Trond Krovel's blog

NASA Mission to Study the Moon's Fragile Atmosphere

LADEE model. Credits: NASA

[NASA Science Article - 23.10.2009]
Right now, the Moon is a ghost town. Nothing stirs. Here and there, an abandoned Apollo rover — or the dusty base of a lunar lander — linger as silent testimony to past human activity. But these days, only occasional asteroid impacts disrupt the decades-long spell of profound stillness.

And this stillness presents scientists with an important opportunity.

Teams Win at NASA National Lunar Robotics Competition

Artist impression of a regolith exavator. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 19.10.2009]
Nineteen teams pushed their robot competitors to the limit, and three teams claimed a total of $750,000 in NASA prizes at this year's Regolith Excavation Challenge on Oct. 18. This is the first time in the competition's three-year history that any team qualified for a cash prize, the largest NASA has awarded to date.

After two days of intense competition hosted at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., organizers conferred first place prize of $500,000 to Paul's Robotics of Worcester, Mass. Terra Engineering of Gardena, Calif., was a three-time returning competitor and was awarded second place prize of $150,000, and Team Braundo of Rancho Palos Verde, Calif., took the third place of $100,000 as a first-time competitor.

The ambitions of Europe in space

ESA Logo. Credits: ESA

[ESA Press Release - 19.10.2009]
A conference on ‘The Ambitions of Europe in Space’ on 15 and 16 October brought together members of the European Parliament, Council, European Commission, agencies, industry, research entities, operators, financing institutions as well as interested people from the media and public.

In his opening speech, the newly re-elected president of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, noted that space is an enabling tool allowing Europe to face some fundamental challenges: fighting the economic crisis, ensuring the well-being of our citizens, tackling climate change, finding ways to unleash our full potential for innovation and job creation, and to bring about a true knowledge society, as well as reinforcing Europe’s position in the world scene.

Lunar Lander Floats on Electric-blue Jets

Prototype lunar lander. Credits: NASA

[NASA Science Article - 15.10.2009]
How do you fly on a world with no atmosphere? Wings won't work and neither do propellers. And don't even try that parachute!

NASA engineer Brian Mulac has the answer. "All it takes is practice, practice, practice," he says. "And of course, thrusters."

The space agency is perfecting the art using a prototype lunar lander at the Marshall Space Flight Center:

NASA Hosts National Lunar Robotics Moon Excavation Competition

Artist impression of a regolith exavator. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 15.10.2009]
Reporters are invited to attend the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge Oct. 17-18 at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. The $750,000 prize challenge is a nationwide competition that focuses on developing improved handling technologies for moon dirt, known as lunar regolith.

Part of NASA's Centennial Challenges Program, the competition will see

Hydrogen offers a new way to study the Moon

Chandrayaan-1 SARA measurements of hydrogen flux. Credits: Elsevier and ESA/ISRO

[ESA Press Release - 16.10.2009]
The Moon is a surprisingly strong source of hydrogen atoms. That is the surprise discovery from ESA-ISRO instrument SARA onboard the Indian Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter. It gives scientists an interesting new way to study both the Moon and any other airless bodies in the Solar System.

According to conventional wisdom, the lunar surface is a loose collection of irregular dust grains. Any particle that hits it should bounce between the grains and be absorbed. But the new results clearly show that one out of every five protons incoming from the solar wind rebounds from the Moon’s surface. In the process, the proton joins with an electron to become an atom of hydrogen.

NASA Spacecraft Impacts Lunar Crater in Search for Water Ice

LCROSS before impact. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 09.10.2009]
NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, created twin impacts on the moon's surface early Friday in a search for water ice. Scientists will analyze data from the spacecraft's instruments to assess whether water ice is present.

The satellite traveled 5.6 million miles during an historic 113-day mission that ended in the Cabeus crater, a permanently shadowed region near the moon's south pole. The spacecraft was launched June 18 as a companion mission to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Microwaving Water from Moondust

Apollo 12 astronaut Allan Bean on the Moon. Credits: NASA

[NASA Science Article - 08.10.2009]
NASA is figuring out how to make water from moondust. Sounds like magic?

"No magic--" says Ed Ethridge of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center "-- just microwaves. We're showing how microwaves can extract water from moondust by heating it from the inside out."

The recent discovery of water on the Moon's surface has inspired researchers like Ethridge to rev up the development of technologies to capture it. Some of them believe the small amounts of frozen water mixed in lunar topsoil are just the tip of the iceberg.1 If so, Ethridge has figured out a way to retrieve it.

NASA Invites Reporters to Events for LCROSS Lunar Impact

LCROSS heading towards the Moon. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 06.10.2009]
NASA is inviting journalists to events this week in Washington and California to observe the twin impacts of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and its rocket's upper stage as they impact the moon. The goal of the mission is to search for water ice on the moon.

The satellite and upper stage both are scheduled to hit a permanently shadowed crater of the moon, four minutes apart, at approximately 4:30 a.m. and 4:34 a.m. PDT on Friday, Oct. 9. NASA Television coverage begins at 3:15 a.m. PDT.

A new view of the Apollo 11 landing site from SMART-1

Apollo 11 landing site from Smart-1. Credits: ESA

[ESA Press Release - 20.07.2009]
History was made at 03:56 CEST on 21 July 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module and placed his left foot on the surface of the Moon. During this International Year of Astronomy the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of this inspirational event. The landing site of the Apollo 11 mission is just one of the many images of our closest neighbour taken by the SMART-1 spacecraft as it orbited the Moon between 2004 and 2006.

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