Tag: Artemis program

Texas Company Aims to 3D-Print Buildings on the Moon

Article by Mike Wall                                      October 2, 2020                                   (space.com)

• The Austin-based company ICON, known for 3D-printing houses here on Earth, just launched Project Olympus to develop a space-based construction system to help get a foothold on the Moon and Mars. “From the very founding of ICON, we’ve been thinking about off-world construction,” said ICON CEO Jason Ballard. “I am confident that learning to build on other worlds will also provide the necessary breakthroughs to solve housing challenges we face on this world.”

• Project Olympus recently signed a four-year, $14.55M Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) deal with the U.S. Air Force to expand the capabilities of its 3D-printing tech. NASA is contributing 15% of the SBIR funding.

• NASA’s interest in ICON’s 3D-printing construction tech is tied to the Artemis program for manned lunar exploration and permanent base on the Moon by 2030. Making this happen will require extensive use of lunar resources, including water ice (for life support and rocket fuel) and moon dirt (for building materials). A similar devotion to “living off the land” will likely be necessary for sustained human exploration of Mars.

• ICON will partner with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama to test a variety of processing and printing technologies using simulated lunar soil. “We want to increase the technology readiness level and test systems to prove it would be feasible to develop a large-scale 3D printer that could build infrastructure on the Moon or Mars,” said Corky Clinton, associate director of Marshall’s Science and Technology Office. “The team will use what we learn from the tests with the lunar simulant to design, develop and demonstrate prototype elements for a full-scale additive construction system.”

• ICON is also teaming with two architecture firms on the program – SEArch+ (Space Exploration Architecture) and Denmark-based BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. “To explain the power of architecture, ‘formgiving’ is the Danish word for design, which literally means to give form to that which has not yet been given form,” said Bjarke Ingels, creative director at the BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. “This becomes fundamentally clear when we venture beyond Earth and begin to imagine how we are going to build and live on entirely new worlds.”

• “With ICON, we are pioneering new frontiers – both materially, technologically and environmentally,” Ingels said. “The answers to our challenges on Earth very well might be found on the Moon.”

 

                         Jason Ballard

A Texas company aims to take its innovative homebuilding approach into the final frontier.

Austin-based startup ICON, known for 3D-printing houses here on Earth, just launched Project Olympus,

                 Corky Clinton

an ambitious effort to develop a space-based construction system. The program will eventually help humanity get a foothold on the moon and Mars, if all goes according to plan.

“From the very founding of ICON, we’ve been thinking about off-world construction. It’s a surprisingly natural progression if you are asking about the ways additive construction and 3D printing can create a better future for humanity,” ICON co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard said in a company statement.

“I am confident that learning to build on other worlds will also provide the necessary breakthroughs to solve housing challenges we face on this world,” Ballard said. “These are mutually reinforcing endeavors.”

Project Olympus will get a boost from a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract that ICON recently signed with the U.S. Air Force to expand the capabilities of its 3D-printing tech.

The four-year deal is worth $14.55 million, according to the Austin Business Journal. (You can find the outlet’s story

           Bjarke Ingels

here, but it’s behind a paywall.) NASA is contributing 15% of the SBIR sum, ICON representatives told Space.com.

NASA’s interest in ICON’s tech makes sense. The space agency is working, via its Artemis program of crewed lunar exploration, to establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon by the end of the 2020s. Making this happen will require extensive use of lunar resources, including water ice (for life support and rocket fuel) and moon dirt (for building materials), NASA officials have stressed.

A similar devotion to “living off the land” will likely be necessary for sustained human exploration of Mars, an ambitious goal that Artemis will inform and advance, NASA officials have said.

As part of the newly announced SBIR deal, ICON will partner with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama to test a variety of processing and printing technologies using simulated lunar soil. The research will build upon tech that ICON demonstrated in 2018 during NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, company representatives said.

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Scientists Find Moon’s Radiation Levels 200 Times Higher Than on Earth

Article by Sabastian Kettely                                       September 25, 2020                                     (express.co.uk)

• Knowing how radiation on the Moon affects the body is critical for long-term missions. The next generation of US astronauts is expected to return to the Moon by 2024 with NASA’s Artemis program. By 2028, the NASA hopes to establish a “sustained presence” on the Moon. But the further we travel into the solar system, the more that space radiation becomes a major threat. A journey to Mars, for instance, would last between six and eight months and expose astronauts to unprecedented levels of radiation.

• In January 2019, the Chinese Chang’e 4 probe, which landed on the far side of the Moon, took the first measurements of radiation levels on the lunar surface. The Moon might also be more hazardous than previously thought. According to the data received from German-built Lunar Lander Neutron and Dosimetry (LND) instrument attached to the Chinese probe, the Moon’s radiation levels are 60 microsieverts per hours, or more than 200 times higher than the radiation measurements on Earth.

• In space, most radiation is high-energy protons streaming from the Sun, traveling 93 million miles in less than an hour. On Earth, the planet’s magnetic bubble, or the ‘magnetosphere’, protects us from most of this radiation. But in space, spacecraft and spacesuits are much more vulnerable.

• Astronauts flying to the Moon would be exposed to the radiation for many days, which represents an additional risk. Ruthan Lewis, an engineer for NASA’s human spaceflight program, said, “The danger of radiation is always present, whether you’re in orbit, in transit, or on a planetary surface.” Christine Hellweg from the German Aerospace Center noted that by studying and preventing an astronaut’s exposure to radiation, their risk of getting cancer and other diseases could thus be reduced during long-term stays on the Moon. Dr Wimmer-Schweingruber of Kiel University added, “[I]f a manned mission departs to Mars, the new findings enable us to reliably estimate the anticipated radiation exposure in advance.”

• These findings will be critical for future missions to the Moon and Mars. Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber says, “We humans are not really made to withstand space radiation. “[A]stronauts can and should shield themselves as far as possible during longer stays on the Moon, for example, by covering their habitat with a thick layer of lunar soil.”

 

              Chinese Chang’e 4 probe

The Moon is the farthest humans have ever travelled beyond Earth, starting and ending with NASA’s Apollo programme in the 1960s and 1970s.

Dr Robert Wimmer-  Schweingruber

Further travel into the solar system is fraught by many perils, technological and natural alike, with space radiation being a major threat. A journey to Mars, for instance, would last between six and eight months and expose astronauts to unprecedented levels of radiation.

But the first measurements of radiation levels on the lunar surface show the Moon might also be more hazardous than previously thought.

          Ruthan Lewis

The measurements were carried out in January 2019 by the Chinese Chang’e 4 probe that landed on the far side of the Moon.

In a new study published in Science Advances, Chinese and German scientists have reported the data the probe has collected.
And the results are stark – the Moon’s radiation levels are more than 200 times higher than on Earth.

The measurements were made by the German-built Lunar Lander Neutron and Dosimetry (LND) instrument attached to

      Christine Hellweg

the Chinese probe.

The data was then used to calculate the so-called equivalent dose, which is the measure of the biological effect of radiation.

In space, most of this radiation is high-energy particles streaming from the Sun – protons that can travel 93 million miles in less than an hour.
On Earth, the planet’s magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere, protects us from most of this radiation.

But in space, spacecraft and spacesuits are much more vulnerable.

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NASA Seeks Out Self-Funded Explorers to Mine Moon Dirt

Article from Bloomberg News                               September 11, 2020                                 (scmp.com)

• Although NASA’s Artemis program aims to land astronauts on the Moon in 2024, the space agency has put out a general offer to procure Moon rocks from anyone who plans on going to the Moon before then, whether they be private corporations or other nations’ space programs. They’ll only get paid $15,000 to $25,000, but they don’t need to actually bring the rocks back to Earth. Just tag and document them as sold. NASA isn’t as interested in Moon rocks as they are in setting a legal precedent for mining resources on the lunar surface that would allow NASA to one day collect ice, helium or other materials useful to colonies on the Moon and, some day Mars.

• Activities beyond the Earth are governed by the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to which the U.S. is a signee. The 1967 Treaty bars extraterrestrial military bases or nuclear weapons, and basically requires nations to explore in peace and clean up their own mess. The treaty stipulates that outer space is not subject to “national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”. But it does not specifically address space mining. “It’s time for regulatory certainty to extract and trade space resources,” says NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

• The winning bidder will collect about a pound of lunar regolith (ie: ‘rocks’), photograph it, document its location and then “conduct an ‘in-place’ transfer of ownership of the lunar or rocks to NASA. NASA will sort out the retrieval plans for the material at a later date. NASA will pay only for the lunar material that is collected. The contractor will be responsible for all costs associated with the mission.

• India is planning a second try at landing a rover on the Moon after its first attempt failed in September 2019. A $100M privately funded Israeli mission to land on the lunar surface failed in April 2019. In March 2018, Google and the XPrize Foundation ended its $30M lunar competition after multiple private teams were unable to launch and land a small rover on the Moon and to drive it at least 1,640 feet.

 

Nasa wants to buy some moon rocks, and it’s seeking out companies to make space mining trips so that it can establish a legal framework for its galactic aspirations.

    NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine

The agency is soliciting bids from explorers anywhere on Earth who are willing to finance their own trips to the moon and collect soil or rock samples without actually returning the material to earth. The effort is meant to set a legal precedent for mining on the lunar surface that would allow Nasa to one day collect ice, helium or other materials useful to colonies on the moon and, eventually, Mars.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration also wants to demonstrate the potential for “in situ resource utilisation”, or using locally sourced materials for future space missions, it said on Thursday. Nasa anticipates paying roughly between US$15,000 to US$25,000 per moon contract, agency Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, though final pricing will be determined by the competition.

Activities beyond the earthly plane are currently governed by the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Signed by the United States, it bars extraterrestrial military bases or nuclear weapons and basically requires nations to explore in peace and clean up their own messes.

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