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SELENE (Kaguya), Japan's Probe for Lunar Orbital Mapping

SELENE, the SELenological and ENgineering Explorer, better known in Japan as Kaguya, the goddess of the Moon, is a lunar orbiter probe built and launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The main mission of SELENE was to gather information about the lunar surface environment, including a topographic mapping of the Moon, as well as its gravitational field and some other scientific matters. The lunar polar orbiter also took HDTV videos which were a part of its public relations campaign. Images of the Moon were provided to Google Earth for its lunar browsing capability.

Many of the images helped define the extent of shadowing in the poles, but there was no attempt to detect or measure water or other volatiles.

SELENE was originally scheduled to launch in 2003, but a previous launch failure and some other technical difficulties resulted in a delay until late 2007.

The payload consisted of the main SELENE probe plus two additional small satellites deployed to relay data when the SELENE probe was on the opposite side of the Moon, and to perform radio and lunar gravity studies. These two additional probes were called Rstar and Vstar, or in Japanese named Okina and Ouna.

The main mission lasted approximately one year, followed by an extended mission for half a year, and then a planned impact trajectory a few months after that in June 2009.

External links:

SELENE / Kaguya on Wikipedia

SELENE / Kaguya, official page at JAXA > Lunar Resources (Mining The Moon) > Probes, History and Future > SELENE (Japan)

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