NASA Is Looking for the Next-Gen Lunar Vehicle, Won’t Be Your Grandpa’s Moon Buggy

by Florina Spînu

NASA is asking American companies for ideas and solutions to transport Artemis astronauts around the lunar South Pole later this decade. And it says that its next lunar vehicle will not be your grandpa’s old Moon Buggy, but a modern space vehicle ready to conquer our natural satellite. 6 photos

As part of Artemis, NASA will put the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface and establish a long-term presence on the Moon. Once they arrive, the astronauts will need a lunar terrain vehicle (LTV) to navigate the rugged surface. 

The first Moon Buggy was introduced on the Apollo 15 mission. With the LRV, astronauts were able to explore 17.25 miles (27.76 km) of various geological features, improving the scientific return of each mission. They were also capable of gathering more than ten times the amount of samples that they would’ve collected on foot.

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NASA is testing electric air taxis with Joby Aviation

The first eVTOL company to join the space agency’s national campaign to validate new technology

By Andrew J. Hawkins

NASA kicked off test flights of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft — colloquially referred to as “flying cars” — with Joby Aviation, the Northern California company that recently went public. The test flights are part of a national campaign by NASA to observe these experimental aircraft in action and gather data. 

Joby, which was founded in 2009, is the first eVTOL company to participate in NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign. The test flights commenced Monday, August 30th, at the company’s airfield in Big Sur, California, and will run through September 10th, the agency said. 

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NASA’s X-59 prototype gets closer to flight

By Shane McGlaun 

There are currently no supersonic commercial passenger aircraft, and aircraft capable of breaking the sound barrier are banned from doing so over most of the United States. The biggest reason why aircraft aren’t allowed to break the sound barrier is noise created. NASA is working on an experimental aircraft called the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft and has announced that it is entering a stage of its construction where it more closely resembles an actual aircraft.

The aircraft is known as QueSST for short, and major sections of the aircraft were recently merged, making it look like an actual flying machine for the first time. The first metal for the experimental aircraft was cut in 2018. NASA chief engineer for the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator, Jay Brandon, says the aircraft’s transition from numerous separate parts located on different parts of the production floor to an airplane is a milestone.

The experimental aircraft is currently under construction at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in California. The aircraft is designed to reach supersonic speeds of approximately 660 mph at sea level without producing a sonic boom audible to those on the ground. NASA intends to work with communities around the country to understand the response to the sound produced by the aircraft and will provide that data to regulators.

Hopefully, the data can be used to change rules that currently ban supersonic flight over land. If the rules against supersonic flight were lifted, time in the air could be cut in half for air travelers in the future. NASA says the team used features on the aircraft’s structure to self-locate its wing, tail assembly, and fuselage. The team also used laser projections to verify precise fitment.

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What comes next after the International Space Station ends

By Miriam Kramer

NASA is at risk of losing a foothold in orbit after the end of the International Space Station.

Why it matters: Without an operating base in space, the agency’s plan to shift from being a sole provider of services in orbit to becoming a customer of companies operating there is in jeopardy.

  • NASA is hoping that instead of running its own space station, it will have the option to send its astronauts to privately run space stations in orbit by the time the ISS ends.

Driving the news: NASA this month put out a final call asking for companies to submit their ideas for space stations they could build and operate where astronauts could visit and perform experiments.

  • Those space stations would need to be up and running by the time the ISS comes to an end by 2030 or earlier.
  • NASA will award money to the companies chosen for certain milestones, but the agency isn’t going to fully fund the development of these space stations, according to the request for proposals.
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NASA picks Venus as hot spot for two new robotic missions

This image made available by NASA shows the planet Venus made with data from the Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter. On Wednesday, June 2, 2021, NASA’s new administrator, Bill Nelson, announced two new robotic missions to the solar system’s hottest planet, during his first major address to employees.

by Marcia Dunn

NASA is returning to sizzling Venus, our closest yet perhaps most overlooked neighbor, after decades of exploring other worlds.

The space agency’s new administrator, Bill Nelson, announced two new robotic missions to the solar system’s hottest planet, during his first major address to employees Wednesday.

“These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface,” Nelson said.

One mission named DaVinci Plus will analyze the thick, cloudy Venusian atmosphere in an attempt to determine whether the inferno planet ever had an ocean and was possibly habitable. A small craft will plunge through the atmosphere to measure the gases.

It will be the first U.S.-led mission to the Venusian atmosphere since 1978.

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NASA Will Pay You To Innovate Food System Ideas For Astronauts

BY MASHABLE NEWS STAFF

It has recently come to light that NASA is offering a $5,00,000 cash prize (Rs 3.6 crore) to people who can come up with innovative food production technologies for space and here on Earth. NASA in coordination with the Canadian Space Agency has invited people to create game-changing food technologies or systems that require minimal inputs and maximize nutritious food outputs for long-duration space missions.

“We are excited to coordinate with the Canadian Space Agency to conduct this challenge and push the boundaries of food technology production that will help keep our future explorers healthy, knowing that some of these technologies could also have great terrestrial applications,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

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First ‘space helicopter’ set to take to Martian skies

By Tom Metcalfe

First space helicopter set to take to Martian skies

When NASA’s Perseverance rover touches down next week, it will carry one of the strangest devices ever seen on Mars — a drone destined to make the first controlled flights on an extraterrestrial planet.

Dubbed “Ingenuity,” the drone weighs just 4 pounds, and it will stay stored beneath the rover’s belly while Perseverance runs through its initial surface checks and experiments.

But about the middle of April, the rover will scout out a flat area without large rocks to deploy the drone, and soon after that Perseverance will release Ingenuity to make the first flights on Mars.

“It’s pretty unique in that it’s a helicopter that can fly around,” said Tim Canham, the operations lead for the Ingenuity project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

“There was a balloon mission on Venus years ago, so we can’t claim to be the first aircraft,” he said, referring to the two Soviet Vega space probes that deployed balloons attached to scientific instruments in the clouds on Venus in 1985. “But we can claim we’re the first powered aircraft outside Earth.”

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Current spacesuits won’t cut it on the moon. So NASA made new ones.

Neel V. Patelarchive

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The upper torso of NASA’s xEMU design.NASA

As astronauts get ready to go back to the moon and spend more time in space, they’ll need better gear to help them survive.

A spacesuit is more like a miniature spacecraft you wear around your body than an item of clothing. It’s pressurized, it’s decked out with life support systems, and it’s likely to look pretty cool. But should the suit fail, you’re toast. 

No one has ever died because of a faulty spacesuit, but that doesn’t mean current models are perfect. Whether it’s for launch into space or reentry back to Earth, or for an extravehicular activity (EVA, colloquially known as a spacewalk), astronauts have never been completely satisfied with the gear they are forced to put on for missions. 

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NASA offers a $25,000 prize to help design unloading systems for the moon

Shane McGlaun 

NASA-$25,000-prize-moon-unloading

There are many challenges in front of the NASA Artemis mission that will put humans on the moon again for the first time in decades. While lots of aspects of the Artemis mission are still undecided, NASA is hard at work gathering data and companies to help it tackle obstacles to make the missions happen. The space agency recently offered a prize purse worth $25,000 to help design systems for astronauts to use for unloading cargo on the lunar surface.

The NASA Lunar Delivery Challenge$25,000 prize pool can be shared with up to six winning participants. NASA wants to help figure out how astronauts will unload supplies needed to build their base camp and conduct scientific experiments on the moon. Existing cargo unloading systems used on the Earth are too bulky for the moon and aren’t designed to be sent into space.

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For the first time in its history, NASA successfully collects sample from asteroid

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Touchdown!

For the first time in its history, NASA has successfully collected samples from the surface of an asteroid, using the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on Tuesday.

The small spacecraft has been orbiting Bennu, an asteroid 500 meters across, for almost two years. Around 6 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, the spacecraft completed a “Touch-And-Go” maneuver before firing its thrusters to get back to a safe distance from the asteroid. The lonely space rock was more than 200 million miles away at the time.

“We did it,” principal investigator Dante Lauretta said during the agency’s live broadcast. “We’ve tagged the surface of the asteroid.”

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NASA advances plan to commercialize International Space Station

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Axiom Space habitat modules are depicted attached to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s plan to further commercialize work in low Earth orbit.

 

ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 12 (UPI) — The planned launch of a private commercial airlock to the International Space Station in November will accelerate NASA’s plan to turn the station into a hub of private industry, space agency officials said.

The commercialization plan also includes the launch of a private habitat and laboratory by 2024 and a project NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on Twitter in May in which actor Tom Cruise will film a movie in space.

The 20-year-old space station may even have a private citizen on board again for the first time in years in late 2021, according to Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight. It’s part of a plan to wean the space station off NASA’s public funding of $3 billion to $4 billion per year.

“We expanded the scope and range of activities that can be done on ISS,” McAlister said in an interview earlier this year. “We carved out resources — power, oxygen, data — and we know we can support a paying customer, probably twice a year for up to a month.”

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Project Olympus : ICON chosen by NASA to develop moon base 3D printing tech

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The hype around additive construction continues to grow. Unlike the days in which WinSun would “3D print” a six-story apartment building, we’re seeing numerous projects undertaken by a variety of firms around the world. All of this seems to demonstrate that, despite the hype, there is real technological value there. When that same value will be exhibited for the new space industry and 3D printing buildings on the moon remains unclear, but we can’t rule the possibilities out entirely.

The latest news combining the yet-to-be-fulfilled new space frontier with additive construction is called Project Olympus, a NASA-funded initiative aimed at developing a method for robotic building on the moon. Olympus is being driven by a firm that has been steadily making a name for itself in construction 3D printing: ICON. Adding to its $44 million raised from investors so far is the recent Small Business Innovation Research government contract from NASA to 3D print habitats on the moon using local materials and creating no waste.

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