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

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.
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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.

Japanese private lunar lander HAKUTO-R now scheduled for launch on November 22nd

The private lunar lander HAKUTO-R, built by the Japanese company Ispace, has now been scheduled for a November 22, 2022 launch on a Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch of the first commercial lunar lander mission to attempt a landing on the Moon was originally scheduled between November 9 -15. However, ispace stated that after consulting with SpaceX, the new tentative launch date would be moved to November 22 because it “allows for best preparation for the mission when considering the fuel-loading schedule for the lander and launch date availability.” SpaceX has a busy schedule at the Cape and NASA still has the Artemis 1 launch scheduled for November 14.

HAKUTO-R’s primary mission is to test the lander. However, it also includes several customer payloads, the most significant of which is the Rashid rover from the United Arab Emirates. Rashid, which is about the size of a Radio Flyer red wagon, will operate for one lunar day, about two weeks. While its main mission is to test the engineering and to train the engineers who built it, it will have two cameras for taking pictures. In addition, on its wheels are test adhesive patches of different materials, designed to see how each material interacts with the Moon’s abrasive dust.

CAPSTONE makes course correction, now on target for lunar orbital insertion on November 13th

Engineers have successfully overcome the valve issue that had caused the CAPSTONE lunar probe to tumble, and have made a subsequent mid-course correction that has put the spacecraft on target for entering lunar orbit on November 13, 2022, as planned.

The CAPSTONE spacecraft successfully completed a trajectory correction maneuver on Thursday, Oct. 27, teeing up the spacecraft’s arrival to lunar orbit on Nov. 13.

CAPSTONE is no longer in safe mode following an issue in early September that caused the spacecraft to spin. The team identified the most likely cause as a valve-related issue in one of the spacecraft’s eight thrusters. The mission team will design future maneuvers to work around the affected valve, including the two remaining trajectory correction maneuvers scheduled before CAPSTONE’s arrival to orbit at the Moon.

Though it appears the CAPSTONE team has figured out how to deal with that malfuncting valve, it is unclear what the long-term ramifications of that valve will be. If it is still leaking it likely means the mission will be shortened because of loss of fuel, as well as the need to use more to compensate.

Lucy’s view of the Earth-Moon system during its October fly-by

The Earth and Moon system, as seen by Lucy
Click for original image.

Lucy's planned route
Lucy’s planned route to explore the Trojan asteroids

In the days prior to its October 16, 2022 fly-by of the Earth, the Lucy asteroid probe took several calibration images of the Earth and the Moon. The photo above, cropped, reduced, and enhanced to post here, shows both the Earth and the Moon together. From the caption:

On October 13, 2022, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft captured this image of the Earth and the Moon from a distance of 890,000 miles (1.4 million km). The image was taken as part of an instrument calibration sequence as the spacecraft approached Earth for its first of three Earth gravity assists. These Earth flybys provide Lucy with the speed required to reach the Trojan asteroids — small bodies that orbit the Sun at the same distance as Jupiter.

In the original, the Moon is so dim, compared to the Earth, that it was hard to find in the picture. I therefore brightened it considerably more than the Earth to make it easily seen above.

Chandrayaan-3 now scheduled for summer 2023

India’s second attempt to put a rover on the surface of the Moon, Chandrayaan-3, has now been tentatively scheduled for launch in the summer of 2023.

The launch had originally been scheduled for launch in the fall of 2020, but was delayed when India shut down due to the Wuhan panic. Official at ISRO, India’s space agency, had hoped to launch by the summer of 2022, but that proved impossible. They have now delayed the mission a full year.

In fact, all earlier reports had indicated the rover was almost ready. This new delay of a full year suggests that some new issues might have been identified.

The news article at the link also notes that ISRO is now planning two unmanned orbital missions plus four launch abort tests before launching its first manned mission, dubbed Gaganyaan, not two abort tests as previously planned. They are still targeting ’24 for the manned mission.

Ispace targets November 9-15 launch window for first commercial lunar lander

The private Japanese company Ispace has now scheduled the launch of its commercial lunar lander Hakuto-R on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for a November 9-15, 2022 launch window.

Though the lander’s primary goal is to see if this lander will work, it also includes several customer payloads, the most significant of which is the Rashid rover from the United Arab Emirates. Rashid, which is about the size of a Radio Flyer red wagon, will operate for one lunar day, about two weeks. While its main mission is to test the engineering and to train the engineers who built it, it will have two cameras for taking pictures. In addition, on its wheels are test adhesive patches of different materials, designed to see how each material interacts with the Moon’s abrasive dust.

Volcano on the Moon

Wide shot of lunar volcano

Close-up of lunar volcano
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) science team today released the oblique image above and in close-up to the right, showing what they call a “silicic volcano.” From the release:

The Mairan T dome is a large silicic volcanic structure with a pronounced summit depression. Remote sensing indicates that the composition of the volcanic material (lava) making up the dome is enriched in silica (SiO2). This rock type would be classified as either rhyolite or dacite on Earth, and the composition starkly contrasts with the dark, iron-rich mare basalts that embay the Mairan T dome. Most of the volcanism on the Moon is basaltic or iron-rich. Still, silicic volcanism also occurred on the Moon. Indeed, bits and pieces of similar materials were found in the Apollo samples; however, all are small fragments delivered to the Apollo sites as material ejected from distant impact events.

One of the great questions for lunar science is how the silicic materials formed. On Earth, specific tectonic settings and higher water contents in the rocks favor the formation of such lavas; however, the Moon lacks plate tectonics and water-rich sediments. NASA is planning a Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) lander mission to another, larger silicic volcano, one of the Gruithuisen domes, to address this question.

The scientists also note that this volcano formed first, and then was partly covered by the dark flood lava that surrounds it.

New computer simulation of theorized impact that created the Moon

The uncertainty of science: Before I even begin to describe this story, I must emphasize that it is pure science fiction. As much as it is founded on known data, that data is simply not sufficient to tell us exactly how the Moon was created. The data merely points to many hundreds of possibilities, of which the model below is simply one:

Computer programmers using a supercomputer at a United Kingdom university have created a new simulation of the theorized impact of a Mars-sized body to the Earth that some believe created the Moon, and determined it was possible for that impact to have created the Moon quickly, within hours.

You can read the research paper here.

The fun part of this story is to watch the video of this simulation, which I have embedded below. Whether it describes what actually happened is pure speculation, and in fact cannot be confirmed in any way at all.

It is intriguing, nonetheless.
» Read more

Engineers regain full control of CAPSTONE

After a month of careful tests and analysis, engineers today successfully regained full control of the CAPSTONE lunar orbiter, on its way to the Moon.

The most likely cause of the anomaly was identified as a valve related issue on one of the spacecraft’s eight (8) thrusters. The partially open valve resulted in thrust from the associated thruster whenever the propulsion system was pressurized. To attempt a recovery from this condition, the mission team conducted multiple tests on the vehicle and evaluated extensive telemetry and simulation data and then formulated a plan for attempting recovery of the vehicle’s full 3-axis control.

This recovery sequence was uploaded to the spacecraft yesterday (Thursday) and was executed early this morning (Friday 10/7). Initial telemetry and observation data after the recovery attempt points to a successful recovery of the system which has now regained 3-axis attitude control. The updated spacecraft attitude has oriented the spacecraft solar arrays to the Sun and implemented an orientation for the downlink antennas which significantly improves data downlink performance as compared to the pre-recovery attitude.

The spacecraft is not out of the woods yet. The engineers still need to figure out how to do future course corrections with “the possible presence of a valve that remains partially open.”

Nonetheless, that they have successfully regained full control means they have a very good handle on the issue, which bodes well for the lunar orbital insertion maneuver on November 13, 2022.

Engineers still struggling to regain full control of CAPSTONE

Though its batteries are now getting charged by the Sun, engineers have still not regained full control of the smallsat lunar orbiter CAPSTONE, presently on its path towards the Moon.

As per the latest update:

The CAPSTONE mission team is continuing to work towards recovery of the spacecraft full three-axis control. This work includes collecting information from the spacecraft, running simulations, and refining recovery plans. The vehicle remains stable and power positive in its current configuration.

In other words, they’ve got the spacecraft oriented so that its solar panels can gather enough sunlight to charge the batteries, but its attitude remains incorrect and they do not yet have CAPSTONE fully under their control.

The spacecraft arrives in lunar orbit on November 13, 2022. At that time however it will have to do an engine burn to enter lunar orbit, and if full control is not regained by then this burn will not be possible because engineers will not be able to point it correctly.

Lunar mountains and wrinkle ridges

Montes Recti on the Moon

Cool image time! The photo above, taken by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), was released today by the orbiter’s science team, and provides us an oblique look at the mountains dubbed Montes Recti (lower right) and the wrinkle ridges near them (lower left). The highest point in this mountain range is about 5,900 feet high.

The image looks west across the northern part of the mare region dubbed Mare Imbrium, the dark area on the Moon’s visible hemisphere near its top. In the distance can be the mountains that form part of mare’s rim. The rounded peak in the top right is Promontorium Laplace (about 8,530 feet high). It is named this because it projects out (a promontory) into the mare a considerable distance from the rim. The crater at top center is Laplace D. As for the wrinkle ridges, the scientists describe them like so:

Tectonic landforms are those formed by forces that act to either contract or pull apart crustal materials. These forces develop faults or breaks in the crustal materials, and movement or slip along the faults form either positive or negative relief landforms. On the Moon, positive relief contractional landforms are the most common. The most significant contractional landforms on the Moon are wrinkle ridges, found exclusively in the dark mare basalts.

Essentially, something caused the ground to contract, which caused it to break at these ridges and be forced upward.

Chang’e-5 samples suggest lunar meteorite impacts took place the same time as big Chicxulub impact

In analyzing lunar samples brought back by China’s Chang’e-5 Moon lander, Australian scientists have found evidence of lunar meteorite impacts that apparently took place the same time as big Chicxulub impact in the Yucatan 66 million years ago, thought by many scientists to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Their findings suggest that the frequency of meteorite impacts on the Moon may have been mirrored on Earth, and that major impact events on Earth were not stand-alone events and instead were accompanies by a series of smaller impacts. The study has been published in Science Advances.

“We combined a wide range of microscopic analytical techniques, numerical modelling, and geological surveys to determine how these microscopic glass beads from the Moon were formed and when,” says lead author Professor Alexander Nemchin, from the Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) in the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin University in Perth.

The data suggests two possibilities, neither of which is confirmed. First, the impacts could have occurred because a cluster of large objects hit both Earth and the Moon at the same time. Second, the impacts on the Moon could have been caused by objects thrown up from the Earth when the bigger impact occurred at Chicxulub.

Either way, the data suggests a greater and more complex interaction between events on the Earth and events on the Moon.

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