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Surface Strength of PSRs

Although multiple landers and rovers have touched down on the Moon, no vehicle has visited the Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSRs) at the lunar poles. Water ice has been observed within some PSRs, and therefore represents an ideal target for future lunar missions. An important unknown to study before the first PSR mission is understanding the surface environment, including how much mass the PSR regolith can support. It is critical that rover wheels and landing pads don’t sink into the regolith. To study this, a recent analysis used boulder tracks to evaluate the bearing capacity of regolith in these areas.

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Impacting Lunar Polar Ice

The permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) at the lunar poles represent prime locations for finding high concentrations of water bearing material on the Moon. Even though PSRs have been remotely observed for the past few decades, much is still unknown about these areas. Key questions include the origin of the ice, how extensive it is, and how it changes over time. A recent model addresses some of these questions by predicting how long near-surface ice should exists before being sublimated away.

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Advanced Composite Habitats

Extraterrestrial habitats are required for sustained human exploration of space. The trade-off between mass, size, and safety is a concern for all proposed systems. The goal is to provide a low mass system that is easy to transport, while providing maximum space to astronauts and protection from the harsh environment. In addition to large temperature swings, structures need to survive multiple g’s during transportation, radiation, and micrometeorite impacts.

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Martian Glaciers, Plentiful and Accessible

Mars is a treasure chest full of resources. Of all the available resources on Mars, water is the resource with the greatest utility. Aside from the possibility that it can contain extra-terrestrial life, it can be used for creating fuels and oxidizers, drinking water, agriculture, chemical processes, and more. The key question to resolve is: Where on Mars can we find large quantities of water that are easily accessible? Martian glaciers at mid-latitudes hold promise for being that ideal source.

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Near-term Space Manufacturing for Earth

Space manufacturing has been on the horizon for decades without success. However one major hurdle past efforts failed to overcome was obtaining regular and affordable access to low Earth orbit. This capability was expected to be provided by the space shuttle, though it never materialized. In recent years, however, the problem has been reduced due to a rapidly growing set of commercial launch providers. Because of this change, space manufacturing has the potential to rapidly become a reality.

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