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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It’s Time to Study Lunar Lava Tubes. Here’s a Mission That Could Help

Spectacular high Sun view of the Mare Tranquillitatis pit crater revealing boulders on an otherwise smooth floor. The 100 meter pit may provide access to a lunar lava tube. Image Credit: By NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University - http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA13518, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54853313

The Moon is practically begging to be explored, and the momentum to do so is building. The Artemis Program’s effort to return astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo missions captures a lot of attention. But there are other efforts underway.

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China Names its Capsule and Lander for its Upcoming Human Lunar Missions

Illustration of chinese capsule and lander

In a recent announcement, the Chinese Space Agency (CSA) unveiled the names for its forthcoming lunar mission components. The CSA have been working towards sending humans to the Moon through a series of robotic missions. The 22-tonne capsule that is taking the astronauts to the Moon is called Mengzhuo (translates to ‘dream vessel’) and the lander has been named Lanyue (meaning ‘embracing the Moon’). Assuming all goes to plan, they will send two humans and a rover to the surface of the Moon by 2030.

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Europe is Working on a Multi-Purpose Habitat for the Moon

Image of the Multi-Purpose Habitat (MPH) being developed through a recent partnership between the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space. (Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

With NASA gearing up to send humans back to the Moon in the next few years with the Artemis missions with the goal of establishing a permanent outpost at the lunar south pole, nations are making efforts to contribute to Artemis and a permanent presence on our nearest celestial neighbor. Recently, the Italian Space Agency, formally known as Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), has taken steps to establish the first permanent outpost on the lunar surface, known simply as the Multi-Purpose Habitat (MPH). This endeavor was officially kicked by the ASI signing a contract with the French-based aerospace company, Thales Alenia Space, who specializes in space-based systems, including ground segments and satellites used for both Earth observation and space exploration.

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NASA Wants to Learn to Live Off the Land on the Moon

Artist rendition of an In-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) technology demonstration on the lunar surface. NASA is working with industry and academia to develop technologies for future production of fuel, water, or oxygen from local resources, thus advancing space exploration capabilities. (Credit: NASA)

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.

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ESA is Testing a Modular Multipurpose Rover that Could Be a Science Lab or a Tiny Bulldozer

The ESA is working on its European Moon Rover System (EMRS.) It's a modular rover design seen during testing in this image. Image Credit: ESA.

Most rovers have been built for Mars, and each one of them is a complex machine designed with specific goals and terrains in mind. But the Moon is different than Mars. We’re not searching for life there; we’re trying to establish a presence.

In recognition of the difference, the ESA is developing modular rovers that can serve different needs with only small modifications.

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This Moon Rover Wheel Could be 3D Printed on the Moon

NASA mechanical design engineer Richard Hagen, left, and ORNL researcher Michael Borish inspect a lunar rover wheel prototype that was 3D printed at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

When you think about sending missions to the Moon, every single gram counts on launch day. Therefore, it makes sense to live off the land when you arrive with in-situ resource utilization. For example, what if you could fly a rover without wheels and 3D print them out of lunar regolith when you get there?

It just might happen.

Researchers used a 3D printer to build the same design for a wheel that will be part of the upcoming NASA VIPER rover. It was done using additive manufacturing (another word for 3D printing), melting metal powder and laying down and bonding a large number of successive thin layers of materials into the designed shape.

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The Darkest Parts of the Moon are Revealed with NASA’s New Camera

This new mosaic of Shackleton Crater on the Moon was obtained with a combination of images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) and ShadowCam. (Credit: Mosaic created by LROC (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) and ShadowCam teams with images provided by NASA/KARI/ASU)

While the surface of the Moon has been mapped in incredible detail over the last several decades, one region has eluded orbital cameras due to the lack of sunlight, which are aptly called the permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) of the Moon. However, two cameras operating on two different lunar orbiters have recently worked in tandem to produce a stunning mosaic image of the lunar south pole’s Shackleton Crater, a portion of which resides directly on the lunar south pole and whose depths have been shrouded in complete darkness for possibly the last few billion years. As a result, scientists hypothesize that water ice could have accumulated within its dark depths that future astronauts could use for fuel and life support.

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Did the Moon’s Water Come from Earth?

Map displaying water content across the lunar surface, which was the focus of this study as researchers examined how the Earth’s magnetic field contributes to water on the Moon. As the data indicates, lunar water is primarily concentrated near the lunar poles. (Credit: Li, et al., 2023)

A recent study published in Nature Astronomy examines how processes within the Earth’s magnetic field could be contributing to the formation of water on the surface of the Moon. This study was led by the University of Hawai’i (UH) and comes during an increased interest in finding water ice across the lunar surface, which has previously been confirmed to exist within the permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) of the lunar north and south poles due to the Moon’s small axial tilt of only 1.5 degrees compared to the Earth’s 23.5 degrees. Additionally, better understanding the lunar surface water content could also help scientists gain better insights into the Moon’s formation and evolution, which is currently hypothesized to have formed from a Mars-sized object colliding with the Earth approximately 4.5 billion years ago, or approximately 100 million years after the Earth formed.

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As Night Falls, India’s Lunar Lander/Rover Goes to Sleep. Probably Forever

India's Pragyan lunar rover has been put into sleep mode after the end of its first lunar day. There's still a chance it could reawaken, but there's no guarantee. Image Credit: ISRO

India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission delivered its Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to the lunar surface on August 23rd. Now, as the lunar day ends two weeks later, the rover’s mission may be over. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has put Pragyan into sleep mode.

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