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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A Rotating Spacecraft Would Solve So Many Problems in Spaceflight

DALL-E image of a rotating space station

If you watch astronauts in space then you will know how they seem to float around their spaceship. Spaceships in orbit around the Earth are in free-fall, constantly falling toward surface fo the Earth with the surface constantly falling away from it. Any occupant is also in free-fall but living like this causes muscle tone to degrade slowly. One solution is to generate artificial gravity through acceleration in particular a rotating motion. A new paper makes the case for a rotating space station and goes so far that it is achievable now. 

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Wireless Power Transmission Could Enable Exploration of the Far Side of the Moon

Schematic from Figure 1 of the study displaying the wireless power transmission and receiver on the lunar far side with three satellites (SPS-1, SPS-2, and SPS-3) in a halo orbit at the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2. (Credit: Donmez & Kurt (2024))

How can future lunar exploration communicate from the far side of the Moon despite never being inline with the Earth? This is what a recent study submitted to IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems hopes to address as a pair of researchers from the Polytechnique Montréal investigated the potential for a wireless power transmission method (WPT) comprised of anywhere from one to three satellites located at Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2 (EMLP-2) and a solar-powered receiver on the far side of the Moon. This study holds the potential to help scientists and future lunar astronauts maintain constant communication between the Earth and Moon since the lunar far side of the Moon is always facing away from Earth from the Moon’s rotation being almost entirely synced with its orbit around the Earth.

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Chickpeas Grown in Lunar Regolith Are Stressed but Reach Maturity

Image of the chickpea plants after five weeks displaying a diversity of chlorophyll. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Jessica Atkins)

A recent preprint investigates how chickpeas have been successfully grown in lunar regolith simulants (LRS), marking the first time such a guideline has been established not only for chickpeas, but also for growing food for long-term human space missions. This study was conducted by researchers from Texas A&M University and Brown University and holds the potential to develop more efficient methods in growing foods using extraterrestrial resources, specifically with NASA’s Artemis program slated to return humans to the lunar surface in the next few years.

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Should We Send Humans to Mars?

Featured Image: True-color image of the Red Planet taken on October 10, 2014, by India’s Mars Orbiter mission from 76,000 kilometers (47,224 miles) away. (Credit: ISRO/ISSDC/Justin Cowart) (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

Universe Today has explored the potential for sending humans to Europa, Venus, Titan, and Pluto, all of which possess environmental conditions that are far too harsh for humans to survive. The insight gained from planetary scientists resulted in some informative discussions, and traveling to some of these far-off worlds might be possible, someday. In the final installment of this series, we will explore the potential for sending humans to a destination that has been the focus of scientific exploration and science folklore for more than 100 years: Mars aka the Red Planet.

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Plants Growing in Space are at Risk from Bacterial Infections

Graduate student Noah Totsline works in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources lab of Harsh Bais on a NASA-sponsored project looking at how plants grown in space are more prone to infections of Salmonella compared to plants not grown in space or grown under gravity simulations. The microgravity environment of space can be simulated in the lab by rotating the plants at a precise speed that causes the plants to react as if they were in a constant state of free-fall.

I have spent the last few years thinking, perhaps assuming that astronauts live off dried food, prepackaged and sent from Earth. There certainly is an element of that but travellers to the International Space Station have over recent years been able to feast on fresh salad grown in special units on board. Unfortunately, recent research suggests that pathogenic bacteria and fungi can contaminate the ‘greens’ even in space.

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NASA Astronauts are Trying Out the Starship Lunar Elevator

Image of NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Doug “Wheels” Wheelock conducting recent training on a mock-up of the SpaceX human landing system (HLS) elevator system with the help of a technician. (Credit: SpaceX)

As NASA continues to ramp up efforts for its Artemis program, which has the goal of landing the first woman and person of color on the lunar surface, two NASA astronauts recently conducted training with a replica of SpaceX’s Starship human landing system (HLS), albeit on a much smaller scale. Given that Starship is 50 meters (160 feet) tall, and the crew quarters are located near the top of Starship, the HLS will need an elevator with a basket to transport crew and supplies from the crew quarters down to the surface. The purpose of this training is to familiarize astronauts with all aspects of this system, including elevator and gate controls and latches, along with how the astronauts perform these tasks in their bulky astronaut suits, which both astronauts wore during the training. 

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Should We Send Humans to Titan?

Universe Today recently examined the potential for sending humans to Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, and the planet Venus, both despite their respective harsh surface environments. While human missions to these exceptional worlds could be possible in the future, what about farther out in the solar system to a world with much less harsh surface conditions, although still inhospitable for human life? Here, we will investigate whether Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, could be a feasible location for sending humans sometime in the future. Titan lacks the searing temperatures and crushing pressures of Venus along with the harsh radiation experienced on Europa. So, should we send humans to Titan?

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The International Space Station Celebrates 25 Years in Space

25 years of ISS
25 years of ISS

NASA recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the International Space Station (ISS) with a space-to-Earth call between the 7-person Expedition 70 crew and outgoing NASA Associate Administrator, Bob Cabana, and ISS Program Manager, Joel Montalbano. On December 6, 1998, the U.S.-built Unity module and the Russian-built Zarya module were mated in the Space Shuttle Endeavour cargo bay, as Endeavour was responsible for launching Unity into orbit that same day, with Zarya having waited in orbit after being launched on November 20 from Kazakhstan.

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Should We Send Humans to Europa?

Image of Jupiter's moon, Europa, taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft. Could we send humans to Europa, someday? (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill © CC BY)

Universe Today recently examined the potential for sending humans to the planet Venus despite its extremely harsh surface conditions. But while a human mission to the clouds of Venus could be feasible given the environmental conditions are much more Earth-like, a human mission to the second planet from the Sun could be (at minimum) decades away. With NASA sending humans back to the Moon in the next few years, and hopefully to Mars, what if we could send humans to another planetary body worth exploring, though it could have its own harsh environmental conditions, as well? What about Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa? It has a massive interior liquid ocean that could harbor life, and NASA is currently scheduled to launch its Europa Clipper spacecraft to this small moon in October 2024, arriving at Jupiter in April 2030. Therefore, given the exploration potential, should we send humans to Europa?

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