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These are the 3 things NASA is testing for its Future Moon base camp

NASA currently testing these 3 things for a Future moon base camp

NASA has been simulating lunar everyday life, including the commute, not far from the Grand Canyon (less than 40 miles).

A pressurized lunar rover prototype was tested by NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) throughout the arid, volcanic terrain of northern Arizona last month. This rover will fly with the Artemis mission when men finally return to the lunar surface.

With six independently rotating wheels and a little bit more space than a family van, the existing vehicle has a choppy ride over difficult terrain.

“Everyone would be doing it if it were simple.”

According to Marc Reagan, the Desert RATS program mission manager, the vehicle is being tested in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and is intended to transport astronauts to “scientific places of interest” and enable them to work many days away from their home base.

Since the 1960s Apollo program, NASA has used northern Arizona as a training ground. The austere terrain and comparable granite composition make it the perfect place to test astronauts’ equipment before they go to space.

NASA’s Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket the organization has ever built, was launched early on Wednesday morning with the intention of performing a test flight for a future crewed journey to the moon and back.

In 2025, Artemis, which was given the go-ahead by then-President Donald Trump in 2017, is anticipated to place the first woman and the first person of color on the moon.

However, the project has come under fire for running behind time and going over budget by billions of dollars, prompting some to wonder why NASA still plans to send astronauts to the moon after all these years.

Jim Free, assistant administrator for exploration systems development at NASA, said that “it’s what we do.” The universe’s history is mostly preserved on the moon.

NASA’s long-term “blueprint for solar system exploration” will be established by putting people on the moon, according to Free, which will also advance scientific knowledge and serve as a springboard for putting someone on Mars in the future.

Reagan is of the opinion that the effort is worthwhile and that once people see the results of their labors, they would also agree.

Everyone would be doing it if it were simple, Reagan said. “I believe we are creating a fantastic product of which the American people can be proud.”

Here are some of the things the crew tested.

Living abroad

The pressurized rover is intended to serve as an astronaut’s home away from home while they perform long research missions on the moon.

According to Reagan, the rover’s ultimate design will need to keep the crew warm, keep electronics cool, carry solar panels for charging, have chambers for the crew to eat and sleep, and be able to autonomously drive itself to meet astronauts at different places.

He insisted that it had to be the full life support system by itself.

NASA Rover
NASA’s eventual rover will be a home away from home for the astronauts. The current rover prototype has slightly more breathing room than a family van. Photo by Justin Stabley/PBS NewsHour

The Arizona-based prototype rover has a cockpit with a complete windowed view of the road ahead, where the driver may use a joystick to control the vehicle’s broad range of motion.

The vehicle’s wheel layout enables it to travel in a crab-like motion or in a circle, which aids the pilot in navigating the crater-pocked, rocky terrain.

Even while it lacks the majority of the anticipated final features, it nonetheless offers crucial information that helps scientists better understand the difficulties astronauts would encounter.

According to Free, one of the major challenges is determining how long the rover needs to run under various settings and situations given its 10-year design life.

The final design will be affected by the requirements for the rover’s battery capacity, solar recharge time, and storage supply capacity.

In order to build the vehicle around that, “[we] come up with a number of those situations and evaluate which one of them places the biggest design restriction on the car,” Free added.

In order to experience what astronauts may need and go through on an actual trip, the rover pilots for the Desert RATS project, some of them are astronauts who have been to space, spent 3 days living in the spacecraft.

In approaching the contractor to construct the final design, which Reagan said they anticipate having by summer 2023, he claimed that the data would help them become “smarter buyers.”

Telephoning from the moon

Having dependable contact with the rover and other pieces of the astronauts’ equipment will be crucial to surviving on the moon.

The pressurized rover is anticipated to work independently, thus it must also act as an additional crew member when relaying information in addition to being in continual contact with Earth and other astronauts on the ground and in orbit.

In order to provide astronauts access to familiar technology, NASA plans to employ wireless communication technologies like WiFi and cell phones that are comparable to those used on Earth.

As opposed to the radio transponders used during Apollo, these technologies haven’t been thoroughly tested in extraterrestrial environments, according to NASA research engineer Mike Zemba, making it particularly difficult to forecast how they may operate on the moon.

He said, “We would want to lean on commercial technology and all the progress that has been carried out over the previous decades. But we need to know how that material will function on the surface of the moon.

Volcanic rocks
Volcanic rocks commonly found in northern Arizona where NASA’s desert RATS have been testing the prototype pressurized lunar rover and other equipment in 2022. Photo by Justin Stabley/PBS NewsHour

Getting the signals over the vast geography of the South Pole is one of the major obstacles to developing communications infrastructure, according to Zemba.

On the South Pole of the moon, Shackleton Crater is 2.5 miles deep, which is four times deeper than the Grand Canyon.

The radiation, which may corrupt binary information and make audiovisual data jerky or cause programs to fail, will probably be the second major obstacle.

Due to the moon’s lack of atmosphere, any communication equipment used there would need to be “radiation hardened,” or constructed from materials that can better withstand the effects of the sun’s rays than their Earthly counterparts.

In order for astronauts to go far from their home base, Zemba said it will be essential to be able to estimate how far a signal can safely travel on the moon. This information will also help NASA plan for long-term communication facilities on the moon and Mars.

Having such simulation capabilities is part of what we want to do in Arizona, according to Zemba. “We can choose the ideal locations on the topography for cell tower placement to support the missions.”

Watching Stars

NASA has decided to arrive on the moon in 2025 and has targeted the lunar South Pole.

In contrast to the places the early Apollo flights visited, according to Free, the South Pole offers a variety of options. According to geological estimates, the rocks on the South Pole are thought to be about 4.3 billion years old, allowing researchers to learn more about the origins of the universe. On the moon’s poles, there may be frozen, reachable water, which, from a practical standpoint, would be an easy supply for a permanent base.

Moon pockmark south pole
A visual comparison of the moon’s pockmarked South Pole compared to the Grand Canyon. NASA has been using northern Arizona as a simulation site since the Apollo program in the 1960s. Photo by Justin Stabley/ PBS NewsHour

It is important to “have the patience to halt and do the correct thing” while handling issues during space missions.
Although the Apollo missions landed on mostly flat regions of the moon, the South Pole is home to enormous craters and mountains that, according to Reagan, produce “long deep shadows” due to the sun’s low angle of illumination.

He said that the stark contrast between the brilliantly lighted moon dust and the protracted, dark shadows would strain an astronaut’s vision and be hazardous while they are operating the rover or walking on uneven ground.

According to Reagan, the majority of an astronaut’s sensory information on the moon is received via their eyes, therefore stress testing for the harsh lighting conditions is crucial.

It’s rather dangerous to operate there, Reagan added.

Source: PBS

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Written by Alex Bruno

Freelance space writer Alex Bruno specializes in covering China's quickly expanding space industry. In 2021, he started writing for SpaceXMania. He also contributes to publications including SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. When Alex was a small child, he first experienced the space bug after seeing Voyager photographs of alien planets in our solar system. When not in space, Alex likes to go trail jogging in the Finnish countryside.

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