Lunar IceCube Mission to Locate, Study Resources Needed for Sustained Presence on Moon

llustration of Lunar IceCube in orbit. (Credits: Morehead State University)

By Katherine Schauer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt, Md. — As we venture forward to the Moon and establish a sustained lunar presence, finding and understanding water on the lunar surface becomes increasingly important. Lunar water is largely in the form of, but not necessarily limited to, water ice. Astronauts on the Moon could use this ice for various crew needs, potentially including rocket fuel.

The Lunar IceCube mission, led by Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, will study water distribution and interaction on the Moon. The mission will carry a NASA instrument called Broadband InfraRed Compact High-Resolution Exploration Spectrometer (BIRCHES) to investigate the distribution of water and other organic volatiles. NASA scientists will use this data to understand where the water is on the Moon, its origins and how we can use it.

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NASA Gains Broad International Support for Artemis Program at IAC

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — When NASA sends the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024 as part of its Artemis program, it won’t be going alone. The agency will be leveraging support from commercial partners and the international community as it establishes a sustainable presence on the lunar surface by 2028, paving the way for human missions to Mars.

Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), held in Washington Oct. 21-25, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine reaffirmed America’s commitment to working with international partners on NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

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All Four Engines Are Attached to the SLS Core Stage for Artemis I Mission

four RS-25 engines mated to Space Launch System core stage for Artemis 1 mission. (Credit: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — All four RS-25 engines were structurally mated to the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for Artemis I, the first mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft. To complete assembly of the rocket stage, engineers and technicians are now integrating the propulsion and electrical systems within the structure.

The completed core stage with all four RS-25 engines attached is the largest rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages for the Apollo Program that first sent Americans to the Moon. T

he stage, which includes two huge propellant tanks, provides more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send Artemis I to the Moon. Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans attached the fourth RS-25 engine to the rocket stage Nov. 6 just one day after structurally mating the third engine.

The first two RS-25 engines were structurally mated to the stage in October. After assembly is complete, crews will conduct an integrated functional test of flight computers, avionics and electrical systems that run throughout the 212-foot-tall core stage in preparation for its completion later this year.

This testing is the first time all the flight avionics systems will be tested together to ensure the systems communicate with each other and will perform properly to control the rocket’s flight.

Integration of the RS-25 engines to the massive core stage is a collaborative, multistep process for NASA and its partners Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-25 engines lead contractor.

White House Wants Congress to Provide More Money for Artemis, Dump SLS as Europa Mission Launcher

The core stage test team recently completed structural testing confirming the stage’s liquid hydrogen tank structural design is good for conditions that will be experienced in the rocket’s initial configuration, called Block 1, during the Artemis I launch. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The White House wants Congress to provide more money for the Artemis moon landing program, and to save about $1.5 billion by dropping the requirement that NASA launch the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s icy moon on the Space Launch System (SLS).

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Senators Introduce NASA Authorization Bill That Extends Space Station Operations to 2030

Sen. Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – Today, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, along with ranking member Kyrsten  Sinema, D-Ariz., and Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the NASA Authorization Act of 2019.

This bill expands and improves upon the bipartisan legislation Sen. Cruz introduced in December 2018 and provides the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the clear direction needed to advance our nation’s space initiatives and investments and assert the United States’ global leadership in the final frontier.

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NASA Opens Previously Unopened Apollo Sample Ahead of Artemis Missions

Pictured from left: Apollo sample processors Andrea Mosie, Charis Krysher and Juliane Gross open lunar sample 73002 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Moon rocks inside this tube have remained untouched since they were collected on the surface and brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts nearly 50 years ago. (Credits: NASA/James Blair)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA scientists opened an untouched rock and soil sample from the Moon returned to Earth on Apollo 17, marking the first time in more than 40 years a pristine sample of rock and regolith from the Apollo era has been opened. It sets the stage for scientists to practice techniques to study future samples collected on Artemis missions.

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Boeing Proposes ‘Fewest Steps to the Moon’ for NASA’s Human Lander

Following exploration of the lunar surface by astronauts, the crew lifts off from the moon inside the Ascent Element in this artist concept. The Descent Element remains on the moon having already performed its role of flying the crew from lunar orbit to the surface. (Credit: Boeing)

HOUSTON, Nov. 5, 2019  (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today submitted a proposal to NASA for an integrated Human Lander System (HLS) designed to safely take astronauts to the surface of the moon and return them to lunar orbit as part of the Artemis space exploration program.

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How ISS is Helping Pave the Way for the Moon

The moon from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station is a stepping stone for NASA’s Artemis  program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. As the only place for conducting long-duration research on how living in microgravity affects living organisms, especially humans, as well as testing technologies to allow humans to work at the Moon, the space station serves as a unique asset in the effort establish a sustainable presence at the Moon.

Missions to the Moon will include a combination of time aboard the  Gateway, on the lunar surface, and in multiple spacecraft including Orion and the human landing system. The skills and technologies developed to explore the Moon will help build the capabilities needed for future missions to Mars. Here are some of the ways this orbiting laboratory is contributing to the path forward to the Moon and Mars.

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NASA Attaches First of 4 RS-25 Engines to Artemis I Rocket Stage

An RS-25 engine is installed on the first Space Launch System core. (Credit: NASA/Jude Guidry)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have structurally mated the first of four RS-25 engines to the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will help power the first Artemis mission to the Moon.

Integration of the RS-25 engines to the recently completed core stage structure is a collaborative, multistep process for NASA and its partners Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-25 engines lead contractor. To complete the installation, the technicians will now integrate the propulsion and electrical systems. 

The installation process will be repeated for each of the four RS-25 engines. The four RS-25 engines used for Artemis I were delivered to Michoud from Aerojet Rocketdyne’s facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in June.

The engines, located at the bottom of the core stage in a square pattern, are fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. During launch and flight, the four engines will fire nonstop for 8.5 minutes, emitting hot gases from each nozzle 13 times faster than the speed of sound. The completed core stage with all four engines attached will be the largest rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages for the Apollo Program.

NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with Orion and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Bridenstine to Give Public Update on NASA’s Moon Program on Friday

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — The public is invited to join NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at 9:40 a.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 25, for an update on the agency’s Artemis program and the critical role international partnerships have in returning astronauts to the Moon and going on to Mars.

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Blue Origin Announces National Team to Build Lunar Lander for NASA’s Artemis Program

Blue Moon crewed landing vehicle. (Credit: Blue Origin)

WASHINGTON, DC (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin is proud to announce a national team to offer a Human Landing System for NASA’s Artemis program to return Americans to the lunar surface by 2024. 

Blue Origin has signed teaming agreements with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. These partners have decades of experience supporting NASA with human space flight systems, launch vehicles, orbital logistics, deep-space missions, interplanetary navigation and planetary landings.

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Video: The First Artemis Mission Around the Moon

Video Caption: Our Artemis program will return humans to the Moon by 2024. Artemis I, the first Artemis mission, will test all of the human rated systems in deep space — including the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket. This is its 26 day journey… in 30 seconds.

What is Artemis? https://go.nasa.gov/30P0EEq

NASA’s Planetary Protection Review Addresses Changing Reality of Space Exploration

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its panoramic camera to record this eastward horizon view on the 2,407th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Oct. 31, 2010). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA released a report Friday with recommendations from the Planetary Protection Independent Review Board (PPIRB) the agency established in response to a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report and a recommendation from the NASA Advisory Council.

With NASA, international, and commercial entities planning bold missions to explore our solar system and return samples to Earth, the context for planetary protection is rapidly changing. NASA established the PPIRB to conduct a thorough review of the agency’s policies. 

Planetary protection establishes guidelines for missions to other solar system bodies so they are not harmfully contaminated for scientific purposes by Earth biology and Earth, in turn, is protected from harmful contamination from space. 

The board’s report assesses a rapidly changing environment where more samples from other solar system bodies will be returned to Earth, commercial and international entities are discussing new kinds of solar system missions, and NASA’s Artemis program is planning human missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

The report discusses 34 findings, and 43 recommendations from the PPIRB, which was chaired by planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute to address future NASA missions and proposed missions by other nations and the private sector that include Mars sample return, robotic missions to other bodies, eventual human missions to Mars, and the exploration of ocean worlds in the outer solar system. 

“The landscape for planetary protection is moving very fast. It’s exciting now that for the first time, many different players are able to contemplate missions of both commercial and scientific interest to bodies in our solar system,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We want to be prepared in this new environment with thoughtful and practical policies that enable scientific discoveries and preserve the integrity of our planet and the places we’re visiting.”

The PPIRB, comprised of a high-level team of 12 experts and stakeholders from science, engineering and industry, examined how to update planetary protection policies and procedures in light of current capabilities. Such guidelines have periodically been updated and inform exploration by spacefaring nations that have signed the Outer Space Treaty since the 1960s.

“Planetary science and planetary protection techniques have both changed rapidly in recent years, and both will likely continue to evolve rapidly,” Stern said. “Planetary protection guidelines and practices need to be updated to reflect our new knowledge and new technologies, and the emergence of new entities planning missions across the solar system. There is global interest in this topic, and we also need to address how new players, for example in the commercial sector, can be integrated into planetary protection.”

NASA plans to begin a dialogue about the PPIRB report’s recommendations with stakeholders, and international and commercial partners to help build a new chapter for conducting planetary missions, and planetary protection policies and procedures. 

For more information about Planetary Protection, visit:

https://sma.nasa.gov/sma-disciplines/planetary-protection

To read the full report of the Planetary Protection Independent Review Board, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/reports

NASA Commits to Future Artemis Missions With More SLS Rocket Stages

NASA finished assembling the main structural components for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans fully integrated the last piece of the 212-foot-tall core stage by adding the engine section to the rest of the previously assembled structure. Boeing technicians bolted the engine section to the stage’s liquid hydrogen propellant tank. (Credit: NASA/Steven Seipel)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has taken the next steps toward building Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stages to support as many as 10 Artemis missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.

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