Ep. 695 – Mission Roll Call Part 4: Lunar Exploration

Our journey through missions continues, this time we focus on the Moon. There are many nations on the Moon, near the Moon, around the Moon, travelling to the Moon. It’s a lot. We’ll talk about it today.


(This is an automatically generated transcript)

Fraser Cain [00:01:47] Astronomy cast. Episode 695 Mission Roll Call. Part four Lunar Exploration. Welcome to Astronomy Cast, a weekly facts based journey through the cosmos where we help you understand not only what we know, but how we know what we know. I’m Fraser Cain. I’m the publisher of the Universe Today. With me is Doctor Pamela Gay, a senior scientist for the Planetary Science Institute and the director of Cosmic Quest. How are you doing? 

Pamela Gay [00:02:11] I am doing well. Fall has arrived. 

Fraser Cain [00:02:15] Yeah, yeah, we went mushroom watching yesterday, which is what you do in October after the heavy rains come back. And it’s just so great. We found a mushroom that looks like a butt, and it was delightful. But I want to sort of put something in everybody’s brains today. I was having a conversation with one of my patrons and talking about I was asked. I always ask people, what’s their favorite podcast show book like? I want to know what’s the best? And they were telling me about a podcast that they had listened to and really loved better than me. Right? And but it pod faded. So they started recording back in in 2020. And this happened all the time that that you are there’s some kind of content that you really like, and you really appreciate the enthusiasm for the people who are doing it. And then they they post less frequently and eventually they just stop. And then you never find out what happened to them. But, you know, we don’t know exactly what was going on, but my guess is they couldn’t make it into a viable thing that could cover their costs to keep doing it. That that almost all of the content that all of us consume is to some degree a volunteer effort. And I mean, even Astronomy Cast. Yeah, I volunteer our time and, you know, we’re able to pay a team, and I don’t know if we would be able to keep doing Astronomy Cast if we didn’t have their patrons that were supporting the work. So we. 

Pamela Gay [00:03:44] Would not we would have not that they should. 

Fraser Cain [00:03:46] Not exist. No, they would not exist. So thank you to everyone who supports us. But just think about how you spend your time and the things that you love the most, and how you would feel if those things went away because the person who is volunteering their time couldn’t do it any longer, and figure out a way that you can support them directly. I mean, if if they’ve thought it through and they’ve got a Patreon or they’ve got a way for you to give them donations or buy them a cup of coffee or join their Kickstarter or whatever, if it’s meaningful to you and you would, you would be saddened by its loss, then please help them out and even like giving them a donation to just tell them this thing that you make is important to me and and you’re making the world a better place. And so keep at it. And and you may not make it a career today, but maybe you will in the future. And that vote of confidence for any creator is enormous. I can remember the times when we first started making things and someone sent the donation out of the blue. So that’s it. That is all I wanted to say. Just think about the stuff you love and figure out a way to support the people who create that stuff. Because if you don’t, yeah. And if nobody does, then eventually it will go away. Our journey through missions continues. This time we focus on the moon. There are many nations on the moon, near the moon, around the moon, traveling to the moon. It’s a lot and we will talk about it today. All right. So originally we were going to like this episode. We can talking about the moon and Mars. I mean maybe we were talking about planning it last week anyway. And we were looking in the moon missions. We’re like, nope, totally whole episode. There’s too much. 

Pamela Gay [00:05:29] True. Very true. Yeah. 

Fraser Cain [00:05:32] So let’s where do you want to start? Because you actually you classroom gave you all those classifications. When we set that things that are at the moon, on the moon, near the moon, around the moon, traveling to the moon. So which of those classifications would you like to start with? 

Pamela Gay [00:05:46] So I think we need to actually start with a scorecard in a way, because like everyone knows, the U.S. landed humans on the moon because like, did they? 

Fraser Cain [00:05:58] I hadn’t heard that. 

Pamela Gay [00:05:59] Yeah, we’re kind of loud about it. Right? But like. 

Fraser Cain [00:06:05] That’s how it works. Yeah. When I, when I do an American like, hey, you know, where are you from? I’m from Canada, I’m from America. We landed on the moon. That’s how you. 

Pamela Gay [00:06:11] Know, it feels like that when you meet some people. 

Fraser Cain [00:06:14] Oh, yeah. No, they really. They’re justifiably proud of it. Good job. Americans. 

Pamela Gay [00:06:19] But like, did, did you know that South Korea has something orbiting the moon? 

Fraser Cain [00:06:26] What do I Fraser Cain, journalist who works on missions at the moon, including the Korean Dairy Orbiter with its shadow cam instrument? Okay, provided by NASA. Yes. 

Pamela Gay [00:06:39] Fine. I’m familiar with. All right. 

Fraser Cain [00:06:41] But am I, like, you know, every day, you know, science enthusiast. No. Tell me about this. This sounds great. 

Pamela Gay [00:06:50] I just wanted to, like, start by pointing out that like Soviet Union, which is a country that no longer exists, is in the big three that has managed to get there. Orbit. I impact a few times in the process of learning to Land Rover to the surface and returned. Thanks. Now China is also in that category. And so yeah, yeah, they’re like it’s going to be interesting to see if they or the US or the next country to put humans on the moon. And I don’t know which one it’s going to be. I really, really don’t. But India’s right there. They haven’t done a return mission yet. But but again, they have done the flyby orbit impact because you did. 

Fraser Cain [00:07:38] Lander. 

Pamela Gay [00:07:39] And rover, lander and rover and and so we have this growing number of nations that we need to to celebrate because of science being done. So. 

Fraser Cain [00:07:52] So Japan is a mission by depend on its way. No. There’s a mission from Japan on its way right now. 

Pamela Gay [00:08:00] Yes. But so so far. Little, little. What was it? Hakata? How could. 

Fraser Cain [00:08:07] I could. Yeah. 

Pamela Gay [00:08:09] Yeah, it it it hit the impact stage. Did not land as one would wish for on try one. No one really succeeds on try one. 

Fraser Cain [00:08:20] Yeah. It will not qualify for the the, current missions on the moon. I don’t think we’re going to sort of talk about. Smashed wreckage? 

Pamela Gay [00:08:29] No, but we need to acknowledge some of the smashed wreckage. 

Fraser Cain [00:08:32] Maybe. But, but, but but why? When we can also acknowledge a perfectly functioning spacecraft that’s on its way right now. 

Pamela Gay [00:08:39] This. This is true. Well, the thing I wanted to acknowledge was several of these nations owe, at least in part, the Google Lunar XPrize, which never actually awarded anything but started. There’s this vast new interest in getting small things to the moon, doing big things. And so who could Beresheet. 

Fraser Cain [00:09:03] I the it’s so many shocking craters on the moon. It’s true. 

Pamela Gay [00:09:08] Yeah it. 

Fraser Cain [00:09:09] Is. And so bad for all these prize candidates who built missions that just crashed into the moon. 

Pamela Gay [00:09:17] Yeah, but but what was amazing was time after time after time, it was these software that failed. And. And you gotta love the fact that we’re getting so good with the hardware. And anyone who’s written software knows you can never anticipate every bug. You just don’t wanna find them on the way to the moon and find them on the moon. So awesome. 

Fraser Cain [00:09:43] I repeat the question. 

Pamela Gay [00:09:45] Yes. 

Fraser Cain [00:09:46] Shall we start with, do you want to go by nation then? Have you? Is that what you’re proposing? You’d like to start by nation. Do you want to talk about location? Do you want to talk about capability? 

Pamela Gay [00:09:58] Oh, sure. 

Fraser Cain [00:09:59] Like we can go anywhere. Just choose one. Don’t make me choose. Okay, fine. We’re going to. We’re going to go by nation. It’s been. 

Pamela Gay [00:10:05] Decided. 

Fraser Cain [00:10:06] Let’s start a Korean January spacecraft. 

Pamela Gay [00:10:11] So this this is one. I have to admit I didn’t know anything about until today. So I kind of feel like you, mister space journalist who pays far more attention to missions than I do. I really better off describing this, and I knowledge this. I have no pride. 

Fraser Cain [00:10:29] No problem. Yeah. So, I mean, like, South Korea’s wanted to get into the space flight game for a long time, and there’s kind of two parts to it. There’s their ability to launch rocket and there’s and their ability and their ability to build missions. And they actually completed both of those. So yeah, this year they were able to get their first orbital rocket to fly. And they were also able to get their first mission, to the moon. And this was January. Now they launched it on a I believe they launched on a Falcon. So it wasn’t a Korean rocket. They took it to the moon, and it’s got a collection of instruments on board for analyzing the moon. You know, the common suite. 

Pamela Gay [00:11:08] Of lunar resources. 

Fraser Cain [00:11:09] Yeah. Lunar resources, master spectrometers. You’ve got all kinds of stuff on it. But one of the most interesting instruments that we’ve heard quite a lot about recently is called Shadow Cam. And this is like the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which we’re going to talk about, I’m sure, in a second, is a mission designed to, resolve features on the surface of the moon, but it doesn’t do a great job in the permanently shadowed craters of the moon. And that’s where a lot of this interest in the moon is, because that’s where there could be vast reserves of water ice. And so the, the South Korean instrument with the shadow cam, it has 200 times the low light sensitivity of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. But it’s utterly overwhelmed. You know, it’s like, you know, it need sunglasses to look anywhere but into these permanently shadowed craters. And so it shows, you know, and these things only are reflected by starlight. The only they’re only illuminated by starlight, by reflected light from the earth and from just ambient light bouncing off of nearby crater walls. And yet it’s able to give it enough light for it to be able to see into them. And you’ve got just these beautiful images showing all of the features inside these craters that Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter just couldn’t do. So, good job Korea. And I really look forward to more missions coming out of, of them back again. 

Pamela Gay [00:12:28] What what’s so exciting is, like, Lunar Flashlight was planning to do a fragment of what it’s doing, and Lunar Flashlight failed as so many. Space. Space is hard. Space is hard. 

Fraser Cain [00:12:39] And the moon is particularly. 

Pamela Gay [00:12:40] Hard. Yeah, yeah. Like, it’s weird because it’s like. 

Fraser Cain [00:12:43] It feels like it’s beguiling with its, you know, with its lack of atmosphere and its low gravity. Well, but boy, do spacecraft die trying to get to the moon. 

Pamela Gay [00:12:55] It’s true. And so all the science the lunar, flashlight was going to do didn’t happen. And now we have the South Korean mission. And what’s awesome, for those who don’t know the way this works is in the sunlight regions, all of the molecules get excited, they float around, and then they’ll periodically land different places. And when molecules are volatile. So things like ice, carbon dioxide. Oxide land in the permanently shadowed regions. They’re like, oh, we’re good here. We’re just going to stay here. And so you can end up with these these molecules piling up into detectable and potentially future resource of all units of stuff. And so we can imagine a future where we put the humans in these craters that have permanently shadowed regions, which are, first of all, thermodynamically a lot easier to handle, but then also hopefully have the water, the carbon dioxide and and with denari, there are also looking at uranium and helium three and silicon and aluminum. It’s kind of cool. 

Fraser Cain [00:14:12] Totally. Let’s talk about India. 

Pamela Gay [00:14:15] So, so India is out there systematically going through all the stops and showing what they’re capable of. And one of the things that I’ve heard people poo poo is, well, they’re images aren’t as high resolution as LRO. Well, I don’t care. They have they have tried all these different orbits. They’re setting things up to be both communication systems and imaging systems. And they are setting rovers on the surface in places other people haven’t put rovers. So you do you India. Yeah. Lower resolution is fine. You’ll get there. And they’re doing all this other amazing stuff. Chandrayaan two only had an orbiter. Chandrayaan three is, is where they had a lander and rover. They also have another orbiter and they’re near the South Pole. And this has added all sorts of complexity because normally we put orbiters going around the, the, equatorial region. And so they had to adjust their orbits to be able to communicate readily back with Earth. It’s kind of cool. 

Fraser Cain [00:15:33] Yeah. And it so, I mean, she drove one, helped us even just understand that there was water on the moon in the first place. Like, yeah, you know, a lot of people forget that that discovery of water on the moon was made with Chandrayaan one. Now, it was an American instrument on board that helped make the discovery. But but a lot of people kind of gloss over the fact that India helped us figure out that there’s water on the moon. Chandrayaan two, as you said, you know, they had the they had their lander and rover and it failed. But the orbiter is still there. Yeah. And then with Chandrayaan three, I guess it doesn’t count anymore because it’s now dead. But it went straight for the landing. And so it didn’t have the orbiter. It just had the lander. And the rover landed on the moon, did its 14 days of exploring and and send a whole bunch of science home. And then when lunar night set in, the spacecraft died. 

Pamela Gay [00:16:32] So which is kind of normal. 

Fraser Cain [00:16:33] That’s very normal. Yeah. This is this is how you roll. Yeah. And yeah, I mean, the budget on that spacecraft was so low that they didn’t have the funds to put in plutonium to keep it warm. And that’s really the only solution that you’ve got. Like if you want to keep your spacecraft warm, you give it plutonium, either a little, nugget of plutonium that just it can keep itself warm, like keep its batteries. Yeah. Or like a proper thermoelectric, you know, radioisotope thermoelectric generator, like what you have on curiosity and perseverance. And so without a without any way to keep yourself warm, it died. But it was like, you know, I forget the budget. It was under 100 million. It’s crazy what they’re able to pull off. Amazing. 

Pamela Gay [00:17:15] And they launched this on their own rockets. Yeah. This is one of those things where we have to give a shout out to India. Is is another one of these nations that is now out there with multiple launch sites doing amazing things. Their, their launches are a lot of fun to watch. When they do televise them. 

Fraser Cain [00:17:38] Do they live stream them nicely? Yeah. Take a hint. 

Pamela Gay [00:17:41] China really do. 

Fraser Cain [00:17:42] Yeah. 

Pamela Gay [00:17:43] And it’s. We are a space faring peoples and there’s so many games in town. And yeah, I’m just going to keep saying that over and over. Yeah, no. 

Fraser Cain [00:17:56] It’s awesome. I think it’s great. I mean, the moon is close and it’s a great place to send a spacecraft and hopefully. 

Pamela Gay [00:18:02] Some practice crashing. 

Fraser Cain [00:18:03] Practice crashing. Yeah, yeah. All right. We’re going to talk about that some more. But it’s time for another break. 

Pamela Gay [00:18:09] This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. This is Beth here for Pamela. She had her gallbladder needed the day she’d normally record this show. And going into it, she was up until all hours with a brain determined to be shouty about all sorts of things beyond her control. This kind of shouty brain shenanigans isn’t restricted to extreme circumstances. Sometimes just reading the news can lead to a visit with 2:00 in the morning. If you want to quiet the voices in your head and find real peace, it can really help to talk through your thoughts while getting therapy. If you’re thinking about starting therapy, give BetterHelp a try. It’s entirely online. The mobile friendly website will have you fill out a brief questionnaire, and then pair you with someone who will match your needs. And if they aren’t a perfect fit, you can easily change therapists at any time. Everything is online and BetterHelp is convenient, flexible, and can work with any schedule, even an astronomer schedule like mine. Get a break from your thoughts with BetterHelp. Visit betterhelp.com/astronomy today to get 10% off your first month. That’s BetterHelp. Help! Dot com slash astronomy. 

Fraser Cain [00:19:29] And we’re back. All right, let’s talk about Japan. 

Pamela Gay [00:19:34] So it’s a Japan. Hokkaido. This. This was the saddest little mission. I they’ve done so many successful things, but that one is near and dear to my heart because it started with the teams that were doing the Google Lunar XPrize. And I did a lot of work with the Google Lunar XPrize teams back in the day. And. It was a technology demonstration, lost contact during the very final stage. And, it turned out that their altitude estimation system did not. And and so they just hit the ground at too high a velocity. And LRO has gotten really, really good at finding what remains. And I kind of look forward to a day where it’s easy to go back and forth. And we have like, little museums set up around each of these craters where folks are doing both lunar archeology and lunar geology of we know this dirt has only been exposed for this many years, so it’s still science, it’s just future science. 

Fraser Cain [00:20:49] And I think with Hokuto, as you said, you know, this is one of the missions done from the Google Lunar XPrize, privately funded. 

Pamela Gay [00:20:57] It’s free space, right? 

Fraser Cain [00:20:59] But so the the one that is currently successful is called the Smart lander for investigating moon or limb, also known as the moon neighbor, which is sort of a cool idea, and this is a tiny little spacecraft designed to put a lander on the moon. And the goal is precision. So they want to get within 100m of their target and demonstrate that they can put payloads onto the surface of the moon exactly where they need to go. And this is this is not coming out of a private agency. Now, this is coming from Jaxa. Yeah. And I’ve mentioned this many times in the past. Like if I had to pick my favorite space agency, it would be Jaxa. They do the coolest, most creative, missions where. 

Pamela Gay [00:21:48] Like boost and. 

Fraser Cain [00:21:48] High boost to. Right. They even brought one home somehow. Yeah, right. But I was a to just, like, they threw a tank shell at the asteroid. They they dropped landers, hoppers, the stuff they had planned for their mission to Phobos. They were. They launched a solar sail. So. 

Pamela Gay [00:22:07] Just they don’t feel failure. They fear failure. They simply are like, we are going to iterate this. And if it sounds dumb, we’re still going to try it. If there’s the potential. 

Fraser Cain [00:22:17] I need to get to talk to somebody at Jaxa and just understand this perspective because you just you feel yeah. 

Pamela Gay [00:22:26] It’s amazing. 

Fraser Cain [00:22:27] Yes. This creativity and risk taking. Yeah. They come together with ambition into missions that you just wouldn’t see out of NASA or China or, you know, Europe. Anyone else is trying this kind of stuff. Right. Let’s let’s put an anti-tank weapon on a asteroid mission. Said nobody ever. But Japanese said, yeah, I was. 

Pamela Gay [00:22:54] In the jaxa’s and they had those little missions that basically flitted. They, they, they were essentially a sprung loaded so that they’d hit and bounced and hit and bounced and were able to cover vast amounts of surface in the low gravity environment. Jaxa just does cool stuff, but with slim they are doing it slowly. Like you can get to the moon in a couple of days. You can. They are not, slim launched back in September. They’re they’re the orbits for this. They’re just going slow and steady and not a lot of fuel involved. Yeah, kudos to saving fuel and building expectations. Yeah. 

Fraser Cain [00:23:39] So hopefully, you know we’re in the middle middle time where we don’t know where this this mission is going to work or not. But I like to write I got a lot of practice. And in landing in in places that are complicated. All right. Let’s move on to, to China. 

Pamela Gay [00:23:54] So China is is another one of these nations that is doing slow and steady and constant development, small steps, iterative design, clear long term plan and the will and the long term budgetary planning to stick with it, that I have fantasies of long term budgets. So guess how. 

Fraser Cain [00:24:22] Many operational spacecraft I know? You know this number right now I don’t the moon right now by China. Give me just. 

Pamela Gay [00:24:30] Just China, I would guess somewhere around eight. 

Fraser Cain [00:24:33] Yeah. There’s five. 

Pamela Gay [00:24:34] Right. Okay. 

Fraser Cain [00:24:35] Yeah. They’ve had seven total, but five are operational right now. 

Pamela Gay [00:24:40] Yeah. And and they did landing on the far side. They were the first nation to do a landing on the far side. They were the first nation to really set up a good communications network using some really weird orbits. There’s you’re laughing at my definition of weird orbit, I suspect. No, no, no. 

Fraser Cain [00:24:59] Yeah. Well, you’re you’re talking about the relay. 

Pamela Gay [00:25:02] Yeah, yeah yeah yeah, yeah. And and I just love how they’re very no nonsense and how they do things. My my favorite and this is the stupidest example, but it brings me joy. They’re far side, Grover. And I’m going to let you pronounce all things Chinese. The Far Side rover saw something off in the distance. Oh, the international climate was a hot. Yeah. 

Fraser Cain [00:25:31] Yeah. The China rover. Yeah. China Tong of five. 

Pamela Gay [00:25:35] I think it was five. 

Fraser Cain [00:25:36] Yeah, yeah. 

Pamela Gay [00:25:37] Far side. Yeah yeah yeah. And and they, the internet said there is a hut in the distance which makes no sense. And so they just very slowly roved over there until it resolved into a boulder. And it was just sort of like we’re not going to take your nonsense. We’re going to see what this is. Slow and steady wins the race. Yeah. I’m just kind of enjoying watching it. 

Fraser Cain [00:26:01] Yeah, yeah. So I mean, like, China has been putting out these plans for their lunar exploration, and the goal is humans setting foot on the moon by the end of the 2020s. So now they’re kind of targeting 2029. And in order to do that, they’re having to build a technology stack that can handle this. And, you know, people in this are going to be like, yeah, but they stole it. Like, who knows now? Like they stole bunches of it. But now a lot of it is developed by them. And so they’ve got a they’re building a heavy lift vehicle like heavy lift rocket, like in the sort of Falcon Heavy class they are building, a new crew capsule capable of carrying five astronauts or three to the moon. They’re building the rovers and landers and the facilities and the planning all of this to sort of culminate in 2029 and so or 2030. And so you’re seeing these landers, the sample, like the sample return mission is a great example. Right. They have to land at the At on the moon. They have to collect samples and they have to return those samples back to Earth. And that is it. You know, imagine it was humans instead. Right? It’s in a nutshell, the process. And so they’re doing science as they’re exploring the moon. And then at the same time, they are prototyping all of the major pieces of what it’s going to take for them to send humans to the moon. 

Pamela Gay [00:27:36] And they’re doing things no other nation has done. So like U.S and Soviet Union had both done sample returns. So they went to the far side and brought us a sample from there which we did not have. 

Fraser Cain [00:27:50] Yeah. 

Pamela Gay [00:27:51] I can’t wait to see more in detailed science from that. 

Fraser Cain [00:27:54] But yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, once again, I have a lot of complaints about the way China shares its science. Yeah. But with the rovers and the landers, they’re actually doing a pretty good job. I actually, so there was a paper that just came out sharing the results of their little farm they set up on the moon with the with the Chang’e five, I think. 

Pamela Gay [00:28:19] Yeah. 

Fraser Cain [00:28:20] And and they they had a bunch of little seeds. They grew they had some fly eggs that they had taken. They had like a whole bunch of stuff that they tried all at the same time. And, and I reached out to the researchers and I’m like, oh, could you send me the paper? And they got back to me. It was the weirdest thing. They sent me the paper. It was very bizarre to me. They you never happens. Like I’ve said, so many requests to Chinese researchers, to Chinese officials to to comment on things. And it’s just silence. And yet I think with the science operations of their lunar exploration actually doing a pretty good job of of that. All right. You know what? We got to move on. So to some other country I forget what they’re called. All right. Let’s talk about, the United States of America, who, of course, have put humans on the moon. 

Pamela Gay [00:29:10] But not in our lifetime. 

Fraser Cain [00:29:12] Yeah, in our lifetime. 19. So I was alive in 1972. 

Pamela Gay [00:29:17] I was not. 

Fraser Cain [00:29:17] Oh, no. Yeah, I mean, I was in my. 

Pamela Gay [00:29:20] Life. 

Fraser Cain [00:29:21] I was one. Sure. Okay. But anyway. But let’s talk about the right now. What does the United States have operational at the moon? 

Pamela Gay [00:29:28] We have Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter as well as capstone. And we’re working on other stuff, but those are the ones that are currently they’re doing cool. I mean. 

Fraser Cain [00:29:41] Let’s talk about Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. I mean, yeah, this is a flagship that has done so much incredible science and just given us the best pictures ever. 

Pamela Gay [00:29:50] It and its twin Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, are both just like never dying Energizer bunny of spacecraft and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. May they. We never stop funding it. I is capable of getting less than one meter resolution, depending on where it is in its orbit of the surface of the moon, which means that if your average basketball player lays down on the surface of the moon and assumes the snow angel position, they have the potential to be like two pixels by two pixels, which is significant when you are laying down on the moon. And with this, this combination of instruments that does the extremely high res, they also have other instruments that are doing larger areas at lower resolution. They have been able to catch the moon in a variety since its launch back in its launch 2009. Since its launch, theyve been able to catch the moon in total in multiple shadowed conditions. Watch with the thermal instruments. The constantly eye changing temperature as things are in and out of sunlight, so we can see how different regions of the moon respond thermally. That tells us about their heat capacity. It has. Weve been able to watch a solar cycle go by and see how the moon responds, to high energy particles from the sun. Basically, if there is some cool discovery you have seen in the past two decades. Decade. One decade. One decade. It probably came from LRO. 

Fraser Cain [00:31:53] I think about, like, the pictures of the lunar landing sites. With the. 

Pamela Gay [00:31:57] Printout of that, the first thing. 

Fraser Cain [00:31:58] You can see, the footprints of the astronauts across the moon. You can see the the flag. You can see the, the, the the positions of the rovers, like the, the little cars they took to the moon and and the wheel tracks. Like if there was a monolith on the moon. 

Pamela Gay [00:32:14] It would have found. 

Fraser Cain [00:32:15] Would have found it. Thats how good that spacecraft is. Yeah. It’s a it’s a stunning technology. And and I’m always shocked that it’s still operating. 

Pamela Gay [00:32:28] Yeah, it’s just fine. 

Fraser Cain [00:32:30] Yeah. It’s fine. 

Pamela Gay [00:32:30] The two degree thing. 

Fraser Cain [00:32:32] Yeah. Like, it somehow has just resisted the inevitable desire to crash into the moon, and it’s just keeps going. And then I guess the other spacecraft we should mention is is the capstone. You mentioned that briefly. 

Pamela Gay [00:32:47] Yeah. So. So capstone is NASA showing you can do things with tiny packages? Capstone is a CubeSat, and its purpose is something. I’m not sure we’ve launched a mission to do just this one thing before, but it’s kind of cool. So we’re planning to put, the, the lunar Gateway as space station for basically, it’s a ferry start between the surface of the moon and SpaceX. We’re planning to put a small space station there, and it’s a sufficiently new orbit to be sticking things in. We don’t have a lot of experience with staying in cislunar space that they’re just kind of sticking capstone in the orbit that they’re thinking about for Lunar Gateway and testing out what is the stability of this orbit. And that’s a cool thing to do with the tiny spacecraft. 

Fraser Cain [00:33:45] Yeah, it’s a smart idea. Like put the spacecraft into the orbit, understand the the radiation hit. I mean, just make sure you can remain in this orbit. What kinds of maneuvers are required to stay in this orbit? And this will give you a good sense of what it’s going to be like when a giant space station is put into that exact orbit. And I think it’s a really smart idea. 

Pamela Gay [00:34:11] It really. 

Fraser Cain [00:34:11] Is. Yeah. Well, I’m glad we didn’t decide to mush together the moon and Mars, because we wouldn’t have made it. This was already, this may have even have been a bigger episode than the Mars One that’s coming up, but be. Yeah, well. 

Pamela Gay [00:34:25] There’s more alive at Mars. 

Fraser Cain [00:34:27] There is a bunch. Yeah, yeah, it’s a busy place. All right, well, thanks, Pamela. 

Pamela Gay [00:34:31] And thank you. And thank you so much to everyone out there who does support us through Patreon. Times are tough. We see that in In Your Numbers. To those of you still able to give you, allow us to keep doing what we do. So thank you. This week I want to thank Don Mondays, J. Alex Anderson, Michael Regan, Michael Cullen, Peter janelle, Frodo Tannenbaum. I am so sorry. I never say it right. Matt Rucker and Esau Dwight Elk share some Mark Steven Rusnak MH w 1961 super Symmetrical Abraham Cottrell, Philip Grand, Jim McGeehan, Cami. Racine, James. Roger. Father Prax Andrew Stevenson, planet. Ha. Paul Hayden. Semansky, Glenn McDavid, Benjamin. Davies, Alex. Rain, Steven. Coffee, the ER, major Dean, Gabriel Galvin, and Sam Brooks and his mom. And we are so grateful to all of you who have joined at the Pamela attempts to pronounce your name level. 

Fraser Cain [00:35:35] Wonderful. Thanks. Thanks, Pamela, and we’ll see you next week. 

Pamela Gay [00:35:39] Thank you. Bye everyone. Astronomy cast is a joint product of Universe Today and the Planetary Science Institute. Astronomy cast is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. So love it, share it, and remix it, but please credit it to our hosts, Fraser Cain and Doctor Pamela Gay. You can get more information on today’s show topic on our website. Astronomy. Cars.com. This episode was brought to you. Thanks to our generous patrons on Patreon. If you want to help keep the show going, please consider joining our community at Patreon.com Slash Astronomy Cast. Not only do you help us pay our producers a fair wage, you will also get special access to content right in your inbox and invites to online events. We are so grateful to all of you who have joined our Patreon community already. Anyways, keep looking up. This has been Astronomy Cast.