Artemis Astronauts Will Deploy New Seismometers on the Moon

Giordano Bruno crater on the Moon, as seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This young crater sports impact rays that may help scientists as they consider landing sties for future Artemis missions. Courtesy: NASA/LRO.
Giordano Bruno crater on the Moon, as seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This young crater sports impact rays that may help scientists as they consider landing sties for future Artemis missions. Courtesy: NASA/LRO.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Apollo astronauts set up a collection of lunar seismometers to detect possible Moon quakes. These instruments monitored lunar activity for eight years and gave planetary scientists an indirect glimpse into the Moon’s interior. Now, researchers are developing new methods for lunar quake detection techniques and technologies. If all goes well, the Artemis astronauts will deploy them when they return to the Moon.

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NASA Reveals its Planetary Science Goals for Artemis III

Artist's illustration of Artemis III astronauts on the Moon. Credit: NASA.

If all goes well, NASA’s Artemis III mission will bring humans back to the Moon as early as 2026, the first time since the Apollo 17 crew departed in 1972. It won’t be a vacation, though, as astronauts have an enormous amount of science to do, especially in lunar geology. A team from NASA recently presented their planetary science goals and objectives for Artemis III surface activities, which will guide the fieldwork the astronauts will carry out on the lunar surface.

The Artemis III Geology Team presented their priorities at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March 2024. In addition, NASA also announced their choices for the first science instruments that astronauts will deploy on the surface of the Moon during Artemis III.

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Northrup Grumman is Studying How to Build a Railway on the Moon

A concept of a lunar railway network. (Made with Dall-E)

Roughly two years and six months from now, as part of NASA’s Artemis III mission, astronauts will set foot on the lunar surface for the first time in over fifty years. Beyond this mission, NASA will deploy the elements of the Lunar Gateway, the Artemis Base Camp, and other infrastructure that will allow for a “sustained program of lunar exploration and development.” They will be joined by the European Space Agency (ESA), the China National Space Agency (CNSA), and Roscosmos, the latter two collaborating to build the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

Anticipating this process of lunar development (and looking to facilitate it), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched the 10-year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study in August last year. In recent news, the agency announced that it selected Northrop Grumman to develop a moon-based railroad network. This envisioned network could transport humans, supplies, and resources for space agencies and commercial ventures, facilitating exploration, scientific research, and the creation of a lunar economy.

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What’s the Best Way to Pack for Space?

The QASIS system won first place in the Artemis Lunar Gateway Cargo Packing and Storing Challenge for use in space. This design maximizes stowage capacity, uses lightweight structures, and shows ease of use without the complexities of motors, batteries, and electronics. QASIS / NASA
The QASIS system by designer Kriso Leinfellner won first place in the Artemis Lunar Gateway Cargo Packing and Storing Challenge for use in space. This design maximizes stowage capacity, uses lightweight structures, and shows ease of use without the complexities of motors, batteries, and electronics. QASIS / NASA

Packing to go to space is a lot like getting ready for a plane ride with only a carry-on bag. You have to maximize the use of the space in your bag at the same time you want to make sure you have what you need. That’s the challenge astronauts face in the upcoming Artemis moon missions. So, NASA held a competition to figure out the best and most innovative ways to store cargo for the missions.

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New Study Addresses how Lunar Missions will Kick up Moondust.

Buzz Aldrin (left) and his Aldrin’s bootprint in the lunar regolith (right). Credit: NASA

Before the end of this decade, NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. But this time, through the Artemis Program, it won’t be a “footprints and flags” affair. With other space agencies and commercial partners, the long-term aim is to create the infrastructure that will allow for a “sustained program of lunar exploration and development.” If all goes according to plan, multiple space agencies will have established bases around the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which will pave the way for lunar industries and tourism.

For humans to live, work, and conduct various activities on the Moon, strategies are needed to deal with all the hazards – not the least of which is lunar regolith (or “moondust”). As the Apollo astronauts learned, moondust is jagged, sticks to everything, and can cause significant wear on astronaut suits, equipment, vehicles, and health. In a new study by a team of Texas A&M engineers, the regolith motion was found to be significantly altered due to inter-particle collisions. Given the many spacecraft and landers that will be delivering crews and cargo to the Moon in the near future, this is one hazard that merits close attention!

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NASA Tests the New Starship Docking System

SpaceX and NASA recently performed full-scale qualification testing of the docking system that will connect SpaceX’s Starship Human Landing System (HLS) with Orion and later Gateway in lunar orbit during future crewed Artemis missions. Based on the flight-proven Dragon 2 active docking system, the Starship HLS docking system will be able to act as an active or passive system during docking. Image Credit: SpaceX

The Apollo Program delivered 12 American astronauts to the surface of the Moon. But that program ended in 1972, and since then, no human beings have visited. But Artemis will change that. And instead of just visiting the Moon, Artemis’ aim is to establish a longer-term presence on the Moon. That requires more complexity than Apollo did. Astronauts will need to transfer between vehicles.

All of that activity requires a reliable spacecraft docking system.

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Engineers Design Habitats for the Moon Inspired by Terminite Mounds

Porous cathedral termite mounds in Kakadu National Park, Australia. Credit: Mother Nature Network

Through the Artemis Program, NASA intends to send astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. But this time, they intend to stay and establish a lunar base and other infrastructure by the end of the decade that will allow for a “sustained program of lunar exploration and development.” To accomplish this, NASA is enlisting the help of fellow space agencies, commercial partners, and academic institutions to create the necessary mission elements – these range from the launch systems, spacecraft, and human landing systems to the delivery of payloads.

With NASA funding, a team of engineers from the University of Arizona College of Engineering (UA-CE) is developing autonomous robot networks to build sandbag shelters for NASA astronauts on the Moon. The designs are inspired by cathedral termite mounds, which are native to Africa and northern Australia’s desert regions. Their work was the subject of a paper presented at the American Astronautical Society Guidance, Navigation, and Control (AAS GNC) Conference, which took place from February 1st to 7th in Littleton and Breckinridge, Colorado.

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NASA Continues Testing its New Lunar Spacesuits

A spacesuit tester exploring how manoeuvrable it is and how easy pieces of rock can be picked up.
An Axiom Space engineer wearing the AxEMU (Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit) spacesuit kneels to collect simulated lunar samples using a scoop during testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Axiom Space

NASA’s Artemis mission objective is among other things, to get human beings back to the Moon. Much of the attention of late has been focussed on the rocket technology to get the astronauts there but as we progress from Artemis I to Artemis II – which aims to take a crew around the Moon and back before Artemis III lands them on the lunar surface – attention is shifting on the spacesuits the crew will wear. The new suits, built by Axiom Space are designed to provide the mobility and protection required on the surface and now, NASA has received samples and is testing them in simulated space environments. 

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NASA is One Step Closer to Deploying Fission Reactors on the Moon

An artist's concept of possible nuclear fission reactors on the Moon. Credit: NASA
An artist's concept of possible nuclear fission reactors on the Moon. Credit: NASA

What’s the most important thing you need to live and work on the Moon? Power. For NASA’s upcoming Artemis program, getting power to lunar bases is a top priority. That’s why the agency created its Fission Surface Power Project. The idea is to develop concepts for a small nuclear fission reactor to generate electricity on the lunar surface.

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This is How Astronauts Would Escape from the Artemis II Launch Pad

KSC Emergency Escape Baskets

Space exploration is a tricky and at times, dangerous business. The safety of the crews is of paramount importance and escape technology is always factored into spacecraft design. Whilst Artemis I did not require such provisions when it launched Artemis II with astronauts on board is being prepared with a ski-lift style escape system to take them far away from the launch pad. 

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