Tag: moon

With Cernan’s Passing, America Has Lost Half its Moon Walkers

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apollo-11
With the passing of Eugene Cernan on Monday, America has lost half of the 12 Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972. All the surviving astronauts from the Apollo lunar program are in their 80’s.

Cernan, 82, was the last man to step off the moon during the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972. He and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt spent three days on the lunar surface while command module pilot Ronald Evans orbited overhead.

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NASA Administrator Reflects on Legacy of Gene Cernan

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Gene Cernan in t he lunar module Challenger during Apollo 17. (Credit: NASA)

Gene Cernan in t he lunar module Challenger during Apollo 17. (Credit: NASA)

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the passing of Gemini and Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan:

“Gene Cernan, Apollo astronaut and the last man to walk on the moon, has passed from our sphere, and we mourn his loss. Leaving the moon in 1972, Cernan said, ‘As I take these last steps from the surface for some time into the future to come, I’d just like to record that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow.’ Truly, America has lost a patriot and pioneer who helped shape our country’s bold ambitions to do things that humankind had never before achieved.

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Last Man on the Moon Gene Cernan Passes Away

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Gene Cernan on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

Gene Cernan on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, died Monday, Jan. 16, surrounded by his family.

Cernan, a Captain in the U.S. Navy, left his mark on the history of exploration by flying three times in space, twice to the moon. He also holds the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last human to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.

Photo gallery of Eugene Cernan

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The Year Ahead in Space

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Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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Bridenstine Weighs in Favor of Lunar Development

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Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

In a Dec. 29 blog post titled, Why the Moon Matters, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) calls for the United States to focus on the economic and strategic benefits of the moon.

Bridenstine is reported to be a leading candidate for the position of NASA administrator in the Trump Administration. The space agency is focused on sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s. However, the new administration might refocus NASA on returning astronauts to the moon.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog post.

Utilizing propellant and materials on the Moon is also the first step for manned missions deeper into our solar system.  A permanent human presence on other celestial bodies requires in situ resource utilization.  The Moon, with its three-day emergency journey back to Earth, represents the best place to learn, train, and develop the necessary technologies and techniques for in situ resource utilization and an eventual long term human presence on Mars.  Fortunately, the Space Launch System and Orion are close to being developed and will start testing in 2018.  This system, with a commercial lander, could quickly place machines and robots on the moon to begin the cis-lunar economy.  With the right presidential guidance, humans could return in short order as well…this time, to stay.
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Will Trump Refocus NASA on the Moon?

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Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

After a meeting with president Donald Trump on Wednesday, historian Douglas Brinkley told reporters the president elect “was very interested in a man going to the moon and the moon shot so we were talking a little bit about that.”

This could mean that Trump will refocus NASA’s deep space exploration on the moon rather than Mars. On the other hand, it might mean nothing.

Some observers have noted that Trump’s position on issues often reflects what he discussed with the last person he talks to. Brinkley is from Rice University in Houston, a city that is home of NASA’s Mission Control.

Trump also has a habit of disavowing things he has said, even if the tweeted it for anyone to see or said it on television with millions of people watching.

So, it’s possible that at some point in the near future, Trump will say he never said anything about sending astronauts to the moon, accuse Brinkley and the journalists who quoted him of lying, and threaten the launch the whole lot of them into the sun.

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China Space Program White Paper Outlines Lunar & Mars Missions

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china_flagA white paper outlining China’s space policy for the next five years calls for a sample return mission to the moon, a landing on the far side of Earth’s closest neighbor, and the launch of an orbiter and lander to Mars by 2020.

China will also begin constructing a permanent space station and research and development work on a heavy-lift launcher, reusable boosters and satellite servicing systems.

The nation also wants to expand international cooperation in areas that include remote sensing, space applications, lunar and planetary exploration, and human spaceflight.

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Astrobotic CEO Skeptical Anyone Will Win Google Lunar X Prize

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Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)

Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton, whose company announced its withdrawal for the Google Lunar X Prize, doesn’t have a lot of hope that anyone will win the $30 million competition next year.

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GLXP Update: Team Hakuto Rover to Hitch Ride on Team Indus Lander

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Moonraker during its field test (Credit: HAKUTO)

Moonraker during its field test (Credit: HAKUTO)

Team Hakuto of Japan has announced plans to place its lunar rover aboard a landing craft being launched to the moon by Google Lunar X Prize rival Team Indus of India.

The announcement comes as U.S.-based Astrobotic announced it was withdrawing from the $30 million competition to land the first private rover on the moon. Team Hakuto was one of three teams planning to launch payloads to the moon next year aboard Astrobotic’s spacecraft.

Astrobotic now plans to launch its rover to the moon in 2019 with a second rover from Team Hakuto aboard. That flight will be too late to win the Google Lunar X Prize, which requires teams to launch their rovers by the end of 2017.

The competition has a $20 million prize for the first privately built rover to travel 500 meters across the surface and transmit high-definition video. There also is a $5 million second prize.

Astrobotic Pulls Out of Google Lunar X Prize

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Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)

Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic has pulled out of the Google Lunar X Prize, according to an update on the Space Angels Network website.

As a former XPRIZE contender, Astrobotic was the only team to win all three of the competition’s Milestone Prizes, which brought the company $1.75 million in prize money. Astrobotic is now poised for further success: Their Peregrine Lander will carry customer payloads to the Moon’s surface in 2019, including the rovers of three other GLXP competitors. These initial customers, who have had an opportunity to evaluate all potential service providers, have said that Astrobotic is “years ahead of the competition.”
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Private Lunar Exploration Company ispace Collaborates With JAXA on Lunar Resource Development Initiative

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TOKYO (ispace PR) — ispace, inc, a private lunar robotic exploration company, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to jointly create a roadmap for lunar resource development. Under this agreement, both parties will utilize their knowledge and network to develop plans and frameworks for creating an industry around lunar resource mining, delivery and utilization.

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JAXA Takes Step Toward Lunar Mining

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jaxalogoJapan has taken a first step toward developing a lunar mining industry.

Japan is leaping into space resources, agreeing to work with a robotic-exploration company to create a blueprint for an industry to extract resources from the moon that would enable more extensive space exploration.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Japan’s space agency, said Friday that it signed a memorandum of understanding with Tokyo-based ispace technologies Inc. to work on building an industry “for the mining, transport and use of resources on the moon,” according to a statement by ispace. A spokeswoman for the agency, known as JAXA, confirmed the agreement….

Ispace manages business operations for Team Hakuto, the only Japanese competitor for the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize competition. Sixteen teams are competing to land a probe on the moon, move it 500 meters, and send high-definition photos and video back to earth by the end of 2017.

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GLXP Update: TeamIndus Announces Launch Contract

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Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

TeamIndus, the only Indian team in the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), has announced a contract with the ISRO space agency to fly its lunar rover aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) next year.

The team is hoping to win the $20 million first prize for the first privately-built rover on the moon. The vehicle will need to travel 500 meters across the surface and beam back high-definition video to Earth. The competition also has a $5 million second prize.

TeamIndus officials said the ISRO contract has been verified by the X Prize Foundation, which runs the competition. Four other teams have announced launch contracts: Moon Express, PTScientists, SpaceIL and Synergy Moon. The foundation has verified the contracts for all of these teams except for PTScientists, which announced its agreement earlier this week.

The foundation set a deadline for the end of this year for competition’s 16 teams to have their launch contracts verified. Any teams without launch agreements will be dropped from competition.

TeamIndus said it needs to raise $65 million to pay for the launch and the mission. It is in negotiations with other teams without rides to the moon to carry their rovers to the surface.

The team’s chances of winning GLXP money will depend upon the competition extending its deadline for winning the prize beyond Dec. 31, 2017. The launch is not scheduled until Dec. 28. The spacecraft will then take 21 days to spiral out to the moon and land there.

The other issue is that launch schedules are notoriously unreliable. ISRO is no exception. It’s a pretty big bet to except the agency to launch on time. The schedule also gives TeamIndus no room for delays on hardware that isn’t even built and tested yet.

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NSS Urges Trump to Lead Lunar Base Construction

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nss_logoWASHINGTON, DC, November 30, 2016 (NSS PR) — On Saturday, October 8th, the National Space Society (NSS) organized a workshop directed at recommending a space policy to the new Administration. Eleven thought leaders from government, industry, and academia gathered in a fruitful collaboration to produce a set of five recommendations.

Steve Jurvetson, a partner at the well-known Silicon Valley Sand Hill Road venture capital firm DFJ hosted the meeting at the DFJ offices. NSS has submitted the resulting white paper to the Trump Transition Team. The paper can be viewed at The paper can be viewed at http://www.nss.org/legislative/positions/NSS-DFJ-Workshop-Recommendations-Nov-2016.pdf.

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GLXP Update: PT Scientists Announce Lunar Launch Contract

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Part-Time Scientists rover. (Credit: Audi)

Part-Time Scientists rover. (Credit: Audi)

PT Scientists has announced it has secured a launch contract through Spaceflight Industries to place two rovers on the moon next year to visit the Apollo 17 landing site. The rovers and a landing vehicle will fly as a secondary payload on an unidentified booster.

The team is trying to win the $20 million first prize in the Google Lunar X Prize. It is one of 16 teams left in the competition, which expires on Dec. 31, 2017.

PT Scientists have been working with Audi to develop two lightweight rovers to explore the site in the Taurus–Littrow valley where Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the last men to walk on the moon in December 1972.

The team has submitted its launch contract to the Google Lunar X Prize for verification. Teams need to have verified agreements by the end of this year in order to continue in the competition. Three teams have verified contracts: Moon Express, SpaceIL and Synergy Moon.

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