Could this be the first human outpost on the MOON? Bunker made from 3D-printed Romanesque arches topped with 8ft of lunar soil could protect astronauts from radiation, meteorites and moonquakes

By SAM TONKIN

  • US company AI SpaceFactory has released designs for 3D-printed human bunker that could be built on moon
  • Outpost has Romanesque arches that would be topped with 8ft of lunar soil, along with three separate units
  • The 3D-printed shell design also incorporates a photovoltaic tree to capture and harvest solar energy 
  • It has been designed to protect astronauts from radiation, meteorites and moonquakes when on the moon

When NASA returns humans to the moon later this decade, its wider vision will be to set up a lunar outpost for people to survive for longer periods.

To support that goal, a US company has unveiled its design for a 3D-printed bunker that could protect astronauts from radiation, meteorites and moonquakes.

AI SpaceFactory’s outpost would feature Romanesque arches topped with over 8ft of lunar soil, along with three separate units that share a communal courtyard. 

Each unit area is 807 square feet (75 square metres), while the central staging area is 968 square feet (90 square metres).

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MIT proposes using a ‘space bubble’ shield the size of Brazil to cool the Earth

A radical new form of solar geoengineering.

By  Chris Young

A team of MIT researchers is investigating a radical method for countering the effects of climate change, a press statement reveals.

They propose to use a fleet of “space bubbles” to reflect sunlight away from Earth.

As we all know, such crazy ideas wouldn’t even be on the table if humans had drastically curbed their use of fossil fuels years ago — but here we are.

While some scientists warn that geoengineering is a dangerous distraction from the true work needed to cut emissions, others say we need to assess all options. That’s where the MIT team’s space bubbles come in. 

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JHU Applied Physics Lab’s Dragonfly drone is heading to Saturn’s largest moon

A rendering of JHU APL’s Dragonfly on Saturn’s moon Titan.

By Stephen Babcock 

NASA’s next bold mission: To put a drone on a moon — the largest moon of Saturn, to be precise.

This week, the U.S. space agency picked a project led by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL) that would send a rotorcraft lander to Titan as the next mission for its New Frontiers Program.

The 10-ft. by 10-ft. robotic lander, called Dragonfly, will have eight rotors and fly like a large UAV. The mission is the first of its kind for NASA, both in the type of vehicle being used to land on another world, and its approach to landing at multiple sites.

Dragonfly will be tasked with exploring dozens of locations across the moon. Titan holds special appeal for scientists, as it’s considered to be the world in our solar system that’s most like Earth, especially the planet’s early development. So with Dragonfly, they’ll look to take measurements and samples with an eye toward exploring how what’s happening there could improve understanding of how life came to inhabit our own planet.

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The US has a national strategy to put factories in space

The International Space Station was the first big construction project in space.

By Tim Fernholz

The US government wants to see more of the expensive hardware in space maintained and even built there, rather than back on Earth.

Space activities add billions to the US economy, but the inability to build in orbit limits that contribution. Now, new technologies developed by the US government and private firms are showing what it will take to begin servicing, assembling, and even manufacturing in space. Experts say it is the path toward orbiting factories and long-term habitation on the Moon.

The first step will be rehabbing aging satellites rather than replacing them. NASA is plotting its first mission to refuel a spacecraft. The aerospace firm Northrop Grumman has already flown two missions to extend the life of satellites, and will soon use a new space robot to do the same at scale. The White House released a national strategy for developing these technologies in April, led by space policy advisor Ezinne Uzo-Okoro, an expert in robotic assembly who previously worked for NASA.

“It’s a big deal because it means all of the various departments and agencies within the US government got together and not only decided this was an important issue, but also were able to come to a consensus on how the US government should foster satellite servicing,” Brian Weeden, a space policy expert at the Secure World Foundation, says.

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Mitsubishi Electric develops technology for the freeform printing of satellite antennas in outer space

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (TOKYO: 6503) reports that the company has developed an on-orbit additive-manufacturing technology that uses photosensitive resin and solar ultraviolet light for the 3D printing of satellite antennas in the vacuum of outer space.

The novel technology makes use of a newly developed liquid resin that was custom formulated for stability in vacuum. The resin enables structures to be fabricated in space using a low-power process that utilizes the sun’s ultraviolet rays for photopolymerization.

The technology specifically addresses the challenge of equipping small, inexpensive spacecraft buses with large structures, such as high-gain antenna reflectors, and enables on-orbit fabrication of structures that greatly exceed the dimensions of launch vehicle fairings.

Resin-based on-orbit manufacturing is expected to enable spacecraft structures to be made thinner and lighter than conventional designs, which must survive the stresses of launch and orbital insertion, thereby reducing both total satellite weight and launch costs.

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RED PLAN-IT.  INSIDE PROTOTYPE ‘HUMAN MARTIAN COLONY’ BUILT IN DESERT WHERE SCIENTISTS TRIAL LIVING ON MARS

Researchers have shared plans to simulate life on Mars in a desert in Argentina

By Jona Jaupi

SCIENTISTS have shared plans to simulate life on Mars in a desert in Argentina.

A new project dubbed Solar54 aims to prepare cosmonauts for future missions to the Red Planet.

The project will be carried out in an Argentine red desert called a hundred kilometers away from the city of La Rioja.

Named the Los Colorados provincial reserve, the landscape is filled with red soil and organic canyons that mimic Mars’. 

On the project’s website, researchers call the area “one of the places most similar to the red planet on Earth.” 

Solar54 hopes to provide a space for astronauts and scientists to conduct a number of studies and tests that will help with the colonization of Mars.

“It has the objective of emulating the living conditions, Space Technology laboratories, and Food Production Systems that would be used on the planet Mars,” Solar54 project managers said.

The site comprises six domes for accommodation, cooking, crew recreation, plant production, Cubesats satellites, and a general laboratory, per the project’s YouTube channel.

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Scientists Grow Plants in Moon Soil for First Time: ‘Everything Sprouted’

A plant grown during the experiment is transferred to a vial for analysis.

By Eric Mack

Are we looking at our future lunar lunch?

 When NASA launches Artemis astronauts back to the surface of the moon in the years to come, they should be able to grow their own salad. That’s just one ramification of a historic experiment in which scientists used samples of lunar surface material, called regolith, to grow plants here on Earth. 

The scientists planted seeds of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which is related to mustard greens, in tiny samples of the regolith collected on three different Apollo missions a half century ago.  

But while the seeds germinated and grew, they didn’t exactly thrive. 

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Why Biomining Could Be The Future Of Space Society

As investment in space technology booms, a trusted mineral extraction technique is under the microscope

By Joseph Smith

Investment in space-based technologies is at an all-time high. An estimated $17.1 billion was invested into 328 space companies by venture capital firms in 2021. Wall Street forecasters project that the ‘space economy’ will be worth trillions within the next 20 years and investment into space infrastructure has already grown by 50% since 2020 with $14.5 billion invested just last year.

One sector that is at the forefront of this rapid growth in space-related industries is space mining. We are now entering an era of commercial resource extraction in space and countries are now competing to gain access to the vast wealth of rare minerals available across our solar system and beyond.

The United States has become the first nation to ratify a law that recognizes property rights regarding materials acquired in space. Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates are not far behind in this respect and are rapidly getting closer to implementing laws regarding space resource extraction. Many other countries, including China and Russia, have also made space mining a matter of national importance.

The potential financial benefits of mining in space are significant. The major asteroid belt in our solar system alone is so rich in mineral wealth that its value would give each person on earth $100 billion. For decades, scientists have puzzled over techniques to extract this wealth from space. However, the technology required to harvest these riches may have been under our noses the entire time in the process of biomining.

Already widely used to extract valuable minerals such as copper, gold, zinc, and cobalt on earth, biomining is a process whereby specific types of microbes leach these valuable metals directly from ores below the earth’s surface. It has been proven to be successful on an industrial scale across Chile. Biomining developments such as Lo Aguirre produced over 300,000 tonnes of copper between 1980 and 2002. Other mines in Chile have exclusively been using bioleaching to extract minerals since 1994.

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Space bricks made using astronaut urine could lead to Martian colony

Humans are working towards establishing a colony on Mars

Human settlements on Mars are one step closer after scientists created ‘space bricks’.

These could be created on the Red Planet by mixing astronauts’ urine with the dusty Martian soil.

The bricks are made by mixing dust with urea, the main compound in urine, and bacteria as well guar gum and nickel chloride.

The slurry can be poured into moulds of any shape and over a few days the bacteria convert the urea into calcium carbonate crystals.

These crystals, as well as biopolymers which are secreted by the bacteria, act as cement that holds the soil particles together.

The new bricks, which were developed by researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, are less porous than others which researchers have tried to use to make Martian bricks.

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China Will Test Planetary Defense by Crashing a Spacecraft into An Asteroid

China’s plans are similar to a NASA mission that will slam into an asteroid later this year.

By Becky Ferreira

China plans to crash a spaceship into an asteroid that is potentially hazardous to Earth to alter its trajectory, a maneuver that caps off a multi-step planetary defense strategy that was outlined by a representative of the nation’s space agency on Sunday, reports SpaceNews. 

The asteroid deflection mission is scheduled for launch sometime in the mid-2020s, according to Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), who described the project during a celebration of China’s Space Day, which commemorates the launch of the nation’s first satellite, Dongfanghong-1, on April 24, 1970.

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SpinLaunch signs Space Act Agreement to test innovative mass accelerator launch system

SpinLaunch has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA. Through this partnership, SpinLaunch will develop, integrate, and fly a NASA payload on the company’s Suborbital Accelerator Launch System to provide valuable information to NASA for potential future commercial launch opportunities.

The Space Act Agreement is part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which demonstrates promising technologies for space exploration, discovery, and the expansion of space commerce through suborbital testing with industry flight providers.

The program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the solicitation and evaluation of technologies to be tested on commercial flight vehicles.

SpinLaunch will manifest and fly the first NASA payload on a developmental test flight later this year and provide means for post-flight recovery of payload back to NASA. The two organizations will work jointly to analyze the data and assess the system for future flight opportunities. After full review, NASA and SpinLaunch will publish all non-proprietary launch environment information from the test flight.

“SpinLaunch is offering a unique suborbital flight and high-speed testing service, and the recent launch agreement with NASA marks a key inflection point as SpinLaunch shifts focus from technology development to commercial offerings,” said Jonathan Yaney, Founder and CEO of SpinLaunch. “What started as an innovative idea to make space more accessible has materialized into a technically mature and game-changing approach to launch. We look forward to announcing more partners and customers soon, and greatly appreciate NASA’s continued interest and support in SpinLaunch.”

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Tiny satellites are changing the way we explore our planet and beyond

Want to go to space? It could cost you. 

This month, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will make the first fully-private, crewed flight to the International Space Station. The going price for a seat is US$55 million. The ticket comes with an eight-day stay on the space station, including room and board – and unrivalled views. 

Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin offer cheaper alternatives, which will fly you to the edge of space for a mere US$250,000-500,000. But the flights only last between ten and 15 minutes, barely enough time to enjoy an in-flight snack.

But if you’re happy to keep your feet on the ground, things start to look more affordable. Over the past 20 years, advances in tiny satellite technology have brought Earth orbit within reach for small countries, private companies, university researchers, and even do-it-yourself hobbyists.

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