JAXA Spacecraft Data Indicate Massive Lava Tube on Moon

The SELENE (Kagiya) orbiter studied the moon using radar. (Credit: JAXA/SELENE/ Crescent/Akihiro Ikeshita)

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.

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Lunar Pits Could Shelter Future Explorers, Settlers

This is a spectacular high-Sun view of the Mare Tranquillitatis pit crater revealing boulders on an otherwise smooth floor. This image from LRO's NAC is 400 meters (1,312 feet) wide, north is up. (Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
This is a spectacular high-Sun view of the Mare Tranquillitatis pit crater revealing boulders on an otherwise smooth floor. This image from LRO’s NAC is 400 meters (1,312 feet) wide, north is up. (Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

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).

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Kaguya Finds No Sign of Water on Moon

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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.

Read the full story.

Kaguya Finds Uranium on Moon

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PSI MISSION UPDATE
June 26, 2009

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.

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Kaguya Low-Altitude Pass and Impact Photos

 

The video above shows Japan’s Kaguya probe making a low-altitude pass above the moon in April.

Kaguya’s impact on the moon was captured by the Anglo Australian Telescope on Wednesday. The images appear to be copyrighted, so here’s a link.

Kaguya Crashes into Moon

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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.

Kaguya Impact Information

The latest update on Japan’s Kaguya lunar orbiter, which will make a controlled impact on the moon Wednesday.

Expected impact date: 18:30, June 10, 2009 (GMT) Near side, night time area

Expected impact location: E80, S63

Lunar phase & age on impact date: 17.3 (London)

Kaguya Lunar Probe to Strike Moon on June 11

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JAXA MISSION UPDATE

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.

Kaguya Captures Earth Rise in HDTV

Check out this amazing movie of the Earth rising over the Moon shot by the Japanese Kaguya orbiter.

JAXA PRESS RELEASE
9 October 2008

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.

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JAXA Produces Most Accurate Topographical Map of Moon; Team Wins Award

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.
  • “Full Earth-rise” 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.

Japan marvels at its Moon movies

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.