Help NASA Develop a Better Space Toilet

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!

Read more

NASA Thinks it’s Time to Return to Neptune With its Trident Mission

Is it time to head back to Neptune and its moon Triton? It might be. After all, we have some unfinished business there.

It’s been 30 years since NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past the gas giant and its largest moon, and that flyby posed more questions than it answered. Maybe we’ll get some answers in 2038, when the positions of Jupiter, Neptune, and Triton will be just right for a mission.

Continue reading “NASA Thinks it’s Time to Return to Neptune With its Trident Mission”

WFIRST Will be Named After Nancy Grace Roman, NASA’s First Chief Astronomer

In the mid-2020s, NASA’s next-generation Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will take to space. With unprecedented resolution and advanced instruments, it will build on the foundation established by the venerable Hubble Space Telescope – which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year! In anticipation of all it will accomplish, NASA decided that the WFIRST needs a proper name, one that honors its connection to Hubble.

This week, NASA announced that henceforth, the WFIRST mission will be known as the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (or Roman Space Telescope for short) in honor of Dr. Nancy Grace Roman (who passed away in 2018). In addition to being NASA’s first Chief Astronomer, she was also a tireless educator and advocate for women in STEMs whose work paved the way for space telescopes – leading to her nickname “the mother of Hubble.”

Continue reading “WFIRST Will be Named After Nancy Grace Roman, NASA’s First Chief Astronomer”

NASA is Giving the SLS a “Green Run” to Prepare it for Launch in Late 2021

With the passage of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, work began on a launch vehicle that would carry cargo and crews back to the Moon and beyond. This vehicle is known as the Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy-launch system that (once fully operational) will be the most powerful rocket in the world since the Saturn V – the venerable vehicle that took the Apollo astronauts to the Moon.

Unfortunately, the development of the SLS has suffered from multiple delays over the past few years, causing no shortage of complications. However, engineering teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near St. Louis, Mississippi, recently completed a Green Run of the SLS’s Core Stage, which involved testing the rocket’s critical systems in preparation for its inaugural launch by November of 2021.

Continue reading “NASA is Giving the SLS a “Green Run” to Prepare it for Launch in Late 2021″

NASA is Going to Try Manufacturing a Telescope Mirror in Space

One of the JWST's gold-coated mirrors. Not even launched yet, and the golden mirrors are already iconic. Image Credit: NASA/Drew Noel

Space telescopes are a pretty amazing thing. By deploying an observatory to orbit, astronomers are able to take pictures of the Universe unencumbered by atmospheric disturbance. At the same time, they are very expensive to build, maintain, and launch into space. As the case of Hubble’s flawed mirror demonstrated, a space telescope also has to go through rigorous checks because of how difficult it becomes to service them after launch.

To address this, NASA is investigating the possibility of constructing future space telescopes in space. A key aspect of this involves a manufacturing technique known as Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), a process where layers of material no thicker than an atom is deposited on a surface and then hardened in place. Now, a team of NASA-supported researchers has been given the chance to test ALD in a microgravity environment (i.e. space!)

Continue reading “NASA is Going to Try Manufacturing a Telescope Mirror in Space”

Lunar Gateway Could be Built With the Falcon Heavy

In March of 2019, NASA was directed by the White House to land human beings on the Moon within five years. Known as Project Artemis, this expedited timeline has led to a number of changes and shakeups at NASA, not the least of which has to do with the deprioritizing of certain elements. Nowhere is this more clear than with the Lunar Gateway, an orbital habitat that NASA will be deploying to cislunar space in the coming years.

Originally, the Gateway was a crucial part of the agency’s plan to create a program of “sustainable lunar exploration.” In March of this year, NASA announced that the Lunar Gateway is no longer a priority and that Artemis will rely on an integrated lunar lander instead. However, NASA still hopes to build the Gateway, and according to a recent interview with ArsTechnica, this could be done with the help of SpaceX and the Falcon Heavy.

Continue reading “Lunar Gateway Could be Built With the Falcon Heavy”

When Did Mars Lose its Global Magnetic Field?

Billions of years ago, Mars was once a much different place than the cold and desiccated place it is today. Basically, it had a thicker, warmer atmosphere and liquid water flowing on its surface, and maybe even life! The reason for this is because, like Earth, Mars had a planetary magnetic field that was generated by action in its core. But when that field disappeared, things began to change drastically!

For years, scientists believed that this field disappeared over 4 billion years ago, causing Mars’ atmosphere to be slowly stripped away by solar wind. But according to new research led by the University of British Columbia (UBC) has placed new constraints on when this magnetic field disappeared, indicating that Mars’ magnetic field existed sooner (and laster hundreds of millions of years longer) than previously thought.

Continue reading “When Did Mars Lose its Global Magnetic Field?”

The Companies Taking NASA Back to the Moon in 2024: Blue Origin, SpaceX and Dynetics

In less than four years, NASA plans to send astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo era (Project Artemis). But this time, NASA plans to build the infrastructure needed to ensure a “sustainable program” of lunar exploration. In short, we’re going back to the Moon and this time, we plan to stay! To help them get there, the agency has partnered with commercial aerospace companies to provide logistical support.

In addition, NASA recently named three companies to develop vehicles for the Artemis missions that will be capable of landing astronauts on the lunar surface. They include the commercial space powerhouses SpaceX and Blue Origin, as well as the Alabama-based Dynetics, all of whom are tasked with developing Human Landing Systems (HLS) that can be deployed from their respective heavy launch systems (or another commercial provider).

Continue reading “The Companies Taking NASA Back to the Moon in 2024: Blue Origin, SpaceX and Dynetics”

OSIRIS-REx Descended Down to Just 75 Meters Above the Surface of Bennu in a Recent Test

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is getting ready for its big moment. OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is at asteroid Bennu, preparing to collect a sample of ancient rock. And collecting that sample means taking step after meticulous step.

Continue reading “OSIRIS-REx Descended Down to Just 75 Meters Above the Surface of Bennu in a Recent Test”