News for August, 1999
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August 10, 1999

Commercial Moonshot Hopes to Return Lunar Video

Artist Concept of TrailBlazer

A TransOrbital, Inc. news release August 4, 1999

TransOrbital, Inc. announces a private venture to photograph the moon from lunar orbit. The photos will be very high resolution, using a telescope with a video imager. "We expect to be able to see the tire tracks from the Apollo-era rovers." says Gregory Nemitz, vice-president of TransOrbital.

TransOrbital's TrailBlazer mission is slated to be the next spacecraft to orbit the moon, following the crash of the Lunar Prospector. Current plans include a launch date in December, 2000.

TransOrbital's Lunar TrailBlazer Project aims to be the first purely commercial space mission to enter lunar orbit. First of its two-fold mission is to return images of Earthrise as seen from lunar orbit. Secondly, TrailBlazer will return tele-photo video images of the moon from low altitude, for aerial photography customers and sponsors seeking publicity. TransOrbital has identified more than 75,000 potential customers for high-resolution photography of the moon, from lunar orbit. This is the largest identified mass-market customer base for a lunar product.

TransOrbital's TrailBlazer spacecraft will be designed for extremely low-cost, construction. The estimated cost to complete the entire mission is about one million dollars. The spacecraft's prime instruments are simply a telescope and a visible light video camera. If there is extra capacity, one or two additional small instruments or sub-payloads may be carried. TrailBlazer will have a planned lifetime of up to 30 days on lunar orbit, with plans for 60-90 days of extended operations if the spacecraft continues to function. Months later, TrailBlazer will impact on the surface of the moon.

At its closest point, TrailBlazer will be only 100 km (~62 mi.) from the surface of the moon. The spacecraft will return photography of the lunar surface and of the Earth, from many different points in its orbit. The operators will also use the spacecraft to return dramatic video of the Earthrise, as seen from lunar orbit.

For further information, please contact TransOrbital.

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