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Astronomy & Space

NASA funds industrial moon landers for science, exploration – Astronomy Now

June 2, 2019 • By
An artist’s impression of a industrial moon lander. NASA is funding private-sector improvement of recent landers to hold devices and sensors to the moon to assist pave the way in which for astronaut landings in 2024. Picture: NASA

Below contracts valued at $253.5 million, NASA is funding three fast-track moon landers in a program meant to kick-start private-sector exploration and expertise improvement, key parts within the area company’s drive to return astronauts to the moon’s floor in 2024.

Orbit Past of Edison, New Jersey, was awarded $97 million to construct and launch its Z-01 spacecraft as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, touchdown on Mare Imbrium by September 2020.

Astrobotic of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, gained $79.5 million to develop its Peregrine lander to hold 14 NASA payloads to a landing at Lacus Mortis in July 2021. The corporate has not but specified a launcher.

Intuitive Machines of Houston, Texas, is receiving $77 million for its Nova-C spacecraft, certain for a touchdown in Oceanus Procellarum, additionally in July 2021. A Falcon 9 shall be used to launch the Nova-C.

“This is a new era for the moon,” John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO, mentioned when the contracts have been introduced 31 Might. “It’s been almost 50 years since we’ve been back as a country. Now we’re going back, we’re going to have regular, routine access to the moon in ways we’ve never experienced before. Our scientists are going to get really, really smart about that’s up there. This is a whole new era, an incredibly exciting time.”

The contracts are managed by NASA’s Industrial Lunar Payload Companies, or CLPS, program, which has authority to award as much as $2.6 billion in contracts over a 10-year interval. The objective is to fund non-public improvement of area methods and infrastructure that NASA can then use to ship science payloads to lunar orbit or the floor.

Future contracts are anticipated to fund missions that may ship landers to the moon’s south polar area to discover ice deposits in completely shadowed areas the place future astronauts could possibly extract air, water and even rocket gasoline. That’s the place NASA plans to ship the primary crew within the new Artemis moon program.

“These CLPS providers are really leading the way for our return to the moon as part of the Artemis program, these are precursor missions prior to us landing the first woman and the next man on the surface of the moon in 2024,” mentioned Steve Clarke, deputy affiliate administrator for exploration at NASA Headquarters.

“NASA is one of many customers,” he mentioned of the landers. “We are buying a ride, essentially. … We are looking for these providers to deliver our payloads to the surface. They are responsible for the launch, the lander itself, landing it and making sure we can operate our instruments on the surface of the moon.”

Officers with all three firms mentioned the preliminary touchdown missions will set the stage for extra intensive industrial improvement within the years forward.

“I think it’s going to create a new era, a new ecosystem for commercial companies to really explore space,”mentioned Kam Ghaffarian, govt chairman of Intuitive Machines. “I truly believe commercial space in general, whether it’s low Earth orbit or deeper space exploration is just beginning. It’s going to be a truly exciting journey.”


Astronomy & Space

NASA selects 9 groups to check unopened Apollo moon samples

March 14, 2019 • By
Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan approaches the crew’s lunar rover throughout one among three sample-collection moonwalks in the course of the remaining Apollo mission in 1972. Unopened samples from that flight and two others are being made accessible to 9 analysis groups. Picture: NASA

NASA has chosen 9 analysis groups to analyse pristine samples of lunar soil returned to Earth by the Apollo astronauts and left untouched for the previous 5 many years. The U.S. house company has allotted $eight million for the analysis below the Apollo Subsequent Technology Pattern Evaluation program, or ANGSA.

“When the previous generations did Apollo, they knew that the technology they had in that day was not the technology we would have in this day,” mentioned NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “So they (decided) to preserve samples, because they knew there would be a day when better technology would be able to better assess the history of the moon.”

Bridenstine made the announcement whereas unveiling NASA’s $21.5 billion 2020 finances request from the Trump administration, a finances that helps the company’s plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2028.

“We have nine teams that will be examining nine unopened samples that have come back from the moon,” the administrator mentioned. “We feel like we can do that because there are more lunar samples on the horizon where we’re going to be able to learn more than we’ve ever learned about the moon before. So I’d like to thank the Apollo generation for preserving these samples so that our generation can have this opportunity.”

The samples have been collected in the course of the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions. An Apollo 17 pattern, for instance, can be studied by the College of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics, which can obtain about 800 grams (1.eight kilos) of fabric from a core pattern that was sealed in a vacuum container on the floor of the moon.

The group will measure the chemical constituents of the pattern and “prepare us to explore and sample potential resources for future human activities,” mentioned analysis assistant Charles Shearer. “Further, this will be the first analysis of a core through a lunar landslide deposit and will further our understanding of the timing, triggers, and dynamics of these events. The deposit may contain new lunar rocks never sampled before.”

One other pattern can be assessed by Darby Dyar on the Planetary Science Institute.

“This project brings massive state-of-the-art synchrotron and infrared analysis to bear on tiny lunar samples to unlock the secrets of the lunar interior,” mentioned Dyar, a senior scientist at PSI. “We will use state-of-the-art synchrotron technology and a mapping FTIR spectrometer to measure gradients of volatiles ­ hydrogen and oxygen – preserved in lunar glass beads.”

Such beads are shaped by “rapid cooling of droplets from explosive lunar fire fountains, like those seen in Hawaii,” she mentioned. “We will map changes from core to rim that reveal hydrogen and oxygen pressures in the lunar interior and before, during, and after eruption.”

One other analysis group, led by Jessica Barnes, an incoming assistant professor on the College of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, will search for traces of water in a 110-gram (four ounce) pattern that was collected by the Apollo 17 crew. Like the opposite samples, the soil was moved right into a freezer inside a month of the astronauts’ return.

“The question we want to answer is, are we measuring the true Moon signature? Or are there terrestrial influences that have affected the samples during their storage?” Barnes mentioned. “The beauty of a frozen sample is that it’s been kept curated in a different way from the samples stored at room temperature. We could not do this research without opening the frozen samples.”


Astronomy & Space

NASA orbiter spots Chinese language language lander on the Moon – Astronomy Now

February 21, 2019 • By
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of the Chang’e 4 lander and the Yutu 2 rover Feb. 1 from an altitude of 51 miles (82 kilometers). The Yutu 2 rover is annotated with the arrow on the upper left, and the Chang’e 4 stationary lander is annotated with the arrow at lower correct. Credit score rating: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State Faculty

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has seen China’s Chang’e 4 lander and rover on the far aspect of the Moon in new photos, as a result of the Chinese language language robots uncover the bottom of Von Kármán crater.

LRO took a sequence of images of Chang’e 4 from fully completely different viewing angles, and primarily probably the most detailed view was captured Feb. 1 as a result of the orbiter sailed overhead at an altitude of spherical 51 miles (82 kilometers), in response to an substitute written by Mark Robinson, principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Digital digital camera, or LROC, at Arizona State Faculty.

Chang’e 4 landed on the Moon Jan. 3, braking to a delicate touchdown on the bottom of Von Kármán crater, a 110-mile-wide (180-kilometre) crater throughout the southern hemisphere on the far aspect of the Moon. The Chinese language language lander grew to change into the first spacecraft to achieve a managed landing on the lunar far aspect, which under no circumstances faces Earth.

A faithful communications satellite tv for pc television for computer launched by China last yr relays indicators between Earth and Chang’e 4.

China’s Yutu 2 rover on the far aspect of the moon. This image was launched by Chinese language language home officers Friday, Jan. 11. Credit score rating: CNSA/CLEP

The Chang’e 4 mission includes a stationary lander and cell rover, each carrying cameras and scientific gadgets. The two vehicles had been constructed as spares for China’s Chang’e Three mission, which was the first Chinese language language lunar lander, touching down on the near aspect of the Moon in December 2013.

Chinese language language officers repurposed Chang’e 4 with new scientific gadgets and despatched it to the far aspect of the Moon.

Inside the Feb. 1 image from LRO, the Yutu 2 rover is seen spherical 95 toes (29 meters) from the Chang’e 4 lander.

A earlier LRO image captured Jan. 30 confirmed the Chang’e 4 lander from a further oblique view, providing spectacular context on the craft’s location in Von Kármán crater, itself marked with fairly a number of smaller craters created by subsequent asteroid impacts.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter rolled 70 ranges to the west Jan. 30 to grab this oblique view of the Chang’e 4 landing sit eon the bottom of Von Kármán crater. The mountain range throughout the distant background is the wall of Von Kármán crater, rising virtually 10,000 toes (3,000 meters) above the crater flooring. A zoomed-in view of the Chang’e 4 spacecraft is added at lower left, displaying a crater adjoining to the lander that measures spherical 1,440 toes (440 meters) all through. Credit score rating: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State Faculty

The far aspect of the mMon has a quite a bit fully completely different look than the aspect coping with Earth. The far aspect has further craters and is further rugged, and Chang’e 4 is exploring a web site in Von Kármán crater that was full of basaltic lava excavated from a close-by crater.

“Chang’e 4 will collect compositional measurements of these far side basaltic rocks, and lunar scientists are anxiously awaiting these results. Do volcanic rocks on the far side differ from the basalts collected from the near side? We will have to wait and see!” Robinson wrote in a Feb. eight weblog submit.

“According to CNSA (the China National Space Administration), Chang’e 4 instrumentation includes the visible near infrared spectrometer (VNIS) which takes measurements that can be used to address this question,” Robinson wrote. “This new information from the surface will provide important ground truth, while the combination of on-surface and orbital measurements provides synergy that will advance knowledge of the far side.”

Approaching its 10th anniversary in lunar orbit, LRO has surveyed the Moon’s landscapes and seemed for proof of water ice, discovering indicators of chilly pockets the place frost is maybe present near the lunar south pole. All by its mission, LRO’s high-resolution mapping digital digital camera has snapped footage of the Apollo lunar landing web sites, and seen China’s Chang’e Three and Chang’e 4 robotic probes on the ground after their landings.

Chang’e 4’s Yutu 2 rover has gathered virtually 400 toes (120 metres) of driving, eclipsing the movement accomplished by Chang’e 3’s rover in late 2013 and early 2014 sooner than it misplaced mobility. Chinese language language officers talked about the rover and lander went into hibernation Feb. 11 for the mission’s second lunar night since landing, with wakeup deliberate Feb. 28 and March 1, respectively, to resume their scientific observations.


Astronomy & Space

NASA selects mission to discover origins of cosmos – Astronomy Now

February 15, 2019 • By
NASA has authorized a brand new mission – SPHEREx – to review how the universe developed. Launch is focused for 2023. Picture: Caltech

NASA has chosen a brand new house mission that can assist astronomers perceive each how our universe developed and the way frequent are the elements for all times in our galaxy’s planetary methods.

The Spectro-Photometer for the Historical past of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is a deliberate two-year mission funded at $242 million (not together with launch prices) and focused to launch in 2023.

SPHEREx will survey the sky in optical in addition to near-infrared gentle which, although not seen to the human eye, serves as a strong instrument for answering cosmic questions. Astronomers will use the mission to collect knowledge on greater than 300 million galaxies, in addition to greater than 100 million stars in our personal Milky Manner.

“This amazing mission will be a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers,” mentioned Thomas Zurbuchen, affiliate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “It will deliver an unprecedented galactic map containing ‘fingerprints’ from the first moments in the universe’s history. And we’ll have new clues to one of the greatest mysteries in science: What made the universe expand so quickly less than a nanosecond after the big bang?”

SPHEREx will survey a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of galaxies close to and much, some so distant their gentle has taken 10 billion years to achieve Earth. Within the Milky Manner, the mission will seek for water and natural molecules – necessities for all times, as we all know it – in stellar nurseries, areas the place stars are born from gasoline and dirt, in addition to disks round stars the place new planets may very well be forming.

Each six months, SPHEREx will survey the whole sky utilizing applied sciences tailored from Earth satellites and Mars spacecraft. The mission will create a map of the whole sky in 96 totally different color bands, far exceeding the color decision of earlier all-sky maps. It additionally will determine targets for extra detailed research by future missions, corresponding to NASA’s James Webb House Telescope and Broad Area Infrared Survey Telescope.

The mission’s principal investigator is James Bock of Caltech in Pasadena, California. Caltech will work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop the mission payload. JPL may even handle the mission.

Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, Colorado, will present the SPHEREx spacecraft and mission integration. The Korea Astronomy & House Science Institute in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, will contribute check tools and science evaluation.