A New Way to Survive the Harsh Lunar Night

Heat-Switch Device Boosts Lunar Rover Longevity in Harsh Moon Climate.
Heat-Switch Device Boosts Lunar Rover Longevity in Harsh Moon Climate. Credit: Shinichiro Kinoshita, Masahito Nishikawara

The Moon is a tough place to survive, and not just for humans. The wild temperature extremes between day and night make it extremely difficult to build reliable machinery that will continue to operate. But an engineering team from Nagoya University in Japan have developed an energy-efficient new way to control Loop Heat Pipes (LHP) to safely cool lunar rovers. This will extend their lifespan, keeping them running for extended lunar exploration missions.

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Warp Drives Could Generate Gravitational Waves

This artist's illustration shows a spacecraft using an Alcubierre Warp Drive to warp space and 'travel' faster than light. Image Credit: NASA

Will future humans use warp drives to explore the cosmos? We’re in no position to eliminate the possibility. But if our distant descendants ever do, it won’t involve dilithium crystals, and Scottish accents will have evaporated into history by then.

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NASA has a New Database to Predict Meteoroid Hazards for Spaceflight

There are plenty of problems that spacecraft designers have to consider. Getting smacked in the sensitive parts by a rock is just one of them, but it is a very important one. A micrometeoroid hitting the wrong part of the spacecraft could jeopardize an entire mission, and the years of work it took to get to the point where the mission was actually in space in the first place. But even if the engineers who design spacecraft know about this risk, how is it best to avoid them? A new programming library from research at NASA could help.

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Lighting Up the Moon’s Permanently Shadowed Craters

This illustration shows a solar reflector on a crater rim could deliver solar energy where it's needed in the bottom of permanently shadowed polar craters on the Moon. Image Credit: Texas A&M Engineering

The Moon’s polar regions are home to permanently shadowed craters. In those craters is ancient ice, and establishing a presence on the Moon means those water ice deposits are a valuable resource. Astronauts will likely use solar energy to work in these craters and harvest water, but the Sun never shines there.

What’s the solution? According to one team of researchers, a solar collector perched on the crater’s rim.

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NASA Takes Six Advanced Tech Concepts to Phase II

From a lunar railway to a space telescope with a liquid lens, the 2024 NIAC Phase Two awardees are developing some fascinating concepts. This collage of artist concepts highlights the novel approaches proposed by the Phase Two awardees for possible future missions. Credits: NASA, From left: Edward Balaban, Mary Knapp, Mahmooda Sultana, Brianna Clements, Ethan Schaler

It’s that time again. NIAC (NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts) has announced six concepts that will receive funding and proceed to the second phase of development. This is always an interesting look at the technologies and missions that could come to fruition in the future.

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Psyche is Still Sending Data Home at Broadband Speeds

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is shown in a clean room at the Astrotech Space Operations facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 8, 2022. DSOC’s gold-capped flight laser transceiver can be seen, near center, attached to the spacecraft. NASA/Ben Smegelsky

When I heard about this I felt an amused twinge of envy. Over the last year I have been using an unimpressive 4G broadband service and at best get 20 Mbps, NASA’s Psyche mission has STILL been getting 23 Mbps at 225 million km away! It’s all thanks to the prototype optical transmission system employed on the probe. It means it can get up to 100 times more data transmission rate than usual radio. 

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What’s the Most Effective Way to Explore our Nearest Stars?

Project Starshot, an initiative sponsored by the Breakthrough Foundation, is intended to be humanity's first interstellar voyage. Credit: breakthroughinitiatives.org

It was 1903 that the Wright brothers made the first successful self-propelled flight. Launching themselves to history, they set the foundations for transatlantic flights, supersonic flight and perhaps even the exploration of the Solar System. Now we are on the precipice of travel among the stars but among the many ideas and theories, what is the ultimate and most effective way to explore our nearest stellar neighbours? After all, there are 10,000 stars within a region of 110 light years from Earth so there are plenty to choose from. 

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NASA’s Next Solar Sail is About to Go to Space

NASA is about to launch and test a new solar sail. Called the Advanced Composite Solar Sail System, it could advance future space travel and expand our understanding of our Sun and Solar System. Credits: NASA’s Ames Research Center

Everyone knows that solar energy is free and almost limitless here on Earth. The same is true for spacecraft operating in the inner Solar System. But in space, the Sun can do more than provide electrical energy; it also emits an unending stream of solar wind.

Solar sails can harness that wind and provide propulsion for spacecraft. NASA is about to test a new solar sail design that can make solar sails even more effective.

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What a Swarm of Probes Can Teach Us About Proxima Centauri B

Artist’s impression of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri. The double star Alpha Centauri AB is visible to the upper right of Proxima itself. Credit: ESO

You’ve likely heard of the Breakthrough Starshot (BTS) initiative. BTS aims to send tiny gram-scale, light sail picospacecraft to our neighbour, Proxima Centauri B. In BTS’s scheme, lasers would propel a whole fleet of tiny probes to the potentially water-rich exoplanet.

Now, another company, Space Initiatives Inc., is tackling the idea. NASA has funded them so they can study the idea. What can we expect to learn from the effort?

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What Could We Build With Lunar Regolith?

A close-up view of astronaut Buzz Aldrin's bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with the 70mm lunar surface camera during Apollo 11's sojourn on the moon. There'll soon be more boots on the lunar ground, and the astronauts wearing those boots need a way to manage the Moon's low gravity and its health effects. Image by NASA

It has often been likened to talcum powder. The ultra fine lunar surface material known as the regolith is crushed volcanic rock. For visitors to the surface of the Moon it can be a health hazard, causing wear and tear on astronauts and their equipment, but it has potential. The fine material may be suitable for building roads, landing pads and shelters. Researchers are now working to analyse its suitability for a number of different applications.

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