NASA recently announced it has made high-resolution lunar images and maps available

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Wackbag Staff
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International Space Updates, September 2007

NASA and Google again work together with the Google Moon service; JAXA is seeing nice progress by SELENE; and NASA discusses the space economy

NASA recently announced it has made high-resolution lunar images and maps available on the popular Google Moon service. Users can also access audio and video clips that detail the basic activities of astronauts in space. NASA and Google signed an initial partnership in late 2006, with NASA responsible for providing images and data on the Google Earth program. Users can also view a 360 degree panoramic view of the same landscape that NASA lunar landers captured.

Google continues to show a strong interest in space technology and exploration - the company recently announced its sponsorship of a $30 million moon challenge.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s Selenological and Engineering Explorer, or SELENE, is progressing nicely a week into its mission to begin evaluating the history of the moon. JAXA engineers have SELENE orbiting the Earth twice before going towards the moon. The so-called largest lunar mission since the NASA Apollo mission.

JAXA hoped to launch SELENE more than four years ago, but technical issues and cost restraints caused multiple delays.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin recently discussed the impact of space exploration in today's global economy. The United States Space Foundation reported that the global space economy in 2005 was worth somewhere close to $180 billion.

Griffin admitted China is probably going to be able to explore the moon with astronauts before NASA is able to.

"I think that when that happens Americans will not like it, but they will just have to not like it," Griffin told reporters.

It was not that long ago when national space organizations were responsible for space endeavors, not private companies. The past 10 or so years has ushered in a time where more private sector companies are beginning to take an interest in space. Space tourism is a great example of how the private sector is working with national space programs to make money for both organizations.