China Moon Mission: Chang’e-5 Launches, Starting Trip Back to Earth

Two days after it landed on the moon, China’s Chang’e-5 mission is on its way again, blasting off back to space, the beginning of its journey back to Earth ferrying a bounty of soil and rocks for scientists to study.

The top half of the lander launched at 10:10 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday, according to the China National Space Administration. Footage posted by Chinese state media showed the flash of the spacecraft’s engine as it headed to orbit, an ascent that took about six minutes.

It was the first time any spacecraft had launched from the lunar surface since the end of the Cold War moon race in 1976, and the first Chinese spacecraft to ever blast off from another world in the solar system.

The lander set down on Tuesday in a region of the moon known as Mons Rümker. The spacecraft was in the middle of a basalt lava plain that is about two billion years younger than the parts of the moon explored more than four decades ago by NASA’s Apollo astronauts and the Soviet Union’s robotic Luna landers. Images from the spacecraft show a desolate landscape with gentle rolling hills, a sign of its youth.

Within hours of arriving on the moon, Chang’e-5 set about drilling and scooping its lunar samples — perhaps more than four pounds.

Scientists are curious how this region remained molten far longer than the rest of the moon. Examination of these rocks in laboratories on Earth will also pin down their exact age, and that will calibrate a method that planetary scientists use to determine the ages of the surfaces of planets, moons and other bodies throughout the solar system.

The spacecraft’s departure is the first step in a complex sequence to return the rocks to Earth.

After it arrived in lunar orbit over the weekend, Chang’e-5 split into two. While the lander headed for the surface, the other half remained in orbit.

The ascent portion of the lander is to rendezvous and dock with the piece that remained in orbit. The rocks and soil will be transferred to a return capsule for a trip back to Earth, parachuting to a landing in Inner Mongolia later this month.

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UAE Mission to UN in Geneva joins Muslim World League, UN University for Peace launch book promoting peace, dialogue among nations

(MENAFN – Emirates News Agency (WAM)) JEDDAH, 2nd December, 2020 (WAM) — In the context of the UN 100 Years of Multilateralism, 75 Years of the United Nations inception and 40 Years of the UPEACE establishment, on 22 November 2020 the Muslim World League and the UN University for Peace launched the research “Promoting peace, human rights and dialogue among civilizations” (539 pages) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The launching was open by the moderator David Fernández Puyana, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the University for Peace to the UN Geneva and UNESCO Paris, who said on behalf of Prof. Francisco Rojas, Rector of UPEACE in Costa Rica, that the University for Peace, together with the Muslim World League, promotes this book, which highlights the actions of the United Nations, its Agencies, Programmes and Funds, in the fulfilment of the great principles that guide their multilateral action. Rector added that he is pleased with the excellence of the authors who contributed to this book, as well as the distinguished political and diplomatic personalities who collaborated on it.

Francisco Chacón, Ambassador of Costa Rica to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan indicated that they wanted to commend and warmly congratulate the Muslim World League and the University for Peace for this inspiration work that bridges us together, and promotes a culture of peace, which is a cornerstone of the Costa Rican Foreign Policy.

Lubna Qassim, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other international organizations, indicated that it is an honour and a privilege to have contributed to an unprecedented initiative on Peace and Human Rights. She shared UAE’s exemplary model of tolerance and inclusion. Through a video-recorded message, she also stressed that it is critical time in the history of mankind to embrace our differences and she hoped that through this book we engage in inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogues for peace and prosperity for all.

Afterwards, Alvaro Iranzo Gutiérrez, Ambassador of Spain to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, stressed that Spain has also tried to play a role in international efforts aimed at providing structure to the dialogue between societies and religions. He added that the splendid work of research coordinated by the UN University of Peace and the Muslim World League deserves full support and dedicated consideration. It thoroughly provides the intellectual backing that is so necessary to rise above perceptions of the past that thrive on the divides.

On his turn, Larbi Djacta, Chair of the International Civil Service Commission and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations underlined in a video-recorded message that international civil servants have a special calling: to serve the ideals of peace, respect for fundamental rights, economic and social progress, and international cooperation. He added that UNESCO is the lead agency in the United Nations system to promote the interreligious and intercultural dialogue within the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures. He wished that the culture of

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ESA signs contract for first space debris removal mission

JOHANNESBURG — The European Space Agency (ESA) has finalized an 86 million euro ($104 million) contract with Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA to complete the world’s first space debris removal mission. 

ClearSpace-1 represents the first real space debris removal and is not just a demonstration mission, ESA Director General, Jan Wörner, said during a Dec. 1 media briefing. The payload adapter ClearSpace-1 intends to retrieve is an active piece of space debris, a prospect that is far more challenging than a stable demonstration target, he added.

“With space debris, by definition no such control is possible: instead the objects are adrift, often tumbling randomly,” said Wörner. “So this first capture and disposal of an uncooperative space object represents an extremely challenging achievement.

ESA officials signed a contract with Clear Space on Nov 13. to complete the safe deorbiting of a payload adapter launched aboard the second flight of the Arianespace Vega rocket in 2013.

Unlike traditional ESA contracts that involve the agency procuring and running the entire mission, ClearSpace-1 is a contract to purchase a service: the safe removal of a piece of space debris. ESA officials said they intend this mission to help establish a new commercial sector led by European industry.

The 86 million euros supplied by ESA will be supplemented with an additional 24 million euros ClearSpace is raising from commercial investors. Approximately 14 million euros of the privately-raised funding will be utilized for the mission, while the remaining 10 million will be set aside for contingencies.

In addition to the partial-purchase cost, ESA will supply key technology for the mission developed by the agency’s Clean Space initiative as part of its Active Debris Removal/In-Orbit Servicing project. The technology to be supplied includes advanced guidance, navigation and control systems, vision-based AI, and the robotic arms to capture the target object.

The 112-kilogram Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vespa) target object is located in orbit around Earth at an approximate altitude of 801 by 664 kilometers. The object was selected because it is the approximate size and weight of a small satellite, an initial target market for ClearSpace’s debris-removal service.

The 500-kilogram ClearSpace-1 chaser spacecraft is slated to be launched aboard a Vega-C rocket in 2025. The spacecraft features cameras, radar and LIDAR for navigation, and four articulating tentacles designed to capture the target object.

Once launched, the ClearSpace-1 spacecraft will be deployed into a 500-kilometer orbit for commissioning and testing. The spacecraft will then be raised to the target orbit for rendezvous and capture. Although much of this process will be automated, a series of go/no go points will be completed leading up to capture.

After the target object has been captured, the ClearSpace-1 spacecraft will drag itself and its payload into a destructive orbit to burn up in the atmosphere.

ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet said following the completion of ClearSpace-1, the company plans to undertake progressively more ambitious follow-on missions. The company’s goal is to get to the point where a single spacecraft can capture multiple objects, which

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Manned Mission To Mars Close To Possibility As New Tech Transforms Salty Water To Oxygen And Fuel


  • Unlike NASA’s MOXIE, this new technology can produce oxygen and hydrogen from salty water
  • The team behind this device wants to partner with NASA for its goal of bringing humans to Mars by 2023
  • Apart from Martian missions, the new technology is also useful on Earth

Access to water and fuel remains to be the biggest barrier to manned missions to Mars. The good news is that a new electrolyzer technology could trample that obstacle, making it possible for humans to survive the extreme conditions on the Red Planet. 

A team of engineers developed an electrolyzer device that can turn salty water into fuel and oxygen. Details of their development were published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This device can produce 25 times more oxygen than NASA’s Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), which is currently used by the Perseverance rover that’s currently on its way to Mars.

Unlike MOXIE, which produces oxygen from carbon dioxide, the new tech from the engineers of Washington University can produce both oxygen and hydrogen even from salty water. 

“Our novel brine electrolyzer incorporates a lead ruthenate pyrochlore anode developed by our team in conjunction with a platinum on carbon cathode,” Vijay Ramani, lead author and professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University, said in a press release.  

“These carefully designed components coupled with the optimal use of traditional electrochemical engineering principles has yielded this high performance,” he explained further.

The team hopes it could partner with NASA for its goal of bringing humans to Mars by 2023. After all, it performed a simulation of the Martian atmosphere at -33 degrees Fahrenheit in testing its brine electrolysis device.  

Salty water is abundant on Mars, a fact that has already been established by various studies in the past. In September, three underground lakes were also discovered on the Red Planet. The waters were found to contain extremely salty components. 

Apart from Martian missions, the technology is also useful on Earth, according to the engineers. The standard electrolysis device on Earth requires pure water, whereas this new device can make oxygen and fuel even from salty water, making it more economical to use. 

The electrolysis system also has diverse applications. For instance, submarines for deep ocean exploration can rely on the system to produce enough supply of oxygen and fuel from salty water.

Mars seen from the Hubble space telescope Mars seen from the Hubble space telescope Photo: NASA / NASA

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India to launch Shukrayaan Venus mission in 2024 after pandemic delays: reports

India plans to launch a new orbiter to Venus in 2024, a year later than planned, according to media reports.

A view of Venus from NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft based on data captured in 1974.India is now planning to launch its own Venus orbiter in 2024.

© Provided by Space
A view of Venus from NASA’s Mariner 10 spacecraft based on data captured in 1974.India is now planning to launch its own Venus orbiter in 2024.

The Shukrayaan orbiter will be the first mission to Venus by the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) and will study the planet for four years, according to SpaceNews, which cited a presentation by an ISRO research scientist at a NASA-chartered committee Nov. 10. 


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ISRO has been soliciting ideas for instruments for a Venus-based mission since at least 2018, according to its website. At the planetary science committee, ISRO’s T. Maria Antonita presented more information about Shukrayaan during a discussion about NASA’s new 10-year plan for planetary science, SpaceNews reported.

Related: India looks beyond the moon to Mars, Venus and astronaut missions

“ISRO was aiming for a mid-2023 launch when it released its call for instruments in 2018, but Antonita told members of the National Academies’ decadal survey planning committee last week that pandemic-related delays have pushed Shukrayaan’s target launch date to December 2024,” SpaceNews stated in a Nov. 19 report. 

A backup launch opportunity is available when Venus and Earth are next aligned in mid-2026, in such a way to minimize spacecraft fuel use during the planetary transit, Antonita added.

Shukrayaan is set to launch on India’s GSLV Mk II rocket, but it may go on the more powerful GSLV Mk III rocket to carry more instruments or fuel, Antonita told the committee. ISRO will make a final decision in the next three to six months.

The spacecraft will carry several instruments to probe the Venusian environment. The flagship instrument will be a synthetic aperture radar to examine the Venusian surface, which is shrouded by thick clouds that make it impossible to glimpse the surface in visible light. An earlier version flew on the Indian Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft now orbiting the moon, Space News reported.

Another instrument will be a Swedish-Indian collaboration known as the Venusian Neutrals Analyzer, which will examine how charged particles from the sun interact with the atmosphere of Venus, according to The Economic Times. An earlier generation of this instrument launched on the Indian Chandrayaan-1 moon mission of 2008-09, studying how the sun’s particles affect a world with a far more tenuous atmosphere.

Shukrayaan will also bring an instrument to Venus to examine the planet’s atmosphere in infrared, ultraviolet and submillimeter wavelengths, Antonita said. Earlier in 2020, scientists announced the possible detection of phosphine —  a life-friendly element —  in Venus’ atmosphere, although many in the science community remain skeptical of the findings. 

In September, the French space agency (CNES) announced it would also fly an instrument on Shukrayaan. The Venus Infrared Atmospheric Gases Linker (VIRAL) is a collaboration with Russian federal space agency Roscosmos. Antonita added that other instruments have been shortlisted and that India plans to fly an instrument from Germany.

Dozens of

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NASA gives big moon mission to Alabama company

President Trump may be leaving office, but NASA is staying on course with the president’s plan to return American astronauts to the moon. On Nov. 12, a little over a week after the election, a Huntsville, Ala., company said it has won an $85 million NASA contract modification to build key parts of two future moon rockets.

NASA awarded the contract extension to Teledyne Brown Engineering for two more of what are called Launch Vehicle Stage Adapters (LVSAs) for the Artemis II and Artemis III moon missions. The cone-shaped LVSAs connect the core section of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to its cryogenic propulsion stage, and Teledyne said they are the largest parts of the current version of SLS being built in Huntsville.

In the Artemis program NASA has developed, Artemis I would be an un-crewed launch of SLS to test the new rocket’s ability to get an Orion capsule to the moon and into lunar orbit. Artemis II would be a second orbit-only mission in 2023, this time with astronauts aboard the Orion capsule. Artemis III would carry “the first woman and next man,” as NASA puts it, to the moon for a landing and weeklong stay. That would happen in 2024 in the Trump administration’s vision, which would have been the last year of a second Trump term had it occurred.

“(Teledyne Brown Engineering) is thrilled to be a part of the monumental Artemis spaceflight moon missions, providing its second and third LVSA units, which further solidify our prominence in designing and building spaceflight hardware,” Jan Hess, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering said Nov. 12. “We are proud to continue our decades long partnership with MSFC, where our teams have worked tirelessly to help propel our nation beyond the Earth’s gravity.”

How big are these rocket parts? They are roughly 30 feet in diameter by 30 feet tall and consist of 16 Aluminum-Lithium alloy panels, Hess said.

President-elect Biden has named his own transition team to prepare for the handover of space policy from Trump’s administration to his own. That team has not spelled out the incoming president’s priorities for space yet, but some analysts believe Biden will continue the moon mission but push its timetable out a few years. That could make the first woman’s walk on the moon in 2028 instead of 2024.

The rocket hardware isn’t Huntsville’s only role in the moon mission. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in the city is leading the program to develop the lander that will take astronauts to the lunar surface, and Dynetics in Huntsville is leading one of three teams competing to build the lander itself.

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NASA begins assembling the rocket for Artemis moon mission

The first booster segment of the Space Launch System (SLS) was stacked on top of the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida earlier this week in preparation for its maiden flight, NASA said Tuesday.

A total of 10 segments will form the twin solid rocket boosters before its first liftoff, which is expected to take place next year.

The rocket is a key part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, which aims to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024. NASA officials also hope the SLS will be used to reach Mars and other “deep space destinations.”

NASA's Artemis I mission is expected to launch in 2021 with two test flights around the Moon without astronauts

Once fully assembled, NASA said the SLS rocket will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty and have about 15% more thrust at liftoff than the Saturn V rockets that powered the Apollo missions about 50 years ago, making it the most powerful rocket ever built.

However, the project has been dogged by delays and cost overruns.
NASA, European Space Agency to collaborate on Artemis Gateway lunar outpost

“Stacking the first piece of the SLS rocket on the mobile launcher marks a major milestone for the Artemis Program,” said Andrew Shroble, an integrated operations flow manager with Jacobs, a company working with NASA on the Artemis program, in a NASA news release.

Eight nations sign NASA's Artemis Accords that guide cooperative exploration of the moon

“It shows the mission is truly taking shape and will soon head to the launch pad.”

NASA’s Artemis I mission is expected to launch in 2021 with two test flights around the moon without astronauts. Artemis II is set to launch in 2023 with astronauts on board in preparation to have Artemis III bring astronauts to the surface of the moon.

Artemis is named after the Greek goddess of the moon and is twin sister of Apollo.

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Hope, the UAE’s first interplanetary mission, has its eye on bonus science on way to Mars

The United Arab Emirates’ first foray beyond Earth’s orbit is going so smoothly that the nation’s Hope Mars spacecraft will tackle some bonus observations before it reaches its destination, mission leaders have announced.

The Hope spacecraft launched in July and will arrive in orbit around the Red Planet on Feb. 9, 2021. There, it will study Mars’ atmosphere and weather, observations that will help scientists understand how the planet’s bubble of gas works. But after the spacecraft’s first three trajectory correction maneuvers were more accurate than the mission engineers had budgeted for, the Hope team has decided to briefly split the spacecraft’s focus to gather some extra science data before the probe arrives at Mars.

“This is one of the broad objectives of the mission, to provide novel science to the international community,” Hessa Al Matroushi, the Hope mission’s deputy project manager for science, told “We would like to add value.”

Related: The United Arab Emirates’ Hope mission to Mars in photos

Hope’s scientists and managers have known for a while that the spacecraft could potentially knock out some extra data in the later stages of its journey, which totals about 300,000 miles (500,000 kilometers). But the mission team only felt comfortable beginning to plan such bonus observations after confirming that the probe’s first three steering maneuvers were accurate enough to need little fine-tuning over the second half of the journey.

“The team’s been discussing it for some time but as a project director I had to put a hold on things because there are priorities,” Omran Sharaf, project director for the mission, told “The discussions were there, it was something that was always at the back of our heads.”

But given the spacecraft’s smooth sailing, the Hope mission is now targeting three different types of “bonus” observations to conduct before early January, when it must again focus exclusively on the complexity of safely arriving at Mars.

One of those extra observations will see the spacecraft team up with BepiColombo, a joint European-Japanese mission to visit Mercury that launched in October 2018 to begin a seven-year cruise to the solar system’s innermost planet.

In a carefully choreographed maneuver across a swath of the inner solar system, the two spacecraft will turn to point at each other, and both probes will measure the amount of hydrogen in the stretch of space between them, Sharaf said. Then, each spacecraft will pirouette to take the same measurement facing outward across the solar system, Al Matroushi added.

Interplanetary hydrogen is everywhere in the solar system, but one of Hope’s key science goals is to measure a different type of hydrogen, that slipping away from the Martian atmosphere. The spacecraft’s instrument is designed with the dual sources of hydrogen in mind, but the coordinated observations with BepiColombo will help the Hope team better differentiate interplanetary hydrogen from Martian hydrogen once the spacecraft gets closer to the planet.

A second subset of these early observations will also focus on hydrogen,

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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches for record 7th time, Starlink mission

  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket delivered 60 Starlink satellites into orbit on Tuesday night, marking the rocket’s seventh successful launch.
  • The launch was also SpaceX’s 16th Starlink mission, its 100th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket, and its 23rd flight in 2020 — the most flights it has ever achieved in one year.
  • SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:13 p.m. on Tuesday. The booster then returned to Earth and landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship.
  • Elon Musk’s space company now has at least 830 Starlink satellites in orbit. It plans to surround the Earth with up to 42,000 satellites beaming down high-speed internet.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

SpaceX successfully launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets on Tuesday night for a record-breaking seventh time, delivering 60 satellites to orbit for its Starlink satellite-internet service.

The launch marked SpaceX’s 100th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket and its 16th Starlink mission. The goal of Starlink is to envelop Earth with a network of 42,000 satellites beaming down high-speed internet.

SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, has launched at least 830 working Starlink satellites into orbit. 

The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket took off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:13 p.m. on Tuesday.

Around nine minutes later, the Falcon 9 booster’s first stage came back down to Earth, landing on SpaceX’s drone ship called “Of Course I Still Love You,” which was positioned northeast of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean.

“For the seventh time, this Falcon has landed,” SpaceX engineer Kate Tice said in the live launch broadcast.

The rocket’s seventh successful landing is the most SpaceX has achieved for any individual Falcon 9 rocket.

The Falcon 9 rocket, which is known for its reusability, previously flew on the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and four Starlink missions across 2019 and 2020.

This mission was the 23rd SpaceX launch of 2020, the most flights the company has carried out in one year. Its previous best was 21 in 2018.

Read more: A Texas superintendent reveals how — and why — he got SpaceX to turn his rural school district into a Starlink satellite-internet laboratory

On October 18, SpaceX kicked off its public beta test for Starlink, called the “Better Than Nothing Beta.” The company began testing the service in the northern US and southern Canada, and plans to launch a full public beta test in North America soon.

Starlink’s website says it wants coverage in the US and Canada by the end of 2020 and “near global coverage of the populated word” by 2021.

A subscription to SpaceX’s Starlink service costs $99 a month, plus an additional $499 for the Starlink Kit, which includes a mounting tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal to connect to the satellites. 


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UAE mission to target unexplored parts of the moon

It is an elite club of just three nations: the US, Russia and China — the only countries to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon. Now, the United Arab Emirates is trying to join them, announcing an unmanned moon mission planned for 2024.

a snow covered field


The UAE’s mission is designed as a stepping stone towards the exploration of Mars, which the Gulf nation is targeting with its Mars 2117 project. Earlier this year, the project took off with the launch of a probe — named Al Amal, or “Hope” — due to reach the red planet’s orbit in February 2021.


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The new lunar mission involves a small rover, to be built entirely at Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC). Inaugurated in 2006, the center has already designed and built Earth-orbit satellites under an all-Emirati team, but the rover is its most ambitious technological undertaking to date.

“We have experience with orbiters, but this will be the first mission in which we are landing on another celestial body,” says Adnan Al Rais, who leads the Mars 2117 program at the MBRSC.

“We are working on the development of the science and technologies that will enable us one day to send humans to Mars,” explains Al Rais. “In order to do that, we looked into the gaps that we currently have in our knowledge; space robotics and robotic technologies are among those gaps, which we are addressing by developing a lunar rover.”

Moon rush

The rover — named Rashid in honor of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, former ruler of Dubai and father of the current sheik — is currently in the design phase. It will be built in 2022 and tested the following year, ahead of the 2024 mission launch.

With just four wheels and a weight of 10 kilograms (22 pounds), it’s much smaller than the latest rover to successfully land on the moon, China’s Yutu-2, which has six wheels and weighs 140 kg (310 lbs). It dwarfs in comparison to Curiosity, NASA’s only currently active Mars rover, which is as large as an SUV and weighs 899 kg (1,982 lbs).

Lunar rovers aren’t especially common — there are more rovers on Mars than on the moon — but recent findings about the presence of water reserves and the prospect of establishing future mining operations have led to a new moon rush.

NASA is currently on track to send VIPER, a $250 million rover, to look for water ice around the satellite’s south pole in 2023, and plans to send “the first woman and the next man” to the moon by 2024 — returning humans to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

Several countries, including the UK, Russia and Japan, also have missions involving lunar rovers planned over the next few years, some of which are scheduled to land before the UAE’s 2024 mission.

Unexplored location

The planned rover will land in a previously unexplored area of the moon, close

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