Right now, NASA is working towards its long-awaited return to the Moon. Known as Project Artemis, this program aims to send the “first woman and next man” to the lunar surface by 2024. Beyond that, NASA also plans to establish a “sustainable program of lunar exploration” with commercial and international partners. This means building the infrastructure that will allow people to stay on the Moon and facilitate eventual missions to Mars.
In order to meet this challenge, there are all kinds of questions that need to be addressed first. Besides the matter of how we can keep astronauts healthy during long-duration missions, there’s also the pressing question of how astronauts will relieve themselves on the Moon. Luckily for them, HeroX has launched the Lunar Loo Challenge – sponsored by the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) – to come up with innovative new ideas!
The Moon is easily the most well-studied object in the Solar System, (other than Earth, of course.) But it still holds some puzzles for scientists. Why, for instance, is one side of the Moon so different from the other?
Continue reading “Do We Now Understand Why the Moon’s Near and Far Sides Look So Dramatically Different?”
On July 2, 2019, the Moon cast its shadow on the surface of the Earth. This time, the shadow’s path travelled across the South Pacific Ocean. It also passed over some of Argentina and Chile. For surface dwellers in the path, the Moon briefly blocked the Sun, turning night into day.
But for one “eye” in orbit around the Moon, the view was different. A camera on a tiny satellite watched as the circular shadow of the Moon moved over the Earth’s surface.
Continue reading “Last Year’s Total Solar Eclipse on Earth, Seen From the Moon”
In May of last year, NASA announced that it had selected 11 aerospace companies to study and produce prototypes for a Human Landing System (HLS). This decision was made as part of Project Artemis and NASA’s commitment to return humans to the Moon by 2024. A year later, the administration shared that they had narrowed the field down to three companies – SpaceX, Blue Origin, and relative newcomer Dynetics.
For their part, SpaceX is working on a modified version of the Starship, the commercial vehicle SpaceX is currently testing at Boca Chica. As an HLS, this spacecraft would be a fully reusable system, and also capable of integrating with the Orion spacecraft and the Lunar Gateway. According to recent statements Musk made on Twitter, the HLS version of the Starship will also have some interesting design features.
Continue reading “How SpaceX is Changing Starship to be Able to Land on the Moon”
When the International Space Station (ISS) runs low on basic supplies – like food, water, and other necessities – they can be resupplied from Earth in a matter of hours. But when astronauts go the Moon for extended periods of time in the coming years, resupply missions will take much longer to get there. The same holds true for Mars, which can take months to get there while also being far more expensive.
It’s little wonder then why NASA and other space agencies are looking to develop methods and technologies that will ensure that their astronauts have a degree of self-sufficiency. According to NASA-supported research conducted by Daniel Tompkins of Grow Mars and Anthony Muscatello (formerly of the NASA Kennedy Space Center), ISRU methods will benefit immensely from some input from nature.
Continue reading “Practical Ideas for Farming on the Moon and Mars”
The first lunar maps consisted of simply the best images of the Moon from Earth-based telescopes, which were converted to provide necessary information for the Apollo astronauts.
But whenever the next lunar explorers arrive, they’ll have incredibly detailed topographic maps of the Moon’s surface, thanks to the high-resolution cameras and instruments on board satellites like the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. LRO’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) zaps the Moon an incredible 140 times every second, measuring the ups and downs, nooks and crannies on the lunar surface to an accuracy within four inches.
Continue reading “Want to Mine Ice on the Moon? Scientists Create a Map for Where to Start”
As part of Project Artemis, which was announced in May of 2019, NASA will be sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. To make this happen, NASA has partnered with the private aerospace industry to develop all the necessary systems. At the same time, NASA has entered into collaborative agreements with other space agencies to ensure that lunar exploration is open to all.
To formalize these agreements and ensure that all parties are committed to the same goals, NASA recently drafted a framework for cooperative lunar exploration and development. Known as the Artemis Accords, this series of bilateral agreements (which are grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967) establish common principles for international partners who want to become part of humanity’s long-awaited return to the Moon.
Continue reading “NASA Proposes the Artemis Accords. The New Rules for Lunar Exploration”
The craters on the Moon’s poles are in permanent shadow. But they’re also intriguing locations, due to deposits of water ice and other materials. The ESA is developing the idea for a rover that can explore these areas with power provided by lasers.
Continue reading “This Laser Powered Rover Could Stay in the Shadows on the Moon and Continue to Explore”
“This moon might look a little funny to you, and that’s because it is an impossible scene,” wrote photographer Andrew McCarthy on Instagram.
He was talking about his other-wordly, almost Shakesperean image of the Moon. And that’s because this is an ‘all-terminator’ image.
Continue reading “This “All Terminator” Image of the Moon isn’t Actually Possible to See. But it Sure is Beautiful”
The prospect of mining asteroids and the Moon is on a lot of peoples’ minds lately. Maybe it’s all the growth that’s happened in the commercial aerospace industry in the past few decades. Or perhaps it’s because of Trump’s recent executive order to allow for asteroid and lunar mining. Either way, there is no shortage of entrepreneurs and futurists who can’t wait to start prospecting and harvest the natural bounty of space!
Coincidentally enough, future lunar miners now have a complete map of the lunar surface, which was created by the US Geological Society’s (USGS) Astrogeology Science Center, in collaboration with NASA and the Lunar Planetary Institute (LPI). This map shows the distribution and classification of the mineral deposits on the Moon’s surface, effectively letting us know what its familiar patchwork of light and dark patches the really are.
Continue reading “Want to Mine the Moon? Here’s a Detailed Map of all its Minerals”