NASA has Simulated a Tiny Part of the Moon Here on Earth

Using the Lunar Lab and Regolith Testbeds at NASA’s Ames Research Center, a team created this simulated lunar environment to study lighting conditions experienced at the unexplored poles of the Moon. Credit: NASA/Uland Wong.

Before going to the Moon, the Apollo astronauts trained at various sites on Earth that best approximated the lunar surface, such as the volcanic regions Iceland and Hawaii and deserts in the US Southwest.  To help prepare for upcoming robotic and human Artemis missions, a newly upgraded “mini-Moon” lunar testbed will allow astronauts and robots to test out realistic conditions on the Moon including rough terrain and unusual sunlight.

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Study Shows How Cells Could Help Artemis Astronauts Exercise

NASA’s Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts further into space than ever before using a module based on Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV). Credit: NASA

In 2033, NASA and China plan to send the first crewed missions to Mars. These missions will launch every two years when Earth and Mars are at the closest points in their orbits (Mars Opposition). It will take these missions six to nine months to reach the Red Planet using conventional technology. This means that astronauts could spend up to a year and a half in microgravity, followed by months of surface operations in Martian gravity (roughly 40% of Earth gravity). This could have drastic consequences for astronaut health, including muscle atrophy, bone density loss, and psychological effects.

Aboard the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts maintain a strict exercise regimen to mitigate these effects. However, astronauts will not have the same option while in transit to Mars since their vehicles (the Orion spacecraft) have significantly less volume. To address this challenge, Professor Marni Boppart and her colleagues at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology are developing a process using regenerative cells. This work could help ensure that astronauts arrive at Mars healthy, hearty, and ready to explore!

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One Day There Could be a Pipeline of Oxygen Flowing From the Moon’s South Pole

Graphic depiction of the Lunar South Pole Oxygen Pipeline. Credits: Peter Curreri

The Artemis program intends to put humans on the Moon for the first time since NASA’s Apollo missions. But Artemis has a larger scope than just landing people there, setting up some science experiments, gathering Moon rocks, playing a little golf, then leaving. The intent is to establish a consistent presence.

That will require resources, and one of those critical resources is oxygen.

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“To Boldy Go”: The Nichelle Nichols Foundation Continues Actress’ Legacy of Inspiration

The Nichelle Nichols Foundation carries on the actress' legacy of inspiring young women and people of color to reach for the stars! Credit: Nichelle Nichols Foundation

“Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game. It’s about where we are and where we’re going. Space travel benefits us here on Earth. And we ain’t stopped yet. There’s more exploration to come.”

Nichelle Nichols (1932-2022)

This past summer, the world said goodbye to Nichelle Nichols, the famous actress, activist, and musician who portrayed Lt. Nyota Uhura in the Star Trek franchise. This iconic role was one she popularized in the original series (1966 to 1969), six feature films (1979 to 1991), and multiple television specials. But for those familiar with the life and times of Nichols, her legacy as an activist and inspirational figure are what many will truly remember her for. In honor of her tireless work and advocacy, her family, friends, and fans have come together to launch the Nichelle Nichols Foundation (NNF).

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A Rover Could Weave its Way Between Patches of Sunlight on the Lunar South Pole

Elevation data of the Moon showing the South Pole-Aitken Basin. Credit: NASA/GSFC/University of Arizona
Elevation data of the Moon showing the South Pole-Aitken Basin. Credit: NASA/GSFC/University of Arizona

In any plan to establish a presence on the Moon, the South Pole is key. There, in the deep permanent shadows of the region’s craters, are voluminous quantities of water ice. And water ice means water, oxygen, and even rocket fuel.

But the region is shrouded in shadows.

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We’re Going to see at Least Five More SLS Rockets Launch in the Coming Years

March 2022 image of NASA's Space Launch System rocket’s core stage forward assembly boasting a 40-meter (130-foot) liquid hydrogen tank. (Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

NASA’s continued goal of sending humans into deep space using its Space Launch System (SLS) recently took a giant leap as the world’s largest space agency finalized the SLS Stages Production and Evolution Contract worth $3.2 billion with The Boeing Company in Huntsville, Alabama. The purpose of the contract is for Boeing to keep building SLS core and upper stages for future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond for at least five more SLS launches.

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Power on the Moon. What Will it Take to Survive the Lunar Night?

Artist rendering of an Artemis astronaut exploring the Moon’s surface during a future mission. Credit: NASA

With the help of international and commercial partners, NASA is sending astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in over fifty years. In addition to sending crewed missions to the lunar surface, the long-term objective of the Artemis Program is to create the necessary infrastructure for a program of “sustained lunar exploration and development.” But unlike the Apollo missions that sent astronauts to the equatorial region of the Moon, the Artemis Program will send astronauts to the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin, culminating in the creation of a habitat (the Artemis Basecamp).

This region contains many permanently-shadowed craters and experiences a night cycle that lasts fourteen days (a “Lunar Night“). Since solar energy will be limited in these conditions, the Artemis astronauts, spacecraft, rovers, and other surface elements will require additional power sources that can operate in cratered regions and during the long lunar nights. Looking for potential solutions, the Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI) and the NASA Glenn Research Center recently hosted two space nuclear technologies workshops designed to foster solutions for long-duration missions away from Earth.

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Watch a NASA Supercut of the Entire Artemis I Mission, From Launch to Landing

The Earth and Moon as see from the Orion spacecraft, close to 435,000 km (270,000 miles) from Earth. Credit: NASA livestream.

In case you missed any of the 25-day flight of Artemis 1, NASA has compiled a 25-minute highlight reel that showcases the top moments of the mission, from launch to splashdown.

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Orion Splashes Down in the Pacific Ocean, Completing the Artemis I Mission

NASA’s Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 9:40 a.m. PST on Sunday, Dec. 11, after a 25.5 day mission to the Moon. Credit: NASA

On December 11th, at 09:40 a.m. PST (12:40 p.m. EST), NASA’s Artemis I mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. The return of the uncrewed Orion spacecraft marks the end of the Artemis Program’s inaugural mission, which launched on November 16th and validated the spacecraft and its heavy launch vehicle – the Space Launch System (SLS). During its 25.5-day circumlunar flight, the Orion spacecraft traveled more than 2.25 million km (1.4 million mi) and flew beyond the Moon’s orbit, establishing a new distance record.

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Will This be the Iconic Picture From Artemis I?

There’s an argument to be made that some astronomical pictures are better inspirational tools than all of the science that the missions that took them might have collected during their lifetimes. This author personally had his interest in space exploration sparked when he first saw the Ultra Deep Field and then had it permanently ingrained in his brain with the Pale Blue Dot and the associated book. The fact that they have individual names (Earth Rise, The Blue Marble, etc.) shows their importance to our collective understanding of our planet and our place in the Universe. Now, we might have a new one, as we’ve received a spectacular view of our Moon and a crescent Earth from the Artemis 1 mission.

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