South Korea’s First Orbital Mission to the Moon is on its Way

A graphic showing the orbital path the Danuri Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft will take to go into orbit around the Moon. Credit: Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)

South Korea launched its first robotic mission to the Moon last week, as a SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched the Danuri Lunar Pathfinder mission on August 4, 2022 from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The spacecraft was placed into a fuel-saving lunar transfer orbit, and it should arrive in lunar orbit in December.

Translated, Danuri means “enjoy the Moon.”

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Lava Tubes on the Moon Maintain Comfortable Room Temperatures Inside

Images from the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter showing pits on the lunar surface. The images are each 222 meters (728 feet) wide. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Searching for a comfortable place to set up a research station on the Moon? Look no further than the interior parts of lunar pits and caves. While lack of air will be an issue, new research indicates these underground sanctuaries have steady temperatures that hover around 17 Celsius, or 63 Fahrenheit, even though the Moon’s surface heats up to about 127 C (260 F) during the day and cool to minus 173 C (minus 280 F) at night.

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Engineers are Testing how VIPER can Handle the Gnarliest Lunar Terrain

An illustration of NASA's VIPER lunar rover. It'll explore the Moon's south pole and map water resources. Image Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter

NASA’s getting ready to send a VIPER to the Moon. Not the popular sports car but a rugged vehicle that can handle whatever the lunar surface can throw at it. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) was put through its paces recently at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The prototype drove up test slopes and clambered over boulders and craters. It also made its way through a simulated quicksand type of soil in a “sink tank”. It passed with flying colors, and showed engineers how it will handle similar conditions on the Moon.

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To get Artificial Gravity on the Moon, you'd Need a Giant Rotating Lunar Base

Credit: Kajima Construction

Living and working in space for extended periods of time presents a number of challenges. These include radiation, as locations beyond Earth’s protective magnetosphere are exposed to greater levels of solar and cosmic rays. There’s also the need for self-sufficiency since Lunar or Martian bases are too far to rely on regular resupply missions like the International Space Station (ISS). Last, there’s the issue of low gravity, which is especially pressing for long-term missions and habitats beyond Earth. If humanity’s future truly lies in space, we must devise solutions to this issue in advance.

A popular idea is to create rotating habitats in space that simulate artificial gravity, like the Pinwheel Station or the O’Neill Cylinder. Another proposal by a team of Japanese researchers calls for something bolder: a rotating habitat on the Moon! On July 5th, representatives from Kyoto University and the Kajima Corporation (one of the oldest and largest construction companies in Japan) announced that they would be partnering to conduct a study on this concept and how it could make humanity’s plans for living on the Moon and Mars a reality!

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Rocket Lab Launches NASA’s CAPSTONE Mission to the Moon

An image of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, launching aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand Tuesday, June 28, 2022. Credits: Rocket Lab

A microwave oven–sized cubesat launched to space today from New Zealand by commercial company Rocket Lab and their Electron rocket. The small satellite will conduct tests to make sure the unique lunar orbit for NASA’s future Lunar Gateway is actually stable.  

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, mission launched at 5:55 a.m. EDT (09:55 UTC) on Tuesday June 28 from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand. The Electron has now flown 27 times with 24 successes and 3 failures.

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China’s Lunar Lander Finds Water Under its Feet

The area marked by the red line are the scoop sampling points, the blue box identifies the imaging area of the panoramic camera and the base image is from landing camera. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Earlier this year, scientists from China’s Chang’E-5 lunar lander revealed they had found evidence of water in the form of hydroxyl from in-situ measurements taken while lander was on the Moon. Now, they have confirmed the finding with laboratory analysis of the lunar samples from Chang’E-5 that were returned to Earth.  The amount of water detected varied across the randomly chosen samples taken from around the base of the lander, from 0 to 180 parts per million (ppm), mean value of 28.5?ppm, which is on the weak end of lunar hydration.

“For the first time in the world, the results of laboratory analysis of lunar return samples and spectral data from in-situ lunar surface surveys were used jointly to examine the presence, form and amount of ‘water’ in lunar samples,” said co-author Li Chunlai from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), in a press release. “The results accurately answer the question of the distribution characteristics and source of water in the Chang’E-5 landing zone and provide a ground truth for the interpretation and estimation of water signals in remote sensing survey data.”

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A Geologic map of the Entire Moon has Been Released at 1:2,500,000-Scale

Chinese scientists took 10 years to create the most detailed map yet of the Moon. Image Credit: Jinzhu Ji et al. 2022.

Chinese scientists have created the most detailed map of the Moon yet. It took them 10 years and involved hundreds of researchers. The new map will be a boon to lunar exploration and for anyone who just wants to study our natural satellite in more detail.

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The Moon’s Ancient Volcanoes Could Have Created Ice Sheets Dozens of Meters Thick

Everyone loves looking at the Moon, especially through a telescope. To see those dark and light patches scattered across its surface brings about a sense of awe and wonder to anyone who looks up at the night sky. While our Moon might be geologically dead today, it was much more active billions of years ago when it first formed as hot lava blanketed hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of the Moon’s surface in hot lava. These lava flows are responsible for the dark patches we see when we look at the Moon, which are called mare, translated as “seas”, and are remnants of a far more active past.

In a recent study published in The Planetary Science Journal, research from University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) suggests that volcanoes active billions of years ago may have left another lasting impact on the lunar surface: sheets of ice that dot the Moon’s poles and, in some places, could measure dozens or even hundreds of meters (or feet) thick.

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The Lunar Eclipse, Seen From the International Space Station

A partially eclipsed Moon playing hide and seek with the solar panel of the International Space Station. Credit: ESA-S.Cristoforetti

If you were able to witness the lunar eclipse on May 15-16, 2022, the view of the dark red Moon was stunning. But what would such an eclipse look like from space?

Wonder no longer. ESA/Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti captured a series of photos of the lunar eclipse from her unique vantage point aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

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Engineers Design an Electrical Microgrid for a Lunar Base

Illustration of NASA astronauts on the lunar South Pole. Credit: NASA

For seventy years, Albuquerque-based Sandia National Laboratories has been developing electrical microgrids that increase community resilience and ensure energy security. Applications include the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS), designed to support military bases abroad, and independent power systems for hospitals and regions where electrical grids are at risk of being compromised by natural disasters (like hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes).

In the coming years, Artemis Program, NASA will be sending astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era and establish a “sustained program of lunar exploration.” To ensure that astronauts have the necessary power to maintain their habitats and support operations on the surface, NASA has partnered with Sandia to develop microgrids for the Moon! This technology could also support future endeavors, like mining, fuel processing, and other activities on the Moon.

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