If an Astronaut Kills Another Astronaut, Who You Going to Call?

April 30, 2022
Canadian astronauts

What happens if a crime takes place on the Moon?

Well, Canada has amended its criminal code, reports Gizmodo, to allow for the prosecution of crimes committed by Canadian astronauts during trips to the Moon or on the lunar surface. Canada’s criminal code already covers crimes committed aboard the International Space Station.

This is not an entirely hypothetical concern. There are such things as Canadian astronauts. The Artemis 2 mission will include a Canadian astronaut, and Canada is contributing a robotic arm to the Lunar Gateway, a planned outpost around the Moon.

Governments normally assert judicial authority only over geographic areas that they control. No one claims control over lunar territory, much less cislunar space. Canada’s extension of its legal writ may set precedents for other governments.

Do Small Magnetic Fields Protect Pockets of Lunar Ice?

April 11, 2022
This NASA Goddard map shows permanently shadowed craters near the Moon’s south pole. (Credit: LiveScience)

In 2018 scientists documented the first evidence of water ice on the Moon that was trapped in the bottom of craters at the north and south poles locked in perpetual shadow. Discovery of the ice created new questions. While the craters are protected from direct sunlight, they aren’t shielded from solar wind. The ionized particles from the Sun is highly erosive and, unlike the Earth, the Moon has no magnetic shield to protect it. By some peoples’ reckoning, the solar wind should have destroyed the ice long ago.

In research presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference last month, University of Arizona scientists shared their map of magnetic anomalies, regions of the lunar surface with unusually strong magnetic fields, reports LiveScience.

These anomalies may serve as tiny magnetic shields.”These anomalies can deflect the solar wind,” Lon Hood, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, told Science. “We think they could be quite significant in shielding the permanently shadowed regions.” more “Do Small Magnetic Fields Protect Pockets of Lunar Ice?”

Space-Based Solar Power Within Ten Years?

April 4, 2022
Illustration credit: Kevin Hand, Wall Street Journal

Some scientists and engineers say that solar energy could be captured in space and beamed to Earth as microwaves or laser beams within the next ten years, reports the Wall Street Journal in a special feature, “The Next Bets for Renewable Energy.”

“The basics are to put a large, very large platform in space, harvest sunlight, where the sun shines, essentially 99.95% of the time, and send it to markets on the ground, where, on average, the sun is shining only about 15% of the time,” says former NASA scientist John Mankins, president of Mankins Space Technology, a company working on developing a 1-mile-wide solar power satellite prototype that will use microwave beaming.

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has already tested the feasibility of transferring energy using microwave transmission, sending 1.6 kilowatts a distance of more than 0.6 miles. Japanese engineers have sent a comparable amount of energy the length of a football field. Meanwhile, the California Institute of Technology plans to test prototypes that can transfer power by means of a steerable microwave beam by the end of 2022. more “Space-Based Solar Power Within Ten Years?”

Protecting Mankind’s Cultural Heritage in Space

April 3, 2022
The first human footprint left on the surface of the Moon

Astronaut Neil Armstrong made history when he left the first dusty footprint on the Moon. The Moon landing was one of humanity’s greatest technological achievements but the marker remains unprotected by international law, writes Mercury News.

“Once you blow away the footprint, that’s gone,” said space archeologist Beth O’Leary of New Mexico State University, who is among a growing chorus of experts pleading for formal protection of historic lunar sites and artifacts.

“We need to say: ‘Don’t touch. You can’t go there. Period,’ ” said Sacramento-based Wayne Donaldson of the California Preservation Foundation.

Other historic mementoes include six U.S. flags, rigged with wire so they look like they’re saving in the breeze, as well as stainless steel commemorative plaques about the size of dinner plates. China and Russia also have implanted markets on the Moon. There are two golf balls hit by Apollo 14’s Alan Shepard, a Bible left on a dashboard of ab abandoned buggy… and bags of human waste — an estimated 400,000 pounds of stuff in all. more “Protecting Mankind’s Cultural Heritage in Space”

Challenges to Landing Spacecraft on the Moon

April 3, 2022
Image credit: NASA

Five Apollo expeditions landed spacecraft on the Moon without incident. One would think that a feat accomplished with 1969-era technology would be a cakewalk today. But landing people on the Moon remains an ambitious feat, writes Mashable.

“Just because we went there 50 years ago does not make it a trivial endeavor,” Csaba Palotai, the program chair of space sciences in the Department of Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology, told the publication.

The article identifies three main challenges: more “Challenges to Landing Spacecraft on the Moon”

Planning a Lunar Satellite Network

March 29, 2022

The European Space Agency (ESA) has issued a call for ideas for creating a network of lunar telecommunications and navigation satellites. The Moonlight initiative would allow dozens of planned lunar missions to share the same infrastructure to communicate with Earth and find their way to the lunar surface, according to an ESA press release republished in GPS World.

Two consortia of companies have completed their concept reviews, which set out their business and technical analysis of a lunar network. The next step will defining a detailed system architecture and identifying the most suitable partnership models between private space companies and ESA.

One consortium headed by Telespazio includes private manufacturing and engineering companies, universities and research centers and startups.

A second consortium headed by Surry Satellite Technology Limited includes satellite manufacturer Airbus, a satellite network providers, a satellite navigation cmopanies, and the goonhilly Earth Station, a UK-based radio communication station..

Scientists Probe Mystery of Lunar Swirls

March 23, 2022
Photo taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera showing the swirl region within Mare Ingenii NASA/GSFC/ASU

Scientists have identified a topographical phenomenon on the lunar surface: bright swirls resembling cream being stirred into coffee. The features, which range in size from a few meters across to more than 50 kilometers, are found across from the Moon. Summarizes NewScientist: “We don’t know what causes [the swirls], but a new analysis has discovered surprising hints that they are found where the ground is lower.”

FLEX: A Vehicle to Support Early Moon Colonization

March 16, 2022

California-based Venturi Astrolab has built a working prototype, tested in the American desert, of a rover, called FLEX, that is capable of transporting astronauts and cargo in support of lunar activities and experiments.

If selected by NASA, FLEX will support the Artemis program goal of establishing a long-term base on the Moon.

“Once you get there, you’ve got to be able to move things around,” said retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield who test-drove the vehicle, as reported by VOA Learning English. “You also need to transition the equipment that keeps you alive and that enables the activities.”

“When we settle somewhere,” he added, “we don’t just need to get people from one place to another, but we need to move hardware, cargo, life support equipment and more.” more “FLEX: A Vehicle to Support Early Moon Colonization”

The Coldest Place in the Solar System?

March 14, 2022
Shackleton crater sits at the moon’s south pole. Jorge Mañes Rubio. Spatial design & visualisation in collaboration with DITISHOE

Double-shadowed craters near the Moon’s south pole may be so dark that they would be among the coldest places in the solar system. The small tilt of the Moon as it orbits the Earth, only 1.5 degrees, means that it has hundreds of craters where direct sunlight never reaches. Double-shadowed craters make it impossible for even reflected sunlight to touch some areas. Temperatures can drop below  -170°C.

NewScientist has the story behind a paywall.

The Pentagon Plans Highway Patrol for Cislunar Space

March 12, 2022
Image credit: U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

A congressional spending bill has added $61 million for the U.S. Space Force toward setting up a surveillance network — or “highway patrol” — to track the domain between the Earth and the Moon.

Nation-states and commercial companies will fly nearly 100 missions, both crewed and uncrewed, to the Moon by 2030. As the cislunar region fills with satellites and space junk — there are at present an estimated 27,000 piece of human-made objects larger than a softball in orbit — the Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS) will track and identify all man-made objects a combination of optical and radar sensors — critical for mitigating potential collision risks.

“The responsible use of space and unfettered access to space domain awareness ensures collision avoidance, on-orbit logistics, communication, navigation and maneuvering, all critical to the United States and allied space commerce, science and exploration,” states a video produced by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory that can be viewed here.

Some critics warn that the intrusion of the armed forces into cislunar space represents a potential usurpation of NASA and militarization of space. Military strategists say the stakes are too big to leave cislunar space to the civilians, and the Pentagon will be compelled to take on a major role. China, which has plans to build a lunar base, cannot be trusted to pursue only peaceful aims, and could use its space program for both economic and military advantage, Politico says. more “The Pentagon Plans Highway Patrol for Cislunar Space”