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Potentially Icy Northern Crater Mapped By LRO July 7, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in lunar mining, lunar North Pole, lunar polar regions, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, lunar water, NASA, Rozhdestvenskiy, water.
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NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has mapped for the first time in high resolution a crater of interest for potential ice deposits.

A permanently-shadowed crater within the larger, northern Rozhdestvenskiy, the LRO’s advanced Mini-RF imaging technology was able to bring out the Circular Polarization Ratio (CPR) of the crater and its surroundings. A stark contrast between the two suggests thick deposits of ice, as were shown generally to exist around the north pole earlier this year.

You better get used to ‘Rozhdestvenskiy’, as deposits will surely make this an icy hotspot for future lunar missions and subsequent (lucrative) mining efforts.


LRO Image of the Week: The Rolling Stones Wish You Were Here? May 23, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, LRO Image of the Week, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, Schmitt, selenography.
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For this edition of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Image of the Week, we summit the central peak of Tsiolkovskiy— a conspicuously dark crater on the far side of the Moon.

The location of Tsiolkovskiy, via Google Moon.

The darkness, like the mare, comes from a floor that filled with lava. The unusual nature of Tsiolkovskiy led it to be considered as a landing site for Apollo 17 or the later Apollo missions that were cancelled. As no Apollo missions ended up going to the far side, that’s still a cookie left to be had—the first man to ever reach the far side of the moon. (Side note: the dark side of the moon and the far side are actually separate concepts; the Moon does rotate, just perfectly in sync with Earth, so the far side does have day and night, with the lunar night at any given time being ‘the dark side’.)

The LRO image at top shows a litany of boulders, many with trails behind them visible (rolling stones on the far side…all we need are beetles and a zeppelin-shaped craft, and we’ve got a true rock odyssey). For these locales where no man has gone before, the incredible hi-def eye of the LRO can finally take us deep into the places we longed to explore 40 years ago.

LRO Image of the Week #3: It’s a Zoo Out There May 16, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in LRO Image of the Week, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, Moon Zoo, selenography.
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This week’s image is the most interesting selection I received upon my initial perusings for Moon Zoo. Moon Zoo’s a new citizen science project, recruiting you to help sort through images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and identify items of interest in them.

This section, near the notable crater Aristarchus (brightest on the Moon by a wide margin), is brimming with all kinds of rocky activity! A rather unusual landscape.

Check out my post from this week on Moon Zoo and head over there to get your own selection of images (and the interactive lunar map made from LRO images—super hi def!—under the “My Moon Zoo” section).

Moon Zoo Launched—Help Map the Moon :) May 12, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, Moon Zoo, selenography.

An awesome new citizens science project from Zooniverse has now launched— Moon Zoo!

Using images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Moon Zoo project recruits you to help point out significant lunar craters and items of interest from a wide variety of landscapes. Randomly selecting LRO images for each user to analyze, Moon Zoo gives you a chance to pick up some cool lunar geology (and selenography) expertise on the fly while hunting for everything from boulder fields to the remains of spacecraft :)

You can even see on the “My Moon Zoo” page where the images you’ve inspected are located—on a map that, being from hi-def LRO images, gives some spectacular zoom! Crack open Google Earth’s Moon View and get a headstart on your mental lunar atlas :) (Turns out some of the most interesting images from my first batch were from near Aristarchus!)

It’s a lot of fun! Check out that video above for a tutorial, go sign up, and get your lunar nerd on :)

LRO Image of the Week #2: Eagle Has Landed May 7, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, hoax theories, LRO Image of the Week, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter.
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This week’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Image of the Week is perhaps the Orbiter’s most famous (already): it is an image of the Apollo 11 lunar lander (Eagle) on the surface of the moon!

This image (and others of Apollo landing sites) is a nail in the coffin of the various Apollo hoax theories still floating around out there. As long as these images (and the entire LRO mission) are not themselves hoaxes ( ;) ), this snapshot of the Eagle’s final lunar aerie serves as clear proof that we did, in fact, actually land people up there.

The module is tiny amongst the Sea—located by the long shadow it casts in the early dawn light (center of image).

For more on those long lunar shadows, check out my first LRO Image of the Week; and, be sure to check back next week for #3 :)

NASA Images Lunokhod 2 Rover March 19, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, Roscosmos, rover, Russia.
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NASA’s busy Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has solved a longstanding mystery: it has found the final resting place of the russian Lunokhod 2 rover.

The Lunokhod 2’s 37-kilometer journey ended after a trek through a small crater ended up covering its arrays with soil. Canadian professor Phil Stooke has noted this image as a discovery of the final resting place, though apparently there is some Russian dissension on the idea it was ever lost at all. Regardless, it’s exciting to have such great images of important historical artifacts on the lunar surface :)

Besides the Lunokhod, the LRO has imaged many of the Russian craft left on the Moon—and not to mention, the Apollo 11 lander and other significant American sites (bye bye, hoax theories?).

There’s tons of goodies to be had in the LRO image library, of all spectrums, so check it out :) Towards the end of the mission, or perhaps sooner, I’ll be recapping some of the best highlights of the LRO’s findings right here.

NASA’s “Moon Bombing” For Water Ice Tonight—A Quick Explanation October 8, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in LCROSS, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA, Obama, private sector, water.
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NASA’s surprisingly controversial “moon bombing” with the LCROSS craft is set for tonight, at 4:30am!

A lot of people (and I mean a lot–Twitter has been on fire , 38 Tweets on it in past ~30 seconds) are wondering why NASA’s doing this, and some are expressing levels of outrage.

A quick explanation: Water ice is important to moon colonies (and beyond—the oxygen and hydrogen can be used to make rocket propellant, which is incredibly expensive to launch off of Earth; and thus, the Moon could be a cost-effective ‘gas station’ for Mars and beyond), and this event tonight is a key study to whether it exists in shadowed craters sensors can’t see into.  (See this great article from Universe Today for more on why water on the Moon is valuable.)

The LCROSS will drop it’s spent Centaur rocket (non-explosive, basically a large piece of metal) into the Cabeus A crater, and the LCROSS itself will follow into the crater, taking readings as it goes (and eventually impacts the same location).

The $79 million spent on the mission could pay itself back for the U.S.—private space development is a rapidly growing industry, one that Obama has suggested could be valuable to an economic turnaround. Companies are already set for a variety of commercial applications (including an extremely promising alternative energy, as explained there by Apollo 17 astronaut/geologist Jack Schmitt) , but the presence of valuable water ice gives them another lucrative motivation.

This will be a historic event—the mainstream-public attention alone has guaranteed that, and the successful discovery of water ice will be yet another spur to an already charging “base race” back to the Moon  (for resources, this time) :)

You can watch the impact live on NASA TV at 4:30am PST (and there’s even a free watching event at OMSI here in Portland, OR.)

LCROSS Has New Crater in Crosshairs for Impact September 30, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Cabeus, LCROSS, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA, water.
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Google Moon image of Cabeus and the South Pole

NASA announced on Monday that the LCROSS‘ hairs have picked a new target for its Oct. 9th impact: the larger Cabeus crater instead of Cabeus A.

As you can see in the Google Moon image above, Cabeus is both near the south pole and deeply shadowed—increasing the chance for hidden water ice that the LCROSS’ moon-bombing (using one of its spent rockets) hopes to stir up.

The impact is occurring at 4:30am PST Friday, Oct. 9th—with viewing events you can join, including one here in Portland, OR at OMSI. (I’d go, but I’ll actually be at work…full-time graveyard shift :) ).

Keep your crosshairs targeted here for coverage of the impact and its results :)

LRO Begins Mapping Lunar South Pole (Future Base Location) September 20, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA, Shackleton.
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As OnOrbit reports, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has gotten all its equipment calibrated and begun mapping, specifically the lunar South Pole and Shackleton Crater. This is where the real fun begins, if you will :)

Due to near-constant sunlight, the south pole is the ideal location for solar power, and therefore for a base.

Check out the full mosiac and more nifty info at this mission blog post.

NASA’s First LRO Images Released! July 5, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, Mare Nubium.
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The first images from NASA’s recently-launched Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter were released last week:

An Image of Mare Nubium

They show two cratered locations near Mare Nubium (the “sea of clouds”), in the southwest of the near side  of the Moon.

Check out NASA’s article on the images for the full skinny on the location and other goodness :)