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Artemis lunar flyby: Orion is coming home


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    • By NASA
      3 min read
      Artemis, Architecture, and Lunar Science: SMD and ESDMD Associate Administrators visits Tokyo
      June 18, 2024
      At NASA we always say that exploration enables science, and science enables exploration. During a recent, quick trip to Tokyo, Japan with our Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD), Cathy Koerner, I had an opportunity to share this message with our partners at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
      We explore for several reasons but primarily to benefit humanity. How exactly does exploration benefit humanity? By accepting audacious challenges like retuning to the Moon and venturing on to Mars, we inspire and motivate current and future generations of scientists, engineers, problem solvers, and communicators to contribute to our mission and other national priorities. By conducting scientific investigations in deep space, on the Moon, and on Mars, we enhance our understanding of the universe and our place in it. And finally, what we achieve when we explore, how it’s accomplished, and who participates benefits international partnerships and global cooperation that are essential for enhancing the quality of life for all.
      NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Dr. Nicky Fox, and Associate Administrator for the Exploration systems Development Mission Directorate, Cathy Koerner, meet with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tokyo, Japan on June 11, 2024. Credits: NASA In addition to bi-lateral meetings with our JAXA partners, Cathy and I co-presented at the International Space Exploration Symposium where I shared how every NASA Science division has a stake in Artemis. Cathy provided updates on the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, Gateway, human landing systems, and advanced spacesuits, and I talked about all of the incredible science we will conduct along the way. The Artemis campaign is a series of increasingly complex missions that provide ever-growing capabilities for scientific exploration of the Moon. From geology to solar, biological, and fundamental physics phenomena, exploration teaches about the earliest solar system environment: whether and how the bombardments of nascent worlds influenced the emergence of life, how the Earth and Moon formed and evolved, and how volatiles (like water) and other potential resources were distributed and transported throughout the solar system.
      Together with our partners like JAXA, NASA is working towards establishing infrastructure for long-term exploration in lunar orbit and on the surface. For example, on Artemis III, JAXA will provide the Lunar Dielectric Analyzer instrument, which once installed near the lunar South Pole, will help collect valuable scientific data about the lunar environment, it’s interior, and how to sustain a long-duration human presence on the Moon. In April, the U.S. and Japan were proud to make a historic announcement for cooperation on the Moon. Japan will design, develop, and operate a pressurized rover for crewed and uncrewed exploration on the Moon. NASA will launch and deliver the rover, and provide two opportunities for Japanese astronauts to travel to the lunar surface. This historic agreement was highlighted by President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida and is an example of the strong relationship between the United States and Japan. The enclosed and pressurized rover will be able to accommodate two astronauts on the lunar surface for 30 days, and will have a lifespan of about 10 years, enabling it to be used for multiple missions. It will enable longer-duration expeditions, so that astronauts can conduct more moonwalks and perform more science in geographically diverse areas near the lunar South Pole.
      Artemis is different than anything humanity has ever done before. The Artemis campaign will bring the world along for this historic journey, forever changing humanity’s perspective of our place in the universe. This is the start of a lunar ecosystem, where we’ll do more science than we can dream of, together.
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    • By NASA
      The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) launched together from Cape Canaveral Air Force, now Space Force, Station on June 18, 2009, atop an Atlas V launch vehicle. The primary mission of the LRO, managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, involved imaging the entire Moon’s surface to create a 3-D map with ~50-centimeter resolution to aid in the planning of future robotic and crewed missions. In addition, LRO would map the polar regions and search for the presence of water ice. Although its primary mission intended to last only one year, it continues to operate after 15 years in lunar orbit. The LCROSS, managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, planned to further investigate the presence of water ice in permanently shaded areas of the Moon’s polar regions. The two components of LCROSS, the Centaur upper stage of the launch vehicle and the Shepherding Satellite, planned to deliberately crash into the Moon. Instruments on Earth and aboard LRO and the LCROSS Shepherding Satellite would observe the resulting plumes and analyze them for the presence of water.

      Left: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), top, silver, and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), bottom, gold, spacecraft during placement inside the launch shroud. Right: Launch of LRO and LCROSS on an Atlas V rocket.
      The LRO spacecraft carries seven scientific instruments:
      the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) to characterize the lunar radiation environment; the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment (DLRE) to identify areas cold enough to trap ice; the Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project (LMAP) to search for ice in the lunar polar regions; the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) to create a map of hydrogen distribution and to determine the neutron component of the lunar radiation environment; the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) to measure slopes and roughness of potential landing sites; the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) consisting of two-narrow angle and one wide-angle camera to take high-resolution images of the lunar surface; and the Mini Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) experiment, an advanced radar system to image the polar regions and search for water ice.
      Left: Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and its scientific instruments. Right: Illustration of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite and its scientific instruments on panel at left.
      The LCROSS Shepherding Satellite carried nine instruments – five cameras (one visible, two near-infrared, and two mid-infrared); three spectrometers (one visible and two near-infrared); and a photometer. They monitored the plume sent up by the impact of the Centaur upper stage.

      Left: Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in lunar orbit. Right: Illustration of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite’s Shepherding Satellite at left and Centaur upper stage at right prior to lunar impact.
      On June 23, 2009, after a four-and-a-half-day journey from Earth, LRO entered an elliptical polar orbit around the Moon. Over the next four days, four engine burns refined the spacecraft’s orbit and engineers on the ground began commissioning its instruments. The LROC returned its first image of the Moon on June 30 of an area near the Mare Nubium. On Sept. 15, 2009, LRO began its primary one-year mission to map the lunar surface from its science orbit 31 miles above the Moon.  
      On Oct. 9, 2009, first the Centaur upper stage followed five minutes later by the LCROSS Shepherding Satellite crashed into the Moon’s Cabeus Crater near the lunar south pole. Although the impacts created smaller plumes than anticipated, instruments detected signs of water in the ejected debris.
      In September 2010, LRO completed its primary mapping mission and began an extended science mission around the Moon. On Dec. 17, NASA released the most detailed topographic map covering more than 98 percent of the Moon’s surface based on data from LRO’s LOLA instrument. The map continues to be updated as new data are received from the spacecraft. On March 15, 2011, LRO had made available more than 192 terabytes of data from its primary mission to the NASA Planetary Data System, or PDS, to make the information available to researchers, students, media, and the general public. LRO  continues to deliver data to the PDS, having generated the largest volume of data from a NASA planetary science mission ever.

      Left: First high-resolution image of the Moon taken by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Middle: Mosaic of LRO images of the Moon’s near side. Right: Mosaic of LRO images of the Moon’s far side.

      Left: Mosaic of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) images of the lunar north pole. Right: Mosaic of LRO images of the lunar south pole.
      The LCROSS data showed that the lunar soil within shadowy craters is rich in useful materials, such as hydrogen gas, ammonia, and methane, which could be used to produce fuel for space missions. Large amounts of light metals, such as sodium, mercury, and silver, were discovered. The data revealed that there is perhaps as much as hundreds of millions of tons of frozen water on the Moon, enough to make it an effective oasis for future explorers.
      Thanks to its unique vantage point in a low altitude lunar orbit, LRO’s camera has taken remarkably detailed images of all six Apollo landing sites. The detail is such that not only can the Lunar Module (LM) descent stages be clearly identified, but disturbances of the lunar soil by the astronauts’ boots, the shadows of the American flag are visible at five of the landing sites, and the Lunar Rovers from the last three missions are even visible. The scientific instruments, and in at least three of the landing sites, the U.S. flag left by the astronauts can be discerned. The flag at the Apollo 11 site cannot be seen because it most likely was blown over by the exhaust of the LM’s ascent stage engine when the astronauts lifted off. In addition to the Apollo landing sites, LRO has also imaged crash and soft-landing sites of other American, Soviet, Chinese, Indian, and Israeli spacecraft, including craters left by the deliberate impacts of Apollo S-IVB upper stages. It also imaged a Korean satellite in lunar orbit as the two flew within a few miles of each other at high speed. LRO also turned its camera Earthward to catch stunning Earthrise views, one image with Mars in the background, and the Moon’s shadow on the Earth during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

      Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images of the Apollo 11, left, 12, and 14 landing sites.

      Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images of the Apollo 15, left, 16, and 17 landing sites.

      Left: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) image of Luna 17 that landed on the Moon on Nov. 17, 1970, and the tracks of the Lunokhod 1 rover that it deployed. Middle: LRO image of the Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover that landed on the Moon’s far side on Jan. 3, 2019. Right: LRO image of the Chandrayaan 3 lander taken four days after it landed on the Moon on Aug. 23, 2023.

      Left: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) image of Odysseus that landed on the Moon on Feb. 22, 2024. Middle: LRO image taken on March 5, 2024, of the Danuri lunar orbiting satellite as the two passed within 3 miles of each other at a relative velocity of 7,200 miles per hour. Right: LRO image of the Chang’e 6 lander on the Moon’s farside, taken on June 7, 2024.

      Left: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) image of Earthrise over Compton Crater taken Oct. 12, 2015. Middle: LRO image of Earth and Mars taken Oct. 2, 2014. Right: LRO image of the total solar eclipse taken on April 8, 2024.
      The LRO mission continues with the spacecraft returning images and data from its instruments. LRO has enough fuel on board to operate until 2027. The spacecraft can support new robotic lunar activities and the knowledge from the mission will help aid in the return of humans to the lunar surface. 
      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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    • By NASA
      NASA’s Pegasus barge delivers the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket’s core stage for the 2022 Artemis I mission to the turn basin at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in April 2021. Credits: NASA/Michael Downs Media are invited in late July to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see progress on the agency’s SLS (Space Launch System) Moon rocket as preparations continue for the Artemis II test flight around the Moon.
      Participants joining the multi-day events will see the arrival and unloading of the 212-foot-tall SLS core stage at the center’s turn basin before it is transported to the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building. The stage will arrive on NASA’s Pegasus barge from the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where it was manufactured and assembled.
      Media also will see the twin pair of solid rocket boosters inside the Rotation, Processing, and Surge Facility at the spaceport, where NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program is processing the motor segments in preparation for rocket assembly. NASA and industry subject matter experts will be available to answer questions. At launch, the SLS rocket’s two solid rocket boosters and four RS-25 engines, located at the base of its core stage, will produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust to send the first crewed mission of the Artemis campaign around the Moon.
      Media interested in participating must apply for credentials at:
      https://media.ksc.nasa.gov
      To receive credentials, international media must apply by Friday, June 28, and U.S. citizens must apply by Thursday, July 5.
      Credentialed media will receive a confirmation email upon approval, along with additional information about the specific date for the activities when they are finalized. NASA’s media accreditation policy is available online. For questions about accreditation, please email ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov. For other questions, please contact Kennedy’s newsroom at: 321-867-2468.
      Para obtener información sobre cobertura en español en el Centro Espacial Kennedy o si desea solicitar entrevistas en español, comuníquese con Antonia Jaramillo o Messod Bendayan a: antonia.jaramillobotero@nasa.gov o messod.c.bendayan@nasa.gov.
      The approximately 10-day Artemis II flight will test NASA’s SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft, and ground systems for the first time with astronauts and will pave the way for lunar surface missions, including landing the first woman, first person of color, and first international partner astronaut on the Moon.
      Learn more about Artemis at:
      www.nasa.gov/artemis/
      -end-
      Rachel Kraft 
      Headquarters, Washington 
      281-358-1100  
      rachel.h.kraft@nasa.gov  
      Tiffany Fairley/Antonia Jaramillo
      Kennedy Space Center, Florida
      321-867-2468
      tiffany.l.fairley@nasa.gov/antonia.jaramillobotero@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jun 14, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Artemis 2 Artemis Humans in Space Kennedy Space Center Space Launch System (SLS) View the full article
    • By NASA
      4 Min Read California Teams Win $1.5 Million in NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge
      By Savannah Bullard
      After two days of live competitions, two teams from southern California are heading home with a combined $1.5 million from NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge. 
      The husband-and-wife duo of Terra Engineering, Valerie and Todd Mendenhall, receive the $1 million prize Wednesday, June 12, for winning the final phase of NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge at Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center in Huntsville, Alabama. With the Terra Engineering team at the awards ceremony are from left Daniel K. Wims, Alabama A&M University president; Joseph Pelfrey, NASA Marshall Space Flight center director; NASA’s Break the Ice Challenge Manager Naveen Vetcha; and Majed El-Dweik, Alabama A&M University’s vice president of research & economic development. NASA/Jonathan Deal Since 2020, competitors from around the world have competed in this challenge with the common goal of inventing robots that can excavate and transport the icy regolith on the Moon. The lunar South Pole is the targeted landing site for crewed Artemis missions, so utilizing all resources in that area, including the ice within the dusty regolith inside the permanently shadowed regions, is vital for the success of a sustained human lunar presence.
      On Earth, the mission architectures developed in this challenge aim to help guide machine design and operation concepts for future mining and excavation operations and equipment for decades.
      “Break the Ice represents a significant milestone in our journey toward sustainable lunar exploration and a future human presence on the Moon,” said Joseph Pelfrey, Center Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “This competition has pushed the boundaries of what is possible by challenging the brightest minds to devise groundbreaking solutions for excavating lunar ice, a crucial resource for future missions. Together, we are forging a future where humanity ventures further into the cosmos than ever before.”
      The final round of the Break the Ice competition featured six finalist teams who succeeded in an earlier phase of the challenge. The competition took place at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on June 11 and 12, where each team put their diverse solutions to the test in a series of trials, using terrestrial resources like gravity-offloading cranes, concrete slabs, and a rocky track with tricky obstacles to mimic the environment on the Moon.
      Thehusband-and-wife duo of Terra Engineering took home the top prize for their “Irresistible Object” rover. Team lead Todd Mendenhall competed in NASA’s 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge, facilitated through NASA’s Centennial Challenges, which led him and Valerie Mendenhall to continue the pursuit of solutions for autonomous lunar excavation.
      Starpath Robotics earned the second place prize for its four-wheeled rover that can mine, collect, and haul material during the final phase of NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge at Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center in Huntsville, Alabama. From left are Matt Kruszynski, Saurav Shroff, Matt Khudari, Alan Hsu, David Aden, Mihir Gondhalekarl, Joshua Huang and Aakash Ramachandran.NASA/Jonathan Deal A small space hardware business, Starpath Robotics, earned the second-place prize for its four-wheeled rover that can mine, collect, and haul material. The team, led by Saurav Shroff and lead engineer Mihir Gondhalekar, developed a robotic mining tool that features a drum barrel scraping mechanism for breaking into the tough lunar surface. This allows the robot to mine material quickly and robustly without sacrificing energy.
      “This challenge has been pivotal in advancing the technologies we need to achieve a sustained human presence on the Moon,” said Kim Krome, the Acting Program Manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “Terra Engineering’s rover, especially, bridged several of the technology gaps that we identified – for instance, being robust and resilient enough to traverse rocky landscapes and survive the harsh conditions of the lunar South Pole.”
      Beyond the $1.5 million in prize funds, three teams will be given the chance to use Marshall Space Flight Center’s thermal vacuum (TVAC) chambers to continue testing and developing their robots. These chambers use thermal vacuum technologies to create a simulated lunar environment, allowing scientists and researchers to build, test, and approve hardware for flight-ready use.
      The following teams performed exceptionally well in the excavation portion of the final competition, earning these invitations to the TVAC facilities:
      Terra Engineering (Gardena, California) Starpath Robotics (Hawthorne, California) Michigan Technological University – Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (Houghton, Michigan) “We’re looking forward to hosting three of our finalists at our thermal vacuum chamber, where they will get full access to continue testing and developing their technologies in our state-of-the-art facilities,” said Break the Ice Challenge Manager Naveen Vetcha, who supports NASA’s Centennial Challenges through Jacobs Space Exploration Group. “Hopefully, these tests will allow the teams to take their solutions to the next level and open the door for opportunities for years to come.”
      NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge is a NASA Centennial Challenge led by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center, with support from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in  Florida. Centennial Challenges are part of the Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Ensemble Consultancy supports challenge competitors. Alabama A&M University, in coordination with NASA, supports the final competitions and winner event for the challenge.
      For more information on Break the Ice, visit:
      nasa.gov/breaktheice
      Jonathan Deal
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. 
      256.544.0034  
      jonathan.e.deal@nasa.gov 
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      Last Updated Jun 13, 2024 LocationMarshall Space Flight Center Related Terms
      General Centennial Challenges Centennial Challenges News Marshall Space Flight Center Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing Program Explore More
      4 min read Six Finalists Named in NASA’s $3.5 Million Break the Ice Challenge
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