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Science And Discovery Channels Will Broadcast A Live Moon Landing

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google lunar xprizeThe way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so goes the old saying. And apparently the quickest way to the minds of potential future space experts is to exploit American audiences’ appreciation for reality entertainment with space-related TV specials. Or make an app. Following in the tentative footsteps of the Mars One mission/competition series, Discovery Channel and Science Channel have teamed up for a miniseries chronicling the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge. The plan is to follow the winning lunar lander into space to give a new generation of viewers the first live moon landing in over 40 years. The landers in the contest are all unmanned, of course, so this isn’t so much a giant leap for mankind as it will a linear, whirring roll for robots.

For a little background info, Google launched the Lunar XPRIZE as a way to jumpstart the privatized space race, which has become a more widespread (though not quite vertical) industry in recent years. $20 million goes to the first team that successfully lands a craft on the moon’s surface and travels 500 meters, all while sending pictures and video back to Earth in real time. The second place winner and other contestants split the remaining $10 million in prize money.

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China Will Launch Moon Rover Yutu On December 1

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yutuWhile the U.S. and Russia haven’t spent much time in the last few decades focused on getting back to the moon, China is stepping up their space program and will soon perform the first soft landing on the moon in 37 years. I bet it’s pretty dusty up there. The nation’s Chang’e-3 mission is set to launch a lander and rover (named Yutu by a popular vote) on December 1 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan province. (Technically, it’ll be December 2 their time.)

It will take around five days for Yutu to make it into lunar orbit, and it’s expected to land inside Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, on December 14. There’s a joke to be made here about putting Chinese food on board so that it would get to the moon in 30-45 minutes, but it feels slightly derogatory, and this is a celebratory news story.

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NASA May Slam An Asteroid Down On The Moon Like A Giant Domino

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asteroidUsing up resources then getting rid of the evidence has become such prevalent behavior in the U.S. that we may as well change the definition of “The American Way.” Instead of doing it with the usual goods such as food and water, NASA is planning on capturing an asteroid, getting all it needs out of it, and then throwing it away like a common Earth rock. But how do you logically get rid of something that massive? You crash it into the moon, that’s how. But chances are, anyone reading this won’t be alive by the time that happens. Not the silver-est of linings.

The plan is to metaphorically grab a hold of a near-Earth asteroid and get it into a stable orbit around the moon. There, it can be used for exploratory and research purposes, remaining in place for multiple visitations during its years of use. “We think we have a lot of options,” said Steve Stich, deputy director of engineering at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We haven’t really talked about it in detail about all those kinds of things we can go do, but certainly we have enabled, by the way we have designed this mission, multiple visits to the asteroid.”

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China Will Land A Probe On The Moon By The End Of 2013

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china rocketWhile we here at Giant Freakin’ Robot would never claim to be xenophobic, we admit that a good portion of our news about China has to do with their box office totals and their heinous censorship of movies. But we should have been paying more attention to their ascent in the space race, as they’ve moved past exoplanet hunts and their manned trip to the Chinese space station Tiangong 1. In a press statement, the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense said they are now finished with their plans and construction of an unmanned rover which they intend to land on the moon by the end of this year. (Cue dramatic theremin note.)

The mission is called Chang’e-3, after a mythological character who resided in a lunar palace. The implications of the name are clear, even though it’ll be years before they’re able to send their own astronauts there. But the point is, they aren’t held back by having a lower budget than NASA, or by getting a later start than the U.S. and Russia in the galactic rush. They’re setting goals and they’re reaching them, which has got to make their citizens proud. Incidentally, they set 2020 as the date for their manned lunar mission.

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The Moon Shows New Evidence Of Subsurface Water

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MoonWhen it comes to space science, finding water on the moon has been something of a holy grail to astronomers and scientists for decades. While it would of course be more informative to stumble across a fully formed civilization that could just communicate all of the satellite’s secrets, nothing is so easy, and discoveries have been slow going. But now NASA‘s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), onboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has identified the existence of subsurface magmatic water on the moon, which could lead to a better understanding of how it formed. The research was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Amazingly, it’s the first time magmatic water has been identified from lunar orbit, and backs up the previous research done some months back on the moon rocks brought back from the Apollo missions. While it was once thought any water contained in those rocks was merely Earthbound contamination, the existence of hydroxyl (a molecule made up of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom) matches up with what the M3 found within the moon’s Bullialdus crater, which has a central peak comprised of rock that forms far below the lunar surface.

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Water Traces Found In Old Moon Rocks

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Moon

If you’re into the outer space side of science, you might agree that one of the most tiresome, yet profoundly exciting subjects is that of water on the Moon. Decades of questions have ended in frustration, though recent years have provided overwhelmingly positive evidence, with much of the visible proof on the South Pole, in giant ice deposits. And with no sign of an extraterrestrial snowcone stand around, that must mean it was there already.

Speaking of things being there already, you know those Moon rocks that came back with the Apollo missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s? For a study in Nature Geoscience, researcher Hejiu Hui from the University of Notre Dame revealed that infrared spectrometer tests recently showed that every rock taken from the Moon’s surface had water traces in it, including the famed “Genesis Rock.” Of course, we’re not talking about tap water or anything, but the chemical hydroxyl, which contains both the hydrogen and oxygen elements needed to produce water.

Because the hydroxyl is embedded so deep within the rocks, it’s assumed this means water has been on the Moon for all these years. Previous theories of its formation assumed it came into being as a big debris-ball after a Mars-sized asteroid collided with the Earth in its early years, a process that should have sent any remaining hydrogen hurtling into space. This theory has persisted as long as it has due to lower levels of efficiency in the instruments used to test the rocks soon after they were brought back. While early spectrometers could pick out chemicals at 50 parts per million (ppm), the current devices can detect 6 ppm in the anorthosites which form on the lower crust, and as low as 2.7 ppm in the upper crust rocks called Troctolites. This all means that the Moon’s rocks may have taken much longer to crystallize than research had previously shown.