up local material. Rays are bright because they expose fresh material from depth (both the incoming material and locally churned soil). What is fresh material? Over time the lunar surface is impacted by micrometeoroids and bombarded by radiation; both processes work to darken the surface. The dark “mature” layer at the surface is often only about 50 cm (20 inches) thick, so energetic impacts can easily bring up fresh material from the subsurface. Eventually, the bright rays darken and fade into the background as the surface matures.

In this image, you can see where the ejecta blocks from Giordano Bruno hit the surface, creating a secondary crater, which dug up local material and spread that bright material downstream (so to speak).

The image itself is 4.78 miles wide, at its center, and was snapped from an altitude of 66 miles.

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