NASA targets 13 landing sites on moon’s south pole for human landing – Orlando Sentinel

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NASA juggled light and dark to come up with 13 potential landing sites for the future Artemis III mission that will return humans to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

Key to the choices was finding sites that could support the astronaut duo for 6 1/2 days on the surface with enough sunlight to provide power and thermal protection, as well as access the dark areas of craters and mountainous terrain in the near the moon’s south pole that may contain water ice.

Finding water ice, which can be broken down into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen bonds to provide life-sustaining air and potential fuel, was the driving force behind the first Artemis missions.

The unmanned Artemis I rocket is on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center awaiting a possible launch on August 29. Artemis II will fly with astronauts in 2024, but only orbit the moon. The Artemis III flight is scheduled for 2025 and two of the four astronauts, including the first woman, will bring a version of SpaceX’s Starship to the lunar surface.

“Several of the suggested regions in the regions are located between some of the oldest parts of the moon, and along with the permanently shadowed areas provide an opportunity to learn about the history of the moon through previously unstudied lunar material,” said NASA’s Artemis chief of lunar science Sarah Noble.

The 13 sites are each approximately 15 km by 15 km and each site has a potential landing site with a radius of 328 feet. The names of the 13 potential sites are Faustini Rim A, Peak Near Shackleton, Connecting Ridge, Connecting Ridge Extension, the Gerlache Rim 1, the Gerlache Rim 2, the Gerlache-Kocher Massif, Haworth, Malapert Massif, Leibnitz Beta Plateau, Nobile Rim 1, Nobile Rim 2 and Amundsen Rim.

These landing sites are a long way from the six human landing sites during the 1969-1972 Apollo missions.

“This is a new part of the moon. It’s a place we’ve never explored before,” Noble said. “All six of Apollo’s landing sites were in the sort of central area of ​​the near side. And now we’re going somewhere completely different in ancient geological terrain.”

Noble explained how water ice could survive in its dark regions on the moon.

“The poles are unique because of the lighting conditions there, and that extreme lighting conditions lead to really extreme temperatures in some of these craters where the sun has literally not reached billions of years,” she said. “And that’s where some of the coldest places in the solar system exist. And those cold traps are places where we think water and other volatiles get trapped. It’s so cold there that molecules bouncing around the moon bounce into one of these cold traps and can’t get out.”

The choice of location will be limited closer to the launch date as some will be more accessible than others depending on the time of year the rocket is launched from KSC.

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All 13 are within 6 degrees of the moon’s south pole, and among them are various geological features, according to NASA.

“NASA was challenged to land in the Antarctic region of the Moon to take advantage of unique environmental conditions,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief research scientist at NASA. “Conditions that provide above-average amounts of sunlight, conditions that give us access to volatile models that reveal new secrets about our solar system, while also potentially yielding valuable resources that could help place future infrastructure.”

He said the pole refers to places where the surface sees continuous light from the sun, just a few miles away from places that never see light.

“I think locations with above-average amounts of light allow us to design systems that use light for energy and thermal control,” he said. “In the same way, locations and permanent shade, unique to the poles, provide opportunities for access to water and other volatiles trapped there. They are not stripped away by solar wind.”

The locations were chosen by combining decades of observations, including from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists and engineers will continue to evaluate the potential sites for the next three years before determining the best options. Determining factors include the need for a safe landing, such as terrain slope, easy communication with Earth, lighting conditions, and the capabilities of the Orion spacecraft and Starship lander.

“By selecting these regions, we are a huge step closer to returning humans to the moon for the first time since Apollo,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for the Artemis Campaign Development Division. “If we do, it will be unlike any previous mission, as astronauts venture into dark regions previously unexplored by humans, laying the groundwork for future long-term residency.”

Follow up on Orlando Sentinel space coverage Facebook.com/goforlaunchsentinel.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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