Tonight all the world can share a beautiful full Moon. December 24 Mars will be at opposition, spectacularly close to the Moon. Last year we celebrated Christmas with the Earthrise photo from Apollo 8. This year, thanks to Japan's Kaguya spacecraft, we have a new Earthrise in HD.
39 years ago Apollo 8 celebrated Christmas while rounding the Moon. Thanks to a permanent presence, humans will be celebrating Christmas in Space this year and hopefully long into the future. Tonight skywatchers can contemplate the Moon, Mars and Beyond. The Vision has a goal of extending our permanent presence outward. A time is in sight when humans will enjoy Christmas ON the Moon.
Thursday December 21 the Jim Benson-founded Spacedev successfully tested a prototype lunar lander. Spacedev's hybrid rocket technology is considered safer and more reliable. (The Lunar Lander challenge earlier this year went uncollected when the only entrant blew up.) While failure is an orphan, success has many fathers and mothers. Spacedev built the engines, key parts of Spaceship One. Since their divorce Scaled Composites has tried to build engines alone, with tragic results.
Quietly, Spacedev has been built into a profitable company. Their Dreamchaser spacecraft is a good design that may reach Space before Virgin Galactic. Spacedev has partnered with the International Lunar Observatory to land a telescope on the Moon. Cost for ILO would be about 30 million US, the same amount as Google's Lunar Lander Prize. That would be a nice way to pay back the cost! (Winning the 10 million dollar X-Prize cost Scaled Composites 25 million.)
Happy Christmas to Kea, Tommaso, nige, samh, Q9 and everyone!