NASA (Moon) Rocks the White House

Apollo 17 moon walk (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach, a Moon rock now sits in the Oval Office of the White House. At the request of the incoming Biden Administration, NASA loaned the Moon rock that was put on display in the Oval Office Jan. 20. It is from the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and its display case is inscribed with the following:

Lunar Sample 76015,143

Apollo 17 astronaut Ronald Evans and moonwalkers Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, the last humans to set foot on the Moon, chipped this sample from a large boulder at the base of the North Massif in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, 3 km (almost 2 miles) from the Lunar Module. This 332 gram piece of the Moon (less than a pound), which was collected in 1972, is a 3.9-billion-year-old sample formed during the last large impact event on the nearside of the Moon, the Imbrium Impact Basin, which is 1,145 km or 711.5 miles in diameter.

The irregular sample surfaces contain tiny craters created as micrometeorite impacts have sand-blasted the rock over millions of years. The flat, sawn sides were created in NASA’s Lunar Curation Laboratory when slices were cut for scientific research. This ongoing research is imperative as we continue to learn about our planet and the Moon, and prepare for future missions to the cislunar orbit and beyond.  

Bill to Protect Lunar Artifacts Signed into Law

A close-up view, taken on Feb. 5, 1971, of the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector (LR3), which the Apollo 14 astronauts deployed on the Moon during their lunar surface extravehicular activity. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A bill designed to protect artifacts where Apollo astronauts and spacecraft explored the surface of the moon has been signed into law by President Donald Trump.

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Chang’e-5 Ascender Lifts Off From Moon with Soil Samples

Chang’e-5’s ascender has lifted off from the moon on its way to an rendezvous with an orbital vehicle that will transport its lunar soil samples back to Earth.

Chinese media are reporting the ascender successfully reached orbit after lifting off from the Ocean of Storms. It is expected to rendezvous and dock with the orbiter-return vehicle on Saturday.

The ascender will transfer its samples to the return vehicle, which is scheduled to land under parachute in China’s Inner Mongolia on Dec. 16.

Chang’e-5’s lander collected soil from the surface using a drill and a robotic arm with a scoop. The goal was to collect at least 2 kg (4.4 lb) of soil.

If successful, China will become only the third nation to return samples from the moon after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Chang’e-5’s liftoff was the first from the lunar surface since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. And it was the first vehicle to enter lunar orbit after lifting off from the surface since the U.S. Apollo 17 manned mission in December 1972.

The Perils and Promise of Dust on the Moon

Xodiac (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities program

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Think your home could use a bit of a sweep? Fret not – your hardwoods are nothing compared to the Moon. Its surface is so notoriously dusty that the desert here on Earth is the environment of choice for testing dust-related technologies bound for lunar missions.

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NASA’s New Mars Rover Is Ready for Space Lasers

Visible both in the inset photograph on the upper left and near the center of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover in this illustration is the palm-size dome called the Laser Retroreflector Array (LaRA). In the distant future, laser-equipped Mars orbiters could use such a reflector for scientific studies. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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.

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How In­tense and Dan­ger­ous is Cos­mic Ra­di­a­tion on the Moon?

Chang’e-4 lu­nar lan­der im­aged by the Yu­tu-2 rover (Credit: CNSA/CLEP/NAOC)

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.

Earlier devices could only record the entire ‘mission dose’. In its current issue, the scientific journal  Science Advances reports on the work of the international group of scientists involved with the LND, including researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). Their investigations have involved more precise radiation measurements on the Moon.

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Artemis: Back to the Future Past?

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, deploys two components of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity in 1969. A seismic experiment is in his left hand, and in his right is a laser-reflecting panel. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, mission commander, took this photograph. (Credits: NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center)

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.

Now, that plan has apparently changed.

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NASA Technology Enables Precision Landing Without a Pilot

The New Shepard (NS) booster lands after this vehicle’s fifth flight during NS-11 May 2, 2019. (Credits: Blue Origin)

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.

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Top 5 Times Solar Activity Affected Earth

The Sun sends out a constant stream of particles and energy, which drives a complex space weather system near Earth and can affect spacecraft and astronauts. NASA has chosen five new mission concept studies for further development to study various aspects of this dynamic system. (Credits: NASA)

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.

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Laser Beams Reflected Between Earth and Moon Boost Science

This photograph shows the laser-ranging facility at the Goddard Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory in Greenbelt, Md. The facility helps NASA keep track of orbiting satellites. Both beams shown, coming from two different lasers, are pointed at NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is orbiting the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

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.

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6 Technologies NASA is Advancing to Send Humans to Mars

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.

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NASA Awards Small Business Contracts to Manage Lunar Dust

Apollo 17 spacesuits and helmets were covered in abrasive lunar dust after three days of exploring the moon. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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Yutu 2 Reveals Possible Causes of Unknown Gelatinous Substance on Moon

Yutu-2 lunar rover near an impact crater. (Credit: China National Space Administration)

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.

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Space Exploration in a Time of Social Turmoil

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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Book Catalogs Four Decades of Human Lunar Lander Concepts

“After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo,” from the desk of author John Connolly. (Credits: NASA/John Connolly)

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.”   

The 277-page After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo is free to the public and available for download on NASA’s Technical Reports Server: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20190031985