Archive for October, 2021

China presses forward on its space station work. Orbital facility is to be fully built by end of 2022.
Credit: CMSE

 

China is forging ahead on making use of its still-in-construction space station to carry out a range of experiments, both in-country investigations and though international partnerships.

Last week, retrieved space experimental samples gathered by China’s Shenzhou-12 crew were transferred to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A handover ceremony was held in Beijing on Friday while the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization delivered the experimental materials to relevant research institutions, including the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics Chinese Academy of Sciences (SICCAS).

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Retrieved samples

Researchers will now carry out dissection, analysis and study of the retrieved samples for more scientific results.

China’s space application department has established two major research facilities, the container-free laboratory cabinet and high microgravity laboratory cabinet on the station’s core module. Those in-orbit facilities have finished basic function test and acquired in-orbit test and application data.

Shenzhou-12 crew members prepare to depart core module.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

According to China Central Television (CCTV), samples retrieved include container-free materials gleaned by the Shenzhou-12 astronauts, which will be used for further scientific research and analysis on the ground, according to the expert.

China’s Shenzhou-12 mission returned to Earth on September 17. That trio of taikonauts, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo, completed a three-month stay on the Tianhe core module.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Container-free materials

“We are the second in the world to have facilities for researches of container-free materials, following the International Space Station. The samples retrieved include two kinds which are metal zirconium and non-metal zirconium oxide of nine sets,” Zhong Hongen, the deputy chief engineer of space application system of China’s Manned Space Flight Project, told CCTV.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Yu Jianding, a researcher with SICCAS, also told CCTV that the retrieval of the samples exemplified the sound and comprehensive functions of our space facilities.

“In the future, we will carry out in-depth research on more valuable materials, like some glassy alloy and vitreous oxide with high refraction, and apply them in the photology field,” Yu said. Photology is a branch of physics that deals with the properties and phenomena of light.

Multi-nation opportunities

Looking out into the future, the first round of China space station opportunity opened in 2018.

China space station awardees have been picked under the United Nations/China Cooperation on the Utilization of the China Space Station program – jointly implemented by UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and the China Manned Space Agency. It provided scientists from around the world with an opportunity to conduct their own experiments onboard China’s space station.

As a final outcome from the application and selection process, nine experiment projects were selected for entering the preparation and implementation process.

Courtesy: UNOOSA/Perihelion

Projects selected

Those nine projects involve 23 institutions from 17 Member States of the United Nations in Asian-pacific, European, African, North American and South American regions, including governmental organizations, private sectors, and international associations.

The projects selected are:

  • “POLAR-2: Gamma-Ray Burst Polarimetry on the China Space Station” was applied and will be implemented by four institutions from four countries, which are: The University of Geneva from Switzerland, the National Center for Nuclear Research of Poland, the Max Plank Institute for Extra-terrestrial Physics of Germany, and the Institute of High Energy Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
  • “Spectroscopic Investigations of Nebular Gas (SING)” was applied and will be implemented by two institutions from two countries, which are: The Indian Institute of Astrophysics, and the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • “Behavior of Partially Miscible Fluid in Microgravity” was applied and will be implemented by two organizations from two countries, namely the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) and the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Belgium.
  • “Flame Instabilities Affected by Vortices and Acoustic Waves (FIAVAW)” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by two institutions from two countries, which are: Tsinghua University from China and the University of Tokyo from Japan.
  • “Tumors in Space” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by four institutions from four countries, namely the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, International Space University, Vrije University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and the Belgium Nuclear Research Center.
  • “Effect of Microgravity on the Growth and Biofilm Production of Disease-Causing Bacteria” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by the Mars Society – Peru Chapter, and the Mars Society – Spain Chapter.
  • “Mid-infrared platform for Earth observations” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by two organizations from one country, which are: the National Institute of Astrophysics Optics and Electronics (INAOE), and Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) from Mexico.
  • “Development of Multi-Junction GaAs Solar Cells for Space Applications” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by two institutions from one country, which are: the National Center for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) from Saudi Arabia.
  • “BARIDI SANA – High-Performance Micro 2-Phase Cooling System for Space Applications” was applied and will be implemented by three institutions from two countries, which are: the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy, In Quattro s.r.l. in Italy, and the Machakos University in Kenya.

For a video on the Shenzhou-12 handover of samples, go to:

https://youtu.be/HjE_hFmqNds

To view a video on the tumors in space experiment, go to:

https://vimeo.com/389231913

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 3276 duties exploring Gale Crater.

Here are several just-released images showing the robot’s current surroundings:

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3276, October 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo acquired on Sol 3276, October 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3276, October 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3276, October 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3274. Distance driven to date – 16.40 miles/26.40 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Lander and Zhurong Mars rover.
Credit: CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

Following Earth-Mars solar conjunction, China’s Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter has resumed communications, ready to re-start remote sensing of the Red Planet in early November,

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) said Friday that the orbiter was in normal condition during the solar conjunction, successfully surviving the conjunction.

CNSA stated that the orbiter will enter a remote-sensing orbit of Mars in early November to carry out global detection and obtain scientific data. The Tianwen-1 orbiter will scope out morphology and geological structure, surface material composition and soil type distribution on Mars, and also gauge the atmospheric ionosphere, and space environment of the planet.

Tianwen-1.
Credit: CNSA

Rover duties

Furthermore, the Mars-circling craft is ready to relay communication between the Zhurong rover and Earth for extended mission duties, according to Zhang Rongqiao, the Tianwen-1 mission’s chief designer.

Mission controllers have reestablished their tracking, communication and control of the orbiter and rover, which had been in normal condition during the recent “Sun outage” period that started in mid-September.

China’s Zhurong rover.
Credit: Liang Ding, et al.

China’s Zhurong rover is slated to continue its travels south toward an ancient coastal area within its exploration zone of Utopia Planitia. Prior to the suspension of its rolling over the Red Planet, Zhurong had traveled nearly 3,609 feet (1,100 meters) on the Martian surface and was in good condition with sufficient energy, Zhang said.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space Screengrab

Safe mode

Due to solar conjunction, the wheeled rover and orbiter were put into “safe mode,” pausing their tasks and autonomously carried out health assessments, self-monitoring and troubleshooting.

Tianwen-1 was launched on July 23, 2020 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, entering Martian orbit on February 10, 2021. Zhurong touched down on the planet on May 15, driving off its landing platform the following week.

Once in operation, Zhurong joins two NASA rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance, as well as the NASA InSight lander, to continue their respective Mars exploration agendas.

Artistic rendering illustrates large asteroids penetrating Earth’s oxygen-poor atmosphere.
Credit: SwRI/Dan Durda, Simone Marchi

 

It is a messy business – asteroid bombardment of the Earth.

The Earth was a “full stop” planet to a substantial number of large impacts throughout the late Archean era. Around 2.4 billion years ago, during the tail end of this bombardment, the Earth went through a major shift in surface chemistry triggered by the rise of atmospheric oxygen, dubbed the Great Oxidation Event (GOE).

A team led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has updated its asteroid bombardment model of the Earth with the latest geologic evidence of ancient, large collisions.

These new findings correspond to the geological record, which shows that oxygen levels in the atmosphere varied but stayed relatively low in the early Archean eon.

SwRI-led study updated bombardment models based on small glassy particles, known as impact spherules, that populate multiple thin, discrete layers in the Earth’s crust, ranging in age from about 2.4 to 3.5 billion years old. Spherule layers — such as the one shown in this 5-centimeter, 2.6-billion-year-old sample from Australia — are markers of ancient collisions.
Credit: UCLA/Scott Hassler and Oberlin/Bruce Simonson

Oxygen scarcity

Impacts by bodies larger than six miles (10 kilometers) in diameter may have contributed to its scarcity, as limited oxygen present in the atmosphere of early Earth would have been chemically consumed by impact vapors, further reducing its abundance in the atmosphere, according to a SwRI statement.

“Impact vapors caused episodic low oxygen levels for large spans of time preceding the GOE,” said SwRI’s Simone Marchi, lead author of a paper about this research in Nature Geoscience. “As time went on, collisions become progressively less frequent and too small to be able to significantly alter post-GOE oxygen levels. The Earth was on its course to become the current planet.”

Droplets of molten rocks

When large asteroids or comets struck early Earth, the energy released melted and vaporized rocky materials in the Earth’s crust.

Small droplets of molten rock in the impact plume would condense, solidify and fall back to Earth, creating round, globally distributed sand-size particles.

Known as impact spherules, these glassy particles populated multiple thin, discrete layers in the Earth’s crust, ranging in age from about 2.4 to 3.5 billion years old. These Archean spherule layers are markers of ancient collisions.

Credit: NASA

 

Free oxygen

Nadja Drabon, a Harvard assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences, was part of a team that analyzed remnants of ancient asteroids and modeled the effects of their collisions to show that the strikes took place more often than previously thought and may have delayed when oxygen started accumulating on the planet.

The new models can help scientists understand more precisely when the planet started its path toward becoming the Earth we know today.

“Free oxygen in the atmosphere is critical for any living being that uses respiration to produce energy,” Drabon said in a Harvard statement. “Without the accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere we would probably not exist.”

To access the new paper – “Delayed and variable late Archaean atmospheric oxidation due to high collision rates on Earth,” go to:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-021-00835-9

Also, go to this SwRI press release —

“SwRI-led team produces a new Earth bombardment model – New model applied to understand how oxygen levels in Earth’s atmosphere evolved,” at:

https://www.swri.org/press-release/swri-led-team-produces-new-earth-bombardment-model

Credit: Senate Subcommittee on Space and Science/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

 

“International Collaboration and Competition in Space:  Oversight of NASA’s Role and Programs” is being held today by the Senate Subcommittee on Space and Science.

 

 

 

Live video at: https://www.commerce.senate.gov/

Range of topics

The United States has long been the global leader in space exploration and has benefitted from robust, peaceful international collaboration. This hearing will examine required actions, particularly at NASA, to promote U.S. civil and commercial space sector competitiveness, attract and maintain strong global partnerships, and preserve U.S. space leadership in the wake of rising international competition.

Topics such as International Space Station extension, commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) development, and requirements to execute NASA’s Artemis program, to include needed updates to authorizing legislation, will be considered.

Witness testimony

Witness Panel 1 testimony available at:

  • Jim Bridenstine, Former NASA Administrator

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/services/files/4CE62711-708C-493C-A325-E0B845B34372

  • Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, Axiom Space

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/services/files/06C46EFB-D05F-4440-AA5F-7128ADBC5F43

  • Mike Gold, Executive Vice President for Civil Space and External Affairs, Redwire Space

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/services/files/01CD1CE2-384A-4131-92A5-246D3B581498

  • Patricia Sanders Chair, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel

https://www.commerce.senate.gov/services/files/127ABA93-9E9C-4C74-83DE-31BEB6CE7768

There is evidence Curiosity drove over this nodule in the high resolution image taken by MAHLI, the hand lens imager that’s located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Photo produced on October 20, 2021, Sol 3272.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now wrapping up Sol 3273 duties.

The wheeled robot recently drove over nodules, crushing them in the process. Doing so has allowed researchers to see inside these features, reports Susanne Schwenzer, a planetary geologist at The Open University; Milton Keynes in the U.K.

Newly sent images show evidence of the rover drive across a nodule – evidenced by very straight imprinted lines in the middle of flattened areas that appear slightly more grey.

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 3273, October 20, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Insight into nodules

“You can also see cracks, especially clearly on the right of the nodule…but if you look around, you’ll find there are more of them,” Schwenzer points out.

“Some of the scratched areas are looking white, too. All those features will allow us an insight into the nodules and an interpretation beyond what we can otherwise see on the surface. As much as the surface can tell us – here we are getting to the heart of those nodules!”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 3273, October 21, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Broken rock feast

In a newly scripted plan, Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) is to look at the wheel-disturbed rocks with a Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) observation on target ‘Picardy Stone’ and with a passive spectral observation on target ‘Pollock.’

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 3273, October 21, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Mastcam is joining the broken rock feast,” Schwenzer adds, with a multispectral observation on an area named ‘Acadian,’ which is also investigated by the robot’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 3273, October 20, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Dune feature

“Last but not least, a dune feature, now named ‘Longhill,’ receives some attention with a Mastcam mosaic to further study the dunes on Mars,” Schwenzer notes.

“While dunes can tell us a lot about both current and past wind and climate, there is also atmospheric monitoring in the plan to document the current conditions around the rover adding to our cadence of images to assess dust levels in the atmosphere – and our dust devil searches.”

And, of course, the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) is sending its daily weather report, and on top of all the atmospheric science possible with those long-term datasets, researchers enjoy knowing what temperature it is on Mars.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3273, October 20, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Drive in the plan

“There is a drive in the plan that should set us up nicely for some more investigations of this interesting area,” Schwenzer reports.

Images after the drive will give scientists first insights, and ChemCam gets a head start on the chemistry through an AEGIS observation.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3273, October 21, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

AEGIS stands for Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science) – a software suite that permits the rover to autonomously detect and prioritize targets.

Credit: National Academy of Sciences

 

 

 

 

The purpose of the October 20, 2021 hearing is to understand the opportunities and challenges of space nuclear propulsion for enabling deep space exploration, examine the status of NASA’s R&D activities and plans for space nuclear propulsion, and to consider government and industry contributions to and collaboration on advancing space nuclear propulsion, among other issues.

 

 

 

 

Hearing charter:

https://science.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Charter%2010_21_2021%20Accelerating%20Deep%20Space%20Travel%20with%20Space%20Nuclear%20Propulsion.pdf

Online via videoconferencing at:

https://science.house.gov/hearings/accelerating-deep-space-travel-with-space-nuclear-propulsion

Witness testimony:

Roger M. Myers, Co-Chair, Committee on Space Nuclear Propulsion Technologies, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

https://science.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Meyers%20Testimony1.pdf

Bhavya Lal, Senior Advisor for Budget and Finance, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

https://science.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Lal%20Testimony2.pdf

Greg Meholic, Senior Project Leader, The Aerospace Corporation

https://science.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Meholic%20Testimony.pdf

Michael French, Vice President, Space Systems, Aerospace Industries Association

https://science.house.gov/imo/media/doc/French%20Testimony1.pdf

Franklin Chang-Diaz, Founder and CEO, Ad Astra Rocket Company

https://science.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Chang%20Diaz%20Testimony.pdf

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Moon rock and regolith brought back to Earth by China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample mission suggests that the samples are a new type of lunar basalt, different from those collected during previous U.S. Apollo and former Soviet Union robotic Luna missions.

The first batch of lunar soil samples were sent to 31 labs of 13 Chinese research institutions last July. Chinese researchers analyzing the lunar collectibles report they have dated the youngest rock on the Moon at around 2 billion years in age, extending the “life” of lunar volcanism 800-900 million years longer than previously known. 

China’s Chang’e-5 probe returned to Earth on December 17, 2020, parachuting back a total of around 1.73 kilograms of lunar samples.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Magmatic history

A research team analyzed more than 50 uranium-rich rock fragments extracted from lunar basalt and dated the youngest rock on the Moon at about 2 billion years old. Previously, the youngest dated rock from the Apollo and Luna missions and lunar meteorites was around 2.8-2.9 billion years old.

According to Ouyang Ziyuan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Moon formed 4.5 billion years ago and magmatic activities were not recorded in the lunar mantle until around 4 billion years ago.

“There were no magmatic activities recorded in the lunar mantle from 3 billion years ago until now. There are two issues concerning the history of the Moon,” Ouyang said via China Central Television (CCTV). “We are not clear about its history before 4 billion years ago and after 3 billion years ago. How we can make breakthrough to restore the true evolution history of the Moon is an important task of scientists. I think it is quite an achievement to extend the history of magmatic activities from 3 billion years ago to 2 billion years ago,” he added.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Interesting phenomenon

Li Xianhua, another CAS academician, told CCTV:

“Ascertaining this age correctly is very important for another dating technique by using impact craters. Using this method, we can date other regions where the lander cannot reach and other planets in the solar system. The age is the most basic parameter for us to know an object, a planet,” said Li.

Triggers of the latest volcanic activities on the Moon have always been a mystery. There are now two possible explanations among the scientific community.

  • The magmatic source was rich in radioactive heat production elements that could provide heat source for melting magma in the Moon’s mantle and drive eruptions.
  • The low melting point of the lunar mantle due to high water content resulted in a prolonged duration of volcanic activities.

However, studies of the Chang’e-5 specimens show that the samples are not rich in hot radioactive elements and are exceptionally dry.

Photo taking during surface sampling.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“There are neither so many radioactive elements nor water, so what triggered the melting becomes an interesting issue. So we will continue to study this interesting phenomenon,” Li said.

China/France cooperation

According to Ecns.cn — the official English-language website of China News Service (CNS) — the Chinese Academy of Sciences has reached initial consensus with the French Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and French National Centre for Scientific Research a joint research initiative to study lunar samples collected by China’s Chang’e-5 mission, Academy officials said at press conference Tuesday.

China and France will carry out complementary cooperation in the form of personnel exchanges and joint research projects, according to Ecns.cn in detailing the conference.

Video & published papers

Go to these videos focused on lunar sample studies, at:

https://youtu.be/pvRrKXsuAbc

https://youtu.be/J83VInelDXM

To view a set of research articles by Chinese lunar experts, published October 19, 2021 in Nature, go to:

“Non-KREEP origin for Chang’E-5 basalts in the Procellarum KREEP Terrane,” at:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04119-5

“A dry lunar mantle reservoir for young mare basalts of Chang’E-5,” at:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04107-9

“Two billion-year-old volcanism on the Moon from Chang’E-5 basalts,” at:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04100-2

The triangular shaped rock in the immediate foreground contains the crushed nodule targets “Helmsdale Boulder Beds” and the “Crovie” bedrock target. In the background, the slope is covered with grey float blocks similar to those being imaged by Mastcam. The pediment-capping rock is at the top of the image, just right of center.
This image was taken by Curiosity’s Front Hazard Avoidance Camera on Sol 3270, October 17, 2021
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3272 duties.

The Red Planet robot is back in gear, following a few weeks of hibernation, reports Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

“Curiosity went into hibernation for a few weeks, executing only routine environmental and radiation monitoring activities, while the Sun was positioned between us and Mars (conjunction),” Thompson notes. October 18 was a first day of planning since Mars has emerged from behind the Sun.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo acquired on Sol 3271, October 18, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Healthy status

“Curiosity is healthy after her rest, and we wasted no time planning a multitude of science activities,” Thompson adds.

Prior to conjunction, Curiosity drove away from the Maria Gordon drill site to an area nearby that contained large (roughly 6-7 centimeters across) resistant nodules (“Helmsdale Boulder Beds”).

“We deliberately drove over the nodules to crush them and expose their fresh interiors for examination by a number of the science instruments,” Thompson explains. “The team is interested in determining the chemistry of the nodules relative to the flat bedrock. Why are they resistant? How does their composition compare to other nodules previously encountered, and what might this tell us about fluids that were present in these rocks?”

The workspace imaging that came down to Earth confirmed that Curiosity had successfully broken some of the nodules, such that researchers were able to make several observations just before conjunction. But they were not able to use the arm mounted APXS and MAHLI instruments; we did not want the arm left out over conjunction.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3271, October 18, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Bedrock target

Today, we took advantage of pre-planning prior to conjunction to acquire Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images on the crushed “Helmsdale Boulder Beds.”

MAHLI is to image another fresh-looking nodule, “Goose Stone.” These observations will be complemented with Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) measurements and Mastcam images on the same crushed “Helmsdale Boulder Beds” target and the “Crovie” bedrock target.

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo acquired on Sol 3271, October 18, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Pediment-capping rock

Looking further afield, Thompson reports, Curiosity will image resistant, pediment-capping rock in the distance with the ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) and Mastcam.

“The pediment is a gently sloping surface that appears to cut across the underlying rocks that we are currently driving over. Mastcam will also image some grey float rocks that may be derived from those pediment-capping rocks,” Thompson says.

Also on tap is uplinking several environmental observations including Mastcam images “to detect changes in the unconsolidated sediment and wind activity while Curiosity has been parked in the same location for the last few weeks. Atmospheric observations are also planned to look for dust devils and to measure the opacity of the atmosphere.”

Note: It also appears that NASA’s Mars Insight lander and the NASA Perseverance rover have begun relaying post-conjunction imagery. Still awaiting word on China’s Zhurong rover.

Credit: Korean Aerospace Research Institute

A focused investigation of the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions is an objective of South Korea’s first Moon mission, the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter under the wing of the Korean Aerospace Research Institute in Daejeon, Korea.

Scheduled for an August 2022 lunar sendoff atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 booster, the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) will conduct its exploration mission for one year, supporting the NASA Artemis program by measuring the existence of water or resources and topographic characteristics of candidate landing sites for “rebooting” the Moon with human crews.

KPLO carries six science instruments; five instruments from South Korea and one from NASA:

  • Lunar Terrain Imager
  • Wide-Angle Polarimetric Camera
  • KPLO Magnetometer
  • KPLO Gamma Ray Spectrometer
  • Delay-Tolerant Networking experiment

A recent and major milestone for the KPLO effort was installation on the spacecraft of the NASA-contributed ShadowCam.

Credit: Korean Aerospace Research Institute/KARI TV

 

Permanently shadowed regions

ShadowCam will investigate the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) that will provide critical information about the distribution and accessibility of volatiles in PSRs at spatial scales required to both mitigate risks and maximize the results of future exploration activities.

ShadowCam instrument being lifted for mounting to the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter satellite at the Korean Aerospace Research Institute in Daejeon, Korea.
Credit: Courtesy KARI

 

Explains Mark Robinson, ShadowCam’s principal investigator at Arizona State University, the instrument is based on the successful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) and will be over 100 times more sensitive (altitude dependent) than the current NAC.

ShadowCam’s science objectives include searching for deposits of frost and ice and find out whether high-purity ice or rocky deposits are present inside PSRs.

KPLO spacecraft being lifted off the floor by its mounting ring at KARI.
Credit: Courtesy Mark Robinson, ASU/KARI

 

 

 

Manufactured and provided by the U.S., NASA’s ShadowCam is a high-precision camera playing the role of viewing permanent shadow areas that sunlight cannot reach such as craters located in the north and south poles of the Moon.

If available, processed ice resources could yield oxygen, water, and rocket fuel to be utilized by future lunar expeditions.