Lunar Explorers Could Run to Create Artificial Gravity for Themselves

A close-up view of astronaut Buzz Aldrin's bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with the 70mm lunar surface camera during Apollo 11's sojourn on the moon. There'll soon be more boots on the lunar ground, and the astronauts wearing those boots need a way to manage the Moon's low gravity and its health effects. Image by NASA

Few things in life are certain. But it seems highly probable that people will explore the lunar surface over the next decade or so, staying there for weeks, perhaps months, at a time. That fact bumps up against something we are certain about. When human beings spend time in low-gravity environments, it takes a toll on their bodies.

What can be done?

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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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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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Can We Survive in Space? It Might Depend on How Our Gut Microbiome Adapts

Researchers at Penn State University are developing a way to use microbes to turn human waste into food on long space voyages. Image: Yuri Gorby, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Microbes play a critical role on Earth. Understanding how they react to space travel is crucial to ensuring astronaut health. Credit: Yuri Gorby, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

For over a century, people have dreamed of the day when humanity (as a species) would venture into space. In recent decades, that dream has moved much closer to realization, thanks to the rise of the commercial space industry (NewSpace), renewed interest in space exploration, and long-term plans to establish habitats in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), on the lunar surface, and Mars. Based on the progression, it is clear that going to space exploration will not be reserved for astronauts and government space agencies for much longer.

But before the “Great Migration” can begin, there are a lot of questions that need to be addressed. Namely, how will prolonged exposure to microgravity and space radiation affect human health? These include the well-studied aspects of muscle and bone density loss and how time in space can impact our organ function and cardiovascular and psychological health. In a recent study, an international team of scientists considered an often-overlooked aspect of human health: our microbiome. In short, how will time in space affect our gut bacteria, which is crucial to our well-being?

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Space Force Chooses its First “Guardian” to go to Space

U.S. Space Force Col. Nick Hague will serve as the pilot on NASA’s Space X Crew-9 mission aboard the Dragon spacecraft that will take him and his crewmates to the International Space Station. Credit: U.S. Space Force.

Although the U.S. Space Force is tasked with military operations in regards to space, they’ve never actually sent one of their own into orbit. This week, the agency announced that Col. Nick Hague will launch to the International Space Station in August 2024 to pilot the Crew-9 mission, as part of SpaceX’s ninth crew rotation to the ISS for NASA. He’ll join two NASA astronauts and a cosmonaut on the trip to space and then work as a flight engineer, spending six months on the station doing research and operations activities.

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Crew-7 Reaches the International Space Station

The SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft, with four Crew-7 crew members aboard, approaches the space station for a docking on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023. Credit: NASA TV

SpaceX Crew-7, the next group of four astronauts, are now on board the International Space Station, and this diverse crew is definitely putting “International” in the ISS. The new crew hails from four different countries: the US, Denmark, Japan and Russia. There will be 11 people on board the station for a few days before the Crew-6 foursome head back to Earth.

NASA has at least 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations queued up for Crew-7[‘s six months space, many of which will help prepare for the upcoming Artemis missions.

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NASA Astronauts Get a New Ride at Kennedy Space Center

NASA’s new custom-designed, fully electric, environmentally friendly crew transportation vehicles for the upcoming Artemis missions, which were delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 11, 2023. These new vehicles will ferry Artemis astronauts to Launch Complex 39B for their missions beginning with Artemis II, and were delivered by the manufacturer, Canoo Technologies Inc. (Credit: NASA/Isaac Watson)

In its continued support for the Artemis missions, a three fully-electric, environmentally friendly, and specially designed vehicles were recently delivered to NASA for the purpose of ferrying future Artemis astronauts from their crew quarters to historic Launch Pad 39B before their journey to the Moon. The vehicles were built and delivered by Canoo Technologies Inc. based in Torrance, California, and comes just over a year after NASA awarded Canoo the contract to provide the new vehicles, and almost two years since NASA put out a call for proposals.

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Check out the Cool New Designs for Europe’s Future Spacesuits

One of the winning designs for ESA’s Space Suit Design Competition, which collected ideas from the public on what a future European extra-vehicular activity (EVA) suit could look like. This design was made by Oussama Guarraz. Credit: Oussma Guarraz/ESA.

While the European Space Agency isn’t planning to build their own spacesuits anytime soon, they want to be ready. ESA recently had the Space Suit Design Competition, allowing the public to propose designs for future European extra-vehicular activity (EVA) suits.

The competition received 90 submissions and experts selected five winners. This first design, above, was created by Oussama Guarraz, focusing on “modernity, cutting-edge technology, innovation, and sustainability.”

Below is another design, by João Montenegro.

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Thierry Legault’s Stunning Views of the Space Station (with spacewalking astronauts) Crossing in Front of Sunspots

The International Space Station transiting the Sun -- and two large sunspots --on June 9, 2023. Additionally, two astronauts, Steve Bowen and Woody Hoburg were outside the ISS on a spacewalk while this image was taken. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

He’s done it again, outdoing even his own incredible work.

Over the years, we’ve written many articles to share the beautiful and mind-bending astrophotography of Thierry Legault. Each year he seems to come up with ideas to try to surpass even his own craziest attempts of astrophotography feats – such as capturing spy satellites in orbit, or snapping pictures of the International Space Station (ISS) transiting the Sun during a solar eclipse.

Now, he was able to take pictures of the ISS transiting the Sun while two astronauts were doing a spacewalk. As an added challenge, Legault made sure he was in the right place at the right time so he could capture the ISS (and astronauts) while they were passing by three enormous sunspots.

WHAT??

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This is How NASA Wanted to Rescue Space Shuttle Astronauts

A NASA astronaut holds the Personal Rescue Enclosure in this photo. By NASA - Kenneth S. Thomas, Harold J. McMann: U. S. Spacesuits. 2nd edition. Springer, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4419-9566-7, p. 38, doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-9566-7_4., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64033886

For most of us, this would be a nightmare.

Imagine being curled up inside a 90 cm (36 inch) fabric sphere with a small window and a small air tank while dangling from the Canadarm. As your tiny sphere shifts, you’d see Earth out your tiny window, then the Space Shuttle, damaged by some accident or other that caused you to need rescuing, then Earth again. Panic would set in pretty quickly.

But that’s where Space Shuttle astronauts in an emergency could’ve found themselves if NASA’s Personal Rescue Enclosure (PRE) had been put into practice.

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