A 50 Year Lunar Time Capsule


  1. Toyota on the Moon!
  2. A 50 year lunar time capsule
  3. How even a failed Mars landing humanizes us

Current events

JAXA, the Japanese space agency, announced a collaboration with Toyota to begin a concept study for a future manned Moon rover to be launched as early as 2029. This wouldn’t be unprecedented; did you know General Motors built the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) for Apollo 15-17? But this new vehicle would be a massive improvement - much larger, internally pressurized (so the astronauts can take off their spacesuits), and with rechargeable fuel cells rather than the LRV’s single-use batteries. All in all, the rover would have a range of more than 6,000 miles, compared to the LRV’s measly 125 mile range. 

Way better than the Toyota Sienna minivan my mom used to drive :P

Today I learned

This one was very surprising to me. Most of the lunar samples returned by the Apollo astronauts were opened up and studied, but I had no idea that three containers remained totally vacuum sealed and unopened to this day. This was done intentionally because those early 1970s scientists wanted to preserve some samples for future examination, knowing that future technology could better analyze them and reveal the Moon’s secrets. Given the approaching 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, NASA announced 9 scientific teams have been selected to finally study these pristine samples, awarding $8mm for their research. 

Apollo 17 alone retrieved 250 pounds of moon rocks

I’m very impressed by the scientists’ foresight in saving these samples for future generations, but I’m also saddened by it. If those scientists believed humanity would establish permanent presence on the Moon after the Apollo landings, there would’ve been no need to set anything aside. But they must’ve known we wouldn’t go back without the impetus of the Space Race/Cold War. People just don’t care about space enough to spend that much tax money on it. 
My parents’ generation barely remembers the moon landings; I say it’s up to ours to take humanity back!

This day in space history

On March 14, 2016, the joint European/Russian ExoMars mission was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The mission consisted of two components: 1) the Trace Gas Orbiter, which continues to orbit Mars and study its atmospheric methane for evidence of biological activity, and 2) the Schiaparelli lander, which unfortunately crashed on the Martian surface because its retro thrusters didn’t fire correctly (Fantastic article on it here). But don’t worry too much, this mission was more of a test run for the upcoming ExoMars 2020 launch, which will deliver the Rosalind Franklin rover to the Martian surface. 

Left: artist's impression of the 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter deploying the Schiaparelli lander
Right: artist's impression of the Rosalind Franklin probe on Mars, to be launched in 2020

On a separate note, Happy Pi Day! Did you know that Albert Einstein was born on Pi Day (March 14, 1879) and Stephen Hawking died on Pi Day last year (March 14, 2018)? Fate has a funny way of creating coincidences. Another similar one I can think of is John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both dying on the same day, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1826)

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