Lunar missions: the start of an ending for one, the start of a beginning for another
JAXA reported today that "The relay satellite 'OKINA (RSTAR)' made an impact on the lunar surface on February 12, 2009 (JST), and the four-way Doppler measurement mission was successfully completed." Okina was just a tiny subsatellite deployed by Kaguya; but Kaguya will be following its baby to the ground later in the summer -- it's the beginning of the end of the mission. Through an amazing coincidence, today is also the day that four papers' worth of Kaguya results has been published for the first time, in the journal Science. I'll take a look at them later today.
Kaguya: successful deployment of Rstar satellite
The lunar orbiter Kaguya carried two microsatellites to be deployed in their own orbits. This animation documents the successful separation of the first of these, called Rstar. In the first image, the octagonal prism of Rstar is visible on the left; in the second image, the bottom of the Rstar microsatellite can faintly be seen toward the top, and the VRAD satellite is revealed on the right side, still attached to the spacecraft. The deployment happened on October 9, 2007 at 00:36 UTC. Okina orbited the Moon until February 12, 2009.
And Wednesday marked the first steps toward space for the next lunar mission, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The spacecraft was "canned" and loaded onto a truck for its journey from Goddard Spaceflight Center, in Maryland, to Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, where it'll be stacked with LCROSS onto their shared launch vehicle, undergo final prelaunch tests, and head for the Moon on April 24.
NASA / Andy Freeberg
LRO is canned and shipped
On February 11 (top), Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was encased in a protective shipping container. Very early the following morning, it departed Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, on a road trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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