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January 1, 2018 - Moon on the Rocks

2018 Week 01 c

Moon on the Rocks? After Apollo 17 returned from the Moon in 1972, NASA did not conduct another lunar exploration mission of its own for over 25 years. Twenty years ago this week, Lunar Prospector began a 19-month journey to map the Moon’s elemental composition, measure its magnetic field, and detect gas escaping from the surface. One tantalizing discovery was a high concentration of sub-surface hydrogen, which hinted at water ice (perhaps delivered by a cometary impact) trapped in a perpetually shadowed crater on the Moon’s south pole. At mission’s end, Lunar Prospector intentionally crashed into the crater. The force of the impact might have released water vapor, and although none was detected, a similar experiment by NASA in a later 2009 mission confirmed the existence of ice.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

January 1 - 7, 2018

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History


Moon phase Monday 1

New Year's Day

Mercury at greatest elongation (23° W)
Moon at perigee
Full Moon 9:24 PM ET

1801: Giuseppe Piazzi discovers asteroid Ceres

Moon phase Tuesday 2

Uranus appears stationary

1900: Leslie Peltier born
1920: Isaac Asimov born
1959: Luna 1 is first spacecraft to leave Earth’s gravitational field
1972: Mariner 9 begins mapping Mars
2004: Stardust encounters Comet Wild 2

Moon phase Wednesday 3

Earth at perihelion
Quadrantid meteor shower

1962: NASA publicly announces and names Gemini program
2004: Mars rover Spirit lands

Moon phase Thursday 4

Quadrantid meteor shower

1970: NASA cancels Apollo 20 mission; further production of Saturn V launch vehicles ceases

Moon phase Friday 5

Regulus 0.9° south of Moon

1969: Venera 5 launched
1972: President Nixon announces approval to develop the Space Shuttle
2005: UB313 (Eris) discovered, ignites the Pluto-Planet debate

Moon phase Saturday 6


Mars 0.2° south of Jupiter

1998: Lunar Prospector launched

Moon phase Sunday 7

1610: Galileo discovers Callisto, Europa, & Io
1964: First power tool for space demonstrated
1968: Surveyor 7 launched

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