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Lunacy [Sep. 14th, 2007|10:40 am]
Japan successfully launched their lunar spacecraft into Earth orbit, with a clean liftoff and separation. They'll now see if they can get to the moon where they will attempt the ambitious task of orbiting with the primary craft and releasing two mini-satellites. This is their first attempt at a moon mission and it'll be huge if they succeed.

The craft is nicknamed Shaguya after a princess of legend. It's formally named SELENE, the SELenological and ENgineering Explorer. (For those of you used to seeing "lunar" for moon names, selene is the equivalent from the Greek side rather than Roman.)

This puts the heat on China, Japan's primary space rival at the moment. Their Chang'e mission should launch soon. It's also named after a legendary lady associated with the moon (plus a large rabbit and a cinammon tree, IIRC).

Will we see some more interest from the "old school" players? Russia's announced that they want to attempt a manned moon mission. The US is heading that direction, with the Orion project replacing the shuttle. NASA's doing research (on RATS -- that's Research And Technology Studies) and moving along.

And I can't leave out Google's $30M X-Prize offer for a privately-developed lunar rover. Realistically, this is merely a publicity stunt and not nearly enough money to garner serious attempts. Enterprises like Musk's Space-X have sunk an estimated $100M just developing a private orbital launch vehicle. (And they aren't quite there yet.)

So keep an eye on the latest race to the moon and hope that the US is in there somewhere. We've gained a lot from our space programs over the years. What new directions will this take us, other countries, and the world?

Edit: Fixed Greek/Roman ordering.

[User Picture]From: drfgeek
2007-09-14 06:33 pm (UTC)

Bad pun. >.<
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[User Picture]From: brigus
2007-09-14 11:18 pm (UTC)
Think ya got yer Latin & Greek reversed. :-)
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[User Picture]From: kinkyturtle
2007-09-15 05:41 am (UTC)
Yeah he did. "Selene" is from Greek and "lunar" is from Latin. D'ohus!
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2007-09-17 09:26 pm (UTC)
Seems I got them backwards during the write-up and didn't catch it.

What sharp-eyed readers I have! :D
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[User Picture]From: kinkyturtle
2007-09-18 01:21 am (UTC)
Ow, I cut myself on my eye!
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[User Picture]From: menagerie73
2007-09-15 02:12 am (UTC)
Beat me to a space post again. :)

It will be huge if Japan can pull that off. That would elevate them to a distinct status among the space faring nations. The rest of the nations that made it to other bodies came from very large nations or combined agencies like the ESA. It gives a lot more overall momentum to getting there.

Coincidentally today is also the 48th anniversary of the first time human beings actually landed an object on the moon. Well, Perhaps "landing" is not quite the word to use, but it's the first time we got anything there.

Russia has been reviving a lot of cold war stuff lately in an attempt to regain their world influence. I suppose a try at the moon when we're doing it too was inevitable. I believe the Soviets were going to use Soyuz as their spacecraft to get to the moon. That design has been incredibly refined, so now all they need to do is develop a lander and lifting body. They should be there in no time.

I suppose it would be incredibly ironic for The U.S. and Russians to race to the moon in Apollo and Soyuz derived spacecraft.

Development of Orion/Ares seems to have a lot of momentum. I'm not sure if we'll be right on time with the predicted schedule. When has that ever happened? I do have confidence that the Ares I will launch very early next decade. A lot of finger crossing is happening in regards to the next administrations view on the whole project. Historically presidents haven't really cared what goes on in the space program, so they usually don't get in the way, but we could use a little boost now and again.
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