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NASA Selects Research Teams for Lunar Science Institute

NASA Lunar Science Institute. Credits: NASA

NASA has selected seven academic and research teams as initial members of the agency's Lunar Science Institute.

The institute supports scientific research to supplement and extend existing NASA lunar science programs in coordination with U.S. space exploration policy. The selection of the members encompasses academic institutions, non-profit research institutes, private companies, NASA centers and other government laboratories. Selections were based on a competitive evaluation process that began with the release of a cooperative agreement notice in June 2008. The next solicitation opportunity for new members will take place in approximately two years.

Sixteen Tons of Moondust

Lunex honorary board member Harrison Schmitt on the surface of the Moon. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 07.01.2008]
If you listen closely, you might hear a NASA project manager singing this song. Lately, Marshall Space Flight Center's Carol McClemore has been working at the end of a sledge hammer opposite a big pile of rocks, so she has good reason to sing the song Tennessee Ernie Ford made famous.

"I call it 'choppin' rocks,' " says McClemore, who manages Marshall's Regolith Simulant Team." The guys keep correcting me. 'It's 'bustin' rocks, Carole,' they say."

Four Out of Six Apollos

Apollo 17 lander on the Moon. Credits: NASA

[JPL Press Release - 23.12.2008]
Their names are now part of exploration history – Sea of Tranquility, Ocean of Storms, Frau Mauro, Hadley Rille, Descartes and Taurus-Littrow. They are the sites on the lunar surface visited by America's Apollo astronauts. Six unique locations. each with its own unique set of challenges to those who wanted to explore its secrets.

"To paraphrase an old bromide, those who forget the past are doomed to land like it," said Chirold Epp of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "Having looked at the Apollo landings I have come to two conclusions. One – those crews did a great job. Two – data from several of the landings support the idea that we must give future moon landers more information to increase the probability of mission success."

To Go Where No Spacecraft Has Gone Before

Astronauts and Lander on the surface of the Moon. Credits: NASA

[JPL Press Release - 23.12.2008]
Scattered loosely around the beltline of Earth's nearest neighbor are six silent sentinels, testaments to America's first moon program. Standing all of 10 feet high and 30 feet wide (from footpad to footpad), each of these lunar module descent stages is more than a historical artifact that powered two Apollo astronauts to a safe landing on the moon's surface. They are unearthly reminders of the challenges that future moon crews will encounter on their final approach to the unknown.

Next NASA Moon Mission Completes Major Milestone

LRO in orbit around the Moon. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 22.12.2008]
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has successfully completed thermal vacuum testing, which simulates the extreme hot, cold and airless conditions of space LRO will experience after launch. This milestone concludes the orbiter's environmental test program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The orbiter will carry seven instruments to provide scientists with detailed maps of the lunar surface and increase our understanding of the moon's topography, lighting conditions, mineralogical composition and natural resources. Data returned to Earth from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will be used to select safe landing sites, determine locations for future outposts and help mitigate radiation dangers to astronauts. The spacecraft will spend at least a year in a low, polar orbit approximately 30 miles above the lunar surface while the instruments work together to collect detailed information about the moon's environment.

Google Lunar X PRIZE to Announce 'Mystery Team' at NASA Ames

Google Lunar Xprize logo. Credits: Xprize

[NASA Press Release - 11.12.2008]
The X PRIZE Foundation will reveal the identities of a "Mystery Team" competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE during a media briefing hosted at NASA's Ames Research Center on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is an international competition among privately funded teams to land a robotic craft on the moon. The craft must be capable of completing several mission objectives, including roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to Earth.

MoonLite mission gets green light for next step

Artist impression of MoonLITE spacecraft. Credits: BNSC

[BNSC Press Release - 05.12.2008]
A possible UK-led Moon mission involving 'penetrator' darts that would impact into the Moon's surface will be the focus of a technical study to ascertain its feasibility, the British National Space Centre (BNSC) announced today.

Known as MoonLITE (Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecom Experiment), the mission aims to place a satellite in orbit around the Moon and deploy four penetrators to deliver scientific instruments below the surface of the Moon.

NASA To Recognize Winner of Lunar Lander Challenge

X Prize Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Logo. Credits: X Prize

[NASA Press Release - 01.12.2008]
NASA will recognize Armadillo Aerospace, the winner of the 2008 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, during a ceremony at 10 a.m. on Dec. 5 at NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street, SW, Washington. The winning vehicle successfully demonstrated some of the technologies needed for a lunar lander capable of ferrying payloads or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the moon's surface.

Chandrayaan-1 starts observations of the Moon

Moon surface imaged by Chandrayaan-1. Credits: ISRO

[ESA Press Release - 24.11.2008]
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-1 released a probe that impacted close to the lunar south pole on 14 November. Following this, the instruments on the spacecraft are being switched on to get the science observations started.

The Moon Impact Probe was dropped close to Shackleton crater, a place close to the south pole, where ice may exist in areas that are never illuminated by the Sun. It carried three instruments: a video imaging system, a radar altimeter and a mass spectrometer. The imaging system took pictures of the Moon as it approached the surface, the radar was used to determine the altitude, and the mass spectrometer was used to study the thin lunar atmosphere.

Racers Get Ready! NASA's Great Moonbuggy Registration Begins

NASA Great Moonbuggy Race logo. Credits: NASA

Registration is open for NASA's 16th annual Great Moonbuggy Race, taking place April 3-4, 2009, in Huntsville, Ala.

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