Mining Water and Metal From the Moon at the Same Time

In-situ resource utilization (ISRU) is becoming a more and more popular topic as space exploration begins to focus on landing on the surface of other bodies in the solar system.  ISRU focuses on making things that are needed to support the exploration mission out of materials that are easily accessible at the site being explored.  Similar to how European explorers in the New World could build canoes out of the wood they found there.  

Recently NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) has started looking more closely at a variety of ISRU projects as part of their Phase I Fellows program.  One of the projects selected, led by Amelia Grieg at the University of Texas, El Paso, is a mining technique that would allow explorers to dig up water, metal, and other useful materials, all at the same time.

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NASA Invests in a Plan to Build Landing Pads and Other Structures on the Moon out of Regolith

Materials are a crucial yet underappreciated component of any space exploration program.  Without novel materials and ways to make them, things that are commonplace today, such as a Falcon 9 rocket or the Mars rovers, would never have been possible.  As humanity expands into the solar system, it will need to make more use of the materials found there – a process commonly called in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).  Now, the advanced concepts team at NASA has taken a step towards supporting that process by supporting a proposal from Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee, a chemist at Texas A&M.  The proposal suggests using lunar regolith to build a stable landing pad for future moon missions.

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ESA is Working on a Mission to Explore Caves on the Moon

Infrastructure is going to be one of the biggest components of any permanent human settlement on the moon.  NASA Artemis missions are focused directly on building up the facilities and processes necessary to support a moon base.  ESA is also contributing both material and knowledge.  Most recently they made another step in their path to explore some lava tubes and caves in the subterranean lunar world.

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The Largest Crater on the Moon Reveals Secrets About its Early History

One of the oldest, deepest, and largest impact craters on the Moon provides a window into the history and makeup of our celestial companion, and needs to be studied in more detail, says a team of lunar scientists. The South Pole-Aitken Basin on the Moon formed from a gigantic impact about 4.3 billion years ago. Scientists say a more detailed analysis of this area will help refine the timeline of events in the Moon’s development, as well as help explain the dramatic differences between the lunar nearside and farside.

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NASA has Decided to Start Building the Lunar Gateway Using the Falcon Heavy

In October of 2024, NASA will send “the first woman and the next man” to the Moon as part of the Artemis Program. This will be the first crewed mission to the lunar surface, and the first mission beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), since the closing of the Apollo Era in 1972. Beyond that, NASA plans to establish infrastructure on and around the Moon that will allow for “sustained lunar exploration and development.”

A key aspect of this is the Lunar Gateway, an orbiting habitat that will allow astronauts to make regular trips to and from the lunar surface. After much consideration, NASA recently announced that they have selected SpaceX to launch the foundational elements of the Gateway – the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) – by May of 2024 (at the earliest).

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Lunar Spacecraft Gets an Upgrade to Capture New Perspectives of the Moon

Eleven years into its mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is starting to show its age, but a recent software update promises to give the spacecraft a new lease on life. As NASA’s eye in the sky over the Moon, the LRO has been responsible for some of the best Lunar observations since the days of Apollo. This new upgrade will allow that legacy to continue.

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The Earth’s Magnetosphere Might be Creating Water on the Moon

There’s no doubt that the Moon has water on its surface. Orbiters have spotted deposits of ice persisting in the perpetual shadows of polar craters. And recent research shows that water exists in sunlit parts of the Moon, too.

Over the years, scientists have presented evidence that the Moon’s water came from comets, from asteroids, from inside the Moon, and even from the Sun.

But now new research is pointing the finger directly at Earth as the source of some of the Moon’s water.

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Chang’e-5 Brought Home 1.7 Kilograms of Lunar Samples

China’s Chang’e-5 lunar lander retrieved about 1.7 kilograms (3.81 pounds) of samples from the Moon, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).  The Chang’e-5 sample return capsule landed in China’s Inner Mongolia region on December 16, 2020, successfully capping a 23-day odyssey that brought back the first lunar rocks since 1976.

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To Help Trudge Through the Snow, the Chang’e-5 Recovery Team Wore Powered Exoskeletons

Other worlds aren’t the only difficult terrain personnel will have to traverse in humanity’s exploration of the solar system.  There are some parts of our own planet that are inhospitable and hard to travel over.  Inner Mongolia, a northern province of China, would certainly classify as one of those areas, especially in winter.  But that’s exactly the terrain team members from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) had to traverse on December 16th to retrieve lunar samples from the Chang’e-5 mission.  What was even more unique is that they did it with the help of exoskeletons.

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A Canadian Astronaut Will be on Artemis 2, Making it the Second Nation to Send Humans Into Deep Space (but not Walk on the Moon)

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recently announced that a Canadian astronaut will fly as part of the crew of Artemis II. This mission, scheduled for 2023, will see an Orion space capsule conduct a circumlunar flight where it flies around the Moon without landing. This will be the first of two crew opportunities that NASA will provide for Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions (as per the agreement).

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