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    • By NASA
      9 Min Read Behind the Scenes of a NASA ‘Moonwalk’ in the Arizona Desert
      NASA astronauts Kate Rubins (left) and Andre Douglas. Credits:
      NASA/Josh Valcarcel  NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas recently performed four moonwalk simulations to help NASA prepare for its Artemis III mission. Due to launch in September 2026, Artemis III will land two, yet-to-be-selected, astronauts at the Moon’s South Pole for the first time.
      Traveling to space requires immense preparation, not just for the astronauts, but for the hundreds of people who work in the background. That’s why Earth-based simulations are key. They allow spacesuit and tool designers to see their designs in action. Flight controllers who monitor spacecraft systems and the crew’s activities get to practice catching early signs of technical issues or threats to astronaut safety. And scientists use simulations to practice making geologic observations from afar through descriptions from astronauts.
      Between May 13 and May 22, 2024, Rubins and Douglas trudged through northern Arizona’s San Francisco Volcanic Field, a geologically Moon-like destination shaped by millions of years of volcanic eruptions. There, they made observations of the soil and rocks around them and collected samples. After the moonwalks, the astronauts tested technology that could be used on Artemis missions, including a heads-up display that uses augmented reality to help with navigation, and lighting beacons that could help guide a crew back to a lunar lander.
      Dozens of engineers and scientists came along with Rubins and Douglas. Some were in the field alongside the crew. Others joined remotely from a mock mission control center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in a more realistic imitation of what it’ll take to work with a crew that’s some 240,000 miles away on the lunar surface.  
      Here’s a look behind the scenes of a “moonwalk.”
      My experience in Arizona was incredible! I worked with several teams, explored an exotic landscape, and got a taste of what it’s like to be on a mission with a crew. 
      Andre Douglas
      NASA Astronaut
      Practice to Prepare
      In this May 13, 2024, photo, Rubins (left), a molecular biologist who has done several expeditions to the space station, and Douglas, an engineer and member of the 2021 astronaut class, prepared for moonwalk rehearsals.  
      During the May 14 moonwalk, above, Rubins and Douglas worked to stay in the simulation mindset while a cow looked on. They wore backpacks loaded with equipment for lighting, communication, cameras, and power for those devices.
      There are, of course, no cows on the Moon. But there is a region, called Marius Hills, that geologically resembles this Arizona volcanic field. Like the Arizona site, Marius Hills was shaped by ancient volcanic eruptions, so the composition of rocks at the two locations is similar.
      The Arizona simulation site also resembles the Moon’s south polar region in the subtle changes in the size, abundance, and groupings of rocks that can be found there. Noting such faint differences in rocks on the Moon will help reveal the history of asteroid collisions, volcanic activity, and other events that shaped not only the Moon, but also Earth and the rest of our solar system.
      “So this ‘landing site’ was a good analog for the types of small changes in regolith astronauts will look for at the lunar South Pole,” said Lauren Edgar, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz., who co-led the science team for the simulation.
      To the delight of Edgar and her colleagues, Rubins and Douglas correctly identified faint differences in the Arizona rocks. But, despite their accomplishment, the day’s moonwalk had to be cut short due to strong winds. As with cows, there’s no wind on the mostly airless Moon. 
      Science at the Table
      Earth and planetary scientists at NASA Johnson followed the moonwalks via a live video and audio feed broadcast in the Science Evaluation Room, pictured above. These experts developed detailed plans for each simulated moonwalk and provided geology expertise to mission control.
      Everyone in the room had a role. One person communicated information between the science team and the flight control team. Others monitored the crew’s science tasks to ensure the astronauts stayed on track.
      A small group analyzed images of rocks, soil, and outcrops sent back by the crew on the ground in Arizona. The information they gleaned helped determine whether the crew’s science tasks for each traverse needed to change.
      The decision to update tasks or not was made by a small group of experts from NASA and other institutions. Known as the “scrum,” this group of scientists, who are sitting around the table in the picture above, represented disciplines such as volcanology and mineralogy.
      They evaluated the information coming in from the crew and analyses from the science team to quickly decide whether to change the day’s science tasks because of an unplanned discovery. Serving at the scrum table was a high-pressure job, as updating the plan to spend more time at one intriguing site, for instance, could mean giving up time at another.
      The Arizona moonwalks also gave scientists an opportunity to test their skills at making geologic maps using data from spacecraft orbiting many miles above the surface. Such maps will identify scientifically valuable rocks and landforms at the South Pole to help NASA pick South Pole landing sites that have the most scientific value.
      Scientists will use data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to map the geology around the Artemis III landing site on the Moon. But to map the Arizona volcanic field, they relied on Earth satellite data. Then, to test whether their Arizona maps were accurate, a couple of scientists compared the crew’s locations along their traverses — self-reported based on the land features around them — to the geologic features identified on the maps.
      Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, wearing a green and yellow cap, and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, during geology training at Cinder Lake Crater Field in Flagstaff, Ariz. In this 1972 image the NASA astronauts are driving a geologic rover, or “Grover,” which was a training replica of the roving vehicle they later drove on the Moon. In the months leading up to the Arizona moonwalks, scientists taught Rubin and Douglas about geology, a discipline that’s key to deciphering the history of planets and moons. Geology training has been commonplace since the Apollo era of the 1960s and early ’70s. In fact, Apollo astronauts also trained in Arizona. These pioneer explorers spent hundreds of hours in the classroom and in the field learning geology. Artemis astronauts will have similarly intensive training. 
      Operating in Moon-Like Conditions 
      In the image above, Douglas stands to Rubins’ left reviewing procedures, while Rubins surveys instruments on the cart. Both are wearing 70-pound mockup planetary spacesuits that make moving, kneeling and grasping difficult, similar to how it will feel to do these activities on the Moon.
      A NASA team member, not visible behind the cart in the foreground, is shining a spotlight toward the astronauts during a one-and-a-half-hour nighttime moonwalk simulation on May 16. The spotlight was used to imitate the lighting conditions of the Moon’s south polar region, where the Sun doesn’t rise and set as it does on Earth. Instead, it just moves across the horizon, skimming the surface like a flashlight lying on a table.
      This visualization shows the unusual motions of Earth and the Sun as viewed from the South Pole of the Moon. Credit: NASA/Ernie Wright The position of the Sun at the Moon has to do with the Moon’s 1.5-degree tilt on its axis. This slight tilt means neither of the Moon’s northern or southern hemispheres tips noticeably toward or away from the Sun throughout the year. In contrast, Earth’s 23.5-degree tilt allows the northern and southern hemispheres to lean closer (summer) or farther (winter) from the Sun depending on the time of year. Thus, the Sun appears higher in the sky during summer days than it does during winter days.
      Compared to the daytime moonwalks, when the astronauts could easily see and describe the conditions around them, the crew was relatively quiet during the night expedition. With their small helmet lights, Rubins and Douglas could see just the area around their feet. But the duo tested supplemental portable lights and reported a big improvement in visibility of up to 20 feet around themselves.
      Night simulations show us how tough it is for the astronauts to navigate in the dark. It’s pretty eye opening.
      Cherie achilles
      Mineralogist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who co-led the simulation science team.
      The Science Evaluation Room during the nighttime moonwalk simulation on May 16. Scientists sit at their workstations while a screen at the front of the room presents live video and audio of the astronauts in the field.
      Engineers pictured above, in Houston’s mock mission control area, tested custom-designed software for managing moonwalks. One program automatically catalogs hours of audio and video footage, plus hundreds of pictures, collected during moonwalks. Another helps the team plan moonwalks, keep track of time and tasks, and manage limited life-support supplies such as oxygen. Such tracking and archiving will provide contextual data for generations of scientists and engineers. 
        
      It’s important that we make software tools that allow flight controllers and scientists to have flexibility and creativity during moonwalks, while helping keep the crew safe.
      Ben Feist
      Software engineer in NASA Johnson’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science division, pointing in the image above.
      Learning a Common Language 
      The audio stream used by the Houston team to communicate during spacewalks is a dizzying cacophony of voices representing all the engineering and science roles of mission control. A well-trained mission control specialist can block out the noise and focus only on information they need to act on.
      One of the goals of the simulations, then, was to train scientists how to do this. “On the science side, we’re the newbies here,” Achilles said.
      During the Arizona moonwalks, scientists learned how to communicate their priorities succinctly and clearly to the flight control team, which then talked with the astronauts. If scientists needed to change the traverse plan to return to a site for more pictures, for instance, they had to rationalize the request to the flight director in charge. If the director approved, a designated person communicated the information to the crew. For this simulation, that person was NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, pictured above, who’s  a geologist by training.  
      NASA’s strict communication rules are meant to limit the distractions and hazards to astronauts during physically and intellectually demanding spacewalks. 
      Coming Up Next 
      In the weeks after the May moonwalk simulations, flight controllers and scientists have been debriefing and documenting their experiences. Next, they will revisit details like the design of the Science Evaluation Room. They’ll reconsider the roles and responsibilities of each team member and explore new tools or software upgrades to make their jobs more efficient. And at future simulations, still in the planning stages, they’ll do it all again, and again, and again, all to ensure that the real Artemis moonwalks — humanity’s first steps on the lunar surface in more than 50 years — will be perfectly choreographed.  
      View More Images from the Recent Moonwalk Simulations
      By Lonnie Shekhtman
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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      Details
      Last Updated Jul 01, 2024 Editor Lonnie Shekhtman Contact Lonnie Shekhtman lonnie.shekhtman@nasa.gov Location NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
      Artemis Artemis 3 Artemis Campaign Development Division Astronauts Candidate Astronauts Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate Goddard Space Flight Center Humans in Space Johnson Space Center Johnson’s Mission Control Center Missions NASA Centers & Facilities NASA Directorates Planetary Science Planetary Science Division Science & Research Science Mission Directorate Spacesuits The Solar System xEVA & Human Surface Mobility Explore More
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    • By NASA
      Augmented reality tools have helped technicians improve accuracy and save time on fit checks for the Roman Space Telescope being assembled at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. In one instance, manipulating a digital model of Roman’s propulsion system into the real telescope structure revealed the planned design would not fit around existing wiring. The finding helped avoid a need to rebuild any components. The R&D team at Goddard working on this AR project suggests broader adoption in the future could potentially save weeks of construction time and hundreds of thousands of dollars. In this photograph from Feb. 29, 2024, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the Roman Space Telescope’s propulsion system is positioned by engineers and technicians under the spacecraft bus. Engineers used augmented reality tools to prepare for the assembly.NASA/Chris Gunn Technicians armed with advanced measuring equipment, augmented reality headsets, and QR codes virtually checked the fit of some Roman Space Telescope structures before building or moving them through facilities at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
      “We’ve been able to place sensors, mounting interfaces, and other spacecraft hardware in 3D space faster and more accurately than previous techniques,” said NASA Goddard engineer Ron Glenn. “That could be a huge benefit to any program’s cost and schedule.” 
      Projecting digital models onto the real world allows the technicians to align parts and look for potential interference among them. The AR heads-up display also enables precise positioning of flight hardware for assembly with accuracy down to thousandths of an inch.
      Engineers wearing augmented reality headsets test the placement of a scaffolding design before it is built to ensure accurate fit in the largest clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.NASA Using NASA’s Internal Research and Development program, Glenn said his team keeps finding new ways to improve how NASA builds spacecraft with AR technology in a project aiding Roman’s construction at NASA Goddard. 
      Glenn said the team has achieved far more than they originally sought to prove. “The original project goal was to develop enhanced assembly solutions utilizing AR and find out if we could eliminate costly fabrication time,” he said. “We found the team could do so much more.”
      For instance, engineers using a robotic arm for precision measuring and 3D laser scanning mapped Roman’s complex wiring harness and the volume within the spacecraft structure.  
      “Manipulating the virtual model of Roman’s propulsion assembly into that frame, we found places where it interfered with the existing wiring harness, team engineer Eric Brune said. “Adjusting the propulsion assembly before building it allowed the mission to avoid costly and time-consuming delays.”
      Roman’s propulsion system was successfully integrated earlier this year.
      The Roman Space Telescope is a NASA mission designed to explore dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics.
      Equipped with a powerful telescope and advanced instruments, it aims to unravel mysteries of the universe and expand our understanding of cosmic phenomena. Roman is scheduled to launch by May 2027.
      Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
      Download this video in HD formats from NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio Considering the time it takes to design, build, move, redesign, and rebuild, Brune added, their work saved many workdays by multiple engineers and technicians.
      “We have identified many additional benefits to these combinations of technologies,” team engineer Aaron Sanford said. “Partners at other locations can collaborate directly through the technicians’ point of view. Using QR codes for metadata storage and document transfer adds another layer of efficiency, enabling quick access to relevant information right at your fingertips. Developing AR techniques for reverse engineering and advanced structures opens many possibilities such as training and documentation.” 
      The technologies allow 3D designs of parts and assemblies to be shared or virtually handed off from remote locations. They also enable dry runs of moving and installing structures as well as help capture precise measurements after parts are built to compare to their designs. 
      Adding a precision laser tracker to the mix can also eliminate the need to create elaborate physical templates to ensure components are accurately mounted in precise positions and orientations, Sanford said. Even details such as whether a technician can physically extend an arm inside a structure to turn a bolt or manipulate a part can be worked out in augmented reality before construction. 
      During construction, an engineer wearing a headset can reference vital information, like the torque specifications for individual bolts, using a hand gesture. In fact, the engineer could achieve this without having to pause and find the information on another device or in paper documents.  
      In the future, the team hopes to help integrate various components, conduct inspections, and document final construction. Sanford said, “it’s a cultural shift. It takes time to adopt these new tools.”  
      “It will help us rapidly produce spacecraft and instruments, saving weeks and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Glenn said. “That allows us to return resources to the agency to develop new missions.” 
      This project is part of NASA’s Center Innovation Fund portfolio for fiscal year 2024 at Goddard. The Center Innovation Fund, within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, stimulates and encourages creativity and innovation at NASA centers while addressing the technology needs of NASA and the nation.
      To learn more, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/center-innovation-fund/
      By Karl B. Hille
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Facebook logo @NASAGoddard@NASA_Technology @NASAGoddard@NASA_Technology Instagram logo @NASAGoddard Share
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      Last Updated Jun 20, 2024 EditorRob GarnerContactRob Garnerrob.garner@nasa.govLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
      Goddard Technology Goddard Space Flight Center Space Technology Mission Directorate Technology View the full article
    • By NASA
      Conceptualization of the GeoXO constellation.Credits: NOAA NASA, on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has selected Lockheed Martin Corp. of Littleton, Colorado, to build the spacecraft for NOAA’s Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) satellite program.
      This cost-plus-award-fee contract is valued at approximately $2.27 billion. It includes the development of three spacecraft as well as four options for additional spacecraft. The anticipated period of performance for this contract includes support for 10 years of on-orbit operations and five years of on-orbit storage, for a total of 15 years for each spacecraft. The work will take place at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Littleton and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
      The GeoXO constellation will include three operational satellites — east, west and central. Each geostationary, three-axis stabilized spacecraft is designed to host three instruments. The centrally-located spacecraft will carry an infrared sounder and atmospheric composition instrument and can also accommodate a partner payload. Spacecraft in the east and west positions will carry an imager, lightning mapper, and ocean color instrument. They will also support an auxiliary communication payload for the NOAA Data Collection System relay, dissemination, and commanding.
      The contract scope includes the tasks necessary to design, analyze, develop, fabricate, integrate, test, evaluate, and support launch of the GeoXO satellites; provide engineering development units; supply and maintain the ground support equipment and simulators; and support mission operations at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland.
      NASA and NOAA oversee the development, launch, testing, and operation of all the satellites in the GeoXO program. NOAA funds and manages the program, operations, and data products. On behalf of NOAA, NASA and commercial partners develop and build the instruments and spacecraft and launch the satellites.
      As part of NOAA’s constellation of geostationary environmental satellites to protect life and property across the Western Hemisphere, the GeoXO program is the follow-on to the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites – R (GOES-R) Series Program.
      The GeoXO satellite system will advance Earth observations from geostationary orbit. The mission will supply vital information to address major environmental challenges of the future in support of weather, ocean, and climate operations in the United States. The advanced capabilities from GeoXO will help assess our changing planet and the evolving needs of the nation’s data users. Together, NASA and NOAA are working to ensure GeoXO’s critical observations are in place by the early 2030s when the GOES-R Series nears the end of its operational lifetime.
      For more information on the GeoXO program, visit:
      https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/geoxo
      -end-
      Liz Vlock
      Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1600
      elizabeth.a.vlock@nasa.gov
      Jeremy Eggers
      Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      757-824-2958
      jeremy.l.eggers@nasa.gov
      John Leslie
      NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
      202-527-3504
      nesdis.pa@noaa.gov
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      Last Updated Jun 18, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) Earth Observatory Earth Science Division NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Science Mission Directorate View the full article
    • By NASA
      This image from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter shows China’s Chang’e 6 lander in the Apollo basin on the far side of the Moon on June 7, 2024. The lander is the bright dot in the center of the image. The image is about 0.4 miles wide (650 meters); lunar north is up.Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University NASA’s LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) imaged China’s Chang’e 6 sample return spacecraft on the far side of the Moon on June 7. Chang’e 6 landed on June 1, and when LRO passed over the landing site almost a week later, it acquired an image showing the lander on the rim of an eroded, 55-yard-diameter (about 50 meters) crater. 
      The LRO Camera team computed the landing site coordinates as about 42 degrees south latitude, 206 degrees east longitude, at an elevation of about minus 3.27 miles (minus 5,256 meters).
      This before and after animation of LRO images shows the appearance of the Chang’e 6 lander. The increased brightness of the terrain surrounding the lander is due to disturbance from the lander’s engines and is similar to the blast zone seen around other lunar landers. The before image is from March 3, 2022, and the after image is from June 7, 2024.Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University The Chang’e 6 landing site is situated toward the southern edge of the Apollo basin (about 306 miles or 492 km in diameter, centered at 36.1 degrees south latitude, 208.3 degrees east longitude). Basaltic lava erupted south of Chaffee S crater about 3.1 billion years ago and flowed downhill to the west until it encountered a local topographic high, likely related to a fault. Several wrinkle ridges in this region have deformed and raised the mare surface. The landing site sits about halfway between two of these prominent ridges. This basaltic flow also overlaps a slightly older flow (about 3.3 billion years old), visible further west, but the younger flow is distinct because it has higher iron oxide and titanium dioxide abundances.
      A regional context map of the Chang’e 6 landing site. Color differences have been enhanced for clarity. The dark area is a basaltic mare deposit; bluer areas of the mare are higher-titanium flows. Contour lines marking 100-meter (about 328 feet) elevation intervals are overlaid to provide a sense of the topography. Image is about 118 miles (190 km) across. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University LRO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Launched on June 18, 2009, LRO has collected a treasure trove of data with its seven powerful instruments, making an invaluable contribution to our knowledge about the Moon. NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners to expand human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities.
      More on this story from Arizona State University's LRO Camera website Media Contact:
      Nancy N. Jones
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Facebook logo @NASAGoddard@NASAMoon@NASASolarSystem @NASAGoddard@NASAMoon@NASASolarSystem Instagram logo @NASAGoddard@NASASolarSystem Share
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      Last Updated Jun 14, 2024 EditorMadison OlsonContactNancy N. Jonesnancy.n.jones@nasa.govLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
      Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Earth's Moon Goddard Space Flight Center Planetary Science The Solar System Explore More
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