It’s Time to Figure Out How to Land Large Spacecraft Safely on Other Worlds

Exhaust plume-surface interaction, more commonly known as brownout, while landing on the Moon. (Credit: Reproduced with permission from A. Rahimi, O. Ejtehadi, K.H. Lee, R.S. Myong, Acta Astronautica, 175 (2020) 308-326. ©2018 Elsevier.)

One of the most iconic events in history is Apollo 11 landing on the lunar surface. During the descent, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin are heard relaying commands and data back and forth to mission control across 385,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) of outer space as the lunar module “Eagle” slowly inched its way into the history books.

In the final moments before touchdown, Aldrin can be heard saying, “Picking up some dust”, followed by large dust clouds shooting outward from underneath from the spacecraft as the exhaust plumes interacted with the lunar surface, more commonly known as brownout or brownout effect. This significantly reduced the visibility for Armstrong and Aldrin as they landed, and while they successfully touched down on the Moon, future astronauts might not be so lucky.

Continue reading “It’s Time to Figure Out How to Land Large Spacecraft Safely on Other Worlds”

This is the Machine Astronauts Trained on to Land on the Moon

The first LLRV silhouetted against the rising sun on the dry lake bed at Edwards AFB. Image Credit: NASA

The Moon landings were a huge undertaking. In order to prepare, NASA had to think of every detail, right down to machines for the astronauts to train on. And those machines are an interesting part of space history all on their own.

Continue reading “This is the Machine Astronauts Trained on to Land on the Moon”

NASA Tests Autonomous Lunar Landing Technology

NASA is testing autonomous lunar launch systems in the Mojave Desert in California. Pictured is a tethered test of Draper relative terrain navigation system on a Masten Space Systems Zodiac rocket. Image Credit: NASA/Masten Space Systems

In anticipation of many Moon landings to come, NASA is testing an autonomous lunar landing system in the Mojave Desert in California. The system is called a “terrain relative navigation system.” It’s being tested on a launch and landing of a Zodiac rocket, built by Masten Space Systems. The test will happen on Wednesday, September 11th.

Continue reading “NASA Tests Autonomous Lunar Landing Technology”