March 2-8, 2015 / Vol 34, No 9 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Independent Moon Missions Advancing


Visionary entrepreneurs, government incentives, property rights considerations and the lure of valuable lunar resources are stimulating a promising push from the commercial sector to advance development of / on the Moon. The International Lunar Observatory Association continues to progress on realizing its series of missions to conduct astronomy, local lunar observations and commercial communications from the surface of the Moon through collaboration with its two prime contractors Moon Express and Canadensys Aerospace. In 2015, ILOA is focusing much of its attention on identifying suitable landing / operating sites in the Malapert Mountain region of the Moon South Pole. Moon Express continues to advance its lunar ambitions with the support of the NASA Lunar CATALYST program. The company is using NASA KSC facilities to test its MTV-1X lunar lander. After inciting FAA actions to acknowledge and protect private sector property and assets on the Moon, Bigelow Aerospace continues to work towards developing a lunar settlement with its expandable habitats. Shackleton Energy Company leaders insist that its plans to turn lunar ice into fuel can be accomplished for US$10B, generate revenue within 4 years and break even within 12 years. UK-based Lunar Mission One is moving on to the developmental stage of its mission after successfully raising US$938,170 through crowdfunding. Astrobotic Technology’s announcement of ridesharing with Japan-based GLXP team Hakuto brings both companies one step closer to exploring the Moon to identify, and eventually utilize, its vast resources. (Image Credit: ILOA, ME, Astrobotic, Bigelow, SEC, Whiskey Sierra Graphics)


Mar 2 — ISS, LEO: Expedition 42 six-member crew stowing EVA spacesuits & gear, preparing for Change of Command Mar 10, working with cell cultures grown on orbit, exploring ways to improve Earth observation photography; future EVAs will relocate the external Permanent Multipurpose Module for arrival of Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) later this year.

Mar 2 — Tiangong-1, LEO: “Heavenly Palace” 1,250 days in orbit, 330-380 km above Earth, collecting data with Earth Observation instruments & hyperspectral imager, observing crystal growth science payload, detecting Sun energy particles & ionospheric disturbances.

Mar 2 — Rosetta, Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko Orbit: ESA spacecraft imaging active plumes, coma & surface features, set to perform flybys of comet at 15-100 km from its center; planning to sample plume material in July.

Mar 2 — New Horizons, Pluto Trajectory: Now 133 days and 185M km from Pluto / Charon closest approach at 13,000 km; researchers believe Pluto may have as many as 10 moons, plus ring systems.

Mar 2 — Blue Origin LLC, Kent WA: NewSpace company developing BE-4 rocket engine in partnership with ULA & Boeing Company; four-year partnership to allow for testing in 2016 and flight by 2019.

Mar 2 — Reaction Engines Ltd., Oxfordshire, England: With funding from ESA & British government, making full scale version of SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine), capable of cooling air from 1,000° C to 150° C in one hundredth of a second, for use in future Skylon space plane.

Mar 2 — Final Frontier Design (FDD), Brooklyn NY: Men and women testing 6.8-kg FFD intra-vehicular activity spacesuits at Embry-Riddle designed under NASA Space Act Agreement.

Mar 2 — University of Arizona, Tucson AZ: Life in the Universe Lecture Series: Amazing Discoveries: A Billion Earth-like Worlds; presented by Laird M. Close, Professor of Astronomy at Steward Observatory.

Mar 2 — American Astronautical Society, Online / Springfield VA: Abstracts Due: 4th International Space Station (ISS) Research and Development Conference; to be held Jul 7-9.

MAR - MAY 2015 = All times for terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for international terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for space events, and…

= All times for international space / astro events in Hawaii Standard Time unless noted. Add 10 hours to obtain UT (‘Universal Time;’ Greenwich, England).

Weekly Planet Watch – Evening Planets: Venus (WSW), Mars (WSW), Jupiter (E), Uranus (WSW); Morning Planets: Mercury (ESE), Saturn (S).

21st Century Jupiter and Saturn Missions on the Horizon

Jupiter, Saturn Exploration

The Jupiter explorer, NASA Juno spacecraft, heads towards the largest planet in the Solar System with a July 4, 2016 orbit insertion date, as future 21st Century missions to the Jupiter system and its gas giant neighbor, Saturn, are being developed. Juno is planned to orbit Jupiter 33 times around its poles over a year and 3 months, and come within 5,000 km of the planet’s cloud tops. ESA is targeting 2022 for launch of JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) to explore Jupiter atmosphere, magnetosphere, rings and characterize Ganymede, Europa and Callisto. JUICE is expected to enter orbit around Ganymede, and Russian Space Research Institute (IKI) is evaluating adding a Ganymede lander to the mission. The NASA / JPL Europa Clipper concept to perform 45 flybys of Europa at altitudes varying from 2,700 km to 25 km is advancing its spacecraft design and seeking instrument proposals. Congress has appropriated US$100M in the 2015 budget for the mission. It may be ready for launch in 2022, and carry CubeSats and / or a lander. The highly successful Cassini-Huygens mission is expected to explore Saturn and its moons until a September 2017 controlled fall into Saturn atmosphere after traveling through / collecting data on its rings. A potential future robotic submersible designed for a 90-day, 2,000-km deep mission in methane-ethane seas at Titan is under study through NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. (Image Credit: ESA, AOES, NASA, JPL, Caltech, University of Arizona)

Mar 2-5 — European Southern Observatory (ESO), Santiago, Chile: Workshop: Ground and Space Observatories – A Joint Venture to Planetary Science.

Mar 2-5 — National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Fukuoka, Japan: 3rd Asia Oceania Space Weather Alliance (AOSWA) Workshop: International Collaboration on Space Weather Forecast; at the Luigans Spa & Resort.

Mar 2-6 — ESA, Lisbon, Portugal: 8th European Symposium on Aerothermodynamics for Space Vehicles.

Mar 2-6 — United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Nagoya University, Fukuoka, Japan: United Nations/Japan Workshop on Space Weather: Science and Data Products from International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI) Instruments; at the Luigans Spa & Resort.

Mar 2 — Moon: 5.9° SSW of Beehive Cluster, 05:00; 5.3° SSW of Jupiter, 19:00.

Mar 2 — Asteroid 2015 DS53: Near-Earth flyby (0.008 AU).

Mar 2 — Asteroid 2015 DR: Near-Earth flyby (0.027 AU).

Mar 2 — Asteroid 2015 CN13: Near-Earth flyby (0.029 AU).

Continued from…

Oct 16, 2014 – Jun 11 — NASA, University of Hawai`i, Mauna Loa HI: Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Mission 3.

Mar 1 – Jan 1, 2016 — Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), Multiple Locations: Cycle 3 of science flights to observe universe consists of science flights grouped into multi-week observing campaigns totaling about 450 research flight hours.


Mar 3 — RSA, Launch Rockot / Gonets M, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia: Russia government Rockot to launch 3 Gonets M communications satellites.

Mar 3 — Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston TX: Lecture: Dating Impact Craters: What Can Precise and Accurate Ages Teach Us? presented by Martin Schmieder.

Mar 3 — SETI Institute, Mountain View CA: SETI Weekly Colloquium: It’s Life Jim, but Not as We Know It: The Prospects of Life in Titan’s Seas; presented by Jason Barnes of University of Idaho, 12:00.

Mar 3 — Ames Research Center, NASA, Moffett Field CA: 3rd Annual Space Science and Astrobiology Jamboree.

Mar 3 — The Space Show, Online / Tiburon CA: Dr. David Livingston talks with Anatoly Zak, Russian Space News.

Mar 3-4 — NASA History Program Office, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC: The NACA Centenary: A Symposium on 100 Years of Aerospace Research and Development.

Mar 3 — Mercury: 0.85° NNW of 4 Vesta, 23:00.

Mar 3 — Asteroid 2007 ED125: Near-Earth flyby (0.031 AU).


Mar 4 — Cassini OTM-405, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #405 today.

Mar 4 — Foothill College, Los Altos Hills CA: Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture: The Sentinel Mission: Finding the Asteroid Headed for Earth; presented by Astronaut Ed Lu, 19:00.

Mar 4-5 — SMi Group, London, United Kingdom: 10th Annual Military Space Conference; at Holiday Inn Regents Park.

Mar 4 — Moon: 3.8° SSW of Regulus, 03:00; at apogee (distance 405,960 km), 21:00.

Mar 4 — Venus: 0.09° NNE of Uranus, 10:00.


Mar 5 — Oregon L5 Society, United States Parks Service, Vancouver WA: Lecture: Back to the Moon with the Lunar Rover Mission; presented by Dan Dolan of Moon Base Builders; at Pearson Air Museum.

Mar 5 — Cornell University, Ithaca NY: Lecture: Dwarfs Structural Properties – Feedback and Environmental Effects; presented by Dr. Laura Sales.

Mar 5 — Moon: Full (Lenten / Worm Moon), 08:05.

Mar 5 — Asteroid 2008 HA2: Near-Earth flyby (0.069 AU).

Mar 5 — Asteroid 2015 DK155: Near-Earth flyby (0.078 AU).


Mar 6 — Dawn, Main Asteroid Belt: Spacecraft to arrive at Ceres today, enter orbit; launched Sep 2007.

Mar 6 — Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston TX: LPI Seminar Series: Preservation of Isotopic Heterogeneity in a Convecting Martian Mantle; presented by Walter Kiefer of LPI.

Mar 6-7 — University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls IA: 2015 Midwest Astrochemistry Meeting.

Mar 6 — Mercury: At aphelion (0.4667 AU from Sun), 10:00.

Mar 6 — Asteroid 2015 DT: Near-Earth flyby (0.028 AU).


Mar 7-14 — IEEE, AIAA, PHM Society, Big Sky MT: 2015 IEEE Aerospace Conference; at Yellowstone Conference Center.


Mar 8 — Daylight Saving Time (USA): Set clock ahead 1 hour; does not include Hawai`i, American Samoa or Arizona (except the Navajo Reservation).

Mar 8 — Moon: 3.3° NNE of Spica, 15:00.