A new way to Peer Into the Permanently Shadowed Craters on the Moon, Searching for Deposits of Water ice

Not all flashlights are created equal. Some are stronger, consume more power, or have features such as blinking or strobes. Some aren’t even meant for humans, such as a new project that recently received funding from a NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase I award. Designed by the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), this flashlight doesn’t emit visible light, but it does emit x-rays and gamma rays, and the researchers on the project think it could be useful for finding resources on the Moon.

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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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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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Want to Build Structures on the Moon? Just Blast the Regolith With Microwaves

Microwaves are useful for more than just heating up leftovers. They can also make landing pads on other worlds – at least according to research released by a consortium of scientists at the University of Central Florida, Arizona State University, and Cislune, a private company. Their research shows how a combination of sorting the lunar soil and then blasting it with microwaves can create a landing pad for future rockets on the Moon – and save any surrounding buildings from being blasted by 10,000 kph dust particles.

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The Solar Wind is Creating Water on the Surface of the Moon

Water on the Moon has been a hot topic in the research world lately. Since its first unambiguous discovery back in 2008. Since then, findings of it have ramped up, with relatively high concentration levels being discovered, especially near the polar regions, particularly in areas constantly shrouded in shadow. Chang’e 5, China’s recent sample return mission, didn’t land in one of those permanently shadowed areas. Still, it did return soil samples that were at a much higher latitude than any that had been previously collected. Now, a new study shows that those soil samples contain water and that the Sun’s solar wind directly impacted that water.

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Navigation Could be Done on the Moon Just by Looking at Nearby Landmarks

Artist's impression of astronauts on the lunar surface, as part of the Artemis Program. Lunar explorers will need communicationa nd navigation aids while on the surface. NASa is developing a lunar mapping-based program to help them. Credit: NASA
Artist's impression of astronauts on the lunar surface, as part of the Artemis Program. Lunar explorers will need communicationa nd navigation aids while on the surface. NASA is developing a lunar mapping-based program to help them. Credit: NASA

When humans start living and working on the Moon in the Artemis missions, they’re going to need good navigational aids. Sure, they’ll have a GPS equivalent to help them find their way around. And, there’ll be LunaNet, the Moon’s equivalent to the Internet. But, there are places on the lunar that are pretty remote. In those cases, explorers could require more than one method for communication and navigation. That prompted NASA Goddard research engineer Alvin Yew to create an AI-driven local map service. It uses local landmarks for navigation.

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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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In Case you Missed it, Here are Some Amazing Pictures of Mars Hiding Behind the Moon

This is the occultation of Mars by the Full Moon on December 7, 2022, in a composite showing the motion of Mars relative to the Moon. The motion here is from left to right. However, while this composite makes it look like Mars was doing the moving, it was really the Moon that was passing in front of Mars. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer.

Last week gave us a celestial triple header, all in one night. The Moon was full and Mars was at opposition (at its closest point to Earth). But the pièce de résistance was when the Moon occulted or passed in front of Mars on the evening/morning of December 7th/8th. Our astrophotographer friends were out in full force to capture the event.

Our lead image comes from prolific amateur astronomer and photographer Alan Dyer, who observed the occultation from his home in Alberta, Canada, and created this composite view of the night’s activities. “While this composite makes it look like Mars was doing the moving,” Dyer explained on Flickr, “it was really the Moon that was passing in front of Mars. But for this sequence I set the telescope mount to track the Moon at its rate of motion against the background stars and Mars, to keep the Moon more or less stationary on the frame while Mars and the background sky passed behind it.”

Here are some more great views from around the world:

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Asteroids Didn’t Create the Moon’s Largest Craters. Left-Over Planetesimals Did

The largest impact basin on the Moon is the South-Pole Aitken basin. It, and other impact basins, were created by planetesimals according to a new study. Image Credit: Moriarty et al., 2021.

The Moon’s pock-marked surface tells the story of its history. It’s marked by over 9,000 impact craters, according to the International Astronomical Union (IAU.) The largest ones are called impact basins, not craters. According to a new study, asteroids didn’t create the basins; leftover planetesimals did.

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We Could Simulate Living in Lunar Lava Tubes in Caves on Earth

Simulation is key to space exploration. Scientists and engineers test as many scenarios as possible before subjecting their projects to the harshness of space. It should not be any different with the future living quarters of explorers on the Moon. One of the most commonly cited locations for a future permanent lunar base is in the relatively recently discovered lava tube caves scattered throughout the lunar mare. Simulating such an environment on Earth might be difficult, but a team from the Center for Space Exploration in China thinks they might have a solution – using karst caves to simulate lunar lava tubes.

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