What’s Under This Hole on the Surface of Mars?

The HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image to determine if any underlying voids or associated faults can be observed in this part of Arsia Mons. Pits like this can be caused by recent geologically-recent volcanic or tectonic activity. If there are caves under the pit, they could one day act as shelter for astronauts. The caves could also be targets for future robotic exploration. The pit is only a few meters across. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona

Human visitors to Mars need somewhere to shelter from the radiation, temperature swings, and dust storms that plague the planet. If the planet is anything like Earth or the Moon, it may have large underground lava tubes that could house shelters. Collapsed sections of lava tubes, called skylights, could provide access to these subterranean refuges.

Does this hole on Mars lead to a larger underground cavern?

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Astronauts Could Deploy Extra Arms to Stay Stable on the Moon

Astronaut with "SuperLimbs"

Walking along on the surface of the Moon, as aptly demonstrated by the Apollo astronauts, is no easy feat.  The gravity at the Moon’s surface is 1/6th of Earth’s and there are plenty of videos of astronauts stumbling, falling and then trying to get up! Engineers have come up with a solution; a robotic arm system that can be attached to an astronauts back pack to give them a helping hand if they fall. The “SuperLimbs” as they have been called will not only aid them as they walk around the surface but also give them extra stability while carrying out tasks. 

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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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Crew-7 Reaches the International Space Station

The SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft, with four Crew-7 crew members aboard, approaches the space station for a docking on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023. Credit: NASA TV

SpaceX Crew-7, the next group of four astronauts, are now on board the International Space Station, and this diverse crew is definitely putting “International” in the ISS. The new crew hails from four different countries: the US, Denmark, Japan and Russia. There will be 11 people on board the station for a few days before the Crew-6 foursome head back to Earth.

NASA has at least 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations queued up for Crew-7[‘s six months space, many of which will help prepare for the upcoming Artemis missions.

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NASA Astronauts Get a New Ride at Kennedy Space Center

NASA’s new custom-designed, fully electric, environmentally friendly crew transportation vehicles for the upcoming Artemis missions, which were delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 11, 2023. These new vehicles will ferry Artemis astronauts to Launch Complex 39B for their missions beginning with Artemis II, and were delivered by the manufacturer, Canoo Technologies Inc. (Credit: NASA/Isaac Watson)

In its continued support for the Artemis missions, a three fully-electric, environmentally friendly, and specially designed vehicles were recently delivered to NASA for the purpose of ferrying future Artemis astronauts from their crew quarters to historic Launch Pad 39B before their journey to the Moon. The vehicles were built and delivered by Canoo Technologies Inc. based in Torrance, California, and comes just over a year after NASA awarded Canoo the contract to provide the new vehicles, and almost two years since NASA put out a call for proposals.

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This is How NASA Wanted to Rescue Space Shuttle Astronauts

A NASA astronaut holds the Personal Rescue Enclosure in this photo. By NASA - Kenneth S. Thomas, Harold J. McMann: U. S. Spacesuits. 2nd edition. Springer, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4419-9566-7, p. 38, doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-9566-7_4., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64033886

For most of us, this would be a nightmare.

Imagine being curled up inside a 90 cm (36 inch) fabric sphere with a small window and a small air tank while dangling from the Canadarm. As your tiny sphere shifts, you’d see Earth out your tiny window, then the Space Shuttle, damaged by some accident or other that caused you to need rescuing, then Earth again. Panic would set in pretty quickly.

But that’s where Space Shuttle astronauts in an emergency could’ve found themselves if NASA’s Personal Rescue Enclosure (PRE) had been put into practice.

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The Private Axiom-2 Mission is Almost Ready to Fly to the International Space Station

Axiom-2 crew from left to right: Mission Specialist Ali Alqarni, Mission Specialist Rayyanah Barnawi, Commander Dr. Peggy Whitson, and Pilot John Shoffner. (Credit: Axiom Space/Vytal/Chris Zuponcic)

SpaceX’s second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Axiom-2 aka Ax-2, which is sponsored Axiom Space, received a “go” for launch from NASA on May 15 followed by a stamp of approval from Mother Nature on May 19, and finally a completion of the Launch Readiness Review (LRR) on May 20. Liftoff is currently scheduled for May 21 at 5:37pm EDT (2:37pm PDT) from NASA Kennedy Space Center’s historic launch complex 39A, which was the launch site for all crewed Apollo-Saturn V launches starting with Apollo 8, along with Skylab, dozens of Space Shuttle launches, and starting in 2017 with SpaceX.

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Meet the Four Astronauts Who’ll Fly Around the Moon for Artemis II

Artemis II crew portrait
The Artemis II crew includes, clockwise from left, Christina Koch, Victor Glover, Jeremy Hansen and Reid Wiseman. (Credit: Josh Valcarcel / NASA)

The four astronauts chosen for NASA’s Artemis II mission will check off a string of firsts during their flight around the moon, scheduled for next year. It’ll mark the first trip beyond Earth orbit for a woman, for a person of color and for a Canadian. Artemis II will represent yet another first for Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen: Based on the current crew schedule, it’ll be his first-ever space mission.

Commander Reid Wiseman, pilot Victor Glover and mission specialist Christina Koch round out the first crew for NASA’s Artemis moon program, which picks up on the legacy of the Apollo moon program. If all goes according to plan, they’ll be the first humans to circle the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

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Using Virtual/Augmented Reality and Holoportation to Help Improve Mental Health for Future Mars Astronauts

We recently explored how the Apple TV+ series, For All Mankind, gives us a harsh reality check about the harshness of human space exploration. In the show, astronauts struggle, some go crazy, and a lot of them die in the pursuit of planting our flag just a little farther from home. We discussed how while For All Mankind is both science fiction and takes place in an alternate universe, our future Artemis and Mars astronauts will very likely endure the same struggles and hardships as the show’s beloved characters.

When Artemis astronauts finally land on the Moon, they’ll be there anywhere from a few days to a few months. While the Moon is only a few days travel time from Earth, Artemis astronauts may still get a little cranky being stuck in their habitat and unable to go outside without a spacesuit.

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Astronauts Going to Mars Will Receive Many Lifetimes Worth of Radiation

In a recent study published in Space Physics, an international team of researchers discuss an in-depth study examining the long-term physiological effects of solar radiation on astronauts with emphasis on future astronauts traveling to Mars, to include steps we can take to help mitigate the risk of such solar radiation exposure. The researchers hailed from the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, India, United States, Italy, Greece, and Germany, and their study helps us better understand the in-depth, long-term health impacts of astronauts during long-term space missions, specifically to Mars and beyond.

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