Feeds

Japanese lunar orbiter to go out with a bang

Moon impact tomorrow for Kaguya

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency will be keeping its eyes peeled tomorrow for some brief fireworks when its Kaguya lunar orbiter slams into the Moon's surface at 6,000 km/h.

Since launching in September 2007, Kaguya (formerly called Selene), has probed the Moon's gravitational field, surface and composition, in the process sending back some nice HD video of Earth rise and Earth set via two smaller data relay satellites it deployed on reaching orbit around our satellite.

It's expected to end its mission at 18:30 GMT, piling into the Moon's near side round about here:

Expected Kaguya impact point on lunar surface. Pic: JAXA

According to New Scientist, viewers can expect a "brief flash" as Kaguya goes out with a bang - coming in at an extremely shallow angle to the ground and possibly skipping across the surface "like a stone across a pond".

Kaguya mission spokesperson Shin-ichi Sobue said: "It's a final show for the Japanese people."

Scientists may also enjoy a plume of dust thrown up by the collision "like snow thrown up by a skier ploughing through powder", as Bernard Foing, project scientist of the European Space Agency's SMART-1 probe, described it.

SMART-1 also ended its days in a high-speed encounter with the lunar surface back in 2006, later followed by China's Chang’e 1. In November last year, India joined the bash-the-Moon club when it successfully fired its Moon Impact Probe as part of the Chandrayaan-1 mission.

These impacts are not, however, solely to satisfy space scientists' evident enthusiasm for throwing things at the Moon. Kaguya's demise could produce "an elongated scar, exposing fresh soil, or regolith, to the harsh environment of space".

This, says lunar impacts expert Peter Schultz, of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, could lead to a new research opportunity as observers "watch how the lunar soil weathers over time under solar radiation and bombardment by smaller meteoroids".

The much-harrassed Moon will next enjoy the attentions of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) - slated to blast off together on 17 June.

The LRO will "scout for safe and compelling lunar landing sites, locate potential resources with special attention to the possibility of water ice, and characterize the effects of prolonged exposure to the lunar radiation environment".

Centaur rocket separates from Shepherding Spacecraft. Pic: NASALCROSS, meanwhile, is tasked with sniffing out water at "the permanently dark floor of one of the Moon’s polar craters". Fans of tech-lunar smashes will be relieved to learn the mission includes a Centaur rocket, launched from a "Shepherding Spacecraft" (see pic), and which will whack into the surface "at more than twice the speed of a bullet".

After the impact, the Shepherding Spacecraft will descend along the rocket's trajectory to sample the resulting debris plume for possible water, before itself going out in a crash "so big that we on Earth may be able to view the resulting plume of material it ejects with a good amateur telescope". ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.