NASA has announced that next year it will deliver an ice-mining experiment to the moon in the first attempt to find and extract resources from the lunar surface.
The development of space-mining technology will be critical in establishing a long-term presence in deep space, NASA said, detailing the mission in a Nov. 3 statement.
The robotic lander with the connected ice-mining technology will spend 10 days near the Shackleton crater. The location was chosen after months of analysis by spacecraft now circling the moon. The area receives a lot of sunlight, which will help power the robot. It also has a line of sight with Earth, which means the machine will be in constant communication with its operators.
The mission is designed to demonstrate three technologies: “the NASA-funded Polar Resources Ice-Mining Experiment-1 (PRIME-1) — which consists of a drill paired with a mass spectrometer — a 4G/LTE communications network developed by Nokia of America Corporation, and Micro-Nova, a deployable hopper robot developed by Intuitive Machines,” the statement said.
“PRIME-1 is permanently attached to Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander, and finding a landing location where we might discover ice within three feet of the surface was challenging.” said Jackie Quinn, PRIME-1 project manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“While there is plenty of sunlight to power the payloads, the surface gets too warm to sustain ice within reach of the PRIME-1 drill. We needed to find a ‘goldilocks’ site that gets just enough sunlight to meet mission requirements while also being a safe place to land with good Earth communications.”
After it lands, the PRIME-1 drill, dubbed TRIDENT (The Regolith Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain), will try to drill to a depth of three feet into the lunar surface.
It will then remove lunar soil, known as “regolith,” and analyze it for the presence of water.
While the mining operation is underway, PRIME-1’s second instrument, the Mass Spectrometer observing lunar operations (MSolo), will study the volatile gases given off by the regolith brought to the surface by TRIDENT.
By drilling on the surface of the moon, NASA is hoping to gain valuable experience in devising long-term deep-space operations, which will depend on astronauts being able to mine ice and other elements on distant planets.
While PRIME-1 investigates the material below the moon’s surface, Nokia will test its lunar 4G/LTE network.
Nokia’s network will be tested by a diminutive rover made by Lunar Outpost, which will venture across the lunar surface, putting over a mile between itself and the Nova-C lander before testing the signal. It will communicate with the lander, which will then communicate the data to Earth.
Nokia’s network will be developed so that machines on the surface of the moon can communicate with each other over long distances. The network is expected to enable high-definition video streaming between astronauts, base stations and vehicles.
While Nokia is testing its network and PRIME-1 is mining for ice, Micro-Nova will be sent into a close-by crater to take pictures and gather scientific data. It will then send the data back to the Nova-C.
Micro-Nova, developed by Intuitive Machines, can carry a two-pound payload, allowing it to survey the lunar surface and potentially carry small scientific instruments on future exploration missions.
“These early technology demonstrations employ innovative partnerships to provide valuable information about operating on and exploring the lunar surface,” Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said.
“The data will inform the designs for future in-situ resource utilization, mobility, communication, power and dust mitigation capabilities.”
Edited by Richard Pretorius and Kristen Butler
Hubble Looks at Spiral Galaxy NCG 7329 – Sci-News.com
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured an amazing photo of the spiral galaxy NCG 7329.
Otherwise known as ESO 109-12, IRAS 22369-6644 and LEDA 69453, it resides 149 million light-years away in the constellation of Tucana.
The galaxy is a member of the NGC 7329 group (LGG 462), an assembly of more than 10 galaxies bound together by gravity.
This new image of NCG 7329 is made up of observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) in the infrared and optical parts of the spectrum.
“Creating a colorful image such as this one using a telescope such as Hubble is not as straightforward as pointing and clicking a camera,” Hubble astronomers said.
“Commercial cameras will typically try to collect as much light of all visible wavelengths as they can, in order to create the most vibrant images possible.”
“In contrast, raw images collected by Hubble are always monochromatic, because astronomers typically want to capture very specific ranges of wavelengths of light at any time, in order to do the best, most accurate science possible.”
“In order to control which wavelengths of light will be collected, Hubble’s cameras are equipped with a wide variety of filters, which only allow certain wavelengths of light to reach the cameras’ CCDs (a CCD is a camera’s light sensor — phone cameras also have CCDs).”
“How are the colorful Hubble images possible given that the raw Hubble images are monochromatic? This is accomplished by combining multiple different observations of the same object, obtained using different filters,” they added.
“This image of NCG 7329, for example, was processed from Hubble observations made using four different filters, each of which spans a different region of the light spectrum.”
“Specialized image processors and artists can make informed judgements about which optical colors best correspond to each filter used.”
“They can then color the images taken using that filter accordingly.”
“Finally, the images taken with different filters are stacked together, and voila!”
“The colorful image of a distant galaxy is complete, with colors as representative of reality as possible.”
SpaceX Tapped For 3 More Possible Commercial Crew Flights To Space – Forbes
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is just going to get busier shuttling astronauts in the coming years.
NASA announced it intends to issue a sole-source modification to SpaceX’s long-term contract to send astronauts to the International Space Station. This follows an agency call for proposals back in October for more flight options to send people to space.
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which is the other major system, is not quite yet ready for humans following a difficult uncrewed test flight in 2019 that never saw the spacecraft reach the ISS. Starliner has spent some time fixing computer glitches and other issues (including a valve problem that delayed an expected 2021 launch) and is now expecting a second uncrewed test flight by 2022.
The October solicitation, NASA noted, confirms SpaceX is the only viable choice for the time being, given the agency’s safety requirements and the need to keep the space station staffed continuously in the coming years.
“It’s critical we begin to secure additional flights to the space station now so we are ready as these missions are needed to maintain a U.S. presence on station,” Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s space 0perations mission directorate, said in a blog post. “Our U.S. human launch capability is essential to our continued safe operations in orbit and to building our low-Earth orbit economy.”
NASA stated it would use these new flights “as early as 2023”, and that the contract (in securing flights and allowing the agency to task personnel elsewhere) will help them get Boeing’s Starliner system ready to fly astronauts once it’s been certified.
“NASA and Boeing will provide additional updates on the status of Starliner’s next mission as we work through the investigation and verification efforts to determine root cause and effective vehicle remediation,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA, in the same statement.
The latest issue holding up the flight was an oxidizer isolation valve that was found in August, and NASA and Boeing together elected to pull the spacecraft back to the hanger to figure out how to fix the issue before sending the spacecraft aloft.
Another pressing issue for NASA’s future will be extending the planned retirement of the ISS from 2024 to at least 2028, which the agency has said for years it wants to do. It is in negotiations with Congress and with its international partners to do this, and in the meantime, last week the agency also announced it has secured three early-stage contracts for future private space stations to fly late in the 2020s.
See what food challenges astronauts face in space – CGTN America
For the first time ever, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency hosted the Deep Space Food Challenge.
The competition brought universities and companies together to propose solutions on how to feed astronauts on a long mission. Last month, NASA announced that the winners and one of the international winners of the Phase 1 competition came from a group of students in a university in South America.
CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports Colombia.
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