I love space exploration -- the promise of new science and new information about the world(s) around us is so bracing! -- so I'm happy to note today's successful launch by Japan of a Moon exploration satellite around 10:30 local time from the Tanegashima Space Center. According to email@example.com, "The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is calling it the biggest lunar mission since NASA's Apollo programme. The JPY 32 billion (US$279 million) satellite, called the Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE), will survey the Moon's mineralogy, topology and gravity gradients."
What most Americans don't know, and perhaps other nationals as well, is that the Apollo missions did not fully map the Moon. So SELENE will be sending back a lot of new data via 15 different devices on board, from "an X-ray spectrometer and a gamma-ray spectrometer for mapping the Moon's surface in unrivalled detail, and a terrain camera, laser altimeter and radar sounder that will provide surface and subsurface data for studying the Moon's tectonic history." SELENE may help us finally solve the puzzle of where the Moon actually came from, as well as being an advance guard towards a proposed Japanese moon base.
And ah, the romance of space: "SELENE is referred to in Japan as 'Kaguya', after a mythical princess that returned to the Moon after scorning various suitors on Earth."
See some past Worldchanging coverage of space exploration:
2004: Greens in Space