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Japan's SELENE space platform during final assembly  (Source: AP Photo)
JAXA has big plans for the moon, and the country is well ahead of the competition

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched an H-2A rocket designed to help the growing space agency explore the Earth's moon.  The Selenological and Engineering Explorer, or SELENE, separated from the H-2A around 45 minutes after launching from Tanegashima.

"We successfully launched the rocket and released the orbiter from the rocket," said Eriko Sunada, JAXA spokesperson.

JAXA describes the mission as the largest lunar mission since the NASA Apollo mission more than 30 years ago.  Using three satellites -- two located at polar opposites -- JAXA hopes to help learn more about the origin and evolution of the moon.  JAXA previously launched a lunar mission more than 15 years ago, but it was designed only to conduct fly-bys of the moon's surface.

The SELENE space mission has had its shares of ups and downs over the past five years.  After a delay of more than four years due to launch failures and computer glitches, the mission was scheduled to launch in mid-August, but was again pushed back due to hardware issues.  

Early indications show the engines and computer systems aboard SELENE are functioning normally.  The 10-month mission will officially begin operation in December.

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I wonder...
By DeepBlue1975 on 9/14/2007 10:28:07 AM , Rating: 1
What is so interesting about the moon?
I mean it seriously, I read news of lots of countries starting moon missions and I start doubting that it's just a "space race".
There has to be something pretty interesting that can be implemented in the not so far future because...
USA went there first, when the race with the soviet union was on.
Lots of years passed away and no one seemed to care that much about going to the moon, but now... We have a bunch of countries sending missions there.

As I've said, I doubt that "so many" countries are willing to spend billions on something that has a purpose as naive as "curiosity". I'm starting to guess that they can see those billions spent returning from "up there" in some years...

Am I making any sense or can what I'm saying be just a sign of my mind wrecking? :D

RE: I wonder...
By Master Kenobi on 9/14/2007 10:54:13 AM , Rating: 1
Want it quick and dry or detailed?

Quick and dry- Slingshot.

Detailed- The moon has much lower gravity, its possible to setup a base there and construct or assemble larger ships to function in space without having to deal with the problem of lifting such a large and heavy craft from the earth. This also allows us to send stuff to Mars much easier as we won't need to use 200 Ton's of rocket fuel to get the damn thing into orbit.

There is also the nice thing about having the ability to monitor stuff in space without the typical terestrial interference signals. Manufacturing in Zero-G helps for stuff like ball bearings, etc.... Most of all see the first explanation, that is what is largely driving this.

RE: I wonder...
By lumbergeek on 9/14/2007 11:16:34 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention that the moon gets hit with meteors all the time, and some very interesting minerals result. Sure, it's kinda dry, but mining the moon will be big some day. As for the argument that manufacturing there in zero G will happen - I debunk that. The moon does not have zero G, just lower. Lots of manufacturing will happen anyways. Expect smelters to process the minerals mined there into usable metals, ceramics and the like for further exploration.

Without an atmosphere, the moon makes a very good place to build observatories (probably automated/robotic).

Lots of options! I'm excited that somebody is actually planning to get back to work on such things. The US has been dropping the ball lately on space, somebody has to pick up the slack.

RE: I wonder...
By Samus on 9/14/2007 11:05:07 PM , Rating: 2
I hope to God we don't mine the moon. That could have adverse effects globally on earth.

RE: I wonder...
By LogicallyGenius on 9/15/2007 12:20:40 AM , Rating: 2
We must save the moon before the destruction begins

Just like Iraq was attacked on suspicions,

Either u r with us or against the Moon ;-)

RE: I wonder...
By Martin Blank on 9/15/2007 2:13:37 PM , Rating: 3
If we mined ten trillion tons of material from the moon, that would result in a loss of .0000000136 percent of the overall lunar mass. The effects of this will not be visible until possibly several hundred million years down the line when the distance has grown by a few extra meters.

RE: I wonder...
By S3anister on 9/14/2007 5:24:53 PM , Rating: 4
that and sony wants to take advantage of Low-G to manufacture newer and better PS3s with a higher price tag!

RE: I wonder...
By FangedRabbit on 9/14/2007 11:10:41 AM , Rating: 5
The moon controls the tides and the weather. So he who controls the moon, controls the earth. Muuuuuuuuhahahahaha

RE: I wonder...
By Icepick on 9/14/2007 12:56:26 PM , Rating: 5
There are those who believe women's menstrual cycles are linked to the moon too. When you reach the moon can you please get some control over my wife's period while you're at it. It would make life much more pleasant. Thanks

RE: I wonder...
By MrBungle123 on 9/14/2007 11:17:31 AM , Rating: 3
There is also large amounts of helium-3 which is very rare on earth but could be used as fuel for future fusion reactors.

RE: I wonder...
By maven81 on 9/14/2007 11:34:12 AM , Rating: 2
Bingo, they all want the moon for it's resources. Helium 3 being the most valuable.
While China maybe also be politically motivated (as they have something to prove), Russia has openly stated they have an economic interest...

RE: I wonder...
By Terberculosis on 9/14/2007 12:01:04 PM , Rating: 2
Let us not forget the abundant titanium and aluminum.

The moon would also make for a fantastic biotech research facility. We would be virtually assured that there could be no release or contamination of the local biosphere.

RE: I wonder...
By boogle on 9/17/2007 4:30:31 AM , Rating: 2
Aluminium is the most abundent metal on Earth - it's just expensive to isolate due to electrolysis. Titanium isn't exactly rare either - but it's not only expensive to refine, it's dangerous / polluting due to release of Chlorine. There's other processes being researched and used though, but the most common is expensive and polluting.

Also many microbes can live in space, so it wouldn't be 100% safe researching even on the moon imo.

RE: I wonder...
By James Holden on 9/14/2007 3:07:55 PM , Rating: 2
There is also large amounts of helium-3 which is very rare on earth but could be used as fuel for future fusion reactors.

Keep in mind this is proposed. It's certainly just a theory at this point if the He3 is even there, let alone whether or not it will be useful or easy to obtain.

RE: I wonder...
By DEVGRU on 9/14/2007 11:32:59 AM , Rating: 2
The moon is very important to anyone that wants to lead humanity into space, be it advanced research, exploration, colonization, or mining operations.

First off space exploration as we know is insanely expensive. The reason is the massive amounts of energy needed to break free from the earth's gravity. Look at the Saturn V rocket. A massive, towering structure 363ft tall, weighing 6.7 million pounds, engines that deliver 7.6 million pounds of thrust - to do what? Deliever 130 tons to low earth orbit, and ultimately deliver 52 tons to the Moon.

Establishing a base or permenant colony on the moon would allow the use of zero-g manufacturing and assembly, and after that, almost infinitesimal amounts of energy (compared to earth) to launch any vehical. The moon is also out side the earth's radiation field, outside of all the space junk that that orbits the earth (satellite's new and old), and as we all know - exports some of the best green cheese available anywhere. :)

There are loads of other reasons the moon will be essential to anyone's goal of leaving mother earth for Mars and the other planets, asteroid mining ops, the stars and beyond.

/me goes back to playing EVE

RE: I wonder...
By kyp275 on 9/14/2007 1:21:02 PM , Rating: 3
There are loads of other reasons the moon will be essential to anyone's goal of leaving mother earth for Mars and the other planets, asteroid mining ops, the stars and beyond.

/me goes back to playing EVE

bust out that Hulk and start mining them Veldspars!

RE: I wonder...
By Ringold on 9/14/2007 2:16:54 PM , Rating: 2
bust out that Hulk and start mining them Veldspars!

It won't be profitable for long. The damn Chinese macrominers will flood the solar market with cheap trit. :P

RE: I wonder...
By timmiser on 9/14/2007 1:09:25 PM , Rating: 2
We are still in the early stages of learning about the moon and what it can do and/or provide. Sure the moon has some nice resources but to bring things (people/Resources) back to earth is insanely expensive and we are nowhere near accomplishing that. The Saturn V is the perfect example of the resources needed to bring only about 500 lbs. back from the moon and nobody including the USA has a vehicle that can do it today or anytime in the near future.

RE: I wonder...
By SaySomeThingOrDIE on 9/21/2007 11:55:48 PM , Rating: 2
It'll be the year 5100-6100 before the first massive colonization too the moon/luna starts. Even by the end of the 21st century, the technology and funding for colonization still won't be there. Besides, there is still no go-between station. The International Space Station(ISS, that has already spent $37-40 billion to this date, will only continue to 2019+ (expecting to be about $70-100+ billion when finished) is still insufficient for human free living...

RE: I wonder...
By Future145 on 9/15/2007 5:02:09 AM , Rating: 2

I've seen that before
By rdeegvainl on 9/14/2007 6:44:07 AM , Rating: 2
In a trailer park, good thing the emphasis is on function over form, cause that thing is ugly.

RE: I've seen that before
By Slappi on 9/14/2007 8:16:58 AM , Rating: 3
I don't know.... I think it has a certain style all its own.

RE: I've seen that before
By techfuzz on 9/14/2007 9:16:23 AM , Rating: 2
A certain style being ugly and rather monstrous?

RE: I've seen that before
By Moohbear on 9/14/2007 9:32:45 AM , Rating: 3
Looks Borgish to me.

RE: I've seen that before
By Black69ta on 9/14/2007 9:47:50 AM , Rating: 2
Borg=tech race of 25th Century
Japanese=Tech Race of 20th and 21st century

400 years of evolution and I think you may be on to something.

RE: I've seen that before
By DeepBlue1975 on 9/14/2007 10:21:50 AM , Rating: 2
I don't care what year is it from if it comes preloaded with some 7 of 9 clones.
I'd buy them all... and would get killed by my wife after that, though

RE: I've seen that before
By ted61 on 9/14/07, Rating: 0
RE: I've seen that before
By timmiser on 9/14/2007 1:11:38 PM , Rating: 2
"Old junk in the garage" Sounds Kinda of like how the Lunar Lander looked back in 1969!

RE: I've seen that before
By DeepBlue1975 on 9/14/2007 4:50:42 PM , Rating: 1
Why has his comment been modded down?
It was a good joke...

I just imagined 50 8yo japanese boys building a "space crapsule" from just commodore 64 & Ti 99 4/a parts :D

Sense of humor isn't that bad... or is it?

RE: I've seen that before
By Icepick on 9/14/2007 5:00:17 PM , Rating: 2
Remember that for some reason a lot of people here have their sarcasm meters turned way down or simply don't appreciate humor. I thought it was funny :D.

By sirius4k on 9/14/07, Rating: 0
RE: hmm
By ChugokuOtaku on 9/14/2007 7:24:02 AM , Rating: 2
you should be worried, you non-Asian.

RE: hmm
By Schadenfroh on 9/14/2007 8:56:44 AM , Rating: 2
Should we non-Asians marry Asians to help save our bloodlines then?

RE: hmm
By jskirwin on 9/14/2007 9:23:20 AM , Rating: 2
Japan has one of the world's lowest birth rates, so I'm not sure your "bloodline" would fare too well there. You might want to consider India.

RE: hmm
By Kurz on 9/14/2007 8:47:17 AM , Rating: 3
Umm... does it matter?
Unless they build a base with nukes on the surface you shouldn't worry.

RE: hmm
By FITCamaro on 9/14/2007 9:44:11 AM , Rating: 1
We all know the US would never let that happen. After all, the US owns the moon. We planted our flag there first. Old colonization laws still apply. ;)

No seriously, we'd just blow it up.

RE: hmm
By Icepick on 9/14/2007 5:07:31 PM , Rating: 3
I'm not worried because I know what their true motivation is. They want nothing more than to pwn Americans and then anounce, "All your <moon>base are belong to us!"

RE: hmm
By vtohthree on 9/14/2007 1:32:05 PM , Rating: 2
As a non-asian.. is that good or should I be worried?<\quote>

Are only non-asians American(assuming you are Am"ur"ican)? (asian)that's a very broad term, not talking about "politically correct" it's beyond that.

So no, you have nothing to worry about being a non-asian just because three countries China, India, and Japan in Asia are pushing a space program, and you have nothing to fear or worry(or show hatred) about when you see a fellow American of Chinese, Indian, or Japanese decent.

You might have to be paranoid of non-asians over in Europe though, who plan on space expeditions though(Russia's not Europe, it's mostly of what's called Northern "Asia", so you can be paranoid of those Asians too), ;) haha

By Hyperlite on 9/14/2007 1:01:33 PM , Rating: 2
So what happens when we build enough stuff or mine enough things out of the moon to change its mass significantly, thereby changing its orbital characteristics? Physics says that if we start sending millions of tons of building materials to the moon, its mass will become great enough to creep out of its current orbital path... or am i crazy?

RE: so....
By mooncancook on 9/14/2007 1:23:18 PM , Rating: 2
you are crazy. Last I know we humans haven't changed the orbital characteristics of the earth with all the trash we dumped into it. Maybe we'll be able to bring global warming to the moon though.

RE: so....
By Hyperlite on 9/14/2007 9:24:48 PM , Rating: 2
Of course we haven't changed the orbital characteristics of the earth, we haven't changed the mass a significant amount. the only mass that has left the planet is objects we have sent into space. Thats why i didn't bring it up.

RE: so....
By Martin Blank on 9/15/2007 2:19:16 PM , Rating: 4
The mass of the moon is approximately 7.35 x 10^22 tons. We're not going to do anything in the next few thousand years that will change that significantly. Even adding or removing ten trillion tons of material will not cause a significant change to its mass.

Left Behind...
By GTaudiophile on 9/14/2007 12:24:06 PM , Rating: 1
It is too bad to see that the USA is seemingly no longer the leader when it comes to space exploration. We will simply be left behind...while we spend billions per day, and get further in debt to China, as we fight a stupid ass war in Iraq.

RE: Left Behind...
By vtohthree on 9/14/2007 1:42:15 PM , Rating: 2
First off, the USA is not behind perse, when it comes to space exploration, we're just slowing down in R&D, as it doesn't seem to be a national top priority.

Secondly, Iraq is but a small chapter in America's history(not to devalue any of it), said and done, it's whatever's on top of the list of our new "leader"'s agenda. Democrat or Republican, I can't see us reviving the space program any time too soon.

Space Race
By buckao on 9/14/2007 2:27:49 PM , Rating: 2
I noticed that the US only announced their big initiative to put a permanent base on the moon by 2025 AFTER China announced their interest in a Moon base. I think our interest in the moon is at least as much about security and military strategy as it is about science. Could you image the Chinese government setting-up a nuclear missile base on the moon? *shudder*
China has already shown that it is interested in developing space-related warfare technology when it demonstrated its satellite-destroying missile system earlier this year.

By getho on 9/14/2007 5:51:15 PM , Rating: 2

This was recently published in the new scientist. I for one thought that mineral resource depletion was going to be my sons or grandsons problem.

Theres hafnium in them there lunar hills!

It's simple
By cryss on 9/24/2007 6:18:46 AM , Rating: 2
The mission has only one scope: to provide solid facts and prove once for all that USA never landed on the moon, and it was a big fat lie, or an expensive movie if you wish. Then the real star race will start and Japan or China might be the first to steep on the moon, and why not, make a small space station there and proclaim the moon as their territory ;)

I used to think that all those ppl who said we never made it to the moon are crazy fools, but after seeing the "Did we really made it to the moon" documentary, I changed my views 100%, and all my friends who seen it agree with me... WE NEVER BEEN THERE ...

I just have 2 say, watch the movie and judge for yourself and don't believe everything you see on tv cause it might not be live

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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