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A Commercial Lander Touches Down on the Moon on This Week @NASA – February 23, 2024
A remarkable slice of ancient history has been unearthed beneath the depths of the Baltic Sea, marking a significant milestone in archaeological exploration. This groundbreaking discovery was serendipitously made in Germany’s Bay of Mecklenburg, during a routine student expedition.
Located approximately 10 kilometers (six miles) offshore, the team of researchers stumbled upon an intriguing anomaly using their multi-beam sonar system.
What they found was a sprawling, enigmatic wall extending nearly a kilometer along the seabed, nestled at a depth of 21 meters (69 feet). Detailed analysis has revealed that this colossal structure dates back over 10,000 years, potentially making it the oldest known megastructure built by ancient Europeans.
Comprising approximately 1,670 individual stones meticulously arranged to connect some 300 larger boulders, the structure hints at a deliberate construction, suggesting a specific purpose conceived millennia before being submerged beneath the sea.
Led by geophysicist Jacob Geerson from Kiel University, the research team has dubbed the discovery the "Blinker wall." They propose that it was likely built by Stone Age hunter-gatherers near a lake or marsh, serving as one of the earliest documented man-made hunting structures in history and ranking among Europe's largest Stone Age constructions.
Over millennia, Earth's geography has undergone profound transformations due to sea level fluctuations, erosion, and geological shifts, submerging countless ancient settlements beneath the waves and concealing their secrets. However, advancements in technology continue to unveil these submerged relics, offering invaluable insights into our ancestors' way of life.
While the precise function of the Blinker wall remains elusive, experts speculate it might have functioned as a hunting aid, possibly guiding reindeer herds. The construction's strategic layout suggests the intentional creation of bottlenecks to corral animals, with the potential presence of a second adjacent wall hinted at by the researchers.
Detailed examination of the structure's dimensions, composition, and alignment strongly indicates human involvement, ruling out natural formation. The team's analysis posits the Blinker wall's construction over 10,000 years ago, with submersion occurring around 8,500 years ago.
The significance of the Blinker wall extends beyond its age, promising valuable insights into the socioeconomic complexities of ancient hunter-gatherer societies in the region, illuminating their way of life and interaction with the environment.
Baltic Sea Anomaly.
The Baltic Sea is full off ancient mysteries, not only the discovery of the ruins of the 11,000-year-old megastructure but also the discovery in June 2011 by Swedish OceanX diving team of an enigmatic anomaly displaying unconventional characteristics sparking speculation that it could be a submerged UFO. Despite the explanation behind the Blinker wall, the UFO-like anomaly continues to baffle experts, shrouded in mystery to this day.
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5 Min Read NASA to Demonstrate Autonomous Navigation System on Moon
When the second CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) delivery is launched to the Moon in mid-February, its NASA payloads will include an experiment that could change how human explorers, rovers, and spacecraft independently track their precise location on the Moon and in cis-lunar space.
Demonstrating autonomous navigation, the Lunar Node-1 experiment, or LN-1, is a radio beacon designed to support precise geolocation and navigation observations for landers, surface infrastructure, and astronauts, digitally confirming their positions on the Moon relative to other craft, ground stations, or rovers on the move. These radio beacons also can be used in space to help with orbital maneuvers and with guiding landers to a successful touchdown on the lunar surface.
IM-1, the first NASA Commercial Launch Program Services launch for Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar lander, will carry multiple payloads to the Moon, including Lunar Node-1, demonstrating autonomous navigation via radio beacon to support precise geolocation and navigation among lunar orbiters, landers, and surface personnel. NASA’s CLPS initiative oversees industry development of small robotic landers and rovers to support NASA’s Artemis campaign. “Imagine getting verification from a lighthouse on the shore you’re approaching, rather than waiting on word from the home port you left days earlier,” said Evan Anzalone, principal investigator of LN-1 and a navigation systems engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “What we seek to deliver is a lunar network of lighthouses, offering sustainable, localized navigation assets that enable lunar craft and ground crews to quickly and accurately confirm their position instead of relying on Earth.”
The system is designed to operate as part of a broader navigation infrastructure, anchored by a series of satellites in lunar orbit as being procured under NASA’s Lunar Communications Relay and Navigation Systems project. Together, future versions of LN-1 would utilize LunaNet-defined standards to provide interoperable navigation reference signals from surface beacons as well as orbital assets.
Currently, navigation beyond Earth is heavily reliant on point-to-point services provided by NASA’s Deep Space Network, an international array of giant radio antennas which transmit positioning data to interplanetary spacecraft to keep them on course. These measurements typically are relayed back to Earth and processed on the ground to deliver information back to the traveling vehicle.
But when seconds count during orbital maneuvers, or among explorers traversing uncharted areas of the lunar surface, LN-1 offers a timely improvement, Anzalone said.
Lunar Node-1, an autonomous navigation payload that will change how human explorers safely traverse the Moon’s surface and live and work in lunar orbit, awaits liftoff as part of Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission, its first under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. LN-1 was developed, built, and tested at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA/Intuitive Machines The CubeSat-sized experiment is one of six payloads included in the NASA delivery manifest for Intuitive Machines of Houston, which will be launched via a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Designated IM-1, the launch is the company’s first for NASA’s CLPS initiative, which oversees industry development, testing, and launch of small robotic landers and rovers supporting NASA’s Artemis campaign.
The Nova-C lander is scheduled to touch down near Malapert A, a lunar impact crater in the Moon’s South Pole region.
LN-1 relies on networked computer navigation software known as MAPS (Multi-spacecraft Autonomous Positioning System). Developed by Anzalone and researchers at NASA Marshall, MAPS was successfully tested on the International Space Station in 2018 using NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation testbed.
Engineers at NASA Marshall conducted all structural design, thermal and electronic systems development, and integration and environmental testing of LN-1 as part of the NASA-Provided Lunar Payloads project funded by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Anzalone and his team delivered the payload in 2021, having performed the payload build during the COVID pandemic. Since then, they refined the operating procedures, conducted thorough testing of the integrated flight system, and in October 2023, oversaw installation of LN-1 on Intuitive Machines’ lander.
The payload will transmit information briefly each day during the journey to the Moon. Upon lunar touchdown, the LN-1 team will conduct a full systems checkout and begin continuous operations within 24 hours of landing. NASA’s Deep Space Network will receive its transmissions, capturing telemetry, Doppler tracking, and other data and relaying it back to Earth. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, also will monitor LN-1’s transmissions throughout the mission, which is scheduled to last approximately 10 days.
Eventually, as the technology is proven and its infrastructure expanded, Anzalone expects LN-1 to evolve from a single lighthouse on the lunar shore into a key piece of a much broader infrastructure, helping NASA evolve its navigation system into something more akin to a bustling metropolitan subway network, wherein every train is tracked in real time as it travels its complex route.
“Spacecraft, surface vehicles, base camps and exploratory digs, even individual astronauts on the lunar surface,” Anzalone said. “LN-1 could connect them all and help them navigate more accurately, creating a reliable, more autonomous lunar network.”
Marshall’s LN-1 team is already discussing future Moon to Mars applications for LN-1 with NASA’s SCaN (Space Communications and Navigation) program – which oversees more than 100 NASA and partner missions. They’re also consulting with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and ESA (European Space Agency), aiding the push to unite spacefaring nations via an interconnected, interoperable global architecture.
Eventually, these same technologies and applications we’re proving at the Moon will be vital on Mars, making those next generations of human explorers safer and more self-sufficient as they lead us out into the solar system.
Principal investigator of LN-1
“Eventually, these same technologies and applications we’re proving at the Moon will be vital on Mars, making those next generations of human explorers safer and more self-sufficient as they lead us out into the solar system,” Anzalone said.
NASA’s CLPS initiative enables NASA to buy a complete commercial robotic lunar delivery service from leading aerospace industry contractors. The provider is responsible for launch services, owns its lander design, and leads landing operations. Learn more here.
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
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Video: 00:01:18 Teams from ESA, France’s space agency CNES and ArianeGroup successfully completed the disconnection and retraction of the Ariane 6 cryogenic systems on 30 January 2024.
These operations mark the start of dismantling the Ariane 6 test model to make way for its first launch. The combined test phase for Ariane 6 using propellants is now over and the European rocket is on track for its inaugural launch.
The test model that is on the launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, stands 62 m high. It is exactly the same as the ‘production model’ Ariane 6 rockets that will soon be launched, except that its boosters are not tested as part of the complete rocket.
For this test, the fuel lines for the upper stage and main stage were disconnected. The yellow arms support the fuel lines that deliver liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to the upper stage that is powered by the Vinci orbital engine.
Instead of simply disconnecting the lines, the Ariane 6 teams approached the operations as more tests, or rehearsals, allowing the teams another chance to practice ahead of launch. Seconds before a liftoff, the cryogenic fuelling arms retract from the upper part of the rocket, removing the fuelling lines. The main stage is fuelled from the bottom of the rocket and these lines were also disconnected in the test.
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Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
Members of the cast and crew of “The Wiz” pose inside the National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex 40 by 80 foot wind tunnel at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.NASA\Brandon Torres Members of the cast and crew of Broadway production “The Wiz,” currently on tour at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre, visited NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley on Jan. 29 to learn more about the center’s work in air and space.
The group met with center leadership and members of Ames employee advisory groups and toured the Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS), the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC), and observed progress on the Automated Reconfigurable Mission Adaptive Digital Assembly Systems (ARMADAS) robots, which use pre-fabricated modular blocks to build structures autonomously, before following the yellow brick road back “home” to Oz.
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