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Emily LakdawallaDecember 28, 2007

Kaguya has begun science operations

EDIT: I've been contacted by Shin-Ichi Sobue of JAXA, who told me that they plan to post some stills from the recently released videos early in the new year. He also identified the crater I pointed to in the last video linked below. Keep your eyes on the Kaguya Image Gallery website for more still images, and the JAXA Video Archives for more movies.

This press release came out before Christmas, in Japanese, and I didn't have time to work through the translation to English; for once, my procrastination has paid off, and JAXA has now posted their own translation of the news that their lunar orbiter Kaguya has completed its shakedown and entered the science operational phase of the mission. It's now returning regular data from eleven science instruments, two mini-satellites, and its high-definition camera. There were a couple of problems reported with two instruments, the X-ray spectrometer and the charged-particle spectrometer, but both instruments are being operated at least part of the time with part of their capability as the Kaguya mission team attempts to work through the problems.

They've posted a bunch more videos from the high-definition camera, too, which I am unfortunately unable to repost here because they are posted in such a way that you can only access them from the JAXA website. This is more than a little frustrating. Across the world, space missions are publicly funded, so their data products are usually public, and can be redistributed freely across the Internet for everyone to share; such open policies feed public enthusiasm for space missions, encouraging public support for their tax dollars going to future missions. But while Kaguya is publicly funded, the HD camera is not -- it was provided in part by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), and they appear to be keeping tight hold of the data products, releasing the videos only in this streamed format and also considerably reduced from their original resolution. I inquired about the copyright policy through Tasuku Iyori, Director of The Planetary Society of Japan; and he forwarded me this reply from JAXA's public relations department:

The copyright of the HDTV movies are shared by JAXA and NHK under the JAXA-NHK agreement. Under that agreement, JAXA has a right to provide full high vision movies by HDTV to educational purpose in schools without any charge. JAXA can also use full HD movies in science museums and at the other JAXA's events to promote KAGUYA and JAXA activity as well as educational purpose in cooperation with NHK.

To promote full high vision movies by HDTV onboard KAGUYA in USA, JAXA already started the dialogue with NASA LRO [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter] project since NASA has an agreement with the American science museum society. So, we believe you can see full HD movies of the Moon captured by HDTV onboard KAGUYA at science museums and schools in USA when JAXA has an agreement with NASA about this topic.

...which seems to indicate that the full-resolution high-definition video is only going to be made available free of charge to schools and museums. (I assume that part of their agreement with schools and museums is that the data cannot then be placed on the Internet.) That's too bad, because it seriously limits the reach and impact of the data.

Anyway, enough complaining; here's some links to the reduced-resolution videos now available from the Kaguya website. They've been adding quite a lot of them in recent weeks. If anyone reading this knows where I can find higher-resolution videos or stills, or if you could possibly get me a couple of screen caps from each of these videos, I would greatly appreciate an email!

There are two new videos featuring Earth; this very dramatic one from November 21 starts in darkness, with the Sun off (but forward of) the camera making all kinds of colorful spots in the frame, then a crescent Earth rises as the spacecraft passes over the pole into the sunlit part of the Moon. (Allegedly, Venus is in the picture somewhere too, but I think the resolution is too low for it to be visible.) This one taken on December 4 shows a gibbous Earthset taken by the telephoto camera, which faces out the rear; it's the only telephoto camera one of all the dozens of recent releases, as far as I can tell. All the rest are wide-angle. Here's a neat one showing how black the crater-filling mare basalts are in comparison to highlands rock in the crater Tsiolkovskiy on the far side. And one more showing rumpled highlands topography with a nice, sharp, relatively fresh central peak crater near the end. I didn't have time to look up the crater before posting. Thanks to Sobue-san I now know that this crater is Jackson, 128 kilometers in diameter, at 18.1 N / 133.4 W, on the farside.

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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