Archive for July, 2023

Wait a minute!
Image credit: Barbara David

The European Space Agency performed an assisted/semi-controlled descent of its retired Aeolus, a wind profiling spacecraft lofted into Earth orbit in 2018.

Mission scientists and engineers took on the tricky task of targeting a remote stretch of the Atlantic Ocean for the plunge to Earth of Aeolus. A key aspect of assisted reentry is that for any spacecraft leftovers believed to survive the plunge, those bits and pieces would fall into a remote area.

Image credit: ESA

ESA confirmed that Aeolus reentered Earth’s atmosphere on July 28 above Antarctica, also verified by the U.S. Space Command.

The “adios to Aeolus” action underscores a novel approach for the safe return of active satellites that were never designed for controlled reentry.

Image credit: ESA



But “above Antarctica” versus the Atlantic Ocean caught my eye. Sounds like something didn’t go as planned?

“In an assisted re-entry you have to accept inaccuracies along the desired target coordinates and we required that it was maximum +\- half orbit centered in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” responded Tommaso Parrinello, ESA Aeolus mission manager, a target zone that was called a corridor.

Aeolus reentered over Antarctica on July 28. ESA’s Space Debris Office, based on U.S. Space Command tracking and ESA’s own data acquired during Aeolus’s last orbits, this map has been produced showing the assessed location of Aeolus’s disintegration in the atmosphere and where any surviving fragments may have fallen. Image credit: ESA

“We re-entered within less than a quarter of an orbit. Better than expected,” Parrinello told Inside Outer Space. It took almost a year to develop the assisted re-entry or semi-controlled concept, he said, designing the best corridor of re-entry, changing the satellite configuration, and designing the timeline, along with check and more checks via simulation.

Assisted living and reentry for Aeolus spacecraft. Image credit: ESA/J. Mai

As for the price tag of the Aeolus assisted re-entry, “the funds were within the foreseen operation costs…there is not a figure to give,” Parrinello said.

Minimize risk

“With the growing number of objects being launched into space, we certainly expect that many will re-enter over time, so I think ESA’s efforts to develop and test an assisted controlled re-entry is important to minimize the risk to human life on or near the surface,” said T.S. Kelso of CelesTrak, an analytical group that keeps a sharp eye on Earth-circling objects.

Similar in view is Darren McKnight, a senior technical fellow for LeoLabs.

“This is significant for several reasons,” McKnight said. “First, it is critical for everyone to note that sometimes the act of reducing orbital collision risk comes at the cost of risk to aviation and ground impacts. The U.S. has a self-imposed threshold of 1/10,000 chance of ground casualty from a reentry but that is not accepted worldwide.”

Taking the fall. Space hardware dives into Earth’s atmosphere with some fragments making their way to the ground.
Image credit: ESA/D.Ducros

McKnight said that it is laudable to see others minimizing this re-entry risk. He added that this spacecraft was not designed to do these maneuvers yet performed them admirably.

Continual innovation

“Much of the positive space safety behavior over the last few years has been by systems not designed to perform that way. The continual innovation by many has been impressive,” McKnight told Inside Outer Space.

Lastly, McKnight said that “active debris removal is a complex, but greatly needed operation to improve the state of the debris environment in low Earth orbit and it requires several steps: identify, rendezvous, grapple, de-tumble, and de-orbit safely. This exercise builds confidence in the ability to do the last critical stage of safe de-orbiting of large spacecraft.”

Tech. Sgt. Ronald Dunn, 729th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, guides a Mongolian driver in August 2011. Dunn was part of a crew from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., who were assigned to a mission to retrieve space debris that fell to Earth. The parts were identified as expended rocket parts from an Air Force rocket launched into space nearly a decade prior. Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Linda Welz

Responsible behavior

Aeolus had a dry mass of 2,425 pounds (1,100 kilograms) and the most critical removal sequences, McKnight said, will be performed on objects over 1,000 kilograms.

“It should be noted that any spacecraft above 500 to 800 kilograms in mass is likely to have sufficient debris survive re-entry as to warrant controlled reentry to meet the 1/10,000 threshold for ground casualty,” said McKnight. There are currently nearly 800 rocket bodies and over 300 non-operational payloads in low Earth orbit with a mass over 1,000 kg, he pointed out.

“This demonstration showed how individual responsible behavior can contribute to the growing space safety expertise highlighting that space safety does not have to be debilitating for space operators,” McKnight concluded.

Detrimental effects

On the other hand, there remains the issue of rubbish from spacecraft falling out of orbit having harmful effects on global atmospheric chemistry.

The atmospheric layers from the ground up to the boundary with space, showing natural phenomena, human inputs and resultant impacts. These human inputs impact the troposphere (by enhancing climate change), the stratosphere (through ozone loss from multiple causes), the mesosphere (by influencing metal chemistry and accumulation and increasing noctilucent clouds), and the thermosphere (by likely causing contraction which will impact orbiting satellites).
Image credit: Jamie D. Shutler, et al.

Some experts are concerned that the growing scale and pace of space activities may lead to new unforeseen impacts on the environment and climate. Furthermore, what appears required is improved monitoring of the situation, as well as regulation to create an environmentally sustainable space industry.

These are observations from recent research on atmospheric impacts of the space industry led by Jamie Shutler, associate professor of Earth observation in the Center for Geography and Environmental Science, College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter, Cornwall.

Full impact, not known

As for the outcome from assisted re-entry, like that done with ESA’s Aeolus satellite, it’s a tough call, Shutler told Inside Outer Space.

“It’s good that agencies are now starting to consider the environmental aspects of these technologies and how previous standard approaches are not sustainable,” Shutler said, such as shifting satellites to a graveyard orbit or just leaving the satellite in its original orbit to slowly de-orbit.

“But equally, de-orbiting for burn-up in the atmosphere and with roughly 20 percent of the satellite landing in the ocean is not sustainable or environmentally good,” Shutler said. “The satellite components don’t just vanish, they instead get re-distributed throughout the atmosphere and the full impacts are not known.”

Ozone loss

For example, Shutler added, satellites are mainly made up of aluminum and we know that aluminum in the upper atmosphere can promote ozone loss. “Whilst being claimed to be ‘harmlessly falling in the ocean’, it’s still littering in the ocean on which we rely for food, and for regulating our weather and climate.”

Earth orbit is a junkyard of human-made space clutter.
Credit: Space Junk 3D, LLC. Melrae Pictures

Shutler said the ESA effort is a step in the right direction, “but only if this is the start of greater efforts by all agencies and private organizations to question and reduce the environmental impact of space activities.”

Sustainable space?

In Shutler’s view, greater efforts need to be made, for example, in controlling the overall quantity of satellites in orbit, like sharing resources efficiently, rather than large scale duplication, as we see now with commercial activities. Also needed is reducing the quantity of aluminum within those satellites, “and showing greater consideration for the atmosphere, the ocean and whole of Earth’s environment, instead of just protecting the land, whilst simultaneously considering everywhere else as being acceptable for littering.”

Shutler’s bottom line: “Overall I would hope that the approach of simply de-orbiting all satellites is not the future. Much more needs to be done to address the problem, and recognizing this wider issue, as it seems is being done by ESA…a good first step. But despite the social media tagging, we have a long way to go before we have anything close to ‘sustainable space.’”

A main propellant tank of the second stage of a Delta 2 launch vehicle landed near Georgetown, Texas in January 1997.
Image credit: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office

Re-entry regime

Also noting the Aeolus outcome is Aaron Boley, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

“It is positive to see the ESA using available spacecraft capabilities to reduce the risks of lethal re-entry debris, instead of leaving the re-entry outcome entirely to chance,” said 

For large satellites in orbit that were never designed to conduct controlled re-entries, assisted/semi-controlled re-entries are a step in the right direction, Boley told Inside Outer Space.

“It should nonetheless be recognized, while things went well in this case, that such maneuvers are not a controlled re-entry and still carry substantial re-entry time uncertainties. Not all large spacecraft in orbit will be capable of such a semi-controlled re-entry, either,” Boley pointed out.

Image credit: Johan Swanepoel/Adobe Stock via RAND

Moving forward, Boley said that states and operators need to work together to develop a controlled re-entry regime for new satellites and launch vehicles in an effort to limit the risks of re-entry debris to people on the ground, at sea, and in airplanes in flight.

“Such a regime would include requirements for controlled re-entries, and in circumstances where a controlled re-entry is not feasible, the requirements would include risk reduction measures as part of the satellite design,” said Boley.

Rim of the second largest crater within the crater cluster (bottom right) and the Gediz Vallis ridge in the background (towards the top of the image). Curiosity image taken by Left Navigation Camera on Sol 3898, July 25, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3904 duties.

Lucy Thompson, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, reports that rover engineers have navigated Curiosity through tricky terrain of fractured blocks and sand.

Image acquired by Curiosity’s Left Navigation Camera on Sol 3894, July 21, 2023. While the craters are very easy to see in orbital images, the view from the ground is a bit harder to assess. This image shows broken up blocks of bedrock in the foreground, and small depressions and ridges in the distance. Mars researchers hope to gain more insight into the origin of these features, before getting back on the road to continue climbing up Mount Sharp.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Our parking spot is on the rim of one of the larger craters within a cluster of craters that we have been driving towards for the last few weeks,” Thompson adds. “A number of people on our science team advocated for visiting these craters to learn more about the cratering process on Mars.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3902, July 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Crater morphology

Thompson explains that researchers are interested in variations in shape and morphology of the craters, the amount of degredation and erosion, and the composition of any impactor material (if present).

“Sadly, there were no obvious meteorites in our workspace and this plan focused on capturing the view of the craters and surrounding terrain. We are taking a 360° Mastcam mosaic, as well as smaller, higher resolution mosaics of the two largest craters within the cluster,” Thompson notes.

Mast Camera Right photo acquired on Sol 3902, July 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Laminated bedrock

Despite the significant time and power resources required to accomplish rover imaging, Mars investigators were still able to squeeze in some chemical analyses and close-up imaging of the rocks within the crater rim.

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) is to analyze the laminated bedrock target, “Aire de Repos,” which will also be documented with Mastcam.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo taken on Sol 3902, July 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) was scheduled to acquire compositional data on the dark, vertical face of an upturned block (“Guainia”), and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is to take close-up images of this target and a differentially eroded, laminated bedrock fragment, “Mocambo.”

Mast Camera Right photo acquired on Sol 3902, July 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Gediz Vallis ridge

To continue monitoring changes in the atmosphere, also on tap is acquiring a Navcam large dust devil survey and line of sight, single frame image.

“Once we have completed all our targeted science observations, Curiosity will hopefully execute another successful drive to take us towards our next area of interest at the base of the Gediz Vallis ridge (stay tuned to hear more about this interesting feature as we get closer),” Thompson reports.

Once that drive has been executed, the robot is to acquire images of the new terrain beneath the rover with its Mars Descent Imager (MARDI).

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3901, July 28, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Standard Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) activities round out this plan, Thompson concludes.

Eroded craters

In an earlier report by Lauren Edgar, a planetary geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, Curiosity worked her way through the “Jau” crater cluster, “with the goal of trying to understand how all of these small craters formed and have since been eroded.”

To do that, Edgar adds, the team is hoping to assess the target rocks, any evidence for the impactor, and the morphology of the craters. “While the craters are very easy to see in orbital images, the view from the ground is a bit harder to assess.”

“Through a detailed imaging campaign and contact science, the team hopes to gain more insight into the origin of these features, before getting back on the road to continue climbing up Mount Sharp,” Edgar adds.

Image credit: Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge/NASA

GOLDEN, Colorado – The pace is quickening for using Earth’s Moon as a near-term, go-to location to land, live and explore.

NASA’s Artemis back-to-the-Moon agenda is jelling. So too are long-term plans by small and large firms, academia, along with international space agencies.

Twenty-third meeting of the Space Resources Roundtable, held June 6-9 at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado.
Image credit: Angel Abbud-Madrid/Colorado School of Mines

That was in evidence at the twenty-third meeting of the Space Resources Roundtable, held here last month at the Colorado School of Mines. A record attendance of some 250 participants spoke on lunar economic models, results of in-the-lab tests, and legal and policy issues. A number of entrepreneurial groups shared their strategies to turn the Moon into a hustle and bustle world of marketable services.

Down-to-Earth thinking about living, working, surviving and thriving on other worlds. Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines.
Image credit: Barbara David



Key glue

The key glue that anchors future Moon use is labeled in-situ resource utilization, or ISRU: on-the-spot activity.

ISRU involves the extraction of oxygen, water and other available materials for cranking out rocket fuel and to “gas up” life-support systems. Then there’s pulling out metals on the Moon, say to fabricate lunar housing, landing pads, along with other structures and products.





To dig into this quickly evolving topic, go to my new story – “Moon mining gains momentum as private companies plan for a lunar economy” – at:

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is nearing a regular cadence of commercial suborbital travel. Shown is SpaceShipTwo zipping skyward over New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
Image credit: Virgin Galactic



That ill-fated dive of the Titan submersible and loss of its deep ocean exploring occupants has sparked conversation and debate in the world of public space travel.

Deep diving submersible.
Image credit: OceanGate





There are similarities, some of which offer lessons learned as commercial suborbital and orbital passenger flight flourishes.

Please go to my new story – “How will space tourism be impacted by the Titan submersible tragedy?” – at:

Image credit: RAND



The results from a just-released RAND analysis of UAP point to three recommendations for government officials.

“First, we recommend that government authorities (e.g., local and state government officials, the FAA, and DoD) conduct outreach with civilians located near military operations areas (MOAs.) We hypothesize that many civilians may not be aware that they are located near areas where military operations occur,” the report explains.

“If our results are correct—that is, if being located within 30 km of a MOA is significantly associated with UAP reports, and if some of these reported objects are in fact authorized aircraft—then communicating that such activities are being conducted nearby could reduce the likelihood that the public will report these aircraft as UAPs.”

  • “Second, we recommend that government authorities conduct additional outreach to notify nearby civilians when there is airspace activity near a MOA. According to the FAA, not all MOAs are in use by authorized aircraft. When appropriate, notifying local populations of MOA activities could reduce the number of reported UAPs that are in fact authorized aircraft.”
  • “Finally, we recommend an evaluation to inform the design of a detailed and robust system for public reporting of UAP sightings. Such an evaluation would inform the use of various technologies (e.g., mobile devices, artificial intelligence), reports on location types (e.g., street intersections, landmarks, latitude and longitude coordinates), sighting features (e.g., images, audio recordings), criteria for validating these reports, and who is best equipped to independently manage such a reporting system (e.g., government agencies, for-profit companies, nonprofit organizations, international organizations). Such a system would be useful in minimizing hoaxes and reports of misidentified objects.”

Increase awareness

Image credit: RAND

This RAND report presents a geographic analysis of 101,151 public reports of UAP sightings in 12,783 U.S. Census Bureau census designated places.

This report provides findings on U.S. locations where UAP reports are significantly more likely to occur and offers recommendations to increase awareness of the types of activities that might be mistaken for unexplained phenomena or that point to potential threats.

The research reported here was completed in May 2023 and underwent security review with the sponsor and the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review before public release.

To access the report – “Not the X-Files: Mapping Public Reports of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Across America” – go to:

Ready and waiting. Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx’s principal investigator from the University of Arizona holds a mock up of the asteroid collection device.
Image credit: Barbara David

Call it a “stone’s throw” type of spacecraft mission.

Making its way back to Earth is NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer. Yes, that’s a mega-mouthful, but word manicured to OSIRIS-REx. Now it’s called by project members as just “O-REx” for the sake of speedier repartee.

OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to snare a sample from an asteroid. This spacecraft was hurled from Earth in September 2016, and in October 2020 dutifully gathered bits and pieces of space rock Bennu, an ancient rubble pile of diverse leftovers from the early days of solar system creation about 4.5 billion years ago.

Practice cleanroom session with specialists partially disassembling the OSIRIS-REx return capsule.
Image credit: Barbara David




Dugway drop zone

This mother lode of extraterrestrial freight will hot-foot its way through our atmosphere on September 24, dropping into the Department of Defense Dugway Proving Ground in the Utah Test and Training Range, roughly 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah.



For details on what’s ahead, not only for the return of bits and pieces of Bennu but also rocketing to Earth Mars samples, go to my new Scientific American story – “This Is How the First-Ever U.S. Asteroid Sample Return Will Unfold – Scientists are gearing up for a high-stakes finale to OSIRIS-REx, the first U.S. mission to snare a sample from an asteroid” – at:


UAP have been reported by Navy pilots unlike anything they have ever witnessed.
Image credit: Enigma Labs/Lt. Cmdr. Alex Dietrich

They’re Here! How best to brace for “Full Disclosure.” The ongoing saga of UFOs/UAP, what are they and  what impact on society?

If you follow the complex and perplexing world of Unidentified Flying Objects, now tied to the term Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, we may be inching toward “full disclosure.”

Image credit: Yannick Peings, Marik von Rennenkampff/AIAA

What that means is uncorking the bottle filled to the brim with an elixir of truth, say disclosure activists, that Earth has been on the receiving end of exotic craft of non-earth origin.

Even more, there are allegations of a covert U.S. government reverse engineering program set up to write an operators manual on how these surreptitious vehicles function.

UAP hearing test

Today, a House Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs took a deep dive on the subject of UAP and purported arrivals on Earth of exotic craft and their occupants.

Image credit: House Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs Chairman Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) delivered opening remarks at the subcommittee hearing. Go to:

To view the hearing, go to:

Who spoke?

Witnesses and prepared remarks:

Ryan Graves
Executive Director
Americans for Safe Aerospace

Commander David Fravor (Ret.)
Former Commanding Officer
United States Navy

David Grusch
Former National Reconnaissance Officer Representative, Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Task Force
Department of Defense

Russia’s Luna-25.
Image credit: Roscosmos

Russia is set to reactivate the country’s robotic investigation of the Moon, picking up from its former Soviet Union days of heady and milestone-making lunar exploration.

Luna-25 is reportedly targeted for an August 11 sendoff to the Moon, departing from the Vostochny cosmodrome atop a Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with a Fregat upper stage.

Image credit: Roscosmos

“This launch is important, both for historical and forward-looking reasons. It means a lot,” said Brian Harvey, a noted author and space historian in Ireland with an eye on past Soviet Union, now Russian, space exploits.

Prep work for sendoff

According to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, Luna-25 is now fueled with propellant and loaded with compressed gases.

Meanwhile, employees of the IKI RAS, the space research institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, have arrived at Vostochny to prepare the Luna-25 scientific equipment for launch.

Topographic map of the southern sub-polar region of the Moon showing the location of Boguslawsky crater.
Credit: Ivanov et al., 2015 via Arizona State University/LROC

IKI technicians are overseeing the completion of the installation of the ARIES-L scientific equipment and its verification, measurements of the radiation background on board the spacecraft for the space experiment with the ADRON-LR device, as well as carrying out final pre-launch operations with the spacecraft.

The Luna-25 is slated for touchdown at the Moon’s south pole.

For the whole story on why this Russian reconnection with Moon exploration is crucial, go to my new Multiverse Media SpaceRef story – “Russia’s Return to the Moon With Luna-25: High Risk, High Stakes” at:

Image credit: Roscosmos

Russia’s Luna-25 Moon lander continues to make progress as it heads for its August liftoff from the Vostochny launch site.

According to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, Luna-25 is now fueled with propellant and loaded with compressed gases.

Meanwhile, employees of the IKI RAS, the space research institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, have arrived at Vostochny to prepare the Luna-25 scientific equipment for launch.

Image credit: Roscosmos

IKI technicians are overseeing the completion of the installation of the ARIES-L scientific equipment and its verification, measurements of the radiation background on board the spacecraft for the space experiment with the ADRON-LR device, as well as carrying out final pre-launch operations with the spacecraft.

The Luna-25 is slated for touchdown at the Moon’s south pole.

Topographic map of the southern sub-polar region of the Moon showing the location of Boguslawsky crater.
Credit: Ivanov et al., 2015 via Arizona State University/LROC

Moon as observed from the International Space Station.
Image credit: NASA


NASA has selected 11 U.S. companies to develop technologies that could support long-term exploration on the Moon and in space.

Astrobotic’s LunaGrid-Lite will demonstrate the first transmission of high voltage power across the lunar surface and leading to a LunaGrid power service.
Image credit: Astrobotic

Six of the selected companies are small businesses. The awarded companies, their projects, and the approximate value of NASA’s contribution are:


Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, $34.6 million – LunaGrid-Lite: Demonstration of Tethered, Scalable Lunar Power Transmission

Big Metal Additive of Denver, $5.4 million – Improving Cost and Availability of Space Habitat Structures with Additive Manufacturing

Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, $34.7 million – In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)-Based Power on the Moon

Freedom Photonics of Santa Barbara, California, $1.6 million – Highly Efficient Watt-Class Direct Diode Lidar for Remote Sensing

Blue Origin manufactured this working solar cell prototype from lunar regolith simulants.
Image credit: Blue Origin

Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, $9.1 million – Joining Demonstrations In-Space

Redwire of Jacksonville, Florida, $12.9 million – Infrastructure Manufacturing with Lunar Regolith – Mason

Protoinnovations of Pittsburgh, $6.2 million – The Mobility Coordinator: An Onboard COTS (Commercial-Off-the-Shelf) Software Architecture for Sustainable, Safe, Efficient, and Effective Lunar Surface Mobility Operations

Psionic of Hampton, Virginia, $3.2 million – Validating No-Light Lunar Landing Technology that Reduces Risk, SWaP (Size, Weight, and Power), and Cost

United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, $25 million – ULA Vulcan Engine Reuse Scale Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator Technology Demonstration

Varda Space Industries of El Segundo, California, $1.9 million – Conformal Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator Tech Transfer and Commercial Production

Zeno Power Systems of Washington, $15 million – A Universal Americium-241 Radioisotope Power Supply for Artemis

Radioisotope Power System by the Zeno Power-led team, including Intuitive Machines, may enable lunar assets to survive and operate during the lunar night and in permanently shadowed regions of the Moon.
Image credit: Zeno Power Systems

Once demonstrated and implemented on the Moon, Blue Origin’s Blue Alchemist idea, the company suggests, could put unlimited solar power wherever needed.
Image credit: Blue Origin












Made on the Moon

The award win by Blue Origin is In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)-Based Power on the Moon.

Blue Origin has proposed “Blue Alchemist” as an end-to-end, scalable, autonomous, and commercial solution that produces solar cells from lunar regolith, which is the dust and crushed rock abundant on the Moon’s surface.

“Based on a process called molten regolith electrolysis, the breakthrough would bootstrap unlimited electricity and power transmission cables anywhere on the surface of the Moon. This process also produces oxygen as a useful byproduct for propulsion and life support,” according to a Blue Origin statement.