NASA Tipping Point Partnership with Blue Origin to Test Precision Lunar Landing Technologies

by Clare Skelly
NASA Headquarters

WASHINGTON — From the rim of Shackleton crater to permanently shadowed regions on the Moon, a NASA-developed sensor suite could allow robotic and crewed missions to land precisely on the lunar surface within an area about half the size of a football field.

Technologies to enable exact and soft landings on the Moon and other worlds will fly on Blue Origin’s next New Shepard suborbital rocket launch, currently targeted for 11:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 24. The company’s live launch webcast will start at 10:30 a.m. and air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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NASA Technology Enables Precision Landing Without a Pilot

The New Shepard (NS) booster lands after this vehicle’s fifth flight during NS-11 May 2, 2019. (Credits: Blue Origin)

by Margo Pierce
NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate

Some of the most interesting places to study in our solar system are found in the most inhospitable environments – but landing on any planetary body is already a risky proposition. With NASA planning robotic and crewed missions to new locations on the Moon and Mars, avoiding landing on the steep slope of a crater or in a boulder field is critical to helping ensure a safe touch down for surface exploration of other worlds. In order to improve landing safety, NASA is developing and testing a suite of precise landing and hazard-avoidance technologies.

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How do we get There from Here? With Suborbital Flight Testing

Image shows Trona Pinnacles near California’s NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center during Jan. 31 Super Blue Blood Moon. Trona Pinnacles is an unusual geological feature of the state’s Desert National Conservation. (Credits: NASA / Lauren Hughes)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Standing here on Earth, on a clear night we can look to the sky and see the destination for NASA’s Artemis program: the Moon. Seemingly close, but still quite far. Yet the space between us and that source of fascination is ripe with possibilities for helping mature the technologies we will need to get there, stay there, and venture beyond to Mars.

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NASA Scientists Leverage Carbon-Measuring Instrument for Mars Studies

This is a closeup of the lidar instrument, which would remotely profile, for the first time, water vapor up to nine miles above the Martian surface, along with wind speeds and minute particles suspended in the planet’s atmosphere. (Credits: NASA)

by Lori Keesey
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Insights and technology gleaned from creating a carbon-measuring instrument for Earth climate studies is being leveraged to build another that would remotely profile, for the first time, water vapor up to nine miles above the Martian surface, along with wind speeds and minute particles suspended in the planet’s atmosphere.

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Drone Maps Icy Lava Tube in Iceland in Preparation for Lunar & Martian Cave Exploration

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Astrobotic/SETI Institute PR) – The SETI Institute and Astrobotic Technology, Inc. are announcing the successful mapping in 3D of the interior of an ice-rich lava tube in Iceland using a LiDAR-equipped drone. The team was investigating the Lofthellir Lava Tube Ice Cave in the remote Myvatn region of Iceland, and used the drone to document the lava tube’s shape and extent, history of rock falls, and spectacular ice formations.

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Honeybee Robotics Receives 6 SBIR, STTR Phase 1 Awards

honeybee_roboticsNEW YORK (Honeybee Robotics PR) — Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corporation today announced it has received six NASA awards for technology development through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The awards will fund new approaches to planetary sampling systems, spacecraft mechanisms, and unmanned ground vehicles for Earth and Lunar applications.

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Inexpensive Lidar Kickstarter Campaign Launched

My friend Nadir Bagaveyev of XCOR Aerospace has launched this Kickstarter campaign. He is doing this work as an independent project in his spare time at the new Mojave Makers facility at the spaceport. It’s one of a number of interesting projects underway at the maker space.

About this project

This project is to develop inexpensive lidar from affordable components – laser pointer, small single board computer running linux and a webcam. Unlike more expensive lidars calculating timing between light emitted and returned, this lidar will have software calculating angles and distances to reflected spots and output serial signal with XYZ coordinates of reflected points in relation to 0,0,0 position of a camera.

These funds will help produce precision machined parts and buy components that are required to make this lidar precise.Even with foam prototype the error was no more than 2%, e.g. at distances of 50 inches it could have an error of 1 inch.

Currently prototype works between 1 ft and 16 ft reliably, but running MATLAB on an embedded computer is not a way to go, so I’m writing concise C code to capture images, recognize reflected spots and triangulate distances to them.