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NASA Picks 12 Projects To Design Tech And Science For A Lunar Mission

NASA has keyed in on a dozen technologies that will help humans on their next mission to the moon in 2024.

The payloads which will be sent to the moon aboard one of NASA’s landers, will aid the agency in its ambitious Artemis mission.

NASA’s next lunar landing will not only mark the first attempt to put humans back on the moon since 1972 — including the first-ever woman — but will eventually set forth the construction of a lunar base and a satellite called the ‘lunar gateway.’

The selected lunar payloads represent cutting-edge innovations, and will take advantage of early flights through our commercial services project,’ said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington in a statement.

‘Each demonstrates either a new science instrument or a technological innovation that supports scientific and human exploration objectives, and many have broader applications for Mars and beyond.’

Among the most pivotal technologies sanctioned by NASA will be a new evolution of autonomous lunar rover called the ‘Moon Ranger.’

The vehicle, which is being studied by Andrew Horchler of Astrobotic Technology in Pittsburgh is designed to be both small and fast which will allow it to drive beyond communications range with a lander and then return.

Researchers say the vehicle will enable investigations within a 0.6-mile range from the lander and will map the terrain it traverses in 3D. Initial funding for the project will total $5.6 million.

Other technology being funded in the recent round of assigned projects is a high-resolution camera called the Heimdall.

The camera, which is being created by R. Aileen Yingst of the Planetary Science Institute, will study the Moon’s regolith — soil and other material that make up the top layer of the lunar surface in addition to mapping geologic features and helping the lander touchdown safely.

Other technologies like Honeybee Robotics’ Planet Vac are — as the name suggests — are focused on sucking up the moon’s surface so that it can be studied by scientists.

A high definition camera will help explore the moon's surface and also help lander's touch down safelyA high definition camera will help explore the moon’s surface and also help lander’s touch down safely

Equipped to the foot of a lander, the Planet Vac uses a compressed gas to blow samples of the regolith into the air where they’re then collected in a sample chamber.

Honeybee says their system is more efficient than regular scooping methods of collecting samples and utilizes a type of compressed has — nitrogen — that is already aboard most crafts.

While some of the projects selected by NASA are new technologies, others are meant to expand existing science to help make the moon mission a success.

One of such ventures is the Lunar Demonstration of a Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System which is looking to develop computer systems that are more resilient against disruptive radiation found on the moon’s surface.

A full list of the projects selected by NASA can be viewed below.

WHICH TECHNOLOGIES ARE BEING FUNDED FOR NASA’S NEXT MOON MISSION?

MoonRanger is a small, fast-moving rover that has the capability to drive beyond communications range with a lander and then return to it.

This will enable investigations within a 0.6-mile (1 kilometer) range from the lander. MoonRanger will aim to continually map the terrain it traverses, and transmit data for future system improvement. 

Lunar Demonstration of a Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System

Lunar Demonstration of a Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System aims to demonstrate a radiation-tolerant computing technology. Due to the Moon’s lack of atmosphere and magnetic field, radiation from the Sun will be a challenge for electronics. This investigation also will characterize the radiation effects on the lunar surface.

Regolith Adherence Characterization (RAC) Payload

RAC will determine how lunar regolith sticks to a range of materials exposed to the Moon’s environment at different phases of flight. Components of this experiment are derived from a commercial payload facility called MISSE currently on the International Space Station.  

The Lunar Magnetotelluric Sounder

The Lunar Magnetotelluric Sounder is designed to characterize the structure and composition of the Moon’s mantle by studying electric and magnetic fields. The investigation will make use of a flight-spare magnetometer, a device that measures magnetic fields, originally made for the MAVEN spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Mars.

The Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment (LuSEE)

LuSEE will integrate flight-spare and repurposed hardware from the NASA Parker Solar Probe FIELDS experiment, the STEREO/Waves instrument, and the MAVEN mission to make comprehensive measurements of electromagnetic phenomena on the surface of the Moon.

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Heimdall

Heimdall is a flexible camera system for conducting lunar science on commercial vehicles.

This innovation includes a single digital video recorder and four cameras: a wide-angle descent imager, a narrow-angle regolith imager, and two wide-angle panoramic imagers.

The Lunar Environment heliospheric X-ray Imager (LEXI)

LEXI will capture images of the interaction of Earth’s magnetosphere with the flow of charged particles from the Sun, called the solar wind.

Next Generation Lunar Retroreflectors (NGLR)

NGLR will serve as a target for lasers on Earth to precisely measure the Earth-Moon distance. They are designed to provide data that could be used to constrain various aspects of the lunar interior and address questions of fundamental physics.

The Lunar Compact InfraRed Imaging System (L-CIRiS)

L-CIRiS is targeted to deploy a radiometer, a device that measures infrared wavelengths of light, to explore the Moon’s surface composition, map its surface temperature distribution, and demonstrate the instrument’s feasibility for future lunar resource utilization activities.

The Lunar Instrumentation for Subsurface Thermal Exploration with Rapidity (LISTER)

LISTER is an instrument designed to measure heat flow from the interior of the Moon. The probe will attempt to drill 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) into the lunar regolith to investigate the Moon’s thermal properties at different depths.

PlanetVac

PlanetVac is a technology for acquiring and transferring lunar regolith from the surface to other instruments that would analyze the material, or put it in a container that another spacecraft could return to Earth.

SAMPLR: Sample Acquisition, Morphology Filtering, and Probing of Lunar Regolith

SAMPLR is another sample acquisition technology that will make use of a robotic arm that is a flight spare from the Mars Exploration Rover mission, which included the long-lived rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

Source: Dailymail

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