Kaguya and the Russians

Kaguya and the Russians

Kaguya and the Russians

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Oct. 10 2007 9:50 AM

Kaguya and the Russians

Funny-- in these days of probes to Saturn, Pluto, and Mars, I'm used to it taking months and years for a launched probe to reach its target.

It's easy to forget that the Moon is just a few days away.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


The Japanese probe Kaguya was launched just a couple of weeks ago, but it's already settled into taking data! This image, from the Lunar Picture of the Day, shows the probe itself (the high-gain antenna is on the right, and an instrument package on the left) with the Moon in the background. The craters have been labeled by Jim Mosher. Note that most of the craters have Russian names-- that's because it's the Moon's far side, and the first folks to see them were the Soviets! Their probes were the first to circle around the Moon and take images, and that gave them the right to name the features.

The Russians got there first with their robotic proxies, and then the Americans with robots and then humans, and now we have the Japanese. Soon there will be Indians and Chinese there, too.

The image above is from a small camera built specifically to monitor the antenna, and not do any science. The high-res cameras will take incredible images, with resolution of features down to a few meters! Next year, when LRO goes, it will have half-meter resolution. We will soon have maps of the Moon that rival those of the Earth. I hope Google is ready for it!

Tip o' the reentry shield to Larry Klaes.