Kaguya's final moments

By Phil Plait | June 19, 2009 11:15 am

The Japanese Space Agency JAXA has released images taken from the lunar probe Kaguya’s final moments. Here’s one of a crater in a hillside taken minutes before the spacecraft slammed into the Moon:

Kaguya’s final images

There are seven images released, linked from this page (translated into English using Google). The last image is mostly black with just the tops of the hills lit by sunlight; Kaguya’s impact point was on the near side of the Moon in an area where the Sun had just set. You can see all the long shadows in the images!

I still haven’t heard much news about the impact, but it may take some time before all the data are processed and studied. In the meantime, LRO is on its way to the Moon, and will continue the task of mapping our satellite. LRO’s mission is to pave the way for future exploration of the Moon, leading up to another giant leap for mankind.

I wonder if, someday, people will take tours of all these impact sites, the way people today visit Plymouth Rock? I like to think so.

Tip o’ the Whipple Shield to Emily Lakdawalla.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Space

Comments (35)

  1. Charlie Young

    Awesome images in HDTV res. How big is that crater?

  2. Charlie Young

    I like how the Japanese for surface features translated to “furniture store.”

  3. As I said on twitter, “It’s a hoax!” 😛 But in all seriousness, breath-taking. I love how if you click the link you sent on Twitter of the image, you can zoom in and out.

  4. BJN

    “I wonder if, someday, people will take tours of all these impact sites, the way people today visit Plymouth Rock? ”

    I hope not. I hope that we approach the Moon and other places we visit as wilderness and don’t trash them as we have so much of this planet. Unfortunately, I have visions of Moon bubbas driving ATV’s over the Moon’s most interesting spots. Imagine space tourists driving or walking over the Apollo footprints and leaving graffiti on lunar artifacts.

  5. Stephen

    I really hope the new missions use the high resolution cameras and we get to see the Apollo landing sites. I would love to see images of that. Of course, the search for water is pretty darn important too!

  6. T.E.L.

    That is some wickedly spectacular topography. There must be boulders strewn everywhere.

  7. Big Al

    Never mind footprints and graffiti. One day the regolith will be scooped up and used as raw material for factories to produce all manner of junk.

  8. Since the images were taken at approximaely 1 minute intervals, I can image the scene that unfolded there as the Moon loomed larger & larger. I wonder what the closing speed was. Thousands of miles/hr at least. With no atmosphere it’s possible to have a perilune of less than a kilometer, though on another orbital pass there might be a mountain there blocking your orbit… Pow!

    A low pass over the lunar surface at orbital speed would be some fantastic HV video to see, huh?

    Come to think of it, a lunar rover with HDTV uplink and real-time relay to Earth would be dyn-O-mite! Come on, NASA-TV, bring it on!

  9. JoeSmithCA

    If I had money to burn I’d send up a rocket full of empty beer cans or soda bottles and aim it at the mooon–just so our future explorers will feel right at home exploring parts of the moon where no person has set foot :)

  10. This image is taken, “and smell” the impact point of control (GILL near the crater) for the lower elevation and about a continuous minutes of high-definition cameras (telephoto) is taken. “Smell” with the people gradually reduce the height to see how well the images from the moon looming

    I really love on-line translators….

  11. Charlie Young

    I can “smell” a “furniture store” on the surface of the moon!

  12. Charles Boyer

    HDTV= 1,920 * 1,080 pixels, or a mere 2.7 Megapixels…which is only slightly more than I had in my very first digital camera, a Kodak D165, which had 1.4 MPix.

    If you want really impressive photos, launch the equivalent of a Hasselblacd CF-39 sensor, which is 39Mpix. Or better.

    What’s the raw resolution of LRO?

  13. T.E.L.

    Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum Said:

    “With no atmosphere it’s possible to have a perilune of less than a kilometer, though on another orbital pass there might be a mountain there blocking your orbit… Pow!”

    Jim Irwin said in his autobiography that there were times when his spacecraft’s orbit dipped below the peaks of many lunar mountains. He said that it was rather worrisome, watching whole ranges of them whooshing by, but that he and the other two guys kept silent and assumed that the people at Mission Control knew what they were doing.

    This reminds me of Clarke’s short story Maelstrom II.

  14. The first three pictures in that series reminds me of the quote from one of the Apollo astronauts – I think it was Gene Cernan, who said he can now look up at the moon and say, “That’s more than a bright circle in the sky. That’s a place. I’ve been there.”

    Spacecraft such as Kaguya and, I hope, the LRO, give us all a chance to say that.

  15. Mike

    Phil, I got to see the LRO launch live, thanks to your Tweets. It was pretty awesome! Do you know when will be near / in orbit around the Moon?

  16. Bar

    Hopefully in the future we are more careful. Plymouth Rock was an ecological disaster.

    We should start showing more respect for the Moon.

  17. If you were like me and wondering why there was a smelly furniture store on the moon, it would appear that those are rather amusingly bad translations of “Kaguya”.

    Incredible photos. It seems strange that once again, we’re heading to the Moon. Maybe this is the start of the second era of space exploration?

  18. Regarding the translation of kaguya, kagu means furniture, in Japanese, and -ya is a suffix that denotes a store. So, “furniture store”.

    Kaguya is also the name of a princess from the moon in a 10th century Japanese folk tale. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tale_of_the_Bamboo_Cutter)

  19. Why not link to JAXA’s English site about the final pictures?

  20. Daniel (#19) Because it wasn’t up yet when I wrote this piece?

  21. I agree with BJN and Big Al. Human suck, and anything they touch is by definition ruined.

    Let the rabbits take over. We certainly won’t overpopulate the place once we’re at the top of the food chain. Trust me!

  22. Gary Ansorge

    Ah, Little Bunny, but what will you do when the Big Bad Wolf comes calling?

    AH, the pristine moon, a wonderful, clean(danged dust), unspoiled wilderness,,,er, what’s that Jerry? Oh, right, I forgot, IT’S A FREAKING DEAD HUNK OF ROCK!!!

    HAving said that, I too hope we cordon off the first landing sites or at least ask the Chinese to show a little respect,,,

    AH, Chinese food on the moon. What more could one ask?

    GAry 7

  23. USS Kevin

    Daniel Fischer asked:

    “Why not link to JAXA’s English site about the final pictures?”

    Because then we would not have a smelly furniture store on the Moon now, would we?

    Preserve the Moon for geological purposes and protect our historical sites there, but otherwise it has no climate or ecology to save, so let us not get PC absurd here, shall we folks?

  24. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The Moon’s not dead, he’s restin’.

    The Moon’s surface remodeling processes takes longer than Earth for obvious reasons. But wouldn’t eventually a meteorite clean away any damage done? Btw, what is the odds for the original landing places looking pristine after 40 years – I assume LRO has as a task to look into meteorite statistics and damage.

    If we go there I do hope we avail ourselves of its resources in various forms including tourism and dust graffiti, instead of relying on the currently stressed Earth. (I also hope we will take care of any important clues for various sciences, but that is another matter.)

  25. Charlie Young

    @ 12
    The original trips to the moon took along Hasselblad equipment for some of the most hi res film images ever seen from there. Most we see today were taken by a Hasselblad.

  26. Chris Winter

    In Kaguya’s final moments
    Came some pictures clear
    Of our planet’s satellite
    Far, and yet so near

    Keep the mission, speed it onward
    Till our footsteps fall
    Once again on Luna’s soil
    Thus, so say we all.

    It messes up the original rhyme scheme, and the wording leaves something to be desired (and, fairly obviously, I read the spacecraft’s name as “Kayuga” until I took another look.)
    But hey, not bad for a first cut.

  27. Ryan

    How dare they use violence in the name of science. Crashing a probe into the moon is like dropping nukes on a city to study the results. Did they ask the Moon for permission to attack it?

  28. Stone Age Scientist

    Jules (Julia) @ #3, OMG!! I think I see Robin Williams’ head whizzing about the surface.

    And now I know why people tend to look at the moon romantically; evidence being the heart-shaped crater.

  29. drow

    “Oh moon, we are sorry for what our ancestors did. Please show us on this doll where the bad scientists touched you.”

  30. Petrolonfire

    Yeah, why not? 😀

    …. Done …

    …. &, yeesh, they’ve got a young-earth creationist nutter writing for Satya’s mob too:

    “Young earth creationist, Paul Giem, PhD on radiometric dating”

    What a sad pack of fools.

  31. craig

    funny that the kaguya took thousands of photos and yet only a handfull are available for view to the public. smells just as fishy as nasa. something seems to be being covered up.

  32. Markle

    There’s now a video of Kaguya’s final flight into oblivion on YouTube.


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