Friday, February 29, 2008

Altair project buying into Orion lessons for development process

By David Harris
As Orion and Ares progress towards PDR (Preliminary Design Review) and the next phase of development cycles (DACs), the Altair Project is beginning to seriously study potential configurations for the lunar lander.

While still a long way off a final design, the project is working on its alignment with the ongoing changes to the capabilities of its launch vehicle - Ares V - while using lessons learned with Orion in a "smart buyer" design approach.
Read more HERE.

NASA Nears Lunar Lander Design Decisions

By Frank Morring, Jr.

Aviation Week
An in-house NASA design team that is sketching out a rough concept for the planned Altair lunar lander will soon be joined by some early industry partners to help with a "minimum functional" design that will be the starting point for an actual lander.

To get to a working vehicle, NASA already knows it needs to trim about three metric tons from its concept, with propulsion systems the biggest opportunity for weight-saving.

The Constellation Program at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston issued a broad area announcement in January for industry participation in setting that starting point, and received more than 30 responses, according to Clint Dorris, deputy Altair project manager. Contracts of no more than $350,000, for a total of no more than $1.5 million, will be issued by the middle of March.

The idea is to develop an early lander concept that meets the basic requirements of a seven-day stay on the lunar surface with a crew of four, and that can be grown into a lander that can go anywhere on the lunar surface. Once the single-string concept vehicle is set, the project plans to buy redundancy and functionality with hardware add-ons while still meeting the 45 metric-ton weight limit.

A full-scale system requirements review is anticipated in 2009, and in 2009-11 the project hopes to do some testbed work that will build confidence in technologies. Dorris says the biggest opportunity for improvement lies in propellant mass, and the propulsion system itself - the first- and second-heaviest vehicle elements, respectively.

Early concepts see most of the vehicle taken up with the descent stage, which will get the crew down safely and accommodate them on the surface for a week. The ascent stage is tiny, with a habitable volume of only nine or 10 cubic meters. "It's not much larger than required to hold the avionics and four people standing up," Dorris says. "That's where you start taking [weight] penalty - getting too large on that vehicle."

Currently the ascent module is allocated 5,075 kilograms (11,200 pounds), while the descent module weighs in at 32,718 kilograms (72,130 pounds). A separate airlock module that will stay behind on the moon and eventually be shared with future habitation modules in a lunar outpost is budgeted at 949 kilograms (2,090 pounds), leaving 3,401 kilograms (7,500 pounds) for payload and a 2,857-kilogram (6,300-pound) project manager's reserve.

The descent module will be powered by a derivative of the RL-10 rocket that can be deeply throttled for landing control. The ascent module uses a 5,500-pound thrust hypergolic engine, and docks with the Altair using the Low Impact Docking System under development at JSC.

China to carry out first spacewalk in 2008

BEIJING- China plans to carry out its first spacewalk in second half of the year, an official of the nation's manned space program said here on Thursday.

Shenzhou VII will be launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu late in the year, and the astronauts will leave their spacecraft for the first time, the official told Xinhua.

The spacecraft will also release a small inspection satellite, which monitors its own performance.

Breakthroughs have been made in significant techniques related to the spacewalk. Research into the development of spacecraft and rockets has been going smoothly, and astronauts have undertaken extensive training, according to the official.

Shenzhou VII will start the second phase of China's three-stage space program, said the official.

In the second stage, China plans further breakthroughs in manned space flight, such as space walks and docking of the capsule and space module. In this phase, China will put into orbit a space laboratory staffed by humans for short periods and establish a fully-equipped space engineering system.

In the third stage, China will build a permanent space station and a space engineering system. Astronauts and scientists will travel between the Earth and the space station to conduct large-scale experiments.

China began its manned space program in 1999. It successfully sent Yang Liwei into orbit on the Shenzhou V spacecraft in 2003.

Two years later, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng completed a Chinese record of five-day flight on the Shenzhou VI. All returned safely.

SHANGHAI - China may live broadcast the first ever spacewalk by its astronauts in the upcoming space mission of Shenzhou VII this year, a scientist involved in the program said here on Friday.

Yuan Jie, president of Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST), made the remarks at the ongoing annual session of Shanghai People's Congress, or legislature of the city.

Full story

Northrop Grumman Integrating LCROSS Instruments; Mission to Seek Water Ice On Moon's South Pole - "on the fast track"

REDONDO BEACH Northrop Grumman Corporation is integrating the cameras, spectrometers and photometer comprising the nine instrument payload for the NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) onto the spacecraft. LCROSS will impact the moon to determine the presence of water ice in one of its permanently shadowed craters at the lunar South Pole.

A photo accompanying this release is available at
The LCROSS payload is shown undergoing checkout following its arrival at Northrop Grumman's manufacturing facility in Redondo Beach, Calif. Built by NASA Ames, the payload consists of nine science instruments, weighs only 27.3 pounds (12.4 kilograms) and was designed to provide multiple complementary measurements. Eight of LCROSS' nine sensors are surrounded by a sunshade. The ninth LCROSS sensor views a perpendicular plane during the final impact and is located to the lower right outside the sunshade.

NASA Ames Research Center delivered all nine payload instruments to Northrop Grumman in mid-January, already assembled on a single, 30-by-40 inch spacecraft panel. The first step in integration, attaching electrical harnesses for power, telemetry and thermal control functions, has been completed, and the remaining steps will be completed over the next several weeks.

"Our entire approach to building, testing and integrating LCROSS was designed for speed," said Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts for Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector. "We're using innovative techniques to manage the LCROSS schedule, and this latest milestone is an outstanding example of the transparency between the government and industry teams that will be critical to our success. It's coming together very well, so we're already seeing the payoff in terms of schedule."

LCROSS is a fast track spacecraft development project. The Northrop Grumman-NASA team is utilizing streamlined acquisition and production processes to meet the mission's accelerated development schedule and cost constraints. Northrop Grumman expects to deliver the spacecraft about 26 months after the program start, less than half the time of a traditional spacecraft development program.

LCROSS and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scheduled to launch at the end of the year aboard an Atlas V rocket, are the first American missions to return to the moon since the Lunar Prospector mission in 1999. LCROSS is the only current mission to the lunar surface. NASA scientists expect the impact plume will be visible from Earth with a medium-size (10-12 inch) amateur telescope.

LCROSS' nine science instruments, some of which were obtained commercially and qualified at NASA Ames, will analyze the plume from the impact for the presence of water ice or water vapor, hydrocarbons and hydrated materials. They consist of five cameras, operating in the visible, near infrared and mid-infrared light regimes; three spectrometers, operating in the ultraviolet, visible and near infrared; and one photometer operating in the visible light regime.

The LCROSS Spacecraft will ship to Florida late this summer for integration aboard the Atlas V launch vehicle. LCROSS will be launched as a secondary payload to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from the NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Northrop Grumman is working under a $56 million contract to NASA Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $32 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

CONTACT: Sally Koris
Northrop Grumman Space Technology

NASA's tough lunar robot miners on exhibit at 3rd SRC

Denver (UPI) The U.S. space agency is exhibiting a lunar robot rover equipped with a drill, designed to find water and oxygen-rich soil on the moon.

The robot, designed to explore the moon's craters, is being demonstrated in Denver this week during the third Space Exploration Conference. The rover must operate in continual darkness in extremely cold conditions with little power, NASA said, noting lunar soil -- known as regolith -- is abrasive and compact, so any ice the rover encounters would likely have the consistency of concrete.

Engineers demonstrated a drill capable of digging samples of regolith last year. That demonstration used a laser light camera to select a site for drilling, then commanded the four-wheeled rover to lower the drill and collect three-foot samples of soil and rock.

"These are tasks that have never been done and are really difficult to do on the moon," said John Caruso of NASA's John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Engineers participating in development of the rover robot concept included scientists from four NASA centers, the Canadian Space Agency; Canada's Northern Center for Advanced Technology in Sudbury, Ontario, and Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.

More perspective arrives on Goldstone Lunar Data

Knight Science Journalism Tracker
The moon’s south pole is one rugged place and that’s plain enough in photos. But after bouncing radar waves from Earth off the region astronomers seem amazed at just how deep some of the craters are. The elevation data that NASA’s Mojave Desert (Calif) Goldstone receiver obtained revealed crater bottoms 20,000 feet or so deeper than surrounding plateaus - some reach depths that never see sunlight. Peaks, in turn, reach about the same height above the mean. Now that’s relief. Water or other volatiles may stay permanently frozen, troves for science and perhaps resources for moon colonists.
Context Note: back in Oct. of 2006 were reports of another, Arecibo radar survey of the same region. It saw no signs of water ice down in those canyons and crater floors. (Cornell press release here ). But NASA - see stories below - says it still thinks water is likely there. No such overt doubts are in the press release or in the ensuing coverage this week. A bit of broader reporting seems to be in order.

Register (UK) Lester Haines notes that, dangerous as it looks, some NASA managers only want all the more to send astronauts there ; Houston Chronicle Mark Carreau says the wracked terrain may be ideal for a human outpost ; New Scientist David Shiga ; NYTimes Kenneth Chang helpfully relays word (it’s in the press release too) that the radar pings, in 2006, took advantage of a rare orbital alignment that gave Earth a slightly better than usual view of the lunar southern extremity. Perhaps it took this long to fully reduce and interpret the data

Grist for the Mill: NASA Press Release w/ video, graphics

Thursday, February 28, 2008

He's a Lumberjack (and he's okay)

From Stephen A. Austin University, and "The Pine Log," here's a behind the scenes look at the humble origins and bragging rights attached to NASA's Chariot.

There's a lesson here, Amigas y Amigos.

Lumberjacks work for NASA designing lunar rovers for travel on the moon. The Pine Log

Rusk, TX - Two SFA alumni brothers, Jason and Jefferson Jackson, recently completed designing two lunar rovers that will be used to construct a space station on the moon.

The Jacksons work at Racefab, Inc., a family-owned business in Rusk, Texas, that builds custom vehicles and race cars.

The company was opened in 1991 by their father, Joel Jackson. He had been racing cars since the 1970s, and worked previously in California building racing vehicles. Jackson also developed the prototype for the Dodge Viper.

Both of his sons followed in his footsteps by joining the family business and building custom cars. "We are helping our dad out with the business and also getting more involved in our work," Jefferson Jackson said.

Racefab, Inc. has built more than 400 custom automobiles since 1991.They have built custom cars, race cars and off-road vehicles as well as several cars featured in movies. Two of the vehicles they designed were used in the movie "Driven," with Sylvester Stallone.

NASA came across Racefab's off-road racing website when they were searching the Internet for companies to design the lunar rover. NASA wanted a vehicle that would be suitable for off-road terrain, such as the moon.

There was a previous rover developed for testing, which Racefab redesigned; however, they found flaws in the original designs and redesigned the rover.

NASA will use the Jacksons' lunar rover in 2020 in the Orion Moon Exploration Project. Phase One of this exploration project will allow astronauts to travel to the moon for extended amounts of time. Phase Two of the project involves possible travel to Mars.

"This lunar rover will be used to help construct a space station and pave out roads on the moon," Jackson said. NASA chose Racefab out of 28 other companies nationwide to build the rovers.

"We assembled the rover the same way we build our race cars," Jackson said. Racefab, Inc. was able to use the techniques for building custom cars in the lunar rover project, which was another reason NASA was interested in the company.

The rover will be tested this summer in the Arizona desert since the terrain there is similar to that of the moon.

"The rover is a 12-wheel vehicle with unique technical features," Jackson explained. The rover was made from a steel tube frame, along with steel plates and tubes. The lunar rover also features 12 wheel-drive, aluminum paneling on the outside and six drive modules.

Jason Jackson graduated from SFA in 2004 with a degree in art, and Jefferson Jackson graduated in 2006 with a degree in physics and mathematics. Racefab is run and owned by the Jackson family, which includes Marty, Joel, Jason and Jefferson Jackson.

Goldstone LSP Data News Coverage

More on Lunar South Pole Radar Data

From Blog
Monster in Space

Chatter From

Earthlings have mapped the moon's surface for the past 4,000 years, but NASA's latest view is the best yet.

Scientists have created a new map of the south lunar pole with Earth-based telescopes that is 50 times more detailed than the last version, created with data from the Clementine spacecraft in 1994.

"This data is the highest resolution and the highest accuracy that's ever made of lunar south polar region," said Scott Hensley, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.. Hensley and others announced the new map from the third Space Exploration Conference in Denver.

In detail of 215 square feet (20 square meters) per pixel, the map shows craters four times deeper than the Grand Canyon and hundreds of miles wide.

"It has some of the most incredible topography in the entire solar system," said Eric de Jong, also at JPL, of the region.

NASA Team Demonstrates Robot Technology for Moon Exploration

CLEVELAND, Feb 27, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- During the 3rd Space Exploration Conference Feb. 26-28 in Denver, NASA will exhibit a robot rover equipped with a drill designed to find water and oxygen-rich soil on the moon.

"Resources are the key to sustainable outposts on the moon and Mars," said Bill Larson, deputy manager of the In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) project. "It's too expensive to bring everything from Earth. This is the first step toward understanding the potential for lunar resources and developing the knowledge needed to extract them economically."

The engineering challenge was daunting. A robot rover designed for prospecting within lunar craters has to operate in continual darkness at extremely cold temperatures with little power. The moon has one-sixth the gravity of Earth, so a lightweight rover will have a difficult job resisting drilling forces and remaining stable. Lunar soil, known as regolith, is abrasive and compact, so if a drill strikes ice, it likely will have the consistency of concrete.

Meeting these challenges in one system took ingenuity and teamwork. Engineers demonstrated a drill capable of digging samples of regolith in Pittsburgh last December. The demonstration used a laser light camera to select a site for drilling then commanded the four-wheeled rover to lower the drill and collect three-foot samples of soil and rock.

"These are tasks that have never been done and are really difficult to do on the moon," said John Caruso, demonstration integration lead for ISRU and Human Robotics Systems at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

In 2008, the team plans to equip the rover with ISRU's Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction experiment, known as RESOLVE. Led by engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., the RESOLVE experiment package will add the ability to crush a regolith sample into small, uniform pieces and heat them.

The process will release gases deposited on the moon's surface during billions of years of exposure to the solar wind and bombardment by asteroids and comets. Hydrogen is used to draw oxygen out of iron oxides in the regolith to form water. The water then can be electrolyzed to split it back into pure hydrogen and oxygen, a process tested earlier this year by engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"We're taking hardware from two different technology programs within NASA and combining them to demonstrate a capability that might be used on the moon," said Gerald Sanders, manager of the ISRU project. "And even if the exact technologies are not used on the moon, the lessons learned and the relationships formed will influence the next generation of hardware."

Engineers participated in the ground-based rover concept demonstration from four NASA centers, the Canadian Space Agency, the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology in Sudbury, Ontario, and Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh.

Carnegie Mellon was responsible for the robot's design and testing, and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology built the drilling system. Glenn contributed the rover's power management system. NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., built a system that navigates the rover in the dark. The Canadian Space Agency funded a Neptec camera that builds three-dimensional images of terrain using laser light.

All the elements together represent a collaboration of the Human Robotic Systems and ISRU projects at Johnson. These projects are part of the Exploration Technology Development Program, which is managed by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

To view images of the rover in development, visit:

For more information about NASA's exploration plans to the moon and beyond, visit:


ESA: First hot fire test of reduced-scale staged-combustion rocket engine

Lampoldshausen The first hot firing test of a reduced-scale demonstration version of a staged-combustion rocket engine has recently been achieved at the Lampoldshausen (Germany) test facility of DLR. This development work is part of ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Programme.

One of the developments that will be necessary for Europe's Next Generation Launcher (NGL) is a new design of main engine. The Vulcain engine that powers Ariane 5 is approaching the limits of its design in terms of both thrust and overall performance.

One objective of the Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP) is to enable informed decisions about NGL engine technologies to be taken later in the programme.

Choice of technology

Liquid-fuelled rocket engines can be classified as either open- or closed-cycle, according to how they derive the gases that power the turbine-driven pumps used to force the fuel and oxidant into the combustion chamber.

Europe has experience with open-cycle engines - Vulcain is an example of this type - and with closed cycle expander engines - the Vinci engine uses this design and has accumulated more than 3000 seconds of hot firing tests.

Part of the work currently being undertaken in the propulsion area of the FLPP is the development of technologies and competencies for the next step: closed-cycle, staged-combustion engines. Why staged-combustion?

The overall efficiency of a rocket engine is measured by its 'specific impulse' - the impulse (the change of momentum - or, put simply, the speed increase of the launch vehicle) that it can achieve per unit quantity of fuel. This is somewhat like the 'miles-per-gallon' or 'litres-per-100km' figures that are quoted for cars.

The specific impulse of an open-cycle gas generator engine such as Vulcain is inherently limited, while for the closed-cycle, staged-combustion design, it increases with the combustion pressure. This provides opportunities for developing engines that need less propellant to perform a given task, reducing the propellant load and, as a consequence, the size and mass of the launch vehicle.

New fuels

The energy content and storage properties of the selected fuel have a major influence on the overall 'efficiency' of a launch vehicle. Hydrogen, the fuel used in the engines mentioned above, is now in competition with hydrocarbons such as methane.

Although hydrocarbons contain less energy per kilogram than liquid hydrogen, their higher density and less demanding storage requirements (they remain liquid at much higher temperatures than hydrogen), leads to reduced tank size and mass.

Early success

The recent test at Lampoldshausen has successfully shown the ignition and ramp-up of a hydrogen powered, staged-combustion cycle demonstrator. This work is continuing and is being expanded to demonstrate the use of methane as a fuel.

ESA FLPP main stage propulsion development is being carried out by a consortium and co-contractor comprised of Snecma (France), Avio (Italy), and Astrium (Germany), supported by a team of nine other European companies and research bodies.

Colony World: NASA Makes case for Space

An excellent suggestion from...

Colony Worlds

New NASA Web Feature To Make Its Case For Space

After previously redesigning their website, NASA it seems has gone a step further by making an interactive feature to help the public understand why the space program has significance (outside of cellphones and the weather channel).

(Space Travel) The U.S. space agency has added an interactive program to its Web site, allowing users to discover some of the space technologies that now impact daily life. [...]

[NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale] said the interactive site takes users on an illustrated tour of the commercial technologies and products in their homes and cities that trace their origins to NASA's space and aeronautics research and development..

NASA has documented more than 1,500 examples of how its technologies have been used for bettering life on Earth.

This web feature should help NASA make its case for space against "nay sayers," who may have the perception that America is wasting billions of dollars investing in our public space program.

While NASA has placed a link towards the site on their home page (which can be viewed directly over here) hopefully the NASA team would consider creating a separate domain in order to make it easier for the public (and Google) to find it.

Chariot - First Lunar Truck Prototype Completed

In preparation for the US led effort to build a lunar outpost, NASA has completed the first lunar truck prototype, named Chariot. Realizing the importance of crew and payload mobility on the lunar surface, the Exploration Technology Development Program's Human-Robotics Systems Project set out, in Apollo-like style, to build a lunar truck and the team that could shepherd future lunar truck efforts. With only one year to design, manufacture, and assemble Chariot, NASA, teamed with companies from all across America, conquered the challenge.

This Reborn Passion for the Moon

Some preliminary thoughts have come to mind, admittedly from quite a distance from the 3rd Space Exploration Conference in Denver, about Goldstone's radar survey and what NASA has revealed today about the region inside 5 degrees of the Lunar South Pole, particularly what we now appear to know with increased certainty about the elevations and general topography of that historic region.

It may be a little difficult to think of a previously obscure and unvisited spot in the Earth-Moon system as historic. Perhaps we should think of the Prospector impact point as essential to "Future-History," and no longer the realm of Science Fiction masters like Robert Heinlein.

Long ago, back in 1999 when Prospector and its neutron spectrometer showed a definitive signature of Hydrogen around the lunar poles no one was more tickled than I. Some of us have been literally anxious for a reawakening of interest in our Moon since December 1972 and the bittersweet success of Apollo 17. A possible presence of water slurry somewhere on the Moon might be just the thing, and indeed it has been, cinching the deal and making our return inevitable whether those, perhaps not so ancient, cometary remnants prove to amount to much or not, and quite possibly with or without the leave of governments and taxpayers.

Since then, it's been shown water can be refined from the lunar surface and perhaps just about anywhere on the Moon. The obvious positioning of our relatively large natural satellite as a kind of pier, a site for rail guns and materials and astronomy, with no ecological worries, no EIS responsibilities and all the rest some of us deducted and lobbied for over the past 35 years is more generally known then ever before or since.

It's a relief, really, no longer having to have to explain these things, over and over. And if you can give credit to such simple probes as Clementine and Prospector, catalysed by the horror of Columbia tearing the cover off the rudderless administrative inertia of NASA, so much the better.

In 1999 the presence of water on the moon, I believed. would be the Discovery of the Year, and I still do. The object at rest has been set into motion, harder now to stop than it was to start.

One way to tell how very much interest in space exploration has grown in the short time since is how the news of that "discovery" was received in 1999 and then to speculate on how such news would be received today. I suppose it's a chicken and the egg thing, possibly, whether the "Vision" following Columbia or the possible detection of water or something else entirely has stimulated this passion for the Moon, we've been waiting for these radar studies and the passion for the challenge of a return to the Moon, for plain and practical reasons and by all sorts of people for a long, long time.

In 1999, no one was discussing traffic control problems in lunar orbit or how to set that first flag back up at Tranquillity Base, according to Edwin Aldrin blown over by the Apollo 11 Lunar Module ascent stage - without disturbing those first foot prints. In 2008, were already counting the months until the next probe, the first private probe, the next nation's manned return and where and when the United States will return to this new world, this time to stay.

Once again, "the clock has started."

Nevertheless, with these new radar studies showing us 100 fold clearer detail of a part of the Earth - Moon system never before seen, the Lunar South Pole is better known by the space community than ever before.

Mission water on Moon (ISRO)


Bangalore - A US team yesterday visited an Indian Space Research Organisation facility where American equipment is being integrated into Chandrayaan-1 to look for water and ice on the moon.

The Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (miniSAR) will help India’s first lunar mission establish whether the permanently shadowed regions of the moon’s poles have water in any form.

The miniSAR has been developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) of Johns Hopkins University, and the Naval Air Warfare Centre. The delegation was headed by Ken Ulman, the executive of Howard County in Maryland, where the APL is one of the largest private sector employers.

US space agency Nasa is expected to pay Isro at least $10 million for carrying the miniSAR and tracking its probes, officials said.

“The moon is believed to be very dry, but recent discoveries suggest the existence of water and ice in its polar regions, which are never illuminated by the sun,” a scientist said.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

COTS on the Moon

Hat tip to Hyperbola Blog of Flight Global, in attendance at the NASA's 3rd Space Exploration Conference in Denver, and John Benac of Political Action for Space for early news about the 2nd Round of COTS projects leaking out, and that NASA might invite proposals for Lunar Surface Exploration.

John's Report HERE

Enhanced Radar of Lunar South Pole

Media Briefing - Goldstone Radar Images Released - Topography and elevation revealed
libration (800k Quicktime mov)

Denver NASA has obtained the highest resolution terrain mapping to date of the moon’s rugged south polar region. Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., generated the imagery using data collected with the facility's Goldstone Solar System Radar.

Panelists for the Feb. 27 media briefing were: --Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington; --Scott Hensley, principal investigator, Lunar Image Team, JPL; --Kelly Snook, lunar program scientist, NASA Ames; --Eric De Jong, principal investigator, Solar System Visualization Project, JPL

› Play animation (Quicktime - 1.6Mb) Lunar Illumination Movie
› Play animation (Quicktime - 739Kb) South Pole Flyover Animation

The 2008 8C Lunar Ventures Competition Heats Up

Business Plan Competition Helps New Space Venture Technologies Take Off, Lumedyne Technologies Demonstrates

GOLDEN, Colo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--One year after winning the 8th Continent Project’s inaugural Lunar Ventures competition, San Diego-based Lumedyne Technologies has secured $1 million in funding and several industries are clamoring to benefit from the technology.

“Winning the 8C Lunar Ventures Competition was the spark that ignited Lumedyne Technologies from being merely a great idea and cool technology to a funded company poised to change several industries,” said Brad Chisum, CEO and founder of Lumedyne Technologies. “Not only was Lunar Ventures instrumental in helping refine our business model, 8C made it possible for us to get an audience with the new Space Angels funding network and Space Investment Summit 3, resulting in $1 million in funding just one year after winning Lunar Ventures.”

The Lunar Ventures Competition challenges students in business, engineering and science to collaborate in creating business ventures related to space. Prizes for the winner include a cash award of $25,000, in-kind services and an invitation to compete in the Global MOOT CORP Competition for $100,000 in prizes. Lunar Ventures brings out innovative technological advancements, and Lunar Ventures judges know a winner when they see it. The 2008 competition will be held March 28-30, 2008 on the campus of the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado.

Lumedyne’s accelerometer technology, smaller than a dime, was originally developed by the Navy where CEO Brad Chisum was an Engineer and a student at San Diego State University. The technology, described as “revolutionary,” is significantly less expensive and higher performing than anything else on the market. Originally developed for aircraft, missile and space navigation systems, Lumedyne is being considered by customers in various industries including oil and gas exploration, the intelligence community, mining, aerospace and others.

“The 8th Continent Project was created for the sole purpose of organizing the small entrepreneurial aerospace technology industry to bring space down to earth, and Lumedyne Technologies is a shining example of that promise,” said Burke Fort, executive director of the 8th Continent Project.

While Lumedyne’s sensor technology has potential in many industries, one industry currently counting on Lumedyne is oil and gas exploration. Currently oil companies only extract 20-30 percent of a given deposit because the rest is too expensive to extract with current technology. Lumedyne sensors, up to 30,000 of them, help show precisely where the remaining oil is and how to access it, putting the remainder of the deposit within reach.

Because of the sensors’ extreme sensitivity they are also highly useful in gauging mine and bridge safety by detecting subtle changes in structural integrity.

Within five years, the company expects to be using the sensors for micro satellite navigation. Networks of tiny satellites – approximately one-inch cubes – will require extremely precise, low power accelerometers to remain in contact with other satellites in the array and to continue to function. According to Chisum, only Lumedyne’s accelerometer technology can do this. No other sensor technology will work.

“We saw huge potential in Lumedyne’s technology at last year’s Lunar Ventures Competition and couldn’t be more pleased to see Brad and his team meeting one of their business plan goals within a year of being announced as the 2007 Lunar Ventures winner,” said Burke Fort, 8th Continent director. “This year’s competition is looking to be just as rewarding, with finalists including teams from MIT, Harvard, Purdue, Johns Hopkins, Boston University and Utah State.”

“I would strongly encourage students across the country, whether they have a complete technology and business platform ready or simply a great business idea for future space technology with immediate Earth application, to enter the Lunar Ventures competition. At the very least you will get an honest assessment of the viability of the technology and business plans from nationally recognized experts,” Chisum added.

About the 8th Continent Project
Based out of Golden, Colorado, the Colorado School of Mines’ 8th Continent Project is the world’s most comprehensive effort to integrate space technology and resources into the global economy. 8th Continent provides the infrastructure and resources to solve a wide range of challenges from global warming to renewable energy development. Located in Colorado, home of the most concentrated entrepreneurial, investor and aerospace talent in the world, 8th Continent brings space down to earth with the industry’s first trade association, incubator, venture fund and research hub, all working together to develop the next generation of space business ventures. More information can be found at

About Lumedyne Technologies
Lumedyne Technologies Incorporated (LTI) was founded in 2006 under the name Omega Sensors. In 2007, LTI changed its name and will provide highly advanced MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) accelerometers. The MEMS technology used in LTI’s sensors was developed at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR), a government research laboratory. Under exclusive patent rights, LTI is responsible for product commercialization. The technology behind LTI’s products is protected by six patents with two more pending. It has been selected as one of the “World’s Best Technologies for 2005” by the World’s Best Technology Showcase, named one of the “Most Promising” Energy Technologies for 2007 by Rice Alliance, and has achieved best known values for the smallest displacement ever measured by a MEMS device. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

IRSO Mars mission before 2015?

R. Ramachandran The Hundu
Ambitious space missions drawn up by ISRO’s Advisory Committee

Chandrayaan-1 will be launched by mid-2008,
Chandrayaan-2 launch expected in 2012

Udhagamandalam: After the Moon, it could be Mars before 2015 for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) if the ambitious space missions drawn up by ISRO’s Advisory Committee for Space (ADCOS) up to the year 2020 are realised in the envisaged time frame. This was disclosed here by Prof. U.R. Rao, former Chairman of ISRO and currently Chairman of ADCOS, in his inaugural address at the four-day 15th National Space Science Symposium (NSSS-2008) which got underway on Tuesday.

Read the Rest HERE

Using Lunar Rock For Future Moon Bases

Staying up with comprehensive Colony Worlds is a challenge, much the same as keeping up with Fraser Cain in British Columbia, and all the others of the Carnival of Space; the 42 "Geeks," so far. Since that niche appears to be pragmatic discussion of the challenges of permanent habitation of the Solar System, I think we have a lot in common.

The Faraday-Kletke dynamo shield, and the more obvious and efficient advantages of simply living underground, on the Moon, in particular.

Selenology is my game, first and foremost. I'm willing to let my life pass by without a trip to Mars, and beyond. I'm unwilling to settle for a tumble in LEO, but when it comes to the a return and stay on the Moon, you don't have to "count me in." I've been a political warrior within government and without of the resumption of NASA's primary mission since 1972, and Apollo 17.

Soon, I will have to introduce the world to a true genius whose time has finally arrived.
Dr. Jerry Kletke, who I met while studying Advanced Drinking with a minor in Astronomy at the University of South Florida, was a student of Biochemistry. While I've since learned much more than I knew at the time about electrical fields, Maxwell's equations and Faraday, Dr. Kletke and I, along with the essential help of my friend since 1970 Larry F. Scott (with whom I bonded forever at the age of 13 when he saved me from Junior High School bullies) first followed up on my thought experiments regarding "personal" SSTO spacecraft.

That was in 1976.

Today, I am administrative assistant working for the leadership of North Carolina's General Assembly, Larry is an acknowledged expert with technical writing and the art of children and even grandchildren near Columbia, SC, while Dr. Kletke is apparently living somewhere in North Miami Beach, still in Florida and still selling convincing stories that can only be the product of bi-polar, "borderline" Schizophrenia. Of the three of us, I have the least grey hair.

While drawing up plans with Larry for a space ship we called "Trip," Jerry, my roommate at Fontana Hall, decided to lift his hoary head from his Advanced BioChem text books to chime in with the still-outrageous idea that we had no need of Newtonian propulsion. Now, someone who suffers from bi-polar disorder can sound very plausible. But as he explained what are now simple concepts such as "the Right-Hand Rule" when it comes to the movement of electrons through space, he stopped and suddenly began a facinating lecture of one of the side benefits of his theoretical "electric space ship." Shielding, not unlike that afforded Earth by the presense of a strong natural magnetic field (with it's perpendicular acceleration of electons).

The team went on to perform dubious experiments with Hydrogen-powered 1971 Oldmobile 98's, lucky never to have particularly dramatic explosions. Our first "hybrid" Hydrogen and gasoline powered car proved to be a bust, as was our aborted trip to become exhibitors at an Energy Fair in Fort Worth, Texas in the killing heatwave of July 1980. But much later, Dr. Kletke sat me down in my kitchen in Alexandria, Virginia during a odd visit to Washington the following Winter, and he explained his further study building upon the work of Faraday and Maxwell. I was still a student of Radio, having just come to grasp with how electo-magnetism can be used to propagate a self-perpetuating wavefront through empty space. And for the first time, working together, we understood how "it" could be made to work.

In the end, however, Dr. Kletke took what it known in the field as a "vacation" from his meds, and before my eyes and within days, Jerry was quite mad. Before that process came to its predictable conclusion, however, we determined the device we had on paper was, to say the least, beyond the material science of the day. This was before the discovery of high-temperature superconductivity, remember, and much else that would make our own application less than the size of a football field and seathed in the most efficient conductors known at the time, and, thus, too heavy and expensive by tonnes for an electric field to overcome the thing's inertia. Nevertheless, that's another story.

I'm going to have to talk this over with Dr. Kletke thirty years on, to see how materials research and cheap and very fast and light computers might have changed things. And yet, however these developments might have "changed things" thirty years on, the sheilding properties of high gauss fields still have some unknowns that have to be worked out to make them practical or essential components in the face of an approaching Coronal Mass Ejection.

Survival on the Moon will require water and oxygen, both of which can be refined from the rocks and soil, let alone by harvesting the dirty cometary slurry that may or may not exist in sufficient abundance in the permanent shadow of Lunar north and south pole craters. And as building material? The sheilding available might make the construction of bricks without straw for shelter a viable option. Occam's Razor still applies for me, personally, and I tend toward just barrowing underground, while finding a way to insure the resulting tunnels will hold pressurized atmosphere.

That said, for the moment, I defer to the experts in the conversation, put together today on Colony Worlds, the link to which can be found below:

With NASA preparing to send humans once more to the Moon, many people have been envisioning humans creating lunar space bases out of metals either mined from our Earthen cradle or from the asteroids far away.While building with such materials may add to the beauty of a lunar home, it would also add to the cost, raising the price tag of us settling lunar side. In order to help keep costs down (and the vision from being potentially killed) it may be better for humanity to choose lunar rocks and dirt instead.

While building with such materials may add to the beauty of a lunar home, it would also add to the cost, raising the price tag of us settling lunar side. In order to help keep costs down (and the vision from being potentially killed) it may be better for humanity to choose lunar rocks and dirt instead.

  • (Universe Today) As it turns out, lunar regolith has many useful properties for construction on the Moon. To complement lunar concrete (as introduced earlier in Part 2), basic building structures may be formed from cast regolith. Cast regolith would be very similar to terrestrial cast basalt. Created by melting regolith in a mold and allowing it to cool slowly would allow a crystalline structure to form, resulting in highly compressive and moderately tensile building components. The high vacuum on the Moon would greatly improve the manufacturing process of the material. We also have experience here on Earth in how to create cast basalt, so this isn't a new and untested method. Basic habitat shapes could be manufactured with little preparation of the raw materials. Elements like beams, columns, slabs, shells, arch segments, blocks and cylinders could be fabricated, each element having ten times the compressive and tensile strength of concrete.

Using lunar rock as a main building block for lunar bases may not only reduce the overall cost of us setting foot abroad, but also help protect ourselves from cosmic radiation (as it would be much easier and cheaper than powering artificial magnetic fields).While these thick lunar walls may be able to resist being penetrated by tiny incoming space rocks from above, it may be wise for NASA to consider "insulating" the walls with inflatable material as an extra precaution.

Telescopes on the Far Side of the Moon

A follow up to the series, such as it is, by Washington Post staff writer Marc Kaufman

"Since the beginning of the space age, astromers have dreamed of putting telescopes and other instruments on the far side of the moon, and now with NASA planning to send astronauts back to the moon sometime after 2019, those dreams of a radio telescope looking out through the galaxies from the protected side of the moon have been revived."

Readers Joined Kaufman on Tuesday for a discussion about the latest news, which he reports in the Monday Science Page story.

A transcript follows.

SpaceX completes qualification testing of Merlin Regeneratively-Cooled engine for Falcon 1 Booster

Roger G. Gilbertson
(310) 363.6446

Final Production Design Cleared for Next Falcon 1 Flight in Spring 2008:

First new American booster engine in ten years, and only the second in over a quarter century

Hawthorne CA – February 25, 2008 – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed the qualification testing program of its Merlin 1C next generation liquid fueled rocket booster engine for use in the Falcon 1 rocket.

Tests were conducted at the SpaceX Texas Test Facility near Waco, TX, on a Merlin 1C configured for powering the first stage of a Falcon 1 rocket. After completing development testing in November of 2007, the qualification program began to verify the final design features on an actual production engine, clearing the way for full-scale manufacturing.

“Our propulsion and test teams finished the qualification program with a record-breaking day that included four full mission duration firings on the engine,” said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. “This marathon run brought the total operating time on a single engine to over 27 minutes, which is more than ten complete flights. The engine meets or exceeds all requirements for thrust, performance and durability.”

“This was the final development milestone required for the next Falcon 1 flight,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. “In the coming weeks we’ll begin qualifying Merlin for the higher thrust and performance levels required by our Falcon 9 rocket, keeping us on track for delivering the first Falcon 9 vehicle to Cape Canaveral by year end.”

The single Merlin 1C will power SpaceX’s next Falcon 1 mission, scheduled to lift off in Spring of 2008 from the SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific atoll of Kwajalein. The far larger Falcon 9 uses nine Merlins on the first stage, and a single Merlin in vacuum configuration powers the Falcon 9 second stage.

The Merlin 1C is an improved version of the Merlin 1A ablatively cooled engine, which lofted the Falcon 1 on its first flight in March 2006 and second flight in March 2007. The regeneratively cooled Merlin 1C uses rocket propellant grade kerosene (RP-1), a refined form of jet fuel, to first cool the combustion chamber and nozzle before being combined with the liquid oxygen to create thrust. This cooling allows for higher performance without significantly increasing engine mass.

In its Falcon 1 configuration, Merlin 1C has a thrust at sea level of 78,000 lbs, a vacuum thrust of 90,000 pounds and a vacuum specific impulse of 301 seconds. In generating this thrust, Merlin consumes 300 lbs/second of propellant and the chamber and nozzle, cooled by 90 lbs/sec of kerosene, are capable of absorbing 10 MW of heat energy.

The Merlin engine is the first new American booster engine in ten years and only the second in over a quarter century. The prior two American engines were the RS-68 developed in the late nineties by Pratt & Whitney’s RocketDyne division, used in the Boeing Delta IV launch vehicle, and the Space Shuttle Main Engine developed in the late seventies, also by RocketDyne. With a production rate of one engine per week by late 2008, SpaceX will produce more rocket booster engines than the rest of US production combined and more than any country except Russia.

About SpaceX
SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of both manned and unmanned space transportation ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by Merlin engines, SpaceX is able to offer light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any inclination and altitude, from low Earth orbit to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions.

As winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA. This will culminate in Dragon berthing with the International Space Station and returning safely to Earth. When the Shuttle retires in 2010, Falcon 9 / Dragon will have the opportunity to replace the Shuttle in servicing the Space Station.

$2 million Sunshine Bonus to X-Prize winner for launch from Florida

Space Hobby:
Space Florida Announces Strategic Partnership with the X PRIZE Foundation to Make Florida the First Preferred Launch Site for the Google Lunar X PRIZE Competition

Grand Prize Winner will receive $2M Bonus Prize for Successful Florida Based Launch

Kennedy Space Center, FL – Space Florida, the principal organization charged by the Florida Legislature with promoting and developing Florida’s aerospace industry, today announced that it will be a new preferred partner and Florida will become the first preferred launch site for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. Each preferred partner offers additional prizes or strategic services at a discounted rate to all competition teams.
As the first preferred launch site, Space Florida will award an additional prize of $2 million to the Grand Prize winner of the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, provided the winner launched the winning flight from the State of Florida and upon confirmation that the winner has complied with all competition rules.

Space Florida was created by the Florida Legislature to sustain Florida's position as the global leader in space exploration and commerce, and is the principal organization charged with promoting and developing Florida's aerospace industry.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented international competition encouraging privately funded teams to land a robotic craft on the Moon. The craft must be capable of completing several mission objectives, including roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth. More information can be found at:

“We are delighted to be associated with the Google Lunar X Prize competition,” states Space Florida President, Steve Kohler. “Every US mission to the Moon has launched from the State of Florida and this agreement creates a powerful incentive for any Google Lunar X PRIZE competitor to launch their entry from the State of Florida and will allow the State to become the future hub for commercial projects, ultimately attracting a wide variety of small and large business entrants in various locations across Florida.”

“America’s first steps to the Moon launched out of Florida,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. “As teams head back to the Moon in pursuit of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, I imagine that they will once again look towards the Florida Spaceport. We greatly appreciate the enthusiasm and financial incentives Florida is providing to the competition and teams around the world.”

Human spaceflight operations are a critical part of Florida’s economy – bringing $1.68 billion into the State annually and employing 30,000. But as NASA plans to retire the current Space Shuttle program by 2010 and unique and progressive partnerships such as the one signed today with the X PRIZE Foundation, will leverage the State’s expertise and reputation in the aerospace industry while establishing new and robust economic opportunities.

Space Florida drives aerospace economic development in Florida and serves as a catalyst for space-related business development, education, spaceport operations, research and development, workforce development, and financing.

“2008 will prove to be another exciting year for raising the level of awareness of the importance of space to our state,” continued Kohler. “Diversification of the Florida aerospace industry – a critical path for bringing in new business and job opportunities - is a key area of Space Florida’s focus and we are thrilled to be working with nonprofit, public and private partners to make this happen for Florida.”

Space Florida was created by the Florida Legislature to sustain Florida’s position as the global leader in space exploration and commerce, and is the principal organization charged with promoting and developing Florida’s aerospace industry. Created as a unique special district, Space Florida serves as the single point of contact for aerospace with federal agencies, military, State agencies, universities, and the private sector. As part of its mission, Space Florida promotes aerospace economic development across Florida, and drives industry-related education and workforce development initiatives, expanded and upgraded spaceport operations, innovative research and development, and financing. If your future is in space, your next step is to contact Space Florida. For more information:

The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. On October 4, 2004, the X PRIZE Foundation captured world headlines when Mojave Aerospace Ventures, led by legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the world’s first private vehicle to space twice in two weeks to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The X PRIZE Foundation has since launched the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE and the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, and will continue to offer new prizes for breakthroughs in the areas of life improvement, exploration, equity of opportunity and sustainability. The Foundation is widely recognized as the leading model for fostering innovation through competition. For more information, please visit or email

Monday, February 25, 2008

Poster answered by Knight Tracker on Farside LARC

LNEDNOTE: The poster below obviously isn't looking very hard for the news about MIT's Farside Radio Astronomy project, and from what follows appears also to have failed even to read MIT's original News Release: LARC is tentatively planned as strikingly simple, robot-deployed project. Also, the final $1 Billion price tag picked from thin air, apparently, is based on the development of the kind of robot that will eventially be needed throughout the field of Selenology, and in the immediate future. It is also less than the cost of a single Shuttle flight. (Anyone for Mass production, perhaps on the Moon itself? It would certainly be cheaper than lobbing them up and out of Earth's Gravity Well.)

Put more simply, Farside radio astronomy is coming, sooner or later. LARC will be only the beginning of what is bound to become a intregral part of a new, incredibly sensitive and practical space-based, Earth-based and Moon-based Ultra-Ultra Long Baseline Interferometry and new Deep Space Network.

ORIGINAL POST: MIT has a press release out saluting itself for winning part of a $500,000 grant to scope out a plan by some of its astronomy and physics professors to install, on the quiet side of the moon (away from civilization’s electromagnetic cacophony), a scattering of radio receivers. It’d be LARC, for Lunar Array for Radio Cosmology. There they would pick up long wavelength emissions left over from the early universe’s dark ages. That’s the span between the fading of the big bang’s explosive glow and the appearance of starry galaxies. One might learn clues to how early mass fluctuations organized themselves on a large scale.

This would neatly fill a hole in astronomy’s instrument lineup. Not many outlets, so far, have picked it up - and there’s no big reason to give such a tentative exploration of a possible project big play. The Tracker could find but two stories, each just this side of a brief.

But those of us of suspicious mind might enjoy some deeper inspection of this plan, one of several proposals knocking about and given longterm analysis money by NASA recently. The question is whether the proposal in any way would depend on, or just benefit from, astronauts as construction workers and maybe as technician-repair crews. Which is to say, is there any way such a worthy, if costly (estimated $1 billion) project’s prospects will get tangled up in NASA’s Constellation program to get people back on the moon? It is an ambition that seems sure to get reinspection upon arrival of a new administration in less than a year. More generally, the whole, winding and roundabout way that NASA’s mega-dollar projects go from blue-sky idea to launch pad could use a little more, if only occasional, media attention.

Boston Herald Mike Underwood ; Wired John Borland ;
MIT Press Release ; NASA Press Release on full, recent round of long range study contracts.

And MIT's Knight Science Tracker sets the record straight well today HERE.

Indiana business news touts Hometeam

An effort to put a rover on the moon by 2012 is being headquartered in Indiana. Anderson-based AirBuoyant, LLC President and Chief Executive Officer Pete Bitar is the leader for Team LunaTrex.

Telescopes on Lunar FarSide 'Revived'

By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer

"Not only would that avoid all the distortions and disturbances caused by Earth's turbulent atmosphere, but equally important, the moon's mass would block the noisy torrent of radio signals emanating from Earth. Only in the moon's radio "shadow" could the farseeing radio telescopes envisioned for the future pick up the extremely faint signals left over from the early universe, signals that would otherwise be drowned out by the broadcast barrage from Earth."

LNBLOG EDITORS NOTE: Some of us never stopped thinking about the Farside's "radio-quiet" as the place to begin direct and 400,000 kilometer long baseline interferometry. How, then, is this concept "revived?" And weren't Farside landings well within the capabilities of the Apollo Program, perhaps at Coriolis and other likely Farside equatorial spots? The problem of how to relay the data from such a site and the limitations placed on the instrument package by weight, 1969 sophistication and size would have presented quite a quandary. And high-end frequency communication we take for granted in the GHz range was barely the stuff of Extra-Class ham radio experiments at the time. Imagine, however, where the state of both radio astronomy and perhaps Lunar exploration might have been if this unoriginal idea had been followed through, at the expense of trusting experimental landings to astronauts with buggy, unimaginably slow computers without the aid of Houston's watchful eye. Though admittedly difficult, and a likely cause very high groundside anxiety, it still seems a Farside landing might well have been within the realm of possibility for Apollo -if it had been a priority.

As future problems arise (such as sticky questions like how to retrieve and restore the Apollo 11 ascent stage blow-over of the original American Flag placed at Tranquillity by Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin in July 1969, without disturbing those historic first foot prints) Lunar Networks will be asked to review present day news to discover such dilimia. In the case of the long-acknowledged distinctly anthropomorphic radio-quiet for radio astronomy on the Lunar Farside, how much of a problem will the inherently unstable orbits and spurious emissions from LPS/Cellular satellites needed for exploration of the Moon become for the planned (and important) Deep Space Radio Telescopes, and their controllers?

Answers to such questions are welcome.

Exoskeleton shows running best on Moon news service
David Shiga, Cambridge

Video Available

Future astronauts should run, not walk, across the lunar surface to conserve energy, new laboratory tests suggest. The tests were done using an MIT-built exoskeleton that mimics the experience of moving around in a spacesuit.

Astronauts move differently on the Moon than on Earth because of the Moon's weaker gravity and the constricting properties of spacesuits. So Christopher Carr and Dava Newman of MIT in Cambridge, US, have devised a way to simulate that motion in the hopes of designing better spacesuits and planning future lunar activities.

They reasoned that walking inside a pressurised spacesuit is like wearing an air-filled balloon. Like balloons, the suits resist bending and tend to want to return to their original shape, making it harder for Moon-walking astronauts to bend their legs at the knee.

So the researchers built an exoskeleton to simulate this, based on a design by another MIT scientist, Hugh Herr, who creates devices to aid people with disabilities. The exoskeleton consists of fibreglass rods that run the length of the wearer's legs and clip into modified cycling shoes.

Like a pressurised spacesuit, the exoskeleton resists bending at the knee, applying a force that tends to straighten the leg again. Intriguingly, this spring-like property makes running more efficient than walking for an exoskeleton-clad person. That's because the extra springiness helps to recover a higher percentage of the energy put into each stride while running.

The researchers believe that the same effect makes running the more efficient choice for space-suited astronauts on the Moon, something they had already suspected from watching videos of Apollo lunar missions. "The spacesuit is storing energy," Carr says, explaining that the air-filled spacesuit legs act like springs.

Less restrictive

Indeed, Apollo astronauts have reported such experiences. "It seems like I could run forever on the Moon and my legs would not get tired," wrote Alan Bean in a book describing his 1969 visit to the lunar surface. And Harrison Schmitt, the last Apollo astronaut to set foot on the Moon, said he skied across the surface, becoming "the fastest man on the Moon."

Knowing that running is more efficient than walking could help future astronauts explore the Moon or Mars, Carr says. "If you're out somewhere stuck in your spacesuit, running low on oxygen, and you have to get back to base, you should run, not walk, because the energy per unit distance is lower for running," he told New Scientist.

It is also an important consideration for mission planners designing safety rules for astronauts, he says. In the Apollo missions, NASA had rules about how far astronauts could venture from the safe haven of their lunar lander, based on how far they could safely walk before their spacesuit oxygen would run out.

"It turns out that walking is not the most efficient way," Carr says. "If you knew that you could run back, then potentially you could be less restrictive in your mission."

For the full effect of Moon walking, the laboratory Carr and Newman used for their research can also simulate lunar gravity. By tying the exoskeleton-clad person to a cord that runs up to the ceiling and is attached to a spring, the researchers can adjust the downward force to match the Moon's surface gravity, which is one-sixth that of Earth.

Exoskeleton Study

Hale and farewell

Dwayne A. Day, at the always circumspect Space Review, spends some time showing appreciation for the right man at the right time, the equally circumspect Wayne Hale. After handling the Space Shuttle's return to flight, Hale has been transfered within Johnson Space Center.

Last week there were two related bits of news that should cause those who are interested in the human space program to take pause and think a bit. The first was the announcement that Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale was leaving his position to take a new job at Johnson Space Center. The other was the announcement of a new, traveling “Columbia Safety Exhibit” displaying several pieces of debris recovered from the Columbia accident. The creation of that exhibit was due to Wayne Hale. And nobody should be surprised by that.

During the Columbia flight, Hale had tried unsuccessfully to gather more data on the effects of a foam strike on the shuttle’s wing. For many of those who worked for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), Hale was “one of the good guys” and was widely admired (see “Wayne Hale: one of the good guys”, The Space Review, September 25, 2006). There were plenty of people at NASA who had seriously screwed up and who had rather appalling attitudes towards safety. After one impact test on the foam, I remember one NASA engineer loudly bragging about how tough his foam was and how it was not responsible for the accident—exuberance that seemed badly misplaced, if not outright offensive. Although Hale may not have fit the mode of Gene Kranz in the movie Apollo 13, he was really the ideal NASA role model: competent, smart, and thoughtful.

Read the Rest about one of the Best HERE.

NASA & BNSC collaborate planning for Lunar Cellular Network

With a horizon only two miles away, the notion of a lunar surface with sufficient cellphone towers to prevent the frustrating "dead zones" experienced on Earth, as tall needed or tall as necessary and could be built in low gravity, brings to mind Doug Bradley in full "Pin Head" make-up and ready as always to "play."

Nevertheless, as attention naturally continues to focus on the Nearside rim of the massive and ancient Aiken Basin, which has within it's wide realm much of the southern Farside, the Lunar South Pole while peaking out into sight from Earth, for a primary permanent habitat on the Moon, NASA and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) are already planning a cellular phone network.

Most attention is clearly on the complexities of a stable constellation of satellites in "Goldilocks" orbits, neither too high or low and in orbits as unaffected by lunar MassCons and the Moon's inherent lack of mass homogenaity; flying cell towers, beginning with two and with testing using an underground relay beginning as soon as 2012.

There will be towers, to be sure, here and there - perhaps on Malapert, for example.

Malapert has the distinction of being high-ground situated close to the South Pole but never quite slipping out of line-of-sight from Earth with the Moon's libration. On Malapert the sunset is seasonal but Earthset never quite happens. Instead Earth rises less than 10 degrees up and falls to kiss the horizon, sometimes dipping low enough that only Earth's southern hemisphere remains visible, while the rest of the Universe wheels about with the Sun.

Malapert does not qualify as a "mountain of perpetual sunlight," as is may exist nearer to both poles, but as an Earth observation post, with proximity to the South Pole only some 50 kilometers and 180 degrees south of an observer, it is particularly well-situated for a microwave wireless power distribution node and to relay communications between Earth, the Lunar South Pole and for Farside satellite and optical fiber head-ins. The mountain also appears to be a good location for nesting underground or in close-by permanent shade from X-Class Massive Coronal Eruptions.

In fact, as NASA and others, including myself, have long-noted Malapert seems to be one of many ideal and even strategic locations on the Moon for a lot of Human activity.

But NASA working with BNSC envisions most Lunar cellular phone and realtime data traffic around the Moon handled a small swarm of satellites much like the GPS systems dancing around Earth. It also may resemble the high ground swarms flown for satellite phone traffic on Earth, and both LPS and cell exchange may eventually ride together.

Traffic for such a proposed cellular system might be light at first, but it may well be absolutely critical, also. Whether planners can overcome problems with Lunar perturbations and its possible effect on orbital timing for predictable hand-overs, both Lunar-centric Positioning Systems for orbital traffic control, navigation and mapping and for local communications more reliable than what consumers often have on Earth today may be needed sooner than most of our fellow "ground-pounders" can yet imagine.

Joint ESA And Russian Team In Moscow Ready To Support Jules Verne

When the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is launched in early March it will use several key spacecraft hardware items such as the docking and refuelling systems, and the Kurs radar, procured in Russia. European and Russian engineers have worked together to adapt them from their previous use on the Russian spacecraft Progress and Soyuz to the much larger 20-tonne ATV vessel.

Several weeks after launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, Jules Verne will reach the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting about 400 km above our heads, and rendezvous and dock with the Russian segment of the ISS. Jules Verne and the Russian Service Module will then form an integrated European/Russian complex that will have to function as one vehicle for up to 6 months.

The ATV and the Russian Service Module will not only support together critical functions such as refuelling in orbit and re-boosting the ISS, but they will also share numerous interfacing systems like power, data handling, thermal and life support systems.

Obviously this requires close links between European and Russian engineering communities, throughout the entire Jules Verne mission. To meet this need, in 2004 ESA set up a small Engineering Support Team (EST-MO) co-located at Moscow Control Centre.

The main function of this group, varying from 8 to 15 people, is to monitor the behaviour of Jules Verne in relation to its Russian components or Russian interfaces, and to interact with the local ISS Russian engineering representatives on any matters requiring direct technical exchanges.

This support group also has to work in close coordination with the main ATV Engineering Support Team based at the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse (ATV-CC).

Experts to monitor Jules Verne's flight
At the ATV-CC, next to the Flight Control Team in charge of the ATV operations, sits the main Engineering Support Team which includes experts from ESA and prime contractor EADS-Astrium, constantly monitoring the data and daily operations planning, and ready to support the flight controllers if anything unexpected happens with the ATV systems.

Since they know all the hardware and systems, they are able to propose quick corrective measures in case of an anomaly or failure.

The official language during ATV operations is English, including communications with Moscow and Houston, but the EST-MO group can also switch to Russian when both parties are Russian. EST-MO experts do not speak directly to flight controllers nor send commands to the ATV.

This complex setup, about to be put to the test for the first time with Jules Verne, has of course required a thorough training programme. Since July 2007, the EST-MO team members, from both ESA and RSC-Energia, have participated in a series of Joint Integrated Simulations (JIS), involving all three main Control Centres in Toulouse, Moscow and Houston.

The JIS programme has covered both nominal and off-nominal mission scenarios. "One example of what the future EST-MO role could be was when the 'trainer' suddenly ordered a failure scenario with the interruption of the docking system probe retraction, shortly after the ATV was captured by the ISS.

At the same time, an unexpected simulator behaviour added further complexity to this training session. This was eventually resolved because the ATV docking system experts were able to establish a direct technical exchange with their ISS counterparts sitting in the next room", said Massimo Cislaghi, ESA's EST-MO Leader.

Although the main EST-MO working location has been and will be the ESA Moscow Support Room (EMSR) located inside the Moscow premises, some of the EST-MO training has taken place directly at ATV-CC in Toulouse, in order to allow the team to get acquainted with that working environment and with their colleagues based there. During actual flight operations they will coordinate mainly through voice exchanges.

At the end of the EST-MO training programme all ESA and RSC-Energia Russian Systems specialists are ready to face the various situations practised in the training exercises.

"At the same time, their wide experience and know-how accumulated through dozens of Russian vehicle rendezvous, docking and attached operations, represent a guarantee of their ability to face unforeseen events that can never be excluded for such a challenging programme," added Cislaghi.

During the Jules Verne mission, the ATV will perform automated manoeuvres which are closely monitored by almost 60 controllers in Toulouse, Houston and Moscow. For the first time in history, three space centres will interact from different sides of the world.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reaching for the stars … from a humble spare room in Bearsden

Glasgow Daily Herald

DAVID WOODS does this wee space trick with a mini football, about eight inches in diameter, and a two-inch sponge ball, which, by happy coincidence, are the proportional size of planet Earth compared to our moon.

He asks you to take the small, tennis-ball-sized moon and guess how far it should be from the football Earth. About the length of a desk you might guess, maybe six feet? He keeps asking you to walk backwards until you are a good 20ft away. That, he says (and he's almost shouting), is the relative distance of the moon from Earth, on average about 238,000 of our human miles.

It's a demonstration that works at two levels - showing how incredible the solar system and our place in it are and displaying the staggering achievement of the Apollo space mission in getting men on to our nearest celestial satellite.

Woods uses the analogy and many others in what is simply a good book that does what it says on the cover - How Apollo Flew To The Moon. During the day Woods is a post-production editor at BBC Scotland, a kind of mission control that rescues TV directors from themselves, and that's how I first met him. But at night, his head is in the stars.

David has written a book in his spare time, compiled from his extensive research into the manned space missions. The book he's produced is a composite mission that follows a virtual flight to the moon from launch to splashdown. There's a human dimension, the day-to-day concerns of how you go the toilet or shave while in space, with stories that capture, like the tennis ball at the end of the room, the sheer audacity of the achievement.

"It's the kind of book I hope the space geeks will give to the newbies to start them off," he says. "I certainly wish I'd had it when I started getting back into Apollo in a big way in 1995." Of course, David Woods's fascination with the moon flight began long before then.

Woods is of that generation of baby boomers who saw space flight move from science fiction to science fact right in front of their eyes. "It's an enchantment that happens when you're 10 years old and never goes away. Family, work and life come along but that magic never fades. I see it in the eyes of other people my own age. I feel blessed to have lived in an age when such dedication to science could do what it did."

Woods is no ordinary space geek. His enthusiasm for lunar travel transcends science and the grubby politics of the moon missions. He's managed to write a scientific book about the moon that is science-packed, but actually very easy to read. He may not be Tom Wolfe, but when it comes to typing words in order, a fair definition of journalism, he has the right stuff.

In 1997 Nasa gave him a medal for the work he'd done on archiving Apollo missions on the internet, and when you go to see the documentary In The Shadow Of The Moon, you'll find his name is in the credits. He supplied the production with sound archive of the Apollo 11 mission that he had stored on an MP3. I know, most people his age have Spiders From Mars on their MP3 players; David has the audio track of the Apollo 11 mission.

Along with other space enthusiasts, like Glasgow's David Harland, he can't wait for man to go back to the moon. It's just a pity that there won't be any Britons aboard future space missions. The government's space strategy, drawn up recently by the British National Space Centre, sets out to double the number of UK companies involved in the space business but it doesn't aim to put one British astronaut on the moon. There was a historic decision in the 1960s to opt out of manned space flight, but several key groups, the Commons Science Committee among them, have urged the government to think again, not least because Britain will miss the opportunity to inspire a whole other generation of scientists.

Meanwhile it's left to authors such as Woods to re-ignite our fascination with moon travel. His book has been well received among the international space community but it deserves to be a cross-over success. A BBC colleague managed to slip a copy into Tom Hanks's hands after interview in London. The star of Apollo 13 didn't take his nose out of the book from the moment he was handed it. "I'm going to read this for pleasure, this book," said Hanks, walking out of the room still leafing through the pages.

After an endorsement from an A-list Hollywood celebrity, how much higher could an author's star rise? Well, about as far as a book signing in Milngavie Book Shop tomorrow evening and a small launch party at his house in T- minus six days from now.

Woods is fittingly modest about his achievement - yet there he is, published author, consultant to space documentaries, honoured by Nasa, and shaken hands, actually shaken hands, with men who've walked on the moon. And he arranged it all from his spare room in Bearsden. He's quite an inspiration.

"You just go on with your dreams and those things you are passionate about and they kind of come true, it's a very strange but very wonderful thing," says Woods. Spoken like a true spaceman.

David Woods will splash down at Milngavie Book Shop on Monday, February 25 at 7pm to talk about the Apollo missions.