NASA has Simulated a Tiny Part of the Moon Here on Earth

Using the Lunar Lab and Regolith Testbeds at NASA’s Ames Research Center, a team created this simulated lunar environment to study lighting conditions experienced at the unexplored poles of the Moon. Credit: NASA/Uland Wong.

Before going to the Moon, the Apollo astronauts trained at various sites on Earth that best approximated the lunar surface, such as the volcanic regions Iceland, Hawaii and the US Southwest.  To help prepare for upcoming robotic and human Artemis missions, a newly upgraded “mini-Moon” lunar testbed will allow astronauts and robots to test out realistic conditions on the Moon including rough terrain and unusual sunlight.

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Study Shows How Cells Could Help Artemis Astronauts Exercise

NASA’s Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts further into space than ever before using a module based on Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV). Credit: NASA

In 2033, NASA and China plan to send the first crewed missions to Mars. These missions will launch every two years when Earth and Mars are at the closest points in their orbits (Mars Opposition). It will take these missions six to nine months to reach the Red Planet using conventional technology. This means that astronauts could spend up to a year and a half in microgravity, followed by months of surface operations in Martian gravity (roughly 40% of Earth gravity). This could have drastic consequences for astronaut health, including muscle atrophy, bone density loss, and psychological effects.

Aboard the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts maintain a strict exercise regimen to mitigate these effects. However, astronauts will not have the same option while in transit to Mars since their vehicles (the Orion spacecraft) have significantly less volume. To address this challenge, Professor Marni Boppart and her colleagues at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology are developing a process using regenerative cells. This work could help ensure that astronauts arrive at Mars healthy, hearty, and ready to explore!

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Want to Build Structures on the Moon? Just Blast the Regolith With Microwaves

Microwaves are useful for more than just heating up leftovers. They can also make landing pads on other worlds – at least according to research released by a consortium of scientists at the University of Central Florida, Arizona State University, and Cislune, a private company. Their research shows how a combination of sorting the lunar soil and then blasting it with microwaves can create a landing pad for future rockets on the Moon – and save any surrounding buildings from being blasted by 10,000 kph dust particles.

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The Solar Wind is Creating Water on the Surface of the Moon

Water on the Moon has been a hot topic in the research world lately. Since its first unambiguous discovery back in 2008. Since then, findings of it have ramped up, with relatively high concentration levels being discovered, especially near the polar regions, particularly in areas constantly shrouded in shadow. Chang’e 5, China’s recent sample return mission, didn’t land in one of those permanently shadowed areas. Still, it did return soil samples that were at a much higher latitude than any that had been previously collected. Now, a new study shows that those soil samples contain water and that the Sun’s solar wind directly impacted that water.

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Power on the Moon. What Will it Take to Survive the Lunar Night?

Artist rendering of an Artemis astronaut exploring the Moon’s surface during a future mission. Credit: NASA

With the help of international and commercial partners, NASA is sending astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in over fifty years. In addition to sending crewed missions to the lunar surface, the long-term objective of the Artemis Program is to create the necessary infrastructure for a program of “sustained lunar exploration and development.” But unlike the Apollo missions that sent astronauts to the equatorial region of the Moon, the Artemis Program will send astronauts to the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin, culminating in the creation of a habitat (the Artemis Basecamp).

This region contains many permanently-shadowed craters and experiences a night cycle that lasts fourteen days (a “Lunar Night“). Since solar energy will be limited in these conditions, the Artemis astronauts, spacecraft, rovers, and other surface elements will require additional power sources that can operate in cratered regions and during the long lunar nights. Looking for potential solutions, the Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI) and the NASA Glenn Research Center recently hosted two space nuclear technologies workshops designed to foster solutions for long-duration missions away from Earth.

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Watch a NASA Supercut of the Entire Artemis I Mission, From Launch to Landing

The Earth and Moon as see from the Orion spacecraft, close to 435,000 km (270,000 miles) from Earth. Credit: NASA livestream.

In case you missed any of the 25-day flight of Artemis 1, NASA has compiled a 25-minute highlight reel that showcases the top moments of the mission, from launch to splashdown.

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In Case you Missed it, Here are Some Amazing Pictures of Mars Hiding Behind the Moon

This is the occultation of Mars by the Full Moon on December 7, 2022, in a composite showing the motion of Mars relative to the Moon. The motion here is from left to right. However, while this composite makes it look like Mars was doing the moving, it was really the Moon that was passing in front of Mars. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer.

Last week gave us a celestial triple header, all in one night. The Moon was full and Mars was at opposition (at its closest point to Earth). But the pièce de résistance was when the Moon occulted or passed in front of Mars on the evening/morning of December 7th/8th. Our astrophotographer friends were out in full force to capture the event.

Our lead image comes from prolific amateur astronomer and photographer Alan Dyer, who observed the occultation from his home in Alberta, Canada, and created this composite view of the night’s activities. “While this composite makes it look like Mars was doing the moving,” Dyer explained on Flickr, “it was really the Moon that was passing in front of Mars. But for this sequence I set the telescope mount to track the Moon at its rate of motion against the background stars and Mars, to keep the Moon more or less stationary on the frame while Mars and the background sky passed behind it.”

Here are some more great views from around the world:

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We Could Simulate Living in Lunar Lava Tubes in Caves on Earth

Simulation is key to space exploration. Scientists and engineers test as many scenarios as possible before subjecting their projects to the harshness of space. It should not be any different with the future living quarters of explorers on the Moon. One of the most commonly cited locations for a future permanent lunar base is in the relatively recently discovered lava tube caves scattered throughout the lunar mare. Simulating such an environment on Earth might be difficult, but a team from the Center for Space Exploration in China thinks they might have a solution – using karst caves to simulate lunar lava tubes.

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Japanese Billionaire Reveals His Round-the-Moon Crew

DearMoon crew
Japanese spaceflier-entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa (center) has selected his crew for a Starship flight around the moon. From left: Kaitlyn Farrington, Brendan Hall, Tim Dodd, Yemi A.D., TOP, Maezawa, Steve Aoki, Rhiannon Adam, Karim Iliya, Dev D. Joshi and Miyu. (DearMoon Photo)

Four years after announcing that he’d lead an around-the-moon mission aboard SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has named the eight people he wants to fly with him.

In 2018, Maezawa said he’d fund a mission aimed at letting creative artists on the level of the late Pablo Picasso or Michael Jackson experience a trip beyond Earth orbit. Some of the people he’s picked are making use of creative channels that didn’t exist when Picasso was in his prime.

The eight crew members — and two alternates — were chosen out of more than a million people from 249 countries and regions who registered their interest via Maezawa’s DearMoon website.

“I’m very thrilled to have these amazing people join me on my journey to the moon and excited to see what inspiring creations they come up with in space,” Maezawa said as he announced his selections.

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NASA Releases Another Supercut of the Artemis I Mission, Showing the Launch and Flight Past the Moon

The Earth and Moon as see from the Orion spacecraft, close to 435,000 km (270,000 miles) from Earth. Credit: NASA livestream.

Artemis I is now on day seventeen of its mission, having just completed its distant retrograde orbit burn. This maneuver has placed the uncrewed Orion spacecraft (loaded with mannequins and sensors) on its way back to Earth. In honor of this historic mission that has traveled farther than any spacecraft in history, NASA has released a second supercut video of footage from the mission. The 1-minute, 36-second video includes highlights from the maiden launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft making its circumlunar flight and looking back at the Earth-Moon system.

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