In preparation for the upcoming Artemis missions to the lunar south pole, NASA recently solicited a Request for Information (RFI) from the lunar community to map out its future Lunar Infrastructure Foundational Technologies (LIFT-1) demonstration for developing In-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) technologies as part of the agency’s ambitious Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative (LSII). The primary goal of LIFT-1, which is being driven by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), is to advance ISRU technologies for extracting oxygen from the lunar regolith, including manufacturing, harnessing, and storing the extracted oxygen for use by future astronauts on the lunar surface. Proposals for LIFT-1 became available to be submitted via NSPIRES on November 6, 2023, with a deadline of December 18, 2023.Continue reading “NASA Wants to Learn to Live Off the Land on the Moon”
Astronauts will face a host of obstacles when they visit the Moon again. There’s powerful radiation, wild temperature swings, and challenging gravity to deal with. There’s also dust and lots of it. Moondust was a hazard for the Apollo astronauts, and future lunar astronauts will have to contend with it, too.
What if they turn some of that dust into solid surfaces to drive on?Continue reading “Building Roads Out of Moon Dust”
Throughout the 20th century, multiple proposals have been made for the crewed exploration of Mars. These include the famed “Mars Project” by Werner von Braun, the “Mars Direct” mission architecture by Robert Zubrin and David Baker, NASA’s Mars Design Reference Mission studies, and SpaceX’s Mars & Beyond plan. By 2033, two space agencies (NASA and the CNSA) plan to commence sending crews and payloads to the Red Planet. These and other space agencies envision building bases there that could eventually lead to permanent settlements and the first “Martians.”
This presents several major challenges, not the least of which have to do with exposure to radiation, extreme temperatures, dust storms, low atmospheric pressure, and lower gravity. However, with the right strategies and technology, these challenges could be turned into opportunities for growth and innovation. In a recent paper, a Leiden University researcher offers a roadmap for a Martian settlement that leverages recent advancements in technology and offers solutions that emphasize sustainability, efficiency, and the well-being of the settlers.Continue reading “A Comprehensive Blueprint for the Settlement of Mars”
When there’s a permanent base on the Moon, astronauts will need a way to replenish their oxygen supply. Fortunately, there’s an almost infinite amount of oxygen in the surrounding regolith, locked up the rocks and soil. The key would be to figure out a cost-effective way to extract it.
Now, NASA has demonstrated that they can harvest oxygen from the lunar regolith, even in the vacuum conditions of space. They used a device called a carbothermal reactor to successfully extract oxygen from a simulated lunar regolith, while also simulating the heat that would be produced by a solar energy concentrator.Continue reading “One Day Astronauts Will Be Breathing Oxygen Made From Rocks”
An astronaut’s gotta eat, right? Especially if they are on a long-duration mission to places like the Moon. Scientists have been looking into how the lunar regolith could possibly support growing food for humans, as growing plants for food and oxygen will be critical for future long-term lunar missions.
One company has been diligently researching this concept and they say there’s good news.Continue reading “It Should be Possible to Farm on the Moon”
NASA and the China National Space Agency (CNSA) plan to mount the first crewed missions to Mars in the next decade. These will commence with a crew launching in 2033, with follow-up missions launching every 26 months to coincide with Mars and Earth being at the closest point in their orbits. These missions will culminate with the creation of outposts that future astronauts will use, possibly leading to permanent habitats. In recent decades, NASA has conducted design studies and competitions (like the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge) to investigate possible designs and construction methods.
For instance, in the Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0, NASA describes a “commuter” architecture based on a “centrally located, monolithic habitat” of lightweight inflatable habitats. However, a new proposal envisions the creation of a base using organisms that extract metals from sand and rock (a process known as biomineralization). Rather than hauling construction materials or prefabricated modules aboard a spaceship, astronauts bound for Mars could bring synthetic bacteria cultures that would allow them to grow their habitats from the Red Planet itself.Continue reading “Instead of Building Structures on Mars, we Could Grow Them With the Help of Bacteria”
The future can arrive in sudden bursts. What seems a long way off can suddenly jump into view, especially when technology is involved. That might be true of self-replicating machines. Will we combine 3D printing with in-situ resource utilization to build self-replicating space probes?
One aerospace engineer with expertise in space robotics thinks it could happen sooner rather than later. And that has implications for SETI.Continue reading “We’ll be Building Self-Replicating Probes to Explore the Milky Way Sooner Than you Think. Why Haven’t ETIs?”
Humanity seems destined to expand into the Solar System. What exactly that looks like, and how difficult and tumultuous the endeavour might be, is wide open to speculation. But there are some undeniable facts attached to the prospect.
We need materials to build infrastructure, and getting it all into space from Earth is not realistic. (Be quiet, space elevator people.)Continue reading “Two Spacecraft Could Work Together to Capture an Asteroid and Bring it Close to Earth for Mining”
The famous Russian rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky once said, “Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.” Tsiolkovsky is often hailed as one of the fathers of rocketry and cosmonautics and remembered for believing in the dominance of humanity throughout space, also known as anthropocosmism. His work in the late-19th and early-20th centuries helped shape space exploration several decades before humanity first walked on the Moon.Continue reading “Explorers Could Build Bricks on Mars with Bacteria and Pee”
The existence of water on Mars is a contentious subject. We know there used to be water on the surface of the planet, though it’s long gone now. We know there’s frozen water underground in the world, and we know there’s water vapour in the air. But life needs liquid water.
Could there be liquid water on Mars?
A new study shows how salty water could emerge from the atmosphere onto Mars’ surface under the right conditions.Continue reading “There are Places Where Salty Water Could Emerge Onto the Surface of Mars”