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NASA Images Lunokhod 2 Rover March 19, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in : Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, Roscosmos, rover, Russia , add a comment

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.

Team Selenokhod Joins Google Lunar X PRIZE! September 27, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Google Lunar X Prize, Kosmotras, private sector, property rights, Russia, Selenokhod, Thomas Gangale , add a comment

This past week, a new Google Lunar X PRIZE team was announced—Team Selenokhod, the first Russian team to compete!

Their website has an interesting level of detail from the get-go. They sound seriously committed to post-GLXP commercial enterprises, and they mention their launch company— ISC Kosmotras, using Dnepr rockets.

It’s exciting to have such an advanced team joining the fray (and another nationality). I’ve been reading a book by Thomas Gangale on int’l space law and property rights, and so far I’ve gathered that while nations can’t claim sovereignty, if a private enterprise from their state does, then the parent state is considered somewhat responsible for the private entity and its actions/claims. So, having a serious Russian lunar effort confirmed could mean a lot for Russia’s lunar affairs as a state (and that goes for each team, and its parent nation[s]).

Keep an eye here for updates as Team Selenokhod develops and more teams enter the 20-strong field for the prize…

India Launches Chandrayaan 1 Moon Mission (News) October 22, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in : Base Race, Bulgaria, Chandrayaan, European Space Agency, Helium-3, Indian Space Research Organization, Japan, Kaguya, Roscosmos, rover, Russia, selenography , add a comment

Today, India’s Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched it’s first lunar mission, the Chandrayaan 1.

An unmanned lunar explorer (a la Japan‘s Kaguya), the Chandrayaan-1 (which is “moon craft” in Sanskrit) is set to map lunar topography in 3D, creating (as the ISRO puts it) a “3D atlas” and notably, chemical mapping of the lunar surface.

While I haven’t found any specific references to helium-3 in any Indian or other documentation of the Chandrayaan project, that prominent “chemical mapping” goal suggests that, like Russia, China, NASA, and others, India is seriously interested in the resource potential of the Moon.

The craft is carrying scientific payloads for six other organizations (check that link for specific pages for each one), including NASA, Europe’s ESA, and Bulgaria’s Space Research Institute.

This story got some big media play in the form of a huge front-page Drudge Report splash, with a huge picture of the Moon in the place usually reserved for the likes of Obama and McCain. Here’s that spectacular image (which ran with an “INDIA TO THE MOON!” headline):

I’m a little surprised at the high-profile coverage, as this Indian mission isn’t a whole lot different than JAXA‘s, which didn’t appear to get quite the same sort of media push. I think this speaks to the sort of excitement the Base Race can generate, especially as the significant 2010-2020 decade pulls closer (and as things domestically get more and more grim in the meantime).

The Chandrayaan-1 mission is expected to last for two years, with Chandrayaan-2, a joint Indo-Russian moon rover venture, shooting for 2011.

Picture of the Week: So You's Comfortable In There? October 14, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in : Int'l Space Station, Orion (craft), Picture of the Week, Russia, Soyuz, space tourism , add a comment

That is the interior of the Russian Soyuz craft, that is currently in the news for carrying the 6th space tourist, video game developer (and son of an astronaut) Richard Garriott, to the International Space Station for a few weeks (a trip that has it’s own web site).

The Soyuz, once the space shuttle is retired in 2010, will actually be the vehicle American astronauts will have to hitch a ride on (or, as appears to be the case now, the craft NASA will be buying from he Russians for our use) to get to the ISS and into space in general until the development of the Orion craft is completed.

For more on space tourism, check out Space.com’s whole section on it.

Picture of the Week: It's A Miner Thing, and They're a Miner King September 10, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in : Base Race, China, Fusion Power, Helium-3, Integration, Picture of the Week, Russia , add a comment

From the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Fusion Technology Institute (by way of the European Space Agency) comes an artist’s rendition of a Helium-3 miner.

Helium-3 is a resource that is rare on Earth, but plentiful on the moon. It’s drawn a lot of interest, including officially from China and Russia, as the primary fuel for fusion power, which is something of the ultimate power source: clean and efficient, one shuttle’s load of Helium-3 from the Moon would be roughly enough to power the United States for one year. And that’s just one load!

While fusion probably won’t turn up until around 2050, that’s about the time we’re expected to be running out of fossil fuels and potentially in need of a new energy source. So, the idea among Russia, China, the U.S., and potential commercial efforts would be to get a headstart on collecting the fuel by stockpiling it early, and developing some kind of dominance over the resource in order to gain leverage (and massive profits).

So, as a result, even though we might not be seeing fusion power itself for a while, we’ll be seeing (and hearing about) miners like the one above much sooner.

Picture of the Week: луна основа May 9, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in : Picture of the Week, Russia , add a comment

‘луна основа’ (or is it основа луна? My current knowledge of Russian grammar and diction is nonexistent, despite my ethnic roots) translates roughly to “moon base”, and not so roughly to a goal of modern Russia.

The above is a picture of the Moon above St. Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург). Yesterday, Russia (in theory) swore a new President into office, Dmitry Medvedev ( Дмитрий Медведев; that’s straight off Wikipedia, so that’s gotta be correct, right? :) ); a quick search turned up nothing on his record in relation to Russia’s moon base aspirations, but considering his relationship with Putin and the relatively recent announcement (August 31st, 2007) of the country’s official plans for a base by ~2032, things probably won’t change much. Though, dramatic moon missions always make for good PR, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Medvedev follow in Bush’s footsteps and have a large step forward in Russia’s moon efforts as an early kickstart to his term.

Basics of Moon Colonization, Part 1: When April 4, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in : Base Race, China, Japan, Russia, Sweden , add a comment

To get us started here at Luna C/I, here’s Part 1 of a quick ‘Visitor’s Guide’ to Moon Colonization, to help you loyal readers get acquainted with the basics of what’s rolling with M.C. in the early 21st Century.

Each of the bits noted in these features will be discussed in greater detail in the future, as developments occur and I complete more specific features on each program. So, without further ado, here’s the general details on When we’ll start seeing lunar bases popping up (and yes, that’s plural):

When: The good ol’ U.S.A. currently has a plan set down to have construction begin on the Moon for a base in 2019, with the base being completed in 2024. So, in a mere 16 years, the U.S. plans to have its moon base up and operational (with astronauts living there for 6-month shifts, like the Int’l Space Station).

Mind you now that the U.S. is actually not the only country with its sights set on the lunar real estate market. China has plans to have a moon base of its own, in a competitive timeframe to the U.S.’, with moon landings and numerous other missions in the next 15-20 years leading up to it. In addition, never being ones to get left behind, the Russians are getting into the act, planning (according to one article) to have a base up around 2025, and according to another planning to have a mine up (for the Earth-rare, but Moon-common fuel resource Helium-3) on the Moon by 2020.

And we’re just getting started! Japan’s base is planned to be operational by 2030, and even the Swedes have had plans in the works.

So that’s no less than five different countries that could have bases on the moon within a mere 25 years (!).

In the 1950’s and 60’s, we had the ‘Space Race’. Now, in the early millenium, it looks like the world is gearing itself up for a ‘Base Race’.