If the US space agency “NASA” is working to return to the moon, this time it intends to stay in it, as its “Artemis” program aims to establish the first place of residence for humans on an astronomical body other than Earth, but this project is characterized by many difficulties, including the provision of means of subsistence. and mobility, and the space industry is currently seeking to develop the necessary technological means to achieve this goal.
“It’s like the World Cup in engineering,” says Neil Davis, who works for the American company “Dinetics”, which revealed a prototype of its lunar vehicle during a space symposium held last month in Colorado Springs.
However, it may be necessary to wait for the “Artemis 7” mission and the tasks that follow it to establish “permanent habitats on the surface” of the moon, according to what NASA Associate Administrator Jim Frey said during the symposium. However, these tasks will not be accomplished before the 2030s.
He pointed out that the base will initially consist of several sites, with the aim of diversifying scientific exploration sites and making landing operations on the moon easier.
Although this goal seems far away, companies are racing to manufacture the necessary tools for missions to the moon.
In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Joe Landon, head of the “Crescent Space” company recently established by the “Lockheed Martin” group that specializes in industries related to lunar missions, says that “the first stage is communications,” adding, “If a person thinks about moving to an apartment The first thing he will do is connect his phone and the Internet.”
With a set of two satellites to launch, the company wants to become the provider of the satellite’s Internet and GPS, thus comforting the NASA network.
Landon notes that the value of the lunar industries market will be about $ 100 billion over the next ten years.
The second topic that companies seek to develop is energy. Astrobotic (220 employees) is one of the three companies selected by NASA to develop vertical solar panels. In the south pole of the moon, which is the intended destination because of the presence of ice water in it, the sun does not rise except in a limited way only above the horizon, and its rays are therefore horizontal.
Mike Provenzano, responsible for lunar equipment, said that the Astrobotic panels, which are about 18 meters high, will be connected to several kilometers of cables. These panels can be removed and replaced if necessary.
For the scientific missions of the astronauts, “NASA” asked the actors in the field to devise an open vehicle that can accommodate two people, to be ready in 2028.
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Unlike the mobile robots used on the Apollo missions, the new vehicle must be self-driving on missions that do not involve astronauts, which means that it must remain operational during the lunar nights, which may last for two weeks, with temperatures that may reach about 170 degrees Celsius. below freezing.
Several companies have started working on this vehicle. Lockheed Martin is benefiting from General Motors’ experience in electric cars and off-road vehicles. And Dyntex, a subsidiary of the giant Lidos group, has entered into a partnership with NASCAR, which organizes motor racing in the United States.
Engineer Neil Davis said that the prototype, which has a top speed of 15 kilometers per hour, will include a robotic arm and braided metal tires, adding, “It was designed to have good grip, especially on rocks… but it also has many openings on the sides so that dust does not accumulate in it.”
Lunar dust poses a major challenge because it is not corroded by water or wind, and is almost as abrasive as glass.
NASA has not yet announced the names of the companies it has chosen, but it is working in the long run with the Japanese space agency on a pressurized vehicle in which it will not be necessary to wear a spacesuit.
Finally, the astronauts will need a home. NASA has signed a $57.2 million contract with Aiken, a Texas-based 3D printing company, to develop the technology needed to build roads, landing strips and homes on the moon. Lunar soil is supposed to be used as material.
Other companies, such as Lockheed Martin, are developing inflatable housing. “It can be sent in a small package,” said the company’s vice president in charge of all lunar exploration, Kirk Sherriman, which is important because the rocket’s capacity is limited. Once inflated, “it’s a great size to live and work in.”
This inflatable house contains bedrooms, a kitchen and scientific instruments, all of which are movable.
The idea behind the “Artemis” program is to prepare for very distant missions, and to convert the lunar base into a Martian base.
Sherman affirms this idea, saying, “Whatever money we have to spend to develop these systems on the moon, we want them to be viable for missions to Mars.”
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