Tag: Mars

NASA Craft Lands on Asteroid 200 Million Miles Away

Article by Liz George                                 October 28, 2020                                  (americanmilitarynews.com)

• On October 27th, a NASA probe craft landed on the asteroid ‘Bennu’, located beyond Mars 200 million miles from Earth. A video of the event (see below) shows an arm of the craft making contact with the asteroid to suck up a sample of the extraterrestrial rock to bring back to Earth – a planned part of the ‘Osiris-Rex’ mission.

• Bennu was rockier than researchers anticipated, adding complications to the already precarious landing. Large boulders and rock fields made it difficult to land and the safest spot was still fairly rugged. Still, the Osiris-Rex probe (pictured above) successfully completed its 4-hour descent. “I can’t believe we actually pulled this off,” the NASA mission’s principal investigator Dante Lauretta said. “The spacecraft did everything it was supposed to do.”

• With the camera focused on the spacecraft’s extended sample-collecting arm, viewers could see the arm make contact with the asteroids surface, sending a flurry of dust and particles into the space surrounding it. (see videos below) The asteroid’s surface is a type of sandy dust known as ‘regolith’. During the landing, the arm of the spacecraft shot nitrogen gas at the asteroid, stirring up the rubble in the surrounding space before collecting the regolith sample.

• When Osiris-Rex landed, it crushed the rock beneath it. Lauretta said this could make the collection of a good sample more likely, as the sampling instrument is more likely to collect swirling, crushed rock. “These rocks might be very weak compared to what we’re used to on Earth,” Lauretta said. Meteorites that do land on Earth’s surface must be durable enough to make it through the Earth’s atmosphere. Bennu’s rock may very well be different from the extraterrestrial rock samples NASA has already collected.

• The probe needs at least 2.1 ounces of the regolith before it returns to Earth. If NASA/Lockheed Martin determines that it did not collect enough regolith from Bennu, the spacecraft will give it another try on a backup site from a different part of the asteroid early next year. The rock collected from Bennu could assist scientists in designing a plan to redirect it if its future path includes a potential impact with Earth.

 

                      Dante Lauretta

A NASA spacecraft landed on an asteroid flying through a stretch of space 200 million miles from Earth last Tuesday.

In a video of the maneuver, the spacecraft is seen making six seconds of contact with the asteroid, called

                     asteroid ‘Bennu’

Bennu, in order to suck up a sample of the extraterrestrial rock. NASA released footage on Wednesday that showcased the precarious operation.

Dubbed Osiris-Rex, the mission sought to return the sample of the asteroid back to earth, Business Insider reported. Bennu was rockier than researchers initially thought, however, adding complications to the already precarious landing. Large boulders and rock fields made it difficult to land and the safest spot was still fairly rugged.

image of probe arm gathering rock

Despite the uneven surface on Bennu, the Osiris-Rex probe successfully completed its 4-hour descent.

“Transcendental. I can’t believe we actually pulled this off,” the mission’s principal investigator Dante Lauretta said during NASA’s live broadcast expedition. “The spacecraft did everything it was supposed to do.”

With the camera focused on the spacecraft’s extended sample-collecting arm, viewers could see the arm make contact with the asteroids surface, sending a flurry of dust and particles into the space surrounding it.

The asteroid’s surface rubble is a type of sandy dust known as regolith. During the landing, the arm of the spacecraft shot nitrogen gas at the asteroid, stirring up the rubble in the surrounding space before hopefully collecting a sample of the regolith.

 

59 second video of OSIRIS-REx touching the Bennu asteroid (‘NASA Goddard’ YouTube)

 

2:19 minute ‘OSIRIS-REx’ orbiting a few hundred meters from Bennu asteroid (‘NASA Goddard’ YouTube)

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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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