Perseverance is one of a few Mars spacecraft carrying laser retroreflectors. The devices could provide new science and safer Mars landings in the future.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon, they brought devices with them called retroreflectors, which are essentially small arrays of mirrors. The plan was for scientists on Earth to aim lasers at them and calculate the time it took for the beams to return. This provided exceptionally precise measurements of the Moon’s orbit and shape, including how it changed slightly based on Earth’s gravitational pull.
COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The Chang’e-4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the Moon on 3 January 2019, with a German instrument for measuring space radiation on board. Since then, the Lunar Lander Neutron and Dosimetry (LND) instrument has been measuring temporally resolved cosmic radiation for the first time.
UPDATE: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was emphatic today that the first crewed landing and subsequent ones would land at the lunar south pole. He said remarks he made last week were misinterpreted.
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
For 18 months NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump Administration officials have repeatedly promised to land the next man and the first woman at the south pole of the moon in 2024.
by Margo Pierce NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate
Some of the most interesting places to study in our solar system are found in the most inhospitable environments – but landing on any planetary body is already a risky proposition. With NASA planning robotic and crewed missions to new locations on the Moon and Mars, avoiding landing on the steep slope of a crater or in a boulder field is critical to helping ensure a safe touch down for surface exploration of other worlds. In order to improve landing safety, NASA is developing and testing a suite of precise landing and hazard-avoidance technologies.
SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — Over the course of the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle, the star goes through a period of increased and decreased activity. When this activity ramps up, sometimes phenomena such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), where massive amounts of radiation and solar particles erupt out from the Sun’s surface, can wreak havoc if our planet happens to be in the way of the blast.
by Lonnie Shekhtman NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
GREENBELT, Md. — Dozens of times over the last decade NASA scientists have launched laser beams at a reflector the size of a paperback novel about 240,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) away from Earth. They announced today, in collaboration with their French colleagues, that they received signal back for the first time, an encouraging result that could enhance laser experiments used to study the physics of the universe.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Mars is an obvious source of inspiration for science fiction stories. It is familiar and well-studied, yet different and far enough away to compel otherworldly adventures. NASA has its sights on the Red Planet for many of the same reasons.
Lunar dust feels like fine snow, is strangely abrasive, and smells like burnt gun powder when exposed to oxygen.
It was a minor annoyance during the Apollo missions, which lasted a maximum of three days. Now that NASA is planning to send astronauts back to the moon to stay in the Artemis program, the space agency is looking for ways to control lunar dust so it doesn’t clog up spacesuits, spacecraft and habitats.
BEIJING (China National Space Administration PR) — Since landing on the back of the moon, the Chang’e 4 lander and the Yutu-2 lunar rover have been operating successfully for more than 500 days, and have achieved many results in the scientific fields such as the material composition and underground structure of the landing zone.
The contrast was jarring. In one browser window, two NASA astronauts were making their way to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first orbital launch of a crew from U.S. soil in nearly 9 years.
In another window, scenes of chaos played out as protests over the death of George Floyd after his arrest by Minneapolis police erupted into violent clashes across the country.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A NASA-published volume traces the history of human lunar lander concepts developed since Apollo’s Lunar Module (LM). After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo tells the story of physics, technology, and the desire to return humans to the lunar surface through technical descriptions, imagery and subsystem mass breakouts of more than 100 lunar lander concepts created by NASA and its contractors since the Apollo program.
The concepts are grouped by the human exploration timelines that defined the post-Apollo period, starting post-Apollo and continuing through the Space Exploration Initiative and the Vision for Space Exploration, and concluding with the many lander designs created to support NASA’s Constellation program. Readers will see the common “trades” that are explored in crewed landing systems, including propellant types, pressurized volumes, structural mass fractions, mass margins, crew size, and special accommodations for ergonomics and other human factors.
Author John Connolly has spent 33 years at NASA, primarily leading development of lunar surface systems, including landers. “I think this compilation illustrates how, when a crewed lunar lander is stripped down to its most basic functions, its form ultimately responds to fundamental physics and human factors,” Connolly said. “With a nod to science fiction, of course.”
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA hasn’t measured moonquakes since Apollo astronauts deployed a handful of measuring stations at various locations on the lunar surface and discovered unexpectedly that Earth’s only natural satellite was far from seismically inactive.
WASHINGTON, May 1, 2020 (House Science Committee PR) — Yesterday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX have been awarded contracts to design and develop Artemis program human landing systems, one of which NASA plans to use for a 2024 lunar landing.
“I am troubled that NASA has decided to ignore congressional intent and instead press forward with Human Landing System awards to try to meet an arbitrary 2024 lunar landing deadline,” said Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “As the Apollo program showed us, getting to the Moon and back safely is hard. The multi-year delays and difficulties experienced by the companies of NASA’s taxpayer-funded Commercial Crew program—a program with the far less ambitious goal of just getting NASA astronauts back to low Earth orbit—make clear to me that we should not be trying to privatize America’s Moon-Mars program, especially when at the end of the day American taxpayers—not the private companies—are going to wind up paying the lion’s share of the costs. I want our Nation to pursue the inspiring goals of returning to the Moon and then heading to Mars, but we need to do it sensibly and safely while we also protect the interests of the tax paying public.”
“America’s human space exploration program has inspired generations and led to discovery, development, and innovation,” said Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK). “Returning humans to the Moon safely is an important and worthy endeavor for our nation. It is also a challenging one that requires significant investment of taxpayer dollars to achieve. I was disappointed to see that NASA’s decision on lunar landing systems development starkly contrasts the bipartisan House NASA Authorization bill and the advice of experts on minimizing risk and ensuring the highest likelihood of success in landing humans on the Moon.”
“Unfortunately, more than a year after their announcement to accelerate the Artemis program, NASA has yet to provide Congress a transparent architecture and technical and cost assessment, despite our repeated requests. The American taxpayer deserves to know their money is being spent wisely, especially if they are being asked to invest billions of taxpayer dollars in a private lunar landing system. Our nation should dream boldly and pursue aspirational goals but we have to do so thoughtfully and intentionally. I look forward to working with NASA in good faith to steer our nation’s space program in a direction that allows our country to achieve inspiring goals and explore space in a responsible and measured way.”
HOUSTON (ESA PR) — Almost 50 years after the Apollo missions returned lunar material to Earth, ESA experts are helping to uncover the secrets of two previously unopened samples to learn more about ancient processes on the Moon – and to refine and practice techniques for future sample return missions.
With one sample already being analysed, preparations are now being made to open the second later this year.