The Lunar Orbiter image of Copernicus Crater, taken forty-six years ago, has been re-released after significant refurbishing..

Oblique image of Copernicus taken in 1966

Reboot: The Lunar Orbiter image of Copernicus Crater, taken forty-six years ago, has been re-released after significant refurbishing.

By adding modern computer interfaces and data handling techniques, the LOIRP was able to scan and record the data in ways that simply could not have been accomplished in the 1960s. As a result the images that were obtained had a much higher resolution and dynamic range than had been seen to date. Indeed, in many cases, these images often rival or exceed images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter which is currently surveying the Moon.

You should definitely check it out, as it is a breathtaking image. Historic too, as it was the first image from the Moon that truly made the place understandable.

At a conference in Washington DC yesterday both Russia and Japan announced the Moon as their next primary space exploration goal.

The new colonial movement: At a conference in Washington DC yesterday both Russia and Japan announced the Moon as their next primary space exploration goal.

If the U.S. gets a competitive private aerospace industry going — which seems increasingly likely — I’m willing to bet those companies will get to the Moon before either of these governments.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has published another spectacular oblique image of Tycho crater.

Tycho Oblique image thumbnail

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has published another spectacular oblique image of Tycho crater.

If you look closely at the slope of the mountain, you can see an avalanche trail at its center and the debris piled up at the mountain’s base.

See the first oblique image, released in June 2011, here. The two images look at the crater from opposite directions.

If there is water ice on the Moon, scientists have found that the bombardment from interstellar cosmic rays has likely caused chemical reactions that “can create complex carbon chains similar to those that help form the foundations of biological structures.”

Life stranger than science fiction: If there is water ice on the Moon, scientists have found that the bombardment from interstellar cosmic rays has likely caused chemical reactions that “can create complex carbon chains similar to those that help form the foundations of biological structures.”

Using its Space Launch System and Orion capsule, NASA is aiming for an unmanned test flight around the Moon in December 2017.

Using its Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule, NASA is aiming for an unmanned test flight around the Moon in December 2017.

Two important tidbits revealed by this article: First, the first test flight of Orion will use a Delta 4 Heavy rocket. Two, NASA hopes to have its heavy lift SLS rocket ready for the 2017 mission.

Forgive me for being cynical, but I will believe the second tidbit only when it happens.

The head of Russia’s space agency makes news again

The following stories are all the result of statements made by Vladimir Popovkin, the head of Roscosmos, the Russian Federal space agency, during a radio interview yesterday.

This is the same guy that only a few weeks ago was throwing accusations at the U.S. for the failure of Phobos-Grunt.

What should we make of these statements? First, everything Popovkin says is aimed at fund-raising. Whatever his background, he is a political appointee whose job is to generate interest and funding for Russia’s space program. Everything he says in public must be weighed against this reality. That he first tried to shift the blame to the U.S. for Phobos-Grunt’s loss was an effort to absolve his program from any blame and thus reduce the possibility that the Russian government might cut his funding. Now that his agency has gotten approval of its insurance payment for the failure, however, he is free to say otherwise.

Second, these announcements give us a clear indication of where the Russia space effort is heading, and that effort looks both thoughtful and intelligent.
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Studying the Moon by starlight

The Moon's south pole by starlight

In a paper published today in the Journal for Geophysical Research, Planets, the science team for Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter describe how they have used starlight to peer into the permanently shadowed craters of the Moon’s north and south poles. Looking only during the lunar night, they measured the dim albedo of the Moon from reflected starlight. From this very weak signal they were able to cull two interesting facts about these very cold and very dark places.

  • The ground at the bottom of these craters is more porous than the surrounding unshadowed terrain.
  • There is evidence in the spectroscopy of 1 to 2% water frost in these craters.

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An audit by NASA’s inspector general finds that NASA can’t keep track of its moon rocks

An audit by NASA’s inspector general has found that NASA can’t keep track of its moon rocks.

In a report issued by the agency’s Inspector General on Thursday, NASA concedes that more than 500 pieces of moon rocks, meteorites, comet chunks and other space material were stolen or have been missing since 1970. That includes 218 moon samples that were stolen and later returned and about two dozen moon rocks and chunks of lunar soil that were reported lost last year.

A breathtaking view of the Apollo 15 landing site

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team has released a wide angle side view image of the Apollo 15 landing site, showing the lunar module and the areas around Hadley Rille and the Apennine Mountain range that the astronauts explored using their lunar jeep. Below is a cropped close-up, showing the landing site near the top of the image with Hadley Rille near the bottom. Below the fold is a second image showing a wider view that includes the Apennine mountain slope that the astronauts drove their rover up.

Close up of Hadley Rille and Apollo 15 landing site

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The moon contains a vast resource of titanium

There’s gold in them hills! Actually, it’s titanium, and it’s on the Moon.

The highest titanium abundances on Earth are around 1 percent or less. The new map shows that in the [Moon’s] mare, titanium abundances range from about one percent to a little more than ten percent. In the highlands, everywhere TiO2 is less than one percent. The new titanium values match those measured in the ground samples to about one percent.

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