Japanese Lunar Mission

Five years ago today — September 14, 2007 — the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) launched the Kaguya lunar orbiter aboard an H-2A rocket from Tanegashima Island.

(The Moon, as seen by Kaguya’s high-gain antenna monitor camera. JAXA image from the National Space Science Data Center.)

Kaguya was originally named SELENE, for SELenological and ENgineering Explorer, but was renamed Kaguya after Kaguya-hime — i.e., Princess Kaguya — who came to Earth from the Moon in the 10th century Japanese folk tale “Taketori Monogatari” (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter).

Upon reaching lunar orbit on October 3, 2007, Kaguya deployed two smaller satellites, “Okina” and “Ouna,” named for the old couple in the folk tale who find and adopt Kaguya-hine.

The Kaguya mission completed a global survey of the Moon, looking at its composition, topography, gravity, and other conditions. The mission ended on June 10, 2009, with a pre-planned impact on the lunar surface that was timed to allow observers on Earth to see the flash of impact.

Very cool!

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