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Lunar

Astrobotic Technology has received a NASA contract to determine if its Polaris rover robot...

While the Moon may or may not contain life forms, precious metals or even green cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it does nonetheless contain something that could prove quite valuable – water ice. NASA has estimated that at least 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the stuff could be deposited in craters near the Moon’s north pole alone. If mined, it could conceivably serve as a source of life support for future lunar bases, or it could be used to produce fuel for spacecraft stopping at a “lunar gas station.” Before any mining can happen, however, we need to learn more about the ice. That’s why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to determine if its Polaris rover robot could be used for ice prospecting.  Read More

The famous photo of Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 mi...

When the moon-walking Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth in 1969, amongst the 47.5 pounds (21.5 kg) of lunar rocks they brought with them were three minerals from Tranquility Base that were thought to be unique to the Moon or lunar and possibly Martian meteorites. They were armalcolite (named after Neil Armstrong, Edwin ‘Buzz' Aldrin and Michael Collins), pyroxferroite and tranquillityite. Both armalcolite and pyroxferrite were later found on Earth, leaving tranquillityite as the last mineral believed to have no terrestrial counterpart. Now tranquillityite has also been struck off the list with its discovery in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.  Read More

Artist concept of GRAIL-B performing its lunar orbit insertion burn to join GRAIL-A in lun...

Nasa’s twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) spacecraft are now in orbit around the Moon. Having achieved lunar orbit at 2 pm PST on New Year’s Eve, GRAIL-A was joined by GRAIL-B at 2:43 pm PST on New Year’s Day. The twin spacecraft are now in a near-polar, elliptical orbit with an orbital period of approximately 11.5 hours. In readiness for the science phase of the mission which is due to start in March 2012, both spacecraft will undergo a series of burns to place them in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 km) and orbital period of just under two hours.  Read More

An artist's impression of GRAIL's formation orbit (Image: NASA)

If all goes to plan, tomorrow at 1:21 p.m. PST, NASA's GRAIL-A spacecraft will enter orbit about the Moon. GRAIL-A is one of two unmanned orbiters launched in September, with its sibling GRAIL-B due to enter orbit the following day (New Year's Day) at 2:05 p.m. PST. Together the two craft constitute the GRAIL mission (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory), charged with mapping the Moon's gravitation field.  Read More

The Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is looking to establish the first operational lunar ba...

Imagine if every time you went for on a trip, you had to carry all the fuel required to get you to your destination and back - even if that trip was to a place far, far away, like say Mars. In space there are no refueling options available (yet), and given that propellant makes up over 90 percent of the weight of a spacecraft, this issue is fundamental to saving costs and driving future space exploration. Now the Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is looking to establish the first operational base to mine ice on the Moon that will be used to produce liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants for distribution to spacecraft via the first gas stations in space ... and the plan is to be open for business by 2020.  Read More

Using a precision formation-flying technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft will map the moon'...

After its planned launch this morning was canceled due to upper wind levels, a Delta II rocket carrying NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) has been rescheduled to tomorrow morning. The GRAIL mission will incorporate two unmanned spacecraft - GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B - which will fly in formation over the Moon’s surface, measuring variations in its gravity. Using this data, scientists hope to learn more about the Moon’s thermal history, and how other rocky planets within the inner solar system developed.  Read More

The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC

True story: when I was a little kid and was at an observatory looking at the Moon through a telescope, I loudly proclaimed "I think I can see one of the moon buggies!" Everyone laughed, and I felt stupid. Well, several decades later, I've been somewhat vindicated. Although it's not an earthbound telescope, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) did recently capture images of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. The Apollo 17 lunar rover is indeed visible, as are the descent stages of the three spacecraft, and foot paths made by the astronauts.  Read More

The puncture-proof Spring Tire has been designed for use on the Moon

Following a request from NASA, Goodyear last year developed an airless tire designed to transport large, long-range vehicles across the surface of celestial bodies such as the moon or Mars. The tire, constructed out of 800 load bearing springs, is designed to carry much heavier vehicles (up to 10 times) over much greater distances (up to 100 times) than the wire mesh tire that Goodyear helped develop for the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). The Spring Tire has now been recognized with a so-called “Oscar of Innovation” at the 44th Annual R&D 100 Awards in Orlando, Florida.  Read More

Lunar Microwave Radiometer Daytime Brightness Temperature map of the Moon

The first complete microwave image of the Moon taken by Chinese lunar satellite Chang'E-1 has been revealed. Chang’E-1 is China’s first scientific mission to explore planetary bodies beyond Earth and the on-board Lunar Microwave Radiometer has made it possible for the first time to globally map the Moon in microwave frequencies. Radar observations of the Moon are unable to provide thermal information, and microwave observations taken from Earth cannot reach the far side of the moon. So Chang'E-1's (CE-1) orbit was conducted at an altitude of 200km (124 miles) and allowed it to observe every location of the moon with a nadir view and at high spatial resolution.  Read More

Murat Kacira at the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (Image: Norma Jean Gargasz /...

While we’re not likely to see crops of any sort sprouting from the moon’s surface any time soon, researchers have built a prototype lunar greenhouse that could allow plants from Earth to be grown without soil on the moon or Mars. The membrane-covered module can be collapsed to a 4-foot (1.2m) wide disk for interplanetary travel and contains water-cooled sodium vapor lamps and long envelopes that would be loaded with seeds, ready to sprout hydroponically.  Read More

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