ISRO Partners with JPL on Proposed MoonRise Lunar Sample Return Mission

ISRO announces new moon mission with US’ Jet Propulsion Lab

The Space Commission, India’s apex space policy body, today gave ISRO the go-ahead to partner with JPL, which has sent missions to Mars and Venus, for the project names ‘Moon Rise’ which could be launched by NASA.

ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has invited proposals under its New Frontiers Programme announced in 2009.

As per the cooperation agreement, ISRO will send a satellite to orbit around the moon to transmit data to earth from rover JPL plans to send to the lunar surface.

As part of the project, JPL plans to drop a robotic lander into a basin at the moon’s south pole to return lunar rocks back to Earth for study.

The mission, if selected, would be launched in 2016.

Read the full story.

Editor’s Note: I found this paper about the proposed mission. The mission summary reads:

MoonRise will land in the interior of the SPA Basin at a location determined by analysis of existing orbital data and selected using criteria for science and mission safety. MoonRise will document the geologic context of the landing site with descent imaging and high resolution and multi-spectral surface imaging, and will sieve a volume of soil near the lander to collect thousands of rock fragments. The regolith, well mixed from impact processes, is expected to yield small rock fragments that represent a broad area of the SPA Basin interior. The main lithologic components are impact generated rocks from the basin formation and from the formation of other large impact craters and basins within SPA. Sample materials will be returned to Earth for mineralogical, chemical, and petrologic analyses, and isotopic age determinations in state-of-the-art laboratories. Following a preliminary examination by the MoonRise science team at the Curatorial Facility at Johnson Space Center, MoonRise samples will be made available for allocation to – and study by – the scientific community worldwide.

The Lunar Networks blog also has a detailed overview.

The Space Review: Where to Next in Space?

Altair on the moon

This week in The Space Review

EML-1: the next logical destination
One potential destination for human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit is the Earth-Moon L-1 point. Ken Murphy discusses the various roles a human presence there could play in supporting space exploration and development.

The Grand Tour: Uranus
Twenty-five years ago today Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Uranus, becoming the first, and so far only, spacecraft to visit the seventh planet. Andrew LePage recounts the challenges of getting a spacecraft designed primarily for Jupiter and Saturn to continue the exploration of the outer solar system.

Fly me to the stars
Given the near-term challenges of just getting beyond Earth orbit, does it make sense to think about how to travel to other stars? Lou Friedman explains the benefits of long-term planning for interstellar missions, as DARPA and NASA are currently exploring.

Sub-scale and classified: the top secret CIA model of a Soviet launch pad
During the race to the Moon in the 1960s, the CIA built models of the Soviet N-1 launch pad to help them better understand the launch site infrastructure. Dwayne Day describes the discovery of one of those vintage models in an unexpected location.

Review: The Four Percent Universe
Discoveries in recent years have revolutionized the field of cosmology, indicating that ordinary matter makes up on a small fraction of the universe. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the search for dark matter and dark energy.

GLXP Competitor Next Giant Leap Gets $1 Million to Build Lunar Hoppers

Move Over, Rover: Next Giant Leap Gets $1 Million Grant To Build Hopping Moon Landers
Tech Crunch

Next Giant Leap in Boulder, Colorado— a startup that’s making robots that will land and hop around on the surfaces of other planets in order to gather data, detect resources valuable to humans, and more — attained a $1 million grant from the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, to advance their technology and pursue the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize in 2012, the companies revealed today.


Next Giant Leap Team Gets New Funding Round


Next Giant Leap LLC (NGL) announced that it has received a second round of funding from eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship (eSpace). NGL was initially selected for the eSpace incubator program last April. Based upon NGL’s continuing progress, including their recent NASA Innovative Lunar Data Demonstrations contract award, the eSpace board approved a second round of funding.

The Space Review: Moon, Mars or Narnia?

This week in The Space Review….

Human operations beyond LEO by the end of the decade: An affordable near-term stepping stone
Where should humans go next beyond Earth orbit, and how quickly? Harley Thronson, Dan Lester, and Ted Talay make the case for quickly and affordably establishing an outpost at the Earth-Moon Lagrange points.

Public interest and space exploration
The general public remains fascinated with many aspects of space exploration, from the Hubble Space Telescope’s observations of the cosmos to the activities of the Mars rovers. Lou Friedman notes that this interest must be taken into account when dealing with troubled current programs and planning future ones.

C.S. Lewis and his Space Trilogy, then and now
While best known for his Narnia books, C.S. Lewis also wrote a “Space Trilogy”. Taylor Dinerman examines those novels and their underlying message about space exploration before the beginning of the Space Age.

Review: Talking About Life
Astrobiology has gained traction in recent years as an interdisciplinary field seeking to answer one of the most fundamental questions: is there life elsewhere in the universe? Jeff Foust reviews a book where scientists and others talk about their work in this field.

NASA Completes Tests on Lunar Lander Engine

The robotic lander prototype's propulsion system, shown during a hot-fire test, consists of 12 small attitude control thrusters, three primary descent thrusters to control the vehicle’s altitude, and one large “gravity-canceling” thruster which offsets a portion of the prototype’s weight to simulate a lower gravity environment, like that of the moon and asteroids. (Photo Credit: Dynetics Corp.)


NASA’s Robotic Lunar Lander Development Project at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has completed a series of hot fire tests and taken delivery of a new propulsion system for integration into a more sophisticated free-flying autonomous robotic lander prototype. The project is partnered with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., to develop a new generation of small, smart, versatile robotic landers to achieve scientific and exploration goals on the surface of the moon and near-Earth asteroids.


Canadians Redesign Tires for Use on Lunar Rovers

iRings lunar wheels undergo testing. Photo: Brad Jones/Neptec Design Group

McGill University Press Release

Creating a wheel for some of the worst potholes known to humankind is just one of the extraterrestrial challenges a team of McGill students and professors face in developing and testing a wheel prototype for the new Lunar Exploration Light Rover (LELR).

The new Canadian rover will be used during lunar exploration to carry payloads, cargo and crew, as well as enable drilling and excavation, manipulator and tool integration, and vision and state-of-the-art communications systems.


Three Google Lunar X PRIZE Competitors Awarded Lunar NASA Contracts


Today, NASA announced that it purchased data related to innovative lunar missions from three private firms. All three contracts, valued at $500,000 each, were awarded to teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE: Astrobotic Technology Inc of Pittsburgh, PA; Moon Express Inc. of Mountain View, CA; and the Rocket City Space Pioneers (through their team member Dynetics Inc.) of Hunstville, AL. The contracts mark the first of several through NASA’s $30 million Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data project, managed by the Johnson Space Center near Houston, TX.


NASA Helps Dynetics, Rocket City Space Pioneers on the Way to the Moon


Dynetics, corporate team leader for the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP), the Huntsville-based Google Lunar X PRIZE team, is one of only three organizations selected to supply flight component test data to NASA through its Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data contract. In October, NASA’s Johnson Space Center made the contract award to six teams, including Dynetics (RCSP), out of 20 total teams competing for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. The ILDD teams will provide data to NASA to enable the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles and exploration systems.

Of the six selected for the original contract, three were down-selected for this first task order, which will allow RCSP to provide NASA with critical data from the hot fire test of a candidate rocket engine system and lunar rover system.


Astrobotic Celebrates NASA Lunar Data Award


NASA has awarded the initial half-million-dollar task order from a $10 million NASA contract to Astrobotic Technology for a robotic expedition to the Moon.

“The amazingly short turnaround between proposal and award are a testament to NASA’s support for lunar commerce companies like ours,” said Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, chairman of Astrobotic Technology.


Lunar Eclipse Wows World on Winter Solstice

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Moon Shadows

A total lunar eclipse is seen as the full moon is shadowed by the Earth on the arrival of the winter solstice, Tuesday, December 21, 2010 in Arlington, VA. The eclipse lasted about three hours and twenty-eight minutes.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up directly between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s rays and casting a shadow on the moon. As the moon moves deeper and deeper into the Earth’s shadow, the moon changes color before your very eyes, turning from gray to an orange or deep shade of red.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA to Help Guide Public Through Lunar Eclipse


NASA has planned various ways to help the public enjoy the total lunar eclipse on the night of Dec. 20 to 21.

Astronomers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will host a pair of live web chats to answer questions and help make the rare celestial experience one to remember. Marshall Center astronomer Rob Suggs will hold the first chat from 4 – 5 p.m. EST on Dec. 20 and discuss the best ways to view the eclipse. From 12 a.m. – 5 a.m., Marshall researcher Mitzi Adams will answer questions as the eclipse passes across the continental United States. A live video feed of the eclipse will be available on the chat site at:


Rocket City Space Pioneers to Use SolidWorks for Google Lunar X Prize Entry

SolidWorks Press Release
Dec. 16, 2010

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. (DS SolidWorks), a world leader in 3D solutions, today announced that the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP) will use SolidWorks® software to “boost” its entry in the Google Lunar X PRIZE. The X PRIZE competition challenges and inspires engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods for robotic space exploration.

A Huntsville, Ala. team featuring leaders in the spaceflight and educational fields is currently developing a low-cost lunar lander/rover system to send to the moon by 2014, which will be able to travel 500 meters and transmit video images and data back to the Earth. Led by Dynetics, the team comprising Teledyne Brown Engineering, Andrews Space, Spaceflight Services, Draper Laboratory, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation (VCSI) plans to be the first privately funded team to get to the moon.


Paragon Looks to Extract Water From Brine on Other Worlds

NASA recently announced that it would be conducting contract negotiations for 350 projects under its SBIR and STTR programs, which are aimed at promoting space technology development by small businesses. Parabolic Arc will be looking at a number of the proposals involving NewSpace companies that it regularly covers or which encompass interesting technologies.

This post looks at an SBIR proposal from Paragon Space Development Corporation, a rapidly growing Arizona company whose expertise lies in life-support systems. The project involves extracting water from brine to support human missions to other worlds. A cool idea, but the bigger question is: can it turn the water in wine? That would be really profitable. And miraculous to boot!

Bob Zubrin’s Company Snags Three SBIR Awards for Lunar, Martian Projects

NASA recently announced that it would be conducting contract negotiations for 350 projects under its SBIR and STTR programs, which are aimed at promoting space technology development and transfer by small businesses. Parabolic Arc will be looking at a number of the proposals involving NewSpace companies that it regularly covers or which encompass interesting technologies.

This post looks at Pioneer Pioneer Astronautics, a Colorado-based company run by Mars Society Founder Robert Zubrin. NASA selected three of the company’s SBIR proposals, including ones related to nitrous oxide micro-engines, Martian water extraction, and lunar oxygen production. Descriptions follow after the break.