All posts by Peter Lobner

A Brief Look Back at the World’s First Modern Submarine

Peter Lobner

1. Introduction

National Submarine Day, which occurs each year on 11 April, honors the anniversary of the day in 1900 when the U.S. Navy acquired the Holland VI submarine, which has been generally recognized as the world’s first modern submarine.

Similar, though slightly larger variants of the original Holland VI design also were acquired by the UK (1901 – 1904) and Japan (1904).

2. The Holland VI and the original U.S. Holland-class submarines

Designed in 1896 by Irish-American inventor John Phillip Holland and his Holland Torpedo Boat Company, the Holland VI was built at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where Arthur Leopold Busch was the chief constructor / naval architect.  The Holland VI was launched on 17 May 1897. This diminutive submarine (by today’s standards) had an overall length of 53 ft 10 in (16.41 m), displacements of 65 tons surfaced / 75 tons submerged, and was operated by a crew of six.

Picture post card of the USS Holland (SS-1). 
Source: Universal Ship Cancellation Society (USCS #3608)

The Holland VI brought together a host of impressive features for the first time in one vessel, including:

  • Efficient hydrodynamic hull shape [teardrop-shape with bulbous bow and tapered stern] with good seakeeping ability on the open ocean.
  • Separate main and auxiliary ballast systems enable rapid diving and surfacing with minimial changes to the longitudinal center of gravity while underway.
    • Accomplished by operating with full or nearly full ballast tanks when submerged.
    • Allowed precise control of trim angle while submerged.
  • Able to dive to and accurately maintain a significant depth [up of 75 feet (23 m)].
    • Diving planes provide the means to precisely control depth [stern planes only, located behind the propeller].
  • Dual propulsion systems driving a single propeller at the stern.
    • Internal combustion engine provides reliable power on the surface, enabling long transits while charging the batteries [up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) at 6 knots]
    • Lead-acid storage batteries provide power to run submerged for a considerable distance [about 30 nautical miles (56 km) at 5.5 knots].
  • Conning tower for directing ship and weapons activities on the surface or semi-submerged.
    • No periscope. View ports around the top of the conning tower provided the commander with intermittent views while “porpoising” semi-submerged near the surface.
  • Offensive weapons systems.
    • One reloadable torpedo tube at the bow, with three self-propelled torpedoes carried internally.
    • One pneumatic dynamite gun at the bow that, on the surface, fired large projectiles, sometimes called “aerial torpedoes.” [This was subsequently removed].

John P. Holland first demonstrated the Holland VI to the U.S. Navy on 17 March 1898. It appears that Submarine Day originally was celebrated to mark anniversaries of this date.

USS Holland (SS-1) internal and external arrangements.  
The interior space was one contiguous compartment. Source:

The U.S. Navy purchased the Holland VI for $150,000 on 11 April 1900. The Navy renamed and commissioned the submarine as the USS Holland on 12 October 1900. While the Navy previously owned and operated two submarines, Alligator (1862 – 63) and Intelligent Whale (1869 – 73), the USS Holland was the first commissioned submarine in the fleet. Lieutenant H.H. Caldwell became the first commanding officer of a modern commissioned submarine. 

On 25 August 1905, the USS Holland made history by being the first American submarine to carry a U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, while she ran submerged for 55 minutes.The Navy ordered six more Holland-class submarines from the Electric Boat Company, which was founded in 1899 and had acquired the Holland Torpedo Boat Company and the continuing services of John P. Holland as Manager. Patent US702729 was granted on 17 June 1902 for Holland’s submarine design and assigned to Electric Boat Company.

Bow quarter view of USS Holland (SS-1) in drydock.
Source: Naval Institute photo archive
Stern quarter view of USS Holland (SS-1) in drydock. 
Source: Naval History and Heritage Command
Bow view of USS Holland (SS-1) dockside showing the muzzle of the 
pneumatic dynamite gun at the bow and the open conning tower amidships.  
Source: Scientific American 1898 via Wikimedia Commons
John Philip Holland in the conning tower. Note the viewing ports around the top rim of the tower. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Reenactment showing the interior of the conning tower.
Source: screenshot from “Submarine #1” video (2022) 

The U.S. Navy’s Holland-class subs rapidly became obsolete as submarine technology advanced. USS Holland finished out her naval career in Norfolk, VA, was stricken from the Navy Register of Ships on 21 November 1910, and was sold for scrap in 1913. The USS Holland did not receive its “SS-1” designation until the Navy’s modern hull classification system was instituted on 17 July 1920.

3. The UK Holland-class submarines

In their online history, BAE Systems reports, “Following meetings with the Admiralty, an agreement was made on 27th October 1900 between the Electric Boat Company and Vickers Sons & Maxim Ltd of Barrow-in-Furness, giving Vickers 25-year license to manufacture the Holland-class of submarines, using Electric Boats patents.”

Vickers built five Holland-class subs for the Royal Navy. These were somewhat larger than their U.S. counterparts, with a length of 63 ft 4 in (19.3 m), a submerged displacement of 107 tons and a crew of eight.

HMS Holland 1 underway. Source: RN Submarine Museum via Wikipedia

The first sub, designated Holland 1, was launched in 1901.  After 12 years of service, it was decommissioned in 1913 and sank at sea while under tow near Plymouth, on its way to be scrapped. The location of the sunken sub was discovered in 1981 and the largely intact vessel was raised in 1983. Today, the Holland 1 is on display at the Royal Navy’s Submarine Museum in Gosport, UK, in a climate-controlled environment designed to arrest further corrosion. 

UK’s Holland 1 in a drydock after being recovered from the seabed in 1983.
Source: screenshot from The National Museum of the Royal Navy video (2022)

The last of the UK’s Holland-class submarines, Holland 5, was launched in 1904. After eight years in service, Holland 5 sank off the coast of Sussex in 1912 while being towed for decommissioning. In 1985, the intact, but encrusted, submarine was located on the seabed at a depth of 35 meters (115 ft), where it remains today, subject to the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

Map of the UK’s HMS Holland 5 on the seabed.
Source: screenshot from Wessex Archaeology video (2010)

4. The Japanese Holland-class submarines

Japanese representatives had sailed aboard Holland IV during early testing in 1898 and during trials on the Potomac River in 1900. During the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese government purchased five “improved” Holland-class submarines from the Electric Boat Company in great secrecy, since the U.S. was a “neutral” nation. These submarines had a length of 67 ft (20.4 m) and a submerged displacement of 126 tons. They were delivered to Japan partially assembled in December 1904. Assembly was completed at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal, the crews were trained, and the submarines were ready for combat operations in August 1905. None saw action before the war ended in September 1905. They served as training boats until being retired from service 1920.

Japan’s first submarine squadron consisted of five “improved” Holland-class
(Type 7-P) subs. Source: Dynamic America, edited by J. Niven, 1960, 
via Gary McCue

5. Comparison with today’s nuclear-powered submarines

Since the first production run of Holland-class submarines built for the U.S. Navy, Electric Boat Company (now General Dynamics Electric Boat) has been delivering submarines to the Navy for more than 120 years.

The Navy’s Virginia-class SSNs, which started entering the fleet in 2004 with USS Virginia(SSN-774), are 7,800 ton behemoths in comparison to the USS Holland.

Comparison of USS Holland (SS-1) & USS Virginia (SSN-774)
Sources: composite adapted from Wikiwand (SSN-774) & Navsource (SS-1)

Almost 20 years later, the latest Virginia-class Block V SSNs are even bigger, with an overall length of 460 ft (140 m) and a submerged displacement of over 10,000 tons. The largest submarines currently in the Navy’s fleet are the aging Ohio-class SSBNs (strategic missile submarines) and SSGNs (cruise missile submarines). With an overall length of 560 ft (170 m) and a submerged displacement of about 18,750 tons, the Ohio-class subs dwarf all the other U.S. subs.  

Since 2018, the U.S. Navy has been testing a large, autonomous, unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), Echo Voyager, which is 51 feet (15.5 meters) long and has a displacement of about 50 tons. This is approximately the same size as the USS Holland (SS-1).

John P. Holland would be amazed at the progress made in submarine design and operation over the 123 years since the USS Holland was acquired by the U.S. Navy in 1990 and commissioned that same year.

Enjoy National Submarine Day on 11 April, and remember that, in the U.S., it’s pronounced “sub-marine-er,” not “sub-mariner,” as they say in the UK and in Marvel Comics.  If you’re going to dress up for the occasion, may I suggest this stylish T-shirt.

Source: Etsy

For more information


Videos – USS Holland

Videos – Royal Navy Holland-class submarines

Boeing Delivers its Last 747 Jumbo Jet

Peter Lobner

On 30 September 1968, the first Boeing 747 was rolled out at the company’s plant in Everett, WA. The first flight took place on 9 February 1969, and the FAA certified the 747 in December of that year. Pan Am was the first airline to offer Boeing 747 service on 22 January 1970, flying from New York to London.

1st Boeing 747 rolled out on 30 September 1968. Source: Everett Herald

After a 54-year production run, the last 747, a 747-8 freighter, was rolled out of the factory on Tuesday, 6 December 2022.  Boeing built a total of 1,574 747s in a range of models for commercial and military customers.

Boeing’s last 747 rolled off the assembly line. Source: Paul Weatherman/Boeing

You can watch a short video (1.18 min) of the final rollout here:

Boeing delivered its last 747 on 31 January 2023 to Atlas Air.  Here’s the story:

The final Boeing 747 at a ceremony for delivery to Atlas Air on 31 Jan 2023. Source: AP Photo/John Froschauer

For more Boeing 747 history, check out these articles:

The NRC will allow the Diablo Canyon 1 & 2 nuclear power plants to continue operating while considering their belated license renewal applications

Peter Lobner

This is good news for all Californians and California businesses that depend on the State’s rather fragile electrical grid as their primary source of electric power! 

On 2 March 2023, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted an exemption to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) that would allow the Diablo Canyon 1 & 2 nuclear power plants to continue operating while the NRC considers its license renewal application. The NRC press release stated:

“The exemption granted today will allow those licenses to remain in effect provided PG&E submits a sufficient license renewal application for the reactors by Dec. 31, 2023. The NRC will continue its normal inspection and oversight of the facility throughout the review to ensure continued safe operation. If granted, the license renewal would authorize continued operation for up to 20 years.”

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. 
Source: Pacific Gas & Electric Company

You can read the full NRC press release here:

You can track the status of the Diablo Canyon license renewal process on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission website here:

You may recall that, in 2016, many environmental groups and state legislators claimed victory in getting the commitment from PG&E to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant early.  Here’s just one example of that sentiment at the time:

“In a major victory for environmentalists, California is going nuclear-free, ending atomic energy’s more than half-century history in the state. On Tuesday, one of the state’s largest utilities agreed to a proposal endorsed by environmental groups and labor unions to shutter California’s last operating nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, by 2025.” (Source: Democracy Now, 22 June 2016).

In my 2016 post, “The Nuclear Renaissance is Over in the U.S.,” I noted: 

“On 21 June 2016, PGE issued a press release announcing that they will withdraw their application to the NRC for a 20-year license extension for the Diablo Canyon 1 & 2 nuclear power plants and will close these plants by 2025 when their current operating licenses expire.  PGE will walk away from about 41 GW-years of carbon-free electric power generation.”

Almost seven years ago, it was quite apparent to many that the early closure of Diablo Canyon would not be good for California or the environment.  It took that long for the state government to understand the situation and support the current effort to get the Diablo Canyon operating licenses extended.  Better late than never.  However, in their shortsighted view, the state government seems to be supporting a license extension only through 2030. If the legislators have their way, California will reclaim only a small portion of the carbon-free electric power generation that would be available from the 20 year operating license extensions that the NRC may grant.

I’d like see the California legislature and the associated complex web of state agencies that have a stake in this matter unanimously acknowledge that nuclear power is an important contributor toward energy de-carbonization.  In addition, I’d like to see that same group acknowledge that nuclear power plants are important for delivering reliable 24/7 generating capacity to the CALISO grid, and thereby helping maintain stability on a grid with a large fraction of variable-output, renewable generators.  If those factors are important to California’s government, then perhaps there is a future for nuclear power in the state, including the new generation of small, modular reactors (SMRs). California state support for nuclear power generation would open many exciting options for modernizing and decarbonizing electric power generation, transmission and distribution throughout the state, while ensuring that reliable electric power is available to all residents and business, many of which are seeking to decarbonize their activities by replacing their fossil fuel use with electricity that is available as needed, 24/7.

You can call that my California dream.

For more information:

NASA’s Sonification Project Makes the Universe Audible

Peter Lobner

In my 2016 post, “Remarkable Multispectral View of Our Milky Way Galaxy, “ I started by recalling the following lyrics from the 1968 Moody Blues song, “The Word,” by Graeme, Edge, from the album “In Search of the Lost Chord”:

This garden universe vibrates complete

Some, we get a sound so sweet

Vibrations reach on up to become light

And then through gamma, out of sight

Between the eyes and ears there lie

The sounds of color and the light of a sigh

And to hear the sun, what a thing to believe

But it’s all around if we could but perceive

To know ultraviolet, infrared and X-rays

Beauty to find in so many ways.

Well, NASA actually has done this thru their Sonification Project, which they explain as follows:

“Much of our Universe is too distant for anyone to visit in person, but we can still explore it. Telescopes give us a chance to understand what objects in our Universe are like in different types of light. By translating the inherently digital data (in the form of ones and zeroes) captured by telescopes in space into images, astronomers can create visual representations of what would otherwise be invisible to us. But what about experiencing these data with other senses, like hearing? Sonification is the process that translates data into sound. Our new project brings parts of our Milky Way galaxy, and of the greater Universe beyond it, to listeners for the first time. We take actual observational data from telescopes like NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope or James Webb Space Telescope and translate it into corresponding frequencies that can be heard by the human ear.”

I hope you’ll enjoy NASA’s ” Universe of Sound” website, which includes sonifications of more than 20 astronomical targets, each with descriptions of the target and details on how the sonification was made. Start your audio exploration of the Milky Way galaxy and the Universe beyond here:

Good luck trying to pick a favorite.

Many of NASA’s sonifications also are available individually on YouTube. Here are two very different samples:

For more information

U.S. Development of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems

Peter Lobner


In November 2022, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published an update to their document, “Defense Primer: U.S. Policy on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems,” which is available on the CRS website here:

Each of the US military services has its own autonomous vehicle / weapons system programs.  Following is a brief roadmap to those programs.


In November 2022, CRS published an update to their document, “Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress,” which you can read here:

See my April 2016 post, “Large Autonomous Vessels will Revolutionize the U.S. Navy,” for background information on the Navy’s autonomous vessel program and the Sea Hunter prototype developed by Leidos and tested in San Diego:

The Navy’s San Diego-based Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One is playing an important role in developing and testing several autonomous vessels.

Medium displacement unmanned surface vessels Seahawk (front) and Sea Hunter leave San Diego Bay ahead of the large manned destroyer USS Zumwalt.
Source: USNI 2021

For more information on the Navy’s autonomous vessel program, check out these US Naval Institute articles:

Air Force

In July 2022, CRS provided an overview of unmanned and autonomous aerial system in their report, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Roles, Missions, and Future Concepts,” which you’ll find here:

In one program, the USAF now is testing an AI-controlled F-16 fighter aircraft in aerial combat scenarios.  Here’s the February 2023 story:

In another program, the USAF is developing an autonomous “wingman” aircraft to fly along with manned fighter aircraft to provide greater capabilities to attack a target and/or provide protection for the manned aircraft.  This development is described in a February 2022 article on The Drive website here:

Defense contractor Kratos, which has offices in San Diego, has important roles in several DoD autonomous aerial systems projects.

An XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle flies in formation with an F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground testing range, Ariz., during a series of tests in Dec. 2020. Source: USAF photo


In January 2023, CRS published an update to their document, ”The Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) Program,” which is available here:

Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle RCV-M (medium) prototype. Source: CRS

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in this field and capabilities for use of lethal autonomous systems may soon challenge limits set by present policy.

NASA’s DART spacecraft impact measurably redirected the asteroid Dimorphos

Peter Lobner

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which was launched on 24 November 2021, was the first test of a technology for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards. DART’s target was the small “moonlet” named Dimorphos orbiting the larger near-Earth asteroid Didymos, which itself is only a half mile in diameter.  You can explore at the Didymos – Dimorphos binary system on NASA’s Solar System Exploration webpage here:

Simulation of the Didymos – Dimorphos binary system. 
Source: NASA’s Solar System Exploration
Actual view of the Didymos – Dimorphos binary system as 
DART approached impact with Dimorphos (background). 
Source: NASA / JHAPL

The goal is for the DART spacecraft was to strike the moonlet Dimorphos at high speed while being trailed by another small spacecraft, the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) cubesat, dubbed LICIACube, that would directly observe the encounter and report back to NASA and ASI. 

By comparing pre- and post-impact measurements made with powerful Earth-based and orbiting telescopes, the NASA / Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (JHAPL) team could determine what changes occurred to Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos. These results will help assess the feasibility of using a high-energy impactor as a tool for deflecting the trajectory of an asteroid, particularly one that represents a significant risk to Earth.  Learn more about the DART spacecraft and its mission objectives on NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office website here:

NASA successfully guided DART to a collision with Dimorphos on 26 September 2022.   You can watch the final five minutes of DART’s approach to the Didymos – Dimorphos binary system up to the final image before impact here:

DART closeup image of Dimorphos moments before impact.
Source: NASA / JHAPL
ASI’s LICIACube image just before its closest approach to Dimorphos (background). The debris plume cast off from Dimorphos after DART’s impact is clearly visible. Didymos is in the foreground. Source: ASI / NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope was used to capture images of the impact.  The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope team reported:

“The Hubble movie starts at 1.3 hours before impact. The first post-impact snapshot is 20 minutes after the event. Debris flies away from the asteroid in straight lines, moving faster than four miles per hour (fast enough to escape the asteroid’s gravitational pull, so it does not fall back onto the asteroid). The ejecta forms a largely hollow cone with long, stringy filaments.

At about 17 hours after the impact the debris pattern entered a second stage. The dynamic interaction within the binary system started to distort the cone shape of the ejecta pattern. The most prominent structures are rotating, pinwheel-shaped features. The pinwheel is tied to the gravitational pull of the companion asteroid, Didymos. 

Hubble next captures the debris being swept back into a comet-like tail by the pressure of sunlight on the tiny dust particles. This stretches out into a debris train where the lightest particles travel the fastest and farthest from the asteroid. The mystery is compounded later when Hubble records the tail splitting in two for a few days.”

8 October 2022 photo by the Hubble Space Telescope shows Dimorphos with its debris tail. Source: NASA/ESA/STScI/Hubble

The results are in, and on 1 March 2023, the NASA / JHAPL team reported a much greater change to Dimorphos’ orbit than originally expected.

“…the investigation team, led by Cristina Thomas of Northern Arizona University, arrived at two consistent measurements of the period change from the kinetic impact: 33 minutes, plus or minus one minute. This large change indicates the recoil from material excavated from the asteroid and ejected into space by the impact (known as ejecta) contributed significant momentum change to the asteroid, beyond that of the DART spacecraft itself.”


After the success of the DART mission, maybe the U.S. Planetary Defense Officer will have fewer sleepless nights, but this is only the first small, but successful step toward an operational planetary defense system.

For more information


A UAE Rover Carried by a Japanese Lander Will Attempt a Moon Landing in April 2023

Peter Lobner

1. Introduction

To date, only Russia, the U.S. and China have accomplished soft landings on the Moon, with each nation using a launch vehicle and spacecraft developed within their own national space programs. 

On 8 October 2020, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid announced the formation of the UAE’s lunar rover program, which intends to accomplish the first moon landing for the Arab world using the commercial services of a U.S. SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and a Japanese ispace lunar landing vehicle named HAKUTO-R. Once on the lunar surface, the UAE’s Rashid rover will be deployed to perform a variety of science and exploration tasks. This mission was launched from Cape Canaveral on 11 December 2022.

Emirates Lunar Mission (ELM) patch. 
Source: MBRSpaceCenter tweet

2. Japan’s ispace HAKUTO-R lunar lander

The Japanese firm ispace, inc. was founded in September 2010, with headquarters in Tokyo, a U.S. office in Denver, CO, and a European office in Luxembourg.  Their website is here:

ispace’s HAKUTO team was one of six finalist teams competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. On 15 December 2017, XPRIZE reported,” Congratulations to Google Lunar XPRIZE Team HAKUTO for raising $90.2 million in Series A funding toward the development of a lunar lander and future lunar missions! This is the biggest investment to date for an XPRIZE team, and sends a strong signal that commercial lunar exploration is on the trajectory to success. One of the main goals of the Google Lunar XPRIZE is to revolutionize lunar exploration by spurring innovation in the private space sector, and this announcement demonstrates that there is strong market interest in innovative robotic solutions for sustainable exploration and development of the Moon. The XPRIZE Foundation looks forward to following Team HAKUTO as they progress toward their lunar mission!”

The Google Lunar XPRIZE was cancelled when it became clear that none of the finalist teams could meet the schedule for a lunar landing in 2018 and other constraints set for the competition.  Consequently, Team HAKUTO’s lander was not  flown on a mission to the Moon.

In April 2021, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a contract with ispace, under which ispace agreed to provide commercial payload delivery services for the Emirates Lunar Mission. After final testing in Germany, the ispace SERIES-1 (S1) lunar lander was ready in 2022 for the company’s ‘Mission 1,’ as part of its commercial lunar landing services program known as ‘HAKUTO-R’.

HAKUTO-R, aka SERIES-1 (S1), lunar lander general arrangement. 
It is more than 7 feet (2.3 meters) tall. Source: ispace

After its launch on 11 December 2022, the lunar spacecraft has been flying a “low energy” trajectory to the Moon in order to minimize fuel use during the transit and, hence, maximizes the available mission payload. It will take nearly five months for the combined lander / rover spacecraft to reach the Moon in April 2023.

The low-energy trajectory being flown for the Emirates Lunar Mission shows spacecraft position (end of blue line, at top) as of 4 March 2023. The spacecraft will enter lunar orbit (yellow circle) in April 2023, before landing on the Moon.
Source: ispace

The primary landing site is the  Atlas crater in Lacus Somniorum (Lake of Dreams), which is a basaltic plain formed by flows of basaltic lava, located in the northeastern quadrant of the moon’s near side.

Lake of Dreams is highlighted in the yellow square.
Source: The Lunar Registry
Hakuto-R Mission 1 Moon landing milestones. Source: ispace

If successful, HAKUTO-R will also become the first commercial spacecraft ever to make a controlled landing on the moon.

After landing, the UAE’s Rashid rover will be deployed from the HAKUTO-R lander. In addition, the lander will deploy an orange-sized sphere from the Japanese Space Agency that will transform into a small wheeled robot that will move about on the lunar surface. 

3. UAE’s Rashid lunar rover

The Emirates Lunar Mission (ELM) team at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) is responsible for designing, manufacturing and developing the rover, which is named Rashid after Dubai’s royal family.  The ELM website is here:

The Rashid rover weighs just 22 pounds (10 kilograms) and, with four-wheel drive, can traverse a smooth surface at a maximum speed of 10 cm/sec (0.36 kph) and climb over an obstacle up to 10 cm (3.9 inches) tall and descend a 20-degree slope. 

Rashid rover general arrangement. Source: MBRSC

The Rashid rover is designed to operate on the Moon’s surface for one full lunar day (29.5 Earth days), during which time it will conduct studies of the lunar soil in a previously unexplored area. In addition, the rover will conduct engineering studies of mobility on the lunar surface and susceptibility of different materials to adhesion of lunar particles. The outer rims of this rover’s four wheels incorporate small sample panels to test how different materials cope with the abrasive lunar surface, including four samples contributed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The diminutive rover carries the following scientific instruments:

  • Two high-resolution optical cameras (Cam-1 & Cam-2) are expected to take more than 1,000 still images of the Moon’s surface to assess the how lunar dust and rocks are distributed on the surface.
  • A “microscope” camera
  • A thermal imaging camera (Cam-T) will provide data for determining the thermal properties of lunar surface material.
  • Langmuir probes will analyze electric charge and electric fields at the lunar surface.
  • An inertial measurement unit to track the motion of the rover.

Mobility and communications tests of the completed rover were conducted in March 2022 in the Dubai desert.

Rashid rover during desert tests. Source: Gulf News (March 2022)

The Ottawa, Ontario company Mission Control Space Services has provided a deep-learning artificial intelligence (AI) system named MoonNet that will be used for identifying geologic features seen by the rover’s cameras. Mission Control Services reports, “Rashid will capture images of geological features on the lunar terrain and transmit them to the lander and into MoonNet. The output of MoonNet will be transmitted back to Earth and then distributed to science team members….Learning how effectively MoonNet can identify geological features, inform operators of potential hazards and support path planning activities will be key to validating the benefits of AI to support future robotic missions.”

This color-coded image is an example of the type of output the MoonNet AI system is expected to produce.
 Source: Mission Control Space Services

4. The future

ispace future lunar plans

ispace reported, “ispace’s SERIES-2 (S2) lander is designed, manufactured, and will be launched from the United States. While the S2 lander leverages lessons learned from the company’s SERIES-1 (S1) lander, it is an evolved platform representing our next generation lander series with increased payload capacity, enhanced capabilities and featuring a modular design to accommodate orbital, stationary or rover payloads.”

Ispace was selected through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative to deliver NASA payloads to the far side of the Moon using the SERIES-2 (S2) lander, starting in 2025.

UAE future lunar plans

In October 2022, the UAE announced that it was collaborating with China on a second lunar rover mission, which would be part of China’s planned 2026 Chang’e 7 lunar mission that will be targeted to land near the Moon’s south pole. 

5. For more information

Future missions


DoD’s Project Pele microreactor is being developed by BWXT with a target for initial operation at a DoD facility in 2027

Peter Lobner

In 2016 the Defense Science Board (DSB) identified energy as a critical enabler of future military operations. The DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) launched Project Pele with the objective to design, build, and demonstrate a prototype mobile nuclear reactor to provide reliable and resilient electric power, while minimizing risk of nuclear proliferation, environmental damage, or harm to nearby personnel or populations. 

The Pele reactor will be the first electricity-generating Generation IV nuclear reactor built in the United States. Check out the DoD Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) website for the Project Pele Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) here:

In June 2022, Department of Defense (DoD) selected BWXT to produce a single prototype Pele mobile microreactor, which will be a Brayton-cycle high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) capable of generating an electrical output of 1 MWe to 5 MWe. See the story in Power magazine here:

The Pele reactor will use High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU, <20% enriched) fuel in the form of TRstructural ISOtropic (TRISO) coated fuel pellets (each about the size of a poppy seed). 

Cross-section of a TRISO particle, greatly magnified.
Source: DOE

The reactor will be assembled and initially operated at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), under the safety oversight of the Department of Energy (DOE).  The Pele reactor is expected to be transportable by rail, truck or cargo aircraft.

Pele reactor modes of transportation. Source: GAO

There’s a good status update on Project Pele in a February 2023 article on the Energy Intelligence website, “Interview: Pentagon’s Jeff Waksman on Project Pele Microreactor,” at the following link:

For more information

Kelvin-Helmholtz Clouds Look Like Ocean Waves in the Sky

Peter Lobner

I recently saw the following spectacular photos of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds that had occurred a few days earlier in Wyoming. The website EarthSky, which posted the first photo, reported, “Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds are named for Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, who studied the physics of the instability that leads to this type of cloud formation.” 

 Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds in Sheridan, Wyoming, 6 December 2022.
Source: Abbie Long, via EarthSky Community Photos:
Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds in Wyoming, 9 December 2022
Source: Rachel Gordon / Facebook via BBC:

The Hydrometeorology Group website ( reports, “Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds are the product of a strong wind shear. Wind shear refers to the rate of change of wind speed, or wind direction, over a set distance. The formation of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds requires the presence of two vertical air layers of different densities that travel at different speeds. The upper layer must be the warmer and less dense of the two. Given a great enough wind shear, eddies will develop where the two air layers meet.”This type of process is illustrated in the following diagram.

Formation of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds. 
Source: SKYbrary (

You’ll find more photos and details on Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds in the following March 2022 EarthSky article, which notes that Kelvin-Helmholtz formations also can be observed at the interfaces of some cloud bands encircling Jupiter and Saturn:

Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds pattern formed between two of Saturn’s cloud bands.
Source: (

Could Kelvin-Helm clouds have been the inspiration for Vincent Van Gogh’s post-impressionistic masterpiece, The Starry Night, which he painted while recovering in an asylum in Saint Rémy (Provence) France in June 1889?

Source: MoMA,

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Webb Space Telescope Provides an Extraordinary View of the Planet Neptune

Peter Lobner

In April 2021, I posted a short article entitled, “Multi-messenger Astronomy Provides Extraordinary Views of Uranus,” which included two composite views of Uranus, created by combining near-infrared images taken by the Keck-1 telescope at an elevation of 4,145 meters (13,599 ft) on Maunakea, Hawaii, with X-ray images taken with the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) aboard the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Now, the Webb Space Telescope has taken stunning near-infrared images of the next, and outermost, planet in our solar system, Neptune (sorry, Pluto). You can read NASA’s 21 September 2022 news release on these images here:

The Webb images of Neptune, taken on July 12, 2022, are reproduced below.

NASA: “Webb captured seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons: Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus, Larissa, and Triton. Neptune’s large and unusual moon, Triton, dominates this Webb portrait of Neptune as a very bright point of light sporting the signature diffraction spikes seen in many of Webb’s images.”
NASA: “…image of Neptune……brings the planet’s rings into full focus for the first time in more than three decades. The most prominent features of Neptune’s atmosphere in this image are a series of bright patches in the planet’s southern hemisphere that represent high-altitude methane-ice clouds. More subtly, a thin line of brightness circling the planet’s equator could be a visual signature of global atmospheric circulation that powers Neptune’s winds and storms. Additionally, for the first time, Webb has teased out a continuous band of high-latitude clouds surrounding a previously-known vortex at Neptune’s southern pole.” Source: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) has created a Resource Gallery of Webb Space Telescope images, which you can browse here: Currently there are 280 images in the Webb Resource Gallery.  I think this is a website worth revisiting from time to time.

NASA’s Solar System Exploration website provides views of Neptune from several earlier sources, including the 1989 Voyager 2 deep space probe, the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT). Check it out here:

2018: The following image was taken in July 2018 during the testing of the narrow-field, adaptive optics mode of the optical/infrared MUSE/GALACSI instrument on ESO’s VLT, which is located at an elevation of 2,635 m (8,645 ft) at Cerro Paranal, in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

2018 VLT image of Neptune. The corrected image is sharper than a comparable image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Source: ESO/P. Weilbacher (AIP)

1994: The more recent Webb Space Telescope and VLT images are much better than the Hubble Space Telescope optical-range images of Neptune taken more than two decades earlier, in 1994.

NASA: “The images were taken in 1994 on October 10 (upper left), October 18 (upper right), and November 2 (lower center). Hubble is allowing astronomers to study Neptune’s dynamic atmosphere with a level of detail not possible since the 1989 flyby of the Voyager 2 space probe. Building on Voyager’s initial discoveries, Hubble is revealing that Neptune has a remarkably dynamic atmosphere that changes over just a few days. The temperature difference between Neptune’s strong internal heat source and its frigid cloud tops (-260 degrees Fahrenheit) might trigger instabilities in the atmosphere that drive these large-scale weather changes. In addition to hydrogen and helium, the main constituents, Neptune’s atmosphere is composed of methane and hydrocarbons, like ethane and acetylene.” Source: NASA, JPL, STScI

1989: In October 1989, the following whole planet view of Neptune was produced using images taken through the green and orange filters on the narrow angle camera during the Voyager 2 spacecraft flyby of the planet.

NASA: “This picture of Neptune was taken by Voyager 2 less than five days before the probe’s closest approach of the planet on Aug. 25, 1989. The picture shows the “Great Dark Spot” — a storm in Neptune’s atmosphere — and the bright, light-blue smudge of clouds that accompanies the storm”. 
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech (1989)

In the future, we can hopefully look forward to more detailed multi-messenger images of Neptune, combining the near-infrared images from Webb with images from other observatories that can view the planet in different spectral bands.

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