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Moon’s Interior Has 100 Times More Water Than Previously Thought? June 14, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, water.
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Space.com has reported that a new study has shown that the Moon’s interior may have 100 times more water than previously thought.

The study of volcanic glass beads found during Apollo suggests that the minimum level of hydroxl—a minor element found throughout the moon—is much higher than estimated when it was first detected in 2008.

“It is gratifying to see this proof of the hydroxyl contents in lunar apatite. The concentrations are very low and, accordingly, they have been until recently nearly impossible to detect. We can now finally begin to consider the implications – and the origin – of water in the interior of the moon.” – Washington University lunar scientist Bradley Jolliff, “Research Suggests Water Content Of Moon Interior Underestimated”, NASA

While this isn’t quite as epic as other recent discoveries of water on the Moon, it’s yet another drop in the bucket towards illustrating that the Moon is not the bone-dry place it was once thought to be—and another hint that we’ve just barely begun to understand what secrets (and benefits) the Moon may hold :)

Check out the Space.com article for more of the geologic details on hydroxl and the source of this water!

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Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #22 June 9, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Google Lunar X Prize, Google Lunar X Prize Roundup.
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Here’s your roundup of Google Lunar X PRIZE goodness from a week that saw private space history made:

SpaceX’s First Falcon 9 Flight Successfully Reaches Orbit! June 4, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in private sector, SpaceX.
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In a big step for the prospects of private space, SpaceX‘s first test launch of their Falcon 9 rocket was a success!

With a lot of customers already lined up to use the Falcon 9 (including NASAGoogle Lunar X PRIZE team Astrobotic; and private space base builder Bigelow), getting one to orbit on the first try (versus the fourth try with the Falcon 1) helps quiet a lot of the questions underlying many of these customers’ efforts, particularly NASA’s shift towards relying on private space. A pretty historic milestone, the idea of increased access to space—and the Moon—just got a little bit more ‘when’, and not ‘if’.

Here’s a video of the launch, which includes the always neat on-board-rocket views:

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #21 June 4, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Google Lunar X Prize, Google Lunar X Prize Roundup.
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With private space making headlines, it’s time for Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #21! This round will cover May25th-June 1st, and I’ll have one up early next week for June 1st-June 8th.

All the GLXP goodness from the days of May:

Japan Planning Robotic Moon Base for 2020! May 28, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Japan, robotic moon base, rover.
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By way of Universe Today and Popular Science, word comes from Japanese tech outlet Node that Japan now has plans for a robotic moon base to be completed by 2020!

The ~$2.2 billion base will feature some pretty hardcore robots—including 660-pound beasts and robots that could potentially range within a 60-mile radius of the base. (For a comparison, the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are 387 pounds each, making them the largest unmanned. NASA’s manned Lunar Electric Rovers would have been 5,000 pounds with 596-mile total trips, though, so grander vehicles have been planned before).

These aren’t your mother’s rovers, either—these robots could have a degree of decision-making autonomy as they complete their tasks.

The base will be located near the lunar south pole, where plentiful sunlight makes it the prime location for solar power.

2020 sounds pretty ambitious, but if you think about it, the GoogleLunar X PRIZE has companies landing rovers by 2013/2014, so having simply more rovers together building a base isn’t all that extreme for 2020. Especially with 200 billion yen.

Popular Science brings up an interesting potential side benefit of the project:

“Even if Japan falls short of its 2020 deadline, the advances in robotics technology that could fall out of this little project could be as exciting as the moon base itself.”-  Clay Dillow, “Japan Plans a Moon Base by 2020, Built By Robots for Robots“, Popular Science

Much like NASA shifting its plans to drive industry (and the economy) at home, JAXA investing in such a major robotic project could help drive Japan’s robotic industry to new levels.

Regardless, this is an exciting project, and could well prove to be one of the major historical beachheads for colonization and mining efforts :)

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #20 May 25, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Google Lunar X Prize, Google Lunar X Prize Roundup, Luna C/I.
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Crickets chirping around the Google Lunar X PRIZE this week…only two items for you!  (There’s been as many as fourteen in one week before.) Get into gear, GLX-Peeps! Big things must be coming, right? ;) Well, here’s the two new items from the teams this past week:

Check out my Twitter GLXP List for a lot of these updates as they come in real-time…if you have any additions for it or related sources you think I should keep tabs on, drop me a line in the comments below :)

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.

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #19 May 17, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Google Lunar X Prize, Google Lunar X Prize Roundup.
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Here’s this week’s dose of Google Lunar X PRIZE goodness—like last week, pretty quiet, but still some cool things stirring:

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.
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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 :)