Japan’s SLIM Lander Finds Power Even Though It’s Face Down

Photo of the SLIM lander on the surface of the Moon - showing it tipped onto its side.
Photo of SLIM Lander

The Moon is a bit of a hot bed for exploration of late.  The Japanese agency JAXA have been getting in on the act but their SLIM lander fell on its side with its solar panels pointing toward the ground. Until today, JAXA thought that was it but today it seems that they have managed to re-established contact again.

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China Reveals How it’s Planning to Search for Water Ice at the Moon’s South Pole

A render of China's planned lunar base. /CFP

It’s been a big week for Chinese space exploration. First a successful test flight of Zhuque-3 and this week we learned of their plans to explore the Moon’s South Pole. Previous missions have even returned samples to Earth but the Chinese landers have yet to explore more southerly areas of the Moon. Chang’e-6 is due to launch in a few months to collect samples from the far side of the Moon while Chang’e-7 launches in 2026 to the Moon’s south pole. 

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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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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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China’s Chang’e-7 Will Deploy a Hopper that Jumps into a Crater in Search of Water Ice

Artist rendition of potential future facilities on the lunar surface. (Credit: CFP)

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese National Space Administration recently published a study in the journal Space: Science & Technology outlining how the upcoming Chang’e-7 mission, due to launch in 2026, will use a combination of orbital observations and in-situ analyses to help identify the location, amount, and dispersion of water-ice in the permanently-shadowed regions (PSRs) of the Moon, specifically at the lunar south pole.

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NASA Artemis DIMPLE Instrument Suite to Explore Moon’s Mysterious Volcanic Features

Credit: NASA

NASA recently selected a new science payload that will travel to the Moon through a series of robotic missions via the agency’s Artemis program. This instrument suite, known as the Dating an Irregular Mare Patch with a Lunar Explorer (DIMPLE), will have the task of studying the Ina Irregular Mare Patch, also known as Ina, which is a small depression that could provide insights into the Moon’s volcanic history. It was discovered using orbital images from the Apollo 15 crew, and despite several past studies, its origin remains unclear.

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Artemis Accords Adds 25th, 26th, and 27th Signatory Countries

The current list of the 27 signatory countries for the Artemis Accords. (Credit: NASA)

NASA recently welcomed the newest signatories of the Artemis Accords as Spain, Ecuador, and India became the 25th, 26th, and 27th countries, respectively, to sign on to the historic agreement for cooperation and partnership for space exploration, specifically pertaining to NASA’s Artemis program.

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NASA Seeks Industry Proposals for Next-Generation Lunar Rover

Artist rendition of NASA's next-generation Lunar Terrain Vehicle traversing the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

As Artemis II gets ready to launch in November 2024, NASA recently announced it is pursuing contract proposals from private companies for the development of a next-generation Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) to be used for crewed missions starting with Artemis V, which is currently scheduled for 2029. NASA has set a due date for the proposals of July 10, 2023, at 1:30pm Central Time, with the announcement for rewarded contracts to occur in November 2023.

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