November 4, 2014

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Time is All There Is

image from Lunar & Planetary Institute

Here is an oddly compressed timeline of lunar exploration by spacecraft. (It does not include exploration by telescope nor by analog studies, etc). The top is the entire timeline from 1958 to 2030, and the full size excerpt below is centered on a recent splurge of activity during the last 10 years. A discontinuity of time occurs where the big bright mountain is in the top image. The tick marks were year by year from 1959 to 1976, but then in a space about the width of two years, there is a jump of 14 years from 1976 (Lunar 24) to 1990 (Hiten). If these years had been represented as the previous ones were we would see the real failure of imagination and drive that cost humanity a half generation in lunar exploration. Clementine and Lunar Prospector carried lunar science for almost a decade until new advances were made with the Kaguya mission of 2007. Other missions have flown since but the most important scientifically have been LRO and GRAIL. The majority of future missions are repeats of orbiters and landers and sample returns such as conducted in the 1960s. Unless the landing sites are judiciously selected the scientific results will be interesting, but perhaps only footnotes to Apollo, Kaguya, LRO and GRAIL.

Chuck Wood

Yesterday's LPOD: True?

Tomorrow's LPOD: Hippalus Arcs


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