As you've probably noticed, I've been focusing on space stories the past few days, and this is because, in part, that I think 2018 is going to be a major "space year." Already the stories have been rather strange if one is following them closely. Elon Musk's Space X attempted to launch an American military satellite, the Zuma, which allegedly failed, and yet, mere days later, successfully launched not only a new military satellite for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, but also a Martian probe in the form of one of Musk's Tesla Roadsters, "just for fun."
Not to be outdone, India is planning its second lunar probe launch this April, and in this case, there's plenty of room for some high octane speculation. Here's the story (shared by Mr. T.M.):
According to the article, India's plan is to place a probe in orbit, while soft-landing a probe at the Lunar South Pole:
Named Chandrayaan-2 (which means “lunar vehicle-2” in Sanskrit), the spacecraft will take between one and two months to reach lunar orbit. Once there, the orbiter will stay in place, while a lander will detach itself and head to the surface for a soft-landing. On the surface of the moon, a rover will emerge from the lander and explore its surroundings near the south pole.
ISRO chairman K. Sivan told Indian daily the Times of India (TOI): “Chandraayan-2 is a challenging mission as for the first time we will carry an orbiter, a lander and a rover to the moon. … The 6-wheeled rover fixed within the lander will get detached and move on the lunar surface. The rover has been designed in such a way that it will have power to spend a lunar day or 14 Earth days on the moon’s surface and walk up to 150-200 kilometers. It will do several experiments and on-site chemical analysis of the surface.”
It's that little bit about the south lunar pole that caught my attention and shot my "suspicion meter" into the red zone, and which makes me wonder exactly what India is up to.
Because in 2009 we had the famous, or depending on one's lights, infamous LCROSS episode, which sparked something of a buzz in the "alternative research community." LCROSS was a probe that NASA launched to the moon in that year, ostensibly for the purpose of crashing the probe into the Lunar surface near the south pole, and looking for indications of water in the resulting ejecta. LCROSS, which stood for Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite was successfully launched in 2009, and did in fact impact on the lunar southern polar surface, and did in fact detect evidence of water on the Moon as a result:
There was, however, another take on the whole LCROSS mission, and it was Richard Hoagland who made the argument. LCROSS, he maintained, was a suggestive name, for what does one get when one arranges "L's" in the form of a "Cross"? One gets a swastika. There was, argued Mr. Hoagland, a distinct NASA campaign to get everyone looking at the Moon during the impact, and we were assured it would all be visible from the Earth as the probe struck the lunar surface at velocities faster than a rifle bullet, causing a massive plume of lunar dust ejecta to be visible from Earth. Indeed, I remember the campaign well, and at the time, it seemed curious to me. (See NASA's Smoking Gun: Part II LCROSS' (and LRO's) Secret NASA Mission to the Moon ....) Indeed, Mr. Hoagland pointed out an obvious problem with NASA's campaign:
This blatant NASA "PR" prime objective re LCROSS -- to involve as many "average Americans" as possible, in personally viewing the Climax of this NASA Lunar Impact Mission -- was readily admitted by Jennifer Heldmann, NASA-Ames Coordinator of the "LCROSS Observation Campaign":
"... one of the early goals of the mission was to get as many people to look at the LCROSS impacts in as many ways possible, and we succeeded. The amount of corroborated information that can be pulled out of this one event is fascinating [emphasis added] ...."
When NO ONE on Earth ... with any instrument ... saw ANYTHING?!
Just a few days before impact, the LCROSS Project Scientist, Anthony Colaprete, officially reassured everyone:
"... this is very observable from earth, so we'll have lots of eyes on it [emphasis added] ...."
The almost physical let-down for all those millions of disappointed Americans ... when they DIDN'T get to see this "promised NASA spectacle," is perhaps most aptly summed up by a blunt headline the day following the NASA event, appearing in the normally very pro-NASA San Jose Mercury News:
"... NASA Ames' moon show is much ado about nada ...."
In fact, this was the problem for Mr. Hoagland: NASA expected a spectacular display, and advertized as such, and got... nothing, or, as he put it:
With this current NASA PR fiasco, not only did the general public NOT get to see anything even "remotely resembling 'Deep Impact' when the LCROSS Centaur rocket plowed into the Moon (even on the Internet or NASA TV ...)," the largest telescopes on Earth didn't even detect anything "careening into the lunar surface" ... a quarter of a minute after the LCROSS rocket was supposed to have hit the ground with the force of "a ton of high explosives," and raised a "plume" almost ten miles high ....
There was no "flash" ... no "upward-jetting, gigantic plume of lunar ice and dust ... hovering over the lunar lanscape like 'a huge, inverted cone of light'" ....
The problem was the absence of a plume, for if the LCROSS satellite had impacted against a hard rocky surface, the kinetic energy would have generated heat, and light, and have been visible, at least to telescopes, and similarly, if against a dusty soft surface, a large plume of ejecta would have occurred, and been visible in the sunlight, again, at least to telescopes. The absence of a large plume in either case suggested to Hoagland that the rocket had punched through the surface of the Moon, into an empty space below, where much of the resulting plume actually occured, much like a bunker-busting rocket punching through the roof of a bunker, and then detonating. Most of the explosion occurs in the bunker sp[ace itself, and little is visible through the punched hole in the roof. This fact, coupled with the fact that the LCROSS Infrared images from the Moon indicated a heat dissipating "covering" along the lim line of the Moon, suggesting a structure above the lunar surface to to it. (See The Smoking Gun? )
Indeed, Mr. Hoagland reproduced NASA photos of the actual impact, and what surrounds the impact is are a multiple of rectilinear features, suggesting artifical structural components, rather than the cratered surface we've come to associate withe Moon. (The photographs taken by the LCROSS misson are available in the links to Mr. Hoagland's articles above, and particularly in Part II of his review of the mission.)
Why is all this significant? At the most basic level, the south lunar pole was chosen by NASA for the impact mission because scientists thought that water might be found at the lunar poles in the form of ice in craters. The thinking was that this would enable a permanent base to be built at the poles, and that the water would sustain the bases, which would use the more or less constant sunlight as a source of power. Additionally, the water could be used for fuel for rockets taking off from the Moon. Other space agencies such as the European Space Agency, Chinese and Japanese, have expressed similar concepts.
But with the arguments of Mr. Hoagland, another and entirely different possibility exists for the LCROSS mission, namely, that it verified in an unusual fashion the presence of structures - very old structures - on and beneath the lunar surface at the south lunar pole.
And now... India wants to go "look for itself" with its very own soft-landing "Tesla roadster."
See you on the flip side...