Ryugu's Visitor

The quiet, everlasting vacuum has been a steady companion. After millions of years, a new visitor emerged from the darkness. Normally visitors come barreling in and cause a significant disturbance. Unusually, this visitor remained in a cautious orbit for a few months. Out of nowhere, this new companion approached with a strange appendage and fired a metal slug into the surface. Materials ejected were collected in a surgical fashion before the visitor retreated back to a safe distance. Quietness once again enveloped the scene.

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What are China's Moon Plans?

With the China National Space Administration (CNSA) successfully landing their Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu-2 rover in January 2019, China has now had two successful landings on the Moon. Their first successful landing with Chang’e 3 was also the first soft landing on the lunar surface since the Soviet Luna 24 in 1976. China’s most recent landing with Chang’e 4 is an even greater accomplishment as it is the first time any spacecraft has landed on the Moon’s far side. These missions are just the start of China’s ultimate goals for lunar exploration.

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Adam Hugomoon, chinaComment
Surviving the Temperamental Moon

As indicated by the title of Robert Heinlein's 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the Moon is a harsh environment to operate in. There is a scant atmosphere, abrasive dust, and extreme temperature ranges to deal with. Observed temperatures range from a blistering 127 C (260 F) in equatorial sunlight down to a frosty -238 C (-397 F) in the permanently shadowed regions of the poles. Designing missions to survive these conditions pushes current technology to its limits.

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The Importance of Lunar Landing Ejecta and Emissions

There are many exciting opportunities to be found as gradual progress is made to return humans to the Moon to stay in the coming years. With these opportunities there are also various challenges to overcome related to an increasing frequency of landed missions. When spacecraft land they emit large quantities of gases and displace significant amounts of regolith. Because of the Moon’s low gravity and thin atmosphere relative to the Earth, both of these actions have magnified effects.

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Adam Hugomoon, ejecta Comment
Asteroid Exploration with an AMIGO

Surveying the surface of asteroids is challenging. Asteroids of interest are often millions of kilometers away from Earth, have milli-gravity, and have variable lighting and surface conditions. Yet surface information is essential for planning resource exploration missions to them. A recently proposed semi-inflatable robot operating in a swarm may excel in this environment.

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Propelling Demand for Space Water

Water is the first resource many in the space resources community are targeting for exploration and utilization missions. Not only is water abundant throughout the Solar System, but it is one of the most useful resources. Its uses include the creation of propellant and oxidizer, use in chemical processes, and as drinking water and breathing oxygen for astronauts. Water is the oil of space. Similar to how oil drives terrestrial economies, water in space will propel the space economy, literally and figuratively.

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The Future of Space Observations

The space industry is in the midst of a data revolution. The two key trends causing this include data proliferation and commercialization. This is interesting because both scientists and commercial players are participants in this change. The rise of petabyte size data releases and privatization of data will forever change how space observations are made and used.

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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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Finding an Asteroid to Visit

Processing water from near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) promises to be a key approach for delivering propellant to Earth orbit. Two proposed systems include TransAstra's Queen Bee spacecraft and Honeybee Robotics' WINE system. Before either of these missions can be launched, they will need to know where they are going and what to expect. Unfortunately you can't simply search for which NEA you should send a mission to. How will TransAstra and Honeybee Robotics decide where to go? Through lots of remote observations, a bit of data science, and talking with experts.

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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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Potential Equatorial Liquid Water on Mars, Causing Slope Streaks

Humans are fascinated with Mars, our closest Earth-like planet. With nearly 30 successful missions to Mars over the past five decades, one may assume that we have discovered all there is to know about Mars' surface. This is far from true as the mysterious surface slope streaks show. These features differ in size and shape, and seem to appear at random times and places. Scientists think they form via a wet or dry process, although it could be both. If a wet process causes them, this could have far reaching implications for finding extraterrestrial life on Mars and for future resource utilization missions.

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NASA’s First Asteroid Sample Return Mission

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission went into orbit around Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) 101955 Bennu. The OSIRIS-REx mission is NASA's first sample return mission from an asteroid. The science obtained from in-situ observations and the returned sample will advance our understanding of asteroids by an order of magnitude. Very little is currently known about NEAs, so these results will aid future exploration missions.

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ESA Study of Water Extraction from Lunar Regolith

The Moon is becoming the proving ground for many space organizations. The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a contract to study and prepare for an all-European mission to the Moon. If developed, this would be ESA's second mission to the Moon. The most exciting aspect of this proposal is its intent on demonstrating the extraction of water and other volatiles from lunar regolith. Importantly, this recent award further demonstrates Europe's commitment to space resources.

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Mining Thousands of Tons of Space Ice with Queen Bee

TransAstra Corporation proposed a spacecraft able to deliver five-thousand-tons of water-ice to cislunar space per two-year mission. This is the largest amount of delivered water ice proposed from any active group. They call their system the Queen Bee. It is part of the Asteroid Provided In-Situ Supplies (APIS; Apis) architecture. Queen Bee is a large scale version of their asteroid mining spacecraft design.

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