As part of the Artemis program, NASA is gearing up to send the “first woman and next man” to the Moon by 2024. Central to this is the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V that took the Apollo astronauts to the Moon, and the Orion spacecraft. But after these elements transport astronauts to Lunar orbit, they will need a lander to take them to and from the surface.
For this reason, NASA contracted a number of commercial partners to develop a Human Landing System (HLS). After much consideration, NASA announced on Friday, April 16th, that they had selected SpaceX to continue developing their concept for a lunar lander. When American astronauts return to the Moon for the first time in fifty-two years, it will be a modified version of the Starship that will bring them there.
Continue reading “NASA Picks SpaceX to Land Astronauts on the Moon!”
Lava tubes on the moon are some of the most interesting, and difficult, places to explore in the solar system. But if humanity plans to eventually have a permanent presence on the moon, the more knowledge we have about the cave systems created by those lava tubes the better.
That’s why ESA’s current focus on lunar cave exploration is so important, and another good reason to take note when it releases more information about some of the technologies leading that push. Recently, it released an update on a project known as DAEDALUS, led by Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU), with interesting new insights into the sphere shaped autonomous robot.
Continue reading “One Idea for a Lunar Lava Tube Explorer”
When astronauts return to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era, they will be relying on a number of mission elements to get them there and back safely. This includes the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft that will launch a crew of four and carry them to the Moon. But until recently, the question of how they will get to and from the surface remained unresolved, as there were a few options.
To determine which would be best in terms of performance and cost, researchers from Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) in Moscow and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reviewed several dozen proposals. In the end, they determined that a one-stage reusable lunar lander that could transport astronauts to and from the orbiting Lunar Gateway was the best option.
Continue reading “A 1-Stage, Fully Reusable Lunar Lander Makes the Most Sense for Returning Humans to the Moon”
In less than three years, astronauts will return to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. As part of the Artemis Program, the purpose is not only to send crewed missions back to the lunar surface to explore and collect samples. This time around, there’s also the goal of establishing vital infrastructure (like the Lunar Gateway and a Base Camp) that will allow for “sustained lunar exploration.”
A key requirement for this ambitious plan is the provision of power, which can be difficult in regions like the South Pole-Aitken Basin – a cratered region that is permanently-shadowed. To address this, a researcher from the NASA Langley Research Center named Charles Taylor has proposed a novel concept known as “Light Bender.” Using telescope optics, this system would to capture and distribute sunlight on the Moon.
Continue reading “Exploring the Moon’s Shadowed Regions Using Beamed Energy”
Always have a back up plan. Some people take that axiom to the highest levels develop backup plans for life itself. The Svalbard Seedbank is one such backup plan. Located in an ice cave in Norway it houses hundreds of thousands of seed samples in order to preserve biodiversity that is currently arranged on Earth. Ironically, if the worst models of sea level rise from climate change are realized, the Seedbank itself will be inundated by the sea and its precious cargo lost. So now a team led by a professor at the University of Arizona (UA) have proposed a much more radical idea: have the same sort of Ark, but to it much farther away from any potential catastrophic human failure – on the moon.
Continue reading “A Plan to Store Seeds, Spores, Eggs and Sperm on the Moon for Safekeeping”
Legendary NASA flight director Glynn Lunney has passed away at age 84. Lunney played a key role in the early days of NASA, helping to create the concept and operation of what we now reverently know as Mission Control. His calm decisiveness was lauded during the Gemini and Apollo missions he guided as flight director, and his leadership was especially pivotal in bringing the crew of Apollo 13 safely back to Earth.
Continue reading “Remembering NASA Flight Director Glynn Lunney, 1936-2021”
There are many paths to the Moon, and not all of them go through the Lunar Gateway. This week, the heads of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) signed an agreement to cooperate on a Lunar research station of their own.
Continue reading “China and Russia Will Be Partners in a Lunar Research Station”
It sounds like science fiction, but building an enormous tower several kilometers high on the Lunar surface may be the best way to harness solar energy for long-term Lunar exploration. Such towers would raise solar panels above obstructing geological features on the Lunar surface, and expand the surface area available for power generation.
Continue reading “How do you get Power into Your Lunar Base? With a Tower of Concrete Several Kilometers High”
During the Apollo Era, one of the most important operations conducted by astronauts was sample-returns, where lunar rocks were procured and brought back to Earth. The study of these rocks revealed a great deal about the composition, structure, and geological history of the Moon. This led to profound discoveries, including the presence of water on the Moon and the fact that both Earth and its only satellite formed together.
Over time, scientists have taken advantage of new techniques and technology to conduct more in-depth analyses to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Moon. Recently, a team of researchers from Brown University and the Carnegie Institution for Sciences (CIS) examined some of these samples for sulfur isotopes to shed new light on the early history of the Moon and its evolution.
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Regions of the Moon known as irregular mare patches – formed by magma cooling from a volcanic eruption – have almost no big craters, indicating that they must be relatively young. By studying the distribution of craters within them, we can estimate when these regions were formed: no more than 100 million years ago.
Continue reading “The Most Recent Volcanic Activity on the Moon? Just 100 Million Years ago”