THE MOON, MARS, AND DEJA VU
This story was spotted and shared by G.B., and the reason I'm blogging about it is...well, deja vu and "here we go again." It turns out that Chinese and Japanese space scientists are a bit baffled because once again the Moon and Mars are up to some hijinks that regular readers of my books and of this website will readily recognize(with apologies to Tucker Carlson for citing the Faux News version of this story):
So here's what's going on with the Moon and the Japanese:
China and Japan have addressed mysterious circumstances around disappearing space equipment, including a lunar lander that would have completed Japan’s potential first successful moon landing.
"It has been determined that there is a high probability that the lander eventually made a hard landing on the moon’s surface," Takeshi Hakamanda, founder and CEO of Japanese spaceflight company Ispace, said of the venture.
The company clarified shortly after that engineers had observed that the remaining propellant in the Hakuto-R spacecraft may have been "at the lower threshold and shortly afterward the descent speed rapidly increased," the New York Times reported.
The final determination was based on the fact that the company lost communications with the craft. An investigation will uncover why the spacecraft apparently misjudged the altitude, with analysis indicating the lander was still high up when it should have been on the ground.
And here's what's going on with Mars and the Chinese:
However, China has had some difficulty with its own space operations: Beijing this week finally spoke out about the disappearance of its Zhurong Mars rover, which stopped communicating in May 2022.
"We have not had any communication from the rover since it entered hibernation," Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China’s Mars exploration program, said. "We are monitoring it every day and believe it has not woken up because the sunlight has not yet reached the minimum level for power generation."
A pile-up of dust could have impacted the rover’s power charging capabilities and thus prevented the rover from waking up after entering hibernation, The Independent reported.
A NASA probe was able to locate the rover thanks to onboard camera equipment, confirming that the rover had not moved since at least September.
My first reaction when reading his was to shrug my shoulders and say out loud to my little dog, "Here we go again, Shiloh." She wagged her tail in response.
A little explanation is in order for those who may not have read my books and blogs in detail. Regarding the Moon, I pointed out in my book The SS Brotherhood of the Bell, that early American and Soviet space probes had a very dubious track record when it came to trying to land on the Moon. Some probes just flew right by our neighboring planet, and others smacked into it and were destroyed, and in a special case (Surveyor 4), disappeared in a very weird way, which provoked an unusual hypothetical explanation from space researcher Richard C. Hoagland. So what was going on? Why so many space probe losses in the early years of Russian and American space exploration until both powers "got it right"? My high octane speculation at the time was, and remains, that the public figures for the gravity of the Moon are off and inaccurate. It was, after all, Sir Isaac Newton who is reputed to have said "The Moon is the only thing that gives me a headache." Well it should, because along any normal gravitational explanation, it shouldn't be there doing what it's doing. Under either the "capture" model or the "earth-fission" model, its orbit should be far more elliptical than it really is(it's a nearly perfectly circular orbit), and under those models, the fact that one face if permanently "locked" into position facing the Earth would also be unlikely. The best explanation, believe it or not, for why it's there doing what it's doing is that someone parked it there. Which brings us back to all those messed up early lunar probes that went flying by the Moon or crashing into it, when they were intended to soft land on it. Misunderstanding of the accurate gravitational acceleration of the Moon would definitely lead to such accidents. It would be analogous to a pilot dialing in the wrong atmospheric pressure in the controls of an aircraft. With the wrong pressure, the altimeters in the aircraft will not be accurate, and the pilot will not know exactly how high the aircraft is off the ground. Such inaccuracies actually have led to the occasional aircraft disaster, and inaccurate understanding of the Moon's gravity would have a similar effect on the trajectory of probes.
Which brings us to the loss of Surveyor 4, an early American lunar probe designed to softland on the lunar surface. As Richard C. Hoagland described the event and speculated during a presentation to an audience at the University of Ohio many years ago, all the telemetry of Surveyor 4 indicated that it was on course for a soft landing on the Moon. It was, indeed, backing down toward the surface of the Moon and all indicators were that it was a few hundred feet from making a soft landing on the surface, when suddenly, all communication - literally all telemetry - from the probe suddenly and inexplicably ceased, and nothing further was ever heard from it. Hoagland's explanation is both simple, ingenious, and somewhat arresting, for he speculates that the probe simply hit something more or less "invisible" but solid, and suspended above the surface of the Moon, something like a glass dome. Glass on the Moon would be both incredibly hard, and very difficult to see or detect. Surveryor 4 had, in other words, literally backed into a building that could not be seen. As a result, while the telemetry of the probe - which is traveling at the speed of light - continued to be broadcast by the probe even as it fell apart, the direction of the beam from its antennae was suddenly knocked out of position, and thus to sensors on Earth, appeared to disappear all at once, and quite suddenly. To quote Mr. Hoagland's explanation, "It just went splat!"
My point in rehearsing all of this is to suggest that perhaps the loss of the Japanese probe might be because of one of these two factors: either they were not privy to real measures of the lunar gravitational acceleration where they were attempting to land, and hence were like the pilot trying to land an aircraft with inaccurate barometric pressure readings and hence inaccurate altitude readings, or the Japanese probe, like Surveyor 4, may have inadvertently backed into one of Mr. Hoagland's hypothesized lunar domes.
Either way one chooses to explain it, we've been here before.
Which leaves us with the "hibernating" Chinese Mars probe, which, we're told by the article, might have gone dead because of a "pile up of dust" on the probe's solar panels, inhibiting its "power charging capabilities." Now, if you've been paying attention to Mars and Mars probes all these years, you'll recall a very similar incident occurred years ago to an American probe, which, we were told, had gone dead because it was unable to recharge because its solar panels had accumulated too much dust during a dust storm to do so. A few months went by, and all of a sudden NASA informed everyone that its "dead" probe had inexplicably "woken up" again. NASA's explanation was a classic: the probe recharged because wind had blown the dust off the solar panels, which was the same explanation of why it died in the first place, that wind had blown dust onto its solar panels. Apparently the Martian wind is capable of very strange behavior, being able both to clog, and then clean, solar panels. The explanation, while a classic study of circular and mutually contradictory reasoning for which NASA is justifiably infamous, was a lot more comforting than the thought that Marvin the Martian happened to spot the dusty probe, and being the kind-hearted if somewhat mischievous Martian that the cartoons portray him to be, cleaned off the panels with a bottle of Windex and some paper towels.
But either way one chooses to explain that, we've been here before, too.
See you on the flip side...
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