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NASA announces plans to land lunar ice mining drill near the moon’s south pole

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NASA said on Wednesday it would send an ice-mining experiment to the Moon’s south pole, which is expected to go into orbit at the end of next year.

The mission will head to a ridge near Shackleton Crater by the end of 2022, an area where engineers and scientists at NASA believe there may be ice beneath the surface.

This region, which has been studied for “months”, receives enough sunlight to power a lander for a 10-day mission, while remaining in clear line of sight for communications.

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This will be the first time that resources are found and mined on the moon, which could help NASA establish a presence in space, especially for future Artemis missions.

NASA is working with Intuitive Machines, the agency’s partner for commercial deliveries to the moon, on the mission. It will use Intuitive’s Nova-C lander.

NASA will send an ice-mining experiment to the moon’s south pole, slated for late 2022, using Intuitive Machine’s Nova -C lander (pictured)

The mission will head to a ridge near Shackleton Crater (pictured) by the end of 2022, an area where engineers and scientists at NASA believe there may be ice below the surface

The mission will head to a ridge near Shackleton Crater (pictured) by the end of 2022, an area where engineers and scientists at NASA believe there may be ice below the surface

The agency said that this area and the conditions that accompany it give the “best chance” to prove that all three technologies aboard the future robotic lander will work:

  • the Polar Resources Ice-Mining Experiment-1 (PRIME-1).
  • a 4G / LTE communication network developed by Nokia of America Corporation.
  • and Micro-Nova, a deployable hopper robot developed by Intuitive Machines.

“PRIME-1 is permanently attached to Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander, and finding a landing spot where we could discover ice within three feet of the surface was a challenge,” said the Dr Jackie Quinn, PRIME-1 Project Leader at NASA’s Kennedy Space. Center, in a statement.

“While there is plenty of sun to power the payloads, the surface gets too hot to keep ice within reach of the PRIME-1 drill. We needed to find a “golden loop” site that received just enough sunlight to meet mission requirements while still being a safe place to land with good communications with Earth. ”

Shackleton Crater receives enough sunlight to power a lander for a 10-day mission

Shackleton Crater receives enough sunlight to power a lander for a 10-day mission

In October 2020, NASA chose Nokia to build the first cellular network on the Moon before the Artemis 2024 mission.

Once the lander lands at the moon’s south pole, the PRIME-1 drill, known as the TRIDENT, will attempt to drill down to three feet of lunar soil (regolith) and search for water once. that it will be on the surface.

The other PRIME-1 instrument, MSolo, will measure the gases escaping from the unearthed TRIDENT regolith.

A group of researchers – NASA, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Nokia, Arizona State University, and Intuitive Machines – built “ice mining” maps of the surface using remote sensing data.

“The simple act of operating and drilling in the hard lunar surface will provide valuable information to engineers for future lunar missions, such as the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER mission, which is expected to land at the Lunar South Pole upon completion. of 2023. ”NASA added in the statement.

Nokia will test the cellular network by having a rover developed by Lunar Outpost venture more than a mile from the Nova-C lander to test the strength of the network.

If successful, this could “pave the way for a commercial 4G / LTE network” on the lunar surface, including high-definition videos of astronauts at base stations, vehicles at base stations and more, the company added. NASA.

“These early technology demonstrations use innovative partnerships to provide valuable insight into the exploitation and exploration of the lunar surface,” said Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. .

“The data will inform designs for future capabilities in in situ resource use, mobility, communication, power and dust mitigation.”

NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis mission

Artemis was Apollo’s twin sister and the moon goddess in Greek mythology.

NASA chose her to embody her return journey to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 – including the first woman and the next man.

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.

Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, in Florida.

Artemis 1 will be an unmanned flight that will lay the foundation for human exploration of deep space and demonstrate our commitment and ability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.

During this flight, the spacecraft will be launched on the world’s most powerful rocket and fly farther than any human-built spacecraft has ever flown.

It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon in a mission of about three weeks.

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars.  This graphic explains the different stages of the mission

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars. This graphic explains the different stages of the mission

Orion will stay in space longer than any astronaut ship has without docking at a space station and will return home faster and warmer than ever.

With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps in human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing near-moon systems needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations further from Earth, including Mars.

He’ll take the crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans on board.

Together, Orion, SLS and Kennedy’s ground systems will be able to meet the most difficult needs of deep space crew and cargo missions.

Ultimately, NASA seeks to establish a lasting human presence on the moon by 2028 following the Artemis mission.

The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advances and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.


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