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Friday, 2 October 2015

Charon is beautiful, first private Moon landing set for 2017

Stunning new pictures of Pluto's moon Charon:

The New Horizons spacecraft has returned some jaw dropping pictures of Pluto's largest moon Charon to Earth. Even better the images have been made into an amazing virtual flyover of the moon's world spanning canyons and weird moated mountains....

Above:Virtual Charon flyover, courtesy of JPL/NASA.

Above: A side by side colour view of Charon and Pluto. NASA/JPL

Above: A detailed zoom in on the canyons. JPL/NASa

Charon with its world spanning canyons and strange red cap, in colour. JPL/NASA

Meanwhile the data still coming back from the mission on Pluto seems to indicate a far more complex world than anyone imagined. Even it's ultra thin atmosphere is showing layers and hazes that no-one expected.....
Above: Pluto's atmosphere, backlit. The layers you see aren't optical illusions, they're  layers of particles, floating over the surface in the ultra thin 'air'. NASA/JPL

 Private Moon landing in 2017:

Above:This is not my garden after I returned from holiday and forgot to ask the neighbour to water it. My garden was full of dead plants. This is the Moon, it never had plants to start with.

Moon Express , a private company, plans to send two robots to the Moon in 2017 to scout it for resources. Their MX-1 lander will first head to the Moon on a shakedown run, testing out systems and stretching the designs lunar legs. The miniature lander will be launched on a Rocket Labs Electron rocket, a launch system little bigger than a large missile, and designed for small spacecraft launches. This will keep the launch cost below $5 million, and  Moon Express hopes to spark a revolution in lunar exploration.
"We think the collapse of the price to get to the moon is going to enable a whole new market — kind of like the 4-minute-mile of space," Said Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards.
Above: Artists impression of lunar ice and hydrocarbons, hidden in permanently shadowed areas.

A successful landing would put Moon Express in a position to claim the $20 million first place Lunar X prize, although other teams in the race have said they plan to launch their own vehicles to the Mon in 2016.

Asteroids and volcanoes killed dinosaurs :

Above: The many hundreds of meters of frozen lava, put down by the Deccan Traps eruption

A long standing argument may end in a tie: For many years an argument has been raging as to whether it was gigantic asteroid impact in chicxulub, Mexico, that killed the dinosaurs, or the massive volcanic eruption of the Deccan Traps at around the same time that did them in. Now it seems that both may have happened at the same time, making the dinosaurs incredibly unlucky - or implying some as yet unknown link between the two disasters

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