Thursday, September 13, 2007

An H-IIA rocket carrying the Kaguya lunar orbiter lifts off from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on September 13, 2007 (U.S. time).
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

FLY ME TO THE MOON... And however the rest of the lyrics to that Frank Sinatra song go. At 6:31 PM, Pacific Daylight Time today (10:31 AM, Japan Time on September 14), an H-IIA rocket carrying the Kaguya spacecraft lifted off from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan after a one-day weather-related delay. Kaguya, formerly known as SELENE (or—Yes, I’m really nerdy enough to type this out—SELenological and ENgineering Explorer), will take 19 days to reach the Moon. 37 days after launch, Kaguya—which is such an ambitious project that it has been labeled "the largest lunar mission since the Apollo program" in the 1960’s—will settle into a 62 mile-high circular orbit...and will start its one yearlong mission.

These two photos show the aluminum sheets as well as the location on the spacecraft
where they will be installed (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

So what makes Kaguya worth mentioning in my Blog, you ask? Simple... Aluminum sheets (shown above) bearing the names and messages of 412,627 people, including Yours Truly, are onboard the spacecraft. As part of the Wish Upon the Moon campaign carried out by The Planetary Society of Japan and The Planetary Society based in Pasadena, California, people got to submit their names and wishes online earlier this year. The name of this public outreach effort is based on the classic line "Wish Upon the Star" (in case you didn’t notice), though a consolation for your wishes not coming true is your name orbiting the Moon for at least a year before it crashes down onto the lunar surface. Unlike the Phoenix Mars lander, which has a DVD onboard that should last for at least 500 years on the Red Planet's surface, and Dawn, which is carrying a silicon microchip bearing the names of 365,000 people and should stay in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres for at least 50 years, Kaguya will eventually come to a fiery end at the end of its mission. Oh well. It will still last longer than my name did on Deep Impact. Anyways, that’s all. Two spacecraft launched, one more to go. Dawn launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida on September 26. Godspeed, Dawn.

PIC 1: Artist's concept of Kaguya in lunar orbit.  PIC 2: Technicians work on the Kaguya spacecraft in Japan.
My WISH UPON THE MOON certificate.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency / The Planetary Society (Japan/USA)

KAGUYA Blog Entries Archive:

April 11, 2007
September 5, 2007

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