Some very cool news out of Japan today where researchers say they have found an enormous lava tube stretching about 50 km (31 miles) under the lunar surface
The cavern, found in the Marius Hills area on the near side of the moon, is about 100 meters wide and extends for about 50 km, according to data taken by JAXA’s Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE), also called the Kaguya moon probe.
GREENBELT, Mary. (NASA PR) — While the moon’s surface is battered by millions of craters, it also has over 200 holes – steep-walled pits that in some cases might lead to caves that future astronauts could explore and use for shelter, according to new observations from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.
The pits range in size from about 5 meters (~5 yards) across to more than 900 meters (~984 yards) in diameter, and three of them were first identified using images from the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft. Hundreds more were found using a new computer algorithm that automatically scanned thousands of high-resolution images of the lunar surface from LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC).
Japan’s now-finished lunar mission found no water ice Spaceflight Now
High resolution imaging sensors on the Japanese Selene/Kaguya lunar orbiter have failed to detect any signs of water ice in permanently shaded craters around the South Pole of the Moon.
Selene’s sensors were, however, able to able pierce the darkness to reveal details detailed deep in Shackelton crater that has been a top candidate for south polar ice as a resource for later human exploitation.
Although the Japanese spacecraft found no ice it did find a crater much deeper than other lunar craters of a similar diameter and internal temperatures that could support ice delivered by comets over billions of years.
Two unmanned NASA spacecraft have just arrived at the moon to look again for water ice, that would be a critical resource aiding future human lunar exploration.
Robert C. Reedy, a senior scientist at the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute, is mapping the moon’s surface elements using data gathered by an advanced gamma-ray spectrometer (GRS) that rode aboard the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft.
The Japanese lunar orbiter Kaguya ended a successful mapping mission with a controlled crash into the lunar surface at 2:25 p.m. EDT. The 3-ton spacecraft had been orbiting the moon since 2007. Scientists will study images of the impact to learn more about the surface.
We will post images as they become available from the Japanese space agency JAXA.
The KAGUYA, who carried out its regular operations for about 10 months and post-operational observations for about 8 and half months, is scheduled to be maneuvered to be dropped near GILL Crater (around 80 degrees east longitude and 63 degrees south latitude) on the moon’s front-side surface at 3:30 a.m. on June 11 (Japan Standard Time.)
As the KAGUYA’s expected landing position is in the shade on the Moon, we many be able to witness some flash from its collision; therefore, we are now informing all related organizations both in Japan and overseas of its falling time and location.
Please note that the KAGUYA’s falling time and location are subject to change as we further analyze its orbit and conditions.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) successfully captured a movie of the “Full Earth-Rise” using the onboard High Definition Television (HDTV) of the lunar explorer “KAGUYA” (SELENE) on September 30, 2008 (Japan Standard Time, JST, all the following dates and time are JST.) The KAGUYA is currently flying in a lunar orbit at an altitude of about 100 km.
JAXA has published some really cool images of the lunar surface produced by its Kaguya (Selene) orbiter. These include:
Topographical map of the moon 10 times more accurate than any previous one.
â€œFull Earth-riseâ€ without any wane. This is the first time that a high-definition image of the full Earth has been captured from space.
Images of the Apollo 11 landing site on Mare Tranquillitatis.
Belated congratulations are also in order: the Kaguya mission team was honored with a Laureate Award by Aviation Week & Space Technology last month. This is the first Japanese mission to be honored in such a way.
The BBC has a great story about the HDTV footage sent back from lunar orbit by the Japanese Selene (Kaguya) spacecraft. The story features links to three spectacular videos that were unveiled this week at Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston.