NASA Plans to Unleash a Wolf Pack of Rovers Onto the Lunar Surface in 2024

A pair of plastic prototypes of the CADRE rovers demonstrate driving in formation during a test at JPL last year. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

What’s better than one lunar rover? Three lunar rovers! In 2024, NASA plans to send a team of suitcase-sized wheeled robots to the Moon as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Collectively called CADRE – Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Exploration – the rovers will spend one full lunar day (14 Earth days) exploring the Moon and showing off their unique capabilities.

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China is Working on a New Crew Spacecraft to Carry Up to 7 Passengers

China's Next Generation Spacecraft test vehicle after returning from orbit in 2020. China Central Television (CCTV).

China’s next-generation crew capsule was given an updated timeline this week. According to Yang Liwei, deputy chief designer of China’s Human Spaceflight Program, the new capsule will make its first flight in 2027 or 2028.  Meeting this timeline will be a key milestone in China’s recently announced plan to land on the Moon by 2030.

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NASA's VIPER Rover's First Moments on the Moon Might Be its Most Terrifying

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) Moon Gravitation Representative Unit 3 (MGRU3) Astrobotic Griffin Lunar Lander Structural Test Model (STM) egress testing. Credit: NASA/Dominic Hart.

NASA is building its first-ever robotic lunar rover. Named VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover), the rover is set for launch in late 2024. But the terrain it will find when it reaches the Moon is impossible to predict. A series of tests carried out this spring are helping engineers understand the rover’s limits, and will ensure that VIPER can disembark from its lander even on extremely uneven terrain.

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NASA Locks Four Volunteers Into a One-Year Mission in a Simulated Mars Habitat

On June 25, 2023, a crew of four volunteers entered a simulated Martian habitat, from which they will not emerge for over a year. Their mission: to learn more about the logistics – and the human psychology – of living long-term on another planet, without ever leaving the ground.

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Early Black Holes Were Bigger Than We Thought

Every large galaxy in the nearby universe contains a supermassive black hole at its core. The mass of those black holes seems to have a relationship to the mass of the host galaxies themselves. But estimating the masses of more distant supermassive black holes is challenging. Astronomers extrapolate from what we know about nearby galaxies to estimate distant black hole masses, but it’s not a perfectly accurate measurement.

An astrophysicist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Joseph Simon, recently proposed that there might be a better way to measure black hole mass, and his model indicates that early black holes may be much larger than other predictions suggest.

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We Could See the Glint off Giant Cities on Alien Worlds

Midjourney image of Coruscant

How large would an extraterrestrial city have to be for current telescopes to see it? Would it need to be a planet-sized metropolis like Star Wars’ Coruscant? Or could we see an alien equivalent of Earth’s own largest urban areas, like New York City or Tokyo?

A recent preprint by Bhavesh Jaiswal of the Indian Institute of Science suggests that, in fact, we could see cities a mere fraction of that size, using a feature of light known as specular reflection.

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These are the Fastest Stars in the Galaxy

Artist concept showing a hypervelocity star escaping our galaxy. Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Until recently, there were only ten known stars on trajectories that will allow them to escape the Milky Way Galaxy, thrown astray by powerful supernova explosions. A new study using data from ESA’s Gaia survey this June has revealed an additional six runaways, two of which break the record for the fastest radial velocity of any runaway star ever seen: 1694 km/s and 2285 km/s.

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Artemis V is Going to the Moon With Blue Origin

NASA has announced a second lunar lander provider for its Artemis program, choosing Blue Origin’s National Team to deliver astronauts to the Moon’s south pole as early as 2029. Blue Origin’s lander will be part of the Artemis V mission. They join SpaceX, whose Starship is already slated to ferry astronauts to the lunar surface for Artemis III and IV.

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Perseverance Finds an Ancient, Fast Flowing River

In a first for Martian water science, NASA’s Perseverance rover has discovered geological evidence of a large, fast-moving river in Mars’ ancient past. The high-energy river once emptied into Jezero crater, which the rover has been exploring since early 2021, and is a totally different water system than anything seen previously on the red planet.

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China Finally Tells us What's Going on With its Mars Rover

A wireless camera took this 'group photo' of China's Tianwen-1 lander and rover on Mars' surface. Credit: Chinese Space Agency

The Zhurong Rover has sat unmoving and unresponsive on Mars since May 20th, 2022, when one of the planet’s infamous dust storms forced the science team to switch the rover to hibernation mode. It was expected to wake in late December, but has yet to show any signs of activity. Last week, the Rover’s chief designer, Zhang Rongqiao, offered an update on the rover’s status.

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