China’s Jade Rabbit lunar rover, also known as Yutu, suffered a potentially mission ending breakdown which prevents it from hibernating during the 14-day long lunar night. If it does not enter hibernation mode, the rover may cease to function. The Chinese space agency issued a light-hearted news release, written as if by the rover, to announce the issue.
China landed the Chang’e 3 probe on the Moon at Sinus Iridium on December 14 at 8:11 a.m. EST. The probe carries the lunar rover Yutu and makes China the third country, along with the US and the Soviet Union, the successfully send probes to the Moon. This is the first soft landing on the moon since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 landed in 1976. China launched Chang’e 3 on December 2 and it has been in Lunar orbit since December 7.
Images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter may show the crash site of the Lunar Orbiter 2, which helped map potential landing sites for Apollo missions in 1967. After completing its mission, NASA instructed the LO2 to crash into the farside of the moon, although the exact location of its crash was unknown. The LRO was launched in 2009 to fully map the lunar surface and create 3D maps for a potential return to the moon. The LRO has previously mapped all six Apollo landing sites and has found evidence of volcanism on the moon.
A speck of lunar dust about the size of a finger nail, which has been missing since shortly after it was brought back to Earth by the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, has been recovered by NASA and the US Attorney’s Office from an auction house in St. Louis. Originally lifted from a film canister, the dust was sold in 2001 to a German collector whose widow was trying to sell it. When informed of the dust’s provenance, she returned it to the US government.
India has ended its first unmanned lunar mission after attempting to regain contact with its lost spacecraft. India lost contact with Chandrayaan-I on August 29 and has determined that there is no way to reestablish communications, although India has requested help from both the United States and Russia in locating the missing craft. According to Indian sources, the satellite, which is already in lunar orbit, has completed most of its scientific missions and has already completed 3400 orbits.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has set up a website which will recreate the Apollo 11 mission in real time on the fortieth anniversary of the event. The website will go live at 8:02 AM ET on Thursday, July 16, ninety minutes before that anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch and will continue throughout the entire mission, which included Armstrong and Aldrin’s first walk on the moon on July 20.
On June 18, NASA launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the first US mission to the moon in a decade. The LRO is scheduled to orbit the moon and map it while looking for safe landing sites, locating potential resources, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technology. The orbiter is scheduled for Lunar Insertion on June 23.