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13 June 2009

The End of Kayuga (Part 2)

Japan's Lunar Probe Kayuga officially ended its mission to our Moon at 1825 GMT.

Launched 14 Sept 2007, Kayuga was a 17 month long exploration of the Moon's surface. Officially named SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer), Kayuga is the name it was given by the Japanese public. It consisted of a main orbiter flying at 100 km altitude and two small polar satellites - Rstar and Vstar.

Rstar was a small two way relay satellite used to facilitate communications between Kayuga and controllers back at JAXA
. Rstar was also used to measure Doppler shift in the expected orbits of Vstar and the main orbiter. Rstar crashed into the farside on 12 Feb 2009.

Vstar was the other mini satellite used to measure the lunar gravity field. Also known as the VRAD and VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry).

Kayuga has a plethora of instrumentation:
- X-Ray & Gamma Ray Spectrometer for determining the composition of the surface and abundance of certain elements.
- Multi band Imager & Spectral Profiler for the for determining the mineral composition and distribution of the surface.
- Terrain Camera, Lunar Radar Sounder and Laser Altimeter for surface and sub-surface imaging. The Terrain Camera was used to show that there is no surface ice in the permanently shadowed craters of the lunar south pole.
- Several instruments for measuring the Moon's magnetic field and tenuous atmosphere
- The Rstar and Vstar were used to measure the gravitational field of the Moon by measuring the Doppler shift of the Main Orbiter and comparing it to its expected orbit. Vstar was used on the far side where the Doppler shift method did not work.
- The High Definition TV camera was used to take the first HD images of the surface and pretty famous HD video of the Earth rising over the limb of the Moon.

With demise of Kayuga, lunar scientists and enthusiasts turn their focus to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)

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