NASA Funds R&D into Mitigating Dust for Future Lunar Explorers

Gene Cernan covered in moon dust after walking on the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Moon dust poses a major challenge to NASA as the space agency prepares to return astronauts to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years. The abrasive, glass-like dust sticks to spacesuits, irritates throats and lungs, and threatens to clog vital equipment.

To address these challenges, NASA has selected lunar dust mitigation projects from Force Engineering, Innovative Aerospace, Smart Material Solutions and Cornerstone Research Group for continued funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The Phase II grants are worth up to $750,000 each. The companies previously received smaller SBIR Phase I grants.

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Video Interview of Moriba Jah of Privateer About Cleaning up Space Debris

Video Caption: In today’s episode we’ll explore the growing problem of space junk and how the new company Privateer Space is working to help make space safer. Joining us today is Dr. Moriba Jah, the Chief Scientist of Privateer. Moriba is a co-founder of Privateer along with the company’s CEO Alex Fielding and the company’s president, Steve Wozniak.

Moriba is a renowned astrodynamicist, a space environmentalist, and an associate professor and the University of Texas at Austin. As Privateer’s Chief Scientist, he is the visionary behind Privateer’s innovative technology that will help keep the space environment safe as more and more satellites are put in orbit and human spaceflights expand.

Fifty Years Later, Curators Unveil One of Last Sealed Apollo Samples

The Apollo 17 core sample 73001 processing team in front of the newly opened sample at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. From left, Charis Krysher, Andrea Mosie, Juliane Gross and Ryan Zeigler. (Credits: NASA/Robert Markowitz)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Like a time capsule that was sealed for posterity, one of the last unopened Apollo-era lunar samples collected during Apollo 17 has been opened under the careful direction of lunar sample processors and curators in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. This precious and well-preserved sample will serve as a narrow window into the permanent, geological record of Earth’s closest celestial neighbor – the Moon.

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NASA Selects 8 Early Stage Tech Innovations from US Universities

Illustration of Artemis astronauts on the Moon. NASA’s Artemis mission will establish a sustainable presence on the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Research and development in labs across the country today could lead to enhanced capabilities in space in the future. NASA has selected eight university-led research proposals to study early-stage technologies relating to advanced materials, quantum communications, and more.

Each selection will receive up to $650,000 in grants from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program over up to three years, giving the university teams the time and resources to iterate multiple designs and solutions.

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U.S. Government Finds that Reactor for Moon Does Not Require Bomb-Grade Uranium Fuel

NPPP Obtains Report under Freedom of Information Act

AUSTIN (NPPP PR) – The nuclear reactor that NASA plans to launch to the Moon’s surface later this decade to power a manned mission would not require weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel, according to a government study released yesterday that contradicts previous assertions. The report, “Analysis of Alternative Core Designs for Fission Surface Power Capability Demonstration Mission,” was released to the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

As recently as 2018, U.S. officials had claimed that bomb-grade fuel was necessary to reduce the weight of space power reactors and had tested such a reactor at a national laboratory. By contrast, the new report reveals that using low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel, which is unsuitable for nuclear weapons, would not increase the total weight of the reactor system if a “moderator” were used to slow down the neutrons to facilitate nuclear fission.

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AFRL Selects 10 Universities for Prestigious Satellite Program

Graphic representation of Arachne, the first solar power beaming experiment for the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations & Research Project. (Credit: AFRL)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) has selected 10 universities to participate in the upcoming 2-year partnership to design, fabricate and test small satellites.

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Texas Astronomer Uses 25-year-old Hubble Data to Confirm Planet Proxima Centauri c

Fritz Benedict is an emeritus Senior Research Scientist with The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory. (Credit: McDonald Observatory)

AUSTIN (McDonald Observatory PR) — Fritz Benedict has used data he took over two decades ago with Hubble Space Telescope to confirm the existence of another planet around the Sun’s nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, and to pin down the planet’s orbit and mass.

Benedict, an emeritus Senior Research Scientist with McDonald Observatory at The University of Texas at Austin, will present his findings today in a scientific session and then in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Dedicated Team of Scientists Discover Habitable-Zone Earth-Size Planet in Kepler Data

An illustration of Kepler-1649c orbiting around its host red dwarf star. This newly discovered exoplanet is in its star’s habitable zone and is the closest to Earth in size and temperature found yet in Kepler’s data. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/ Daniel Rutter

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (SETI Institute PR) — In a new paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, co-authored by SETI Institute scientist Jeff Coughlin, astronomers using Kepler data have identified a planet nearly the same size of Earth that orbits in its star’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on its surface. 

This new world, Kepler-1649c, is 300 light-years away and orbits a star that is about one-fourth the size of our Sun.  Only 6% bigger than the Earth, it shares its sun with a planet much like Venus, Kepler-1649b, which was discovered three years ago. Although NASA’s Kepler space telescope was retired in 2018 when it ran out of fuel, scientists are still making discoveries as they continue to examine the signals Kepler detected. 

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Earth-Size, Habitable Zone Planet Found Hidden in Early NASA Kepler Data

An illustration of Kepler-1649c orbiting around its host red dwarf star. This newly discovered exoplanet is in its star’s habitable zone and is the closest to Earth in size and temperature found yet in Kepler’s data. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/ Daniel Rutter

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — A team of transatlantic scientists, using reanalyzed data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, has discovered an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting in its star’s habitable zone, the area around a star where a rocky planet could support liquid water.

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Virgin Orbit Designs New Mass Producible Ventilator of COVID-19 Patients

Bridge ventilator (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif., March 30, 2020 (Virgin Orbit PR — Virgin Orbit has developed a new mass-producible bridge ventilator to help in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Virgin Orbit team has been consulting with the Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC), led by the University of California Irvine (UCI) and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), a group formed to spawn and nurture efforts to build producible, simple ventilators to aid in the current COVID-19 crisis.

Pending clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Virgin Orbit aims to commence production at its Long Beach manufacturing facility in early April, sprinting to deliver units into the hands of first responders and healthcare professionals as soon as possible.

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NASA STTR Awards Focused on Advanced Thermal Protection Systems

This computer-generated art depicts Orion’s heat shield protecting the crew module as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As NASA is funding research into lighter and more capable thermal protection systems (TPSs) producing using additive manufacturing (3D printing) as it looks to land ever larger payloads on other worlds and return extraterrestrial soil samples to Earth.

The space agency recently selected four heat shield proposals from corporate-university partnerships for funding under its Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The phase 1 grants are worth up to $125,000 over 13 months.

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