What are the NASA launch pads made of

Skyweek two point zero

A year ago, the topic was hardly taken seriously, given the vague evidence at best, but that has suddenly changed thanks to a flood of discoveries by the current generation of lunar missions - and again there are new findings that make the overall picture appear more and more complicated.

  • Another instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter causes confusion, because the LEND neutron detector only registers the signature of water ice from a fraction of shady polar craters (including the Cabeus where LCROSS caused a cloud of water vapor to rise), while on the other hand ice also in well-sunlit lunar regions seems to occur. If this should be confirmed, we have not understood an essential process of the moon-water cycle - ice deposition in large quantities only in polar cold traps - but there are also certain doubts about the measurements themselves. (Nature Blog 2.3.2010, New Scientist December 22, 2009)
  • The radar Mini-SAR on Chandrayaan-1 found evidence of water ice in around 40 - correctly shaded - craters near the lunar north pole: Thanks to many internal reflections, this scatters circularly polarized radiation with the same direction of rotation, while normal ground scatters the direction turns around. The ice effect can also mimic the particularly rough ground that is to be expected in the event of an impact, but the mini SAR data show that the effect is limited to the smooth floors of the 2 to 15 km craters. And it only exists in permanently shaded craters. The radar is likely to have detected at least 600 million tons of water ice, in rough quantitative agreement with old neutron data from the Lunar Prospector. (NASA Feature, Air Space Mag Blog 1., ISRO Release, Tagesschau 2., Scientific American, Times of India, Space Today, Science Blogs 3.3.2010)
  • In the ejecta cloud after the LCROSS impact ("water ice ..."), in addition to water vapor, SO2, CH3OH and H2C4 have now been reliably detected. A clear answer to the origin of the water in Cabeus ("Das Wassereis ...") and its admixtures is apparently still being sought: In view of the variety of data, it now seems possible that the water on the moon could have several different sources. (Sky & Tel. 2.3.2010)
The delivery of moon water by comets or formation with the help of the solar wind, the transport of the molecules from one place to another and their long-term deposition have become a very fresh topic for planetary research - while Indians and Americans are barely fighting over the priority, who was the first to clearly demonstrate what: For the Indian press these 'lunar water politics' are already a topic ... (Times of India 03/03/2010) ADDENDUM: Science @ NASA and Discovery on the origin of the 'moon water'.

The laser retroreflectors on the moon are getting worse and worse, apparently the effect of - electrostatically raised and blown around - moon dust: Either it scratches the cat's eyes left behind by Apollo astronauts and Lunochod rovers or he just lies down on them. Either way, it changes the thermal properties of the mirrors, which reflect the earthly laser flashes particularly badly when the moon is full - but not during the totality of a MoFi. This makes it difficult to measure the lunar orbit, at least for smaller laser telescopes, which is still interesting for the search for subtle relativistic effects. And serves as a warning for the planners of futuristic optical observatories on the lunar surface. (Murphy & al., Preprint 3.3 .; New Scientist 15., Lunar Networks February 16, Science Blogs March 5, 2010)

Lava tunnels on the moon remain in the headlines

While the LROC camera of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has delivered new images of the well-known "Marius Hills Pit", where an underground lava channel has apparently collapsed, there is an image from the Terrain Mapping Camera on Chandrayaan-1 from the Oceanus Procellarum, where a Moon groove seems to run underground in parts. The Indian press is already speculating that a rover could be parked in such a moon tunnel ... (The Hindu 9.2., LROC Featured Image 1., Parallel Spirals 3.3.2010) ADDENDUM: lunar lava tubes as habitats for lunar inhabitants.

Another Chandrayaan 1 discovery: a "new kind of moon rock", which is dominated by magnesium spinel - this should not fit with current models of the development of the lunar crust. (The Hindu 9.2.2010)

Construction of Chandrayaan-2 begins this year

The 2nd Indian lunar mission - the start of which is planned for the 1st quarter of 2013 - is about the dropping of two moon rovers, each of which should last up to six months. In return, the number of instruments carried will be significantly smaller than with Chandrayaan-1 with its 11. And applicants from abroad have fewer opportunities this time. (The Hindu 2nd, DNA 27th, Sify 28.1.2010)

Chang’e-2 should achieve a resolution of up to 1 meter: The image resolution of the camera of the 2nd Chinese lunar orbiter - which is scheduled to start this year - is stated to be 7 meters, but it could rise to a meter at low altitude. In the meantime, China has announced that the technology will soon be ready for a moon landing, and even if there are explicitly no concrete plans for a manned one (which US politicians are so fond of conjuring up), the country’s engineers may at least have a mega Thinking about rocket in the style of Saturn V. (People’s Daily January 12, February 8, AW&ST March 5, 2010) ADDENDUM: “Around 2013”, Chang’e 3 is to start, with Lander & Rover. ADDENDUM 2: And a laboratory for moon rocks is already being considered.

Tags: Chandrayaan, Chang'e, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, moon, water
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