Video: Inflatable "Tents" For Off World Settlers?

Posted by on Sep 7, 2010 in NASA, Technology, Video | 0 comments

(Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)

For those of you who envisioned outposts made out of metal, plastic and off world dirt, you may soon be disappointed that NASA and ESA have a different vision for conquering the final frontier, one filled with lots of hot air.

Gary Spexarth, manager of lunar surface systems design at NASA, believes that, despite their appearance, current inflatable habitats are far better suited than metal structures to the harsh environments of space. ’You could think of these inflatable modules as a big spacesuit,’ he said. ’The fabric is extremely tough and durable, but also designed to be as lightweight as possible. Unlike rigid metallic structures that can shatter or bend if hit by a micrometeorite, flexible material is able to recover to a certain extent.’ […]

A promising candidate is US company Bigelow Aerospace, which was founded by real-estate tycoon Bob Bigelow to develop inflatable extensions for the ISS. In 2004, Bigelow acquired the licences to NASA’s Transhab programme and has since successfully launched the Genesis I and II inflatable test craft. It now hopes to launch an 180m3 spacecraft called the Sundancer while looking at the possibilities of creating an inflatable Moon base. Bigelow’s work has far exceeded what others have been able to achieve in the field, largely thanks to the massive amounts of private funding. The company also recently announced that it is working with Boeing on the development of a commercial space-station system. (The Engineer)

Although inflatable structures have their own challenges (mainly dealing with the issue of folding them properly), deploying them upon the surface of the Moon, Mars, etc. is wiser than attempting to build settlements directly from extraterrestrial soil.

NASA has previously announced their intentions on using inflatable outposts for space as well as on the Moon, although they have yet to materialize thanks to the political makeup of Congress.

Currently Bigelow Aerospace is leading the front with its inflatable space stations, and with NASA stuck in budget limbo (due to Congress’s opposition to Obama’s first vision for space) we may have to rely upon Bigelow to establish beachheads upon the Moon.

(via Spaceports)

Read More

NASA Gives Us 600 Million Reasons To Revisit The Moon

Posted by on Aug 4, 2010 in Ice Water, Moon, NASA | 2 comments

Mini-SAR map of the Circular Polarization Ratio (CPR) of the north pole of the Moon. Fresh, “normal” craters (red circles) show high values of CPR inside and outside their rims. This is consistent with the distribution of rocks and ejected blocks around fresh impact features, indicating that the high CPR here is surface scattering. The “anomalous” craters (green circles) have high CPR within, but not outside their rims.

After discovering water on the Moon (thanks in part to India’s satellite), it looks like scientists have discovered large quantities of ice water in the lunar north pole.

Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon’s north pole. NASA’s Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it’s estimated there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice. […]

Numerous craters near the poles of the Moon have interiors that are in permanent sun shadow.  These areas are very cold and water ice is stable there essentially indefinitely.  Fresh craters show high degrees of surface roughness (high CPR) both inside and outside the crater rim, caused by sharp rocks and block fields that are distributed over the entire crater area.  However, Mini-SAR has found craters near the north pole that have high CPR inside, but not outside their rims.  This relation suggests that the high CPR is not caused by roughness, but by some material that is restricted within the interiors of these craters.  We interpret this relation as consistent with water ice present in these craters.  The ice must be relatively pure and at least a couple of meters thick to give this signature. (NASA)

Although it was known for quite some time that the Moon did possess large quantities of water near the north pole, it was unclear as to how much until now.

The large amount of water ice should make it relatively easy for astronauts to establish outposts upon the lunar surface without heavily depending on Earth for water and supplies.

Future settlers can also use the water to make rocket fuel, which will help humanity in their quest to conquer our star system.

Despite the fact that Congress still debating over how we will get to the Moon (or rather whether partnering with the private sector is a good idea), it’s only a matter of time before humanity revisits and settles upon Earth’s nearest neighbor.

(via Universe Today)

Read More

JUNO To Trek Where Humans Dare Not Travel (Jupiter)

Posted by on Jul 19, 2010 in Jupiter, NASA, Satellite | 5 comments

(Image Credit: NASA)

Despite its romantic place in celestial history, Jupiter is one hostile region.

Of the four Galilean moons that orbit this Jovian world, only Callisto is is known to be habitable for humans due to the planet’s radiation belts.

But before we can even attempt to conquer the Galilean moons is a distant future, we are going to have to scout out the gas giant in order to ensure that our species is able to survive orbiting our star systems largest gas giant.

Using a spinning, solar-powered spacecraft, Juno will make maps of the gravity, magnetic fields, and atmospheric composition of Jupiter from a unique polar orbit. Juno will carry precise high-sensitivity radiometers, magnetometers, and gravity science systems . During its one-year mission, Juno will complete 33 eleven-day-long orbits and will sample Jupiter’s full range of latitudes and longitudes. From its polar perspective, Juno combines in situ and remote sensing observations to explore the polar magnetosphere and determine what drives Jupiter’s remarkable auroras. (New Frontiers, NASA)

NASA has already begun building the titanium shield that will protect the delicate satellite from the raging ions, protons and elections of the planet (which are strong enough to kill robots, let alone humans).

“For the 15 months Juno orbits Jupiter, the spacecraft will have to withstand the equivalent of more than 100 million dental X-rays,” said Bill McAlpine, Juno’s radiation control manager, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “In the same way human beings need to protect their organs during an X-ray exam, we have to protect Juno’s brain and heart.” […]

With guidance from JPL and the principal investigator, engineers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems designed and built a special radiation vault made of titanium for a centralized electronics hub. While other materials exist that make good radiation blockers, engineers chose titanium because lead is too soft to withstand the vibrations of launch, and some other materials were too difficult to work with.

Each titanium wall measures nearly a square meter (nearly 9 square feet) in area, about 1 centimeter (a third of an inch) in thickness, and 18 kilograms (40 pounds) in mass. This titanium box — about the size of an SUV’s trunk – encloses Juno’s command and data handling box (the spacecraft’s brain), power and data distribution unit (its heart) and about 20 other electronic assemblies. The whole vault weighs about 200 kilograms (500 pounds). (Astrobiology Magazine)

JUNO is expected to survive at least 15 months in Jovian orbit, which should give scientists plenty of information on not only how extensive Jupiter’s radiation belts are, but their exact width and strength as well.

These measurements could determine whether Ganymede (which is larger than the planet Mercury) is worthy of human settlement.

While this information will not benefit our species in this day and age (or even our grandkids for that matter), it may help us map out safe locations of travel within the Jupiteran system, helping humanity survive within the system without being radiated like popcorn in a microwave.

(Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LMSS)

Read More

Video: Senator Bill Nelson Says Obama Wants NASA To Go To Mars

Posted by on Mar 17, 2010 in Blog, Mars, NASA, Video | 1 comment

(Image Credit: NASA / ESA)

According to Senator Bill Nelson, President Barack Obama wants NASA to change course and instead prepare itself for a close encounter of the red planet.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

While this news should cheer Martian fans, it is doubtful that Obama or Nelson will be able to convince the public that a Mars mission is possible (especially during a recession).

Hopefully Nelson or Obama can provide more details as to how we will go about funding a Mars mission (outside of sending more robots that is), otherwise we can safely rule out ever seeing a man or woman creating crimson foot prints off world–at least not from America.

Read More

Luna, Luna, Dripping Wet? (Moon Water)

Posted by on Mar 16, 2010 in Blog, Ice Water, Moon, NASA | 1 comment

(Image Credit: Image: ISRO / NASA / JHUAPL / LP)

Orbiting approximately 1 light second away from Earth, the Moon (also known as Luna) surprised scientists after water ice was discovered upon its surface.

Recently NASA discovered more ice water upon the Moon, painting a picture that Earth’s nearest neighbor is not as dry as we once thought.

(NASA) Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon’s north pole. NASA’s Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it’s estimated there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice.

“The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon,” said Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. “The new discoveries show the moon is an even more interesting and attractive scientific, exploration and operational destination than people had previously thought.” […]

“After analyzing the data, our science team determined a strong indication of water ice, a finding which will give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit,” said Jason Crusan, program executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.

(Image Credit: USGS / JPL / NASA)

Previously it was assumed that the Moon was extremly dry, and that any water discovered would be heavily mixed with dust, rocks and other chemicals.

Now it seems as if there might be an “abundance” of water upon Luna, which could translate into future colonies upon this barren world.

(NY Times Dr. Spudis, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, said he guessed the water ice in the north polar craters might be 90 percent pure. He said the team was currently analyzing data covering the south pole craters. […]

In addition to the water near the poles, scientists also reported that a very thin layer of water covers much of the lunar surface. Water, it appears, not only exists, but is also moving around. “The moon is working in a way you didn’t expect,” Dr. Spudis said.

If scientists can locate more craters with large volumes of water ice, humanity may witness the first off world settlements being established within the next 20 years!

Whether those colonies are American (via the private sector) or Chinese has yet to be determined, but either way the Moon is establishing itself as the next stop for humanity (a thought that might not please a few Martian fans).

–Posted on my iPhone

Read More

NASA: Can The iPhone Keep The Vision Alive? Yes It Can!

Posted by on Feb 22, 2010 in Blog, Moon, NASA | 0 comments

This is probably the best move NASA has made since launching a web page to prove why the agency was still relevant.

While that last manuver obviously failed (as Obama is outsourcing the Moon to the private sector), their latest iPhone app may help show the public how fun (not to mention difficult) it is to roam upon the Moon without a nearby gas station.

NASA may want to consider creating more of these apps upon other worlds such as Mars, Titan or even Pluto (in order to help keep “the vision” alive), although hopefully they will consider porting this app over to Android (as I know plenty of space geeks who would enjoy a road trip on the Moon).

(Hat Tip: Mashable)

— Posted from my iPhone

Read More