Xplore is a company founded to provide low cost access to the inner solar system for missions ranging from government sponsored scientific studies to commercial endeavors. They also want to invite public participation such as program to send names to the Moon:
Xplore will fly your name on our first mission to orbit the Moon, expected 2022. Add your name to the list and you can come along on our Moon Xpedition™.
The company today announced the first customer to place a payload on their Moon mission:
Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space as a ServiceTM today announced that space industry leader Dylan Taylor plans to reserve payload space on Xplore’s first mission beyond Earth orbit. The payload will be hosted onboard the XcraftTM, Xplore’s highly capable, multi-mission spacecraft designed to perform frequent, low-cost missions in the inner solar system.
The diverse payload reservations Xplore is attracting now includes private citizens. Dylan Taylor is a successful founder, philanthropist, prominent space investor and also the CEO of Voyager Space Holdings, a multi-national space holding firm that acquires and integrates leading space exploration enterprises globally. He is also the first private citizen to manufacture an item in space when a gravity meter he co-designed and commissioned was printed on the International Space Station in 2017. Dylan has commissioned the Xplore payload for the benefit of Space for Humanity, a non-profit organization dedicated to democratizing space and supporting the education and future spaceflight for citizen astronauts.
Mr. Taylor said,
“My decision to choose Xplore as our payload hosting provider was a simple one – Xplore is opening up new markets for commercial space, and I fully support their business model and experienced team. Their next-generation ESPA-class Xcraft and payload hosting services gives the flexibility needed to design the optimum payload and send it to space with Xplore.” He added, “Space as a Service™ is more than a tagline – they are ushering in a new way of doing business that meets my organizations’ needs and supports a wide range of customers.”
Xplore Founder Lisa Rich, said,
“Xplore is honored to have Space for Humanity as one of the forward-thinking commercial customers on our first mission. We are pleased to serve a non-profit and appreciate Space for Humanity’s confidence in Xplore and our team. We have simplified the complexity behind sending payloads to space so that anyone with a purpose can fly their payload.” She added, “In the same way that we allow scientists to focus on the science, not the spacecraft, Xplore gives Space for Humanity the freedom to focus on the purpose of their payload and how they plan to support it via meaningful engagement and outreach programs that benefit their organization’s mission.”
Dylan Taylor said,
“With Xplore, our mission does not need a design team or spacecraft to achieve our goals. We can engage Xplore to send our payload to space – which allows us to stay 100% focused on our core activities.” He added: “Xplore can take us to our desired destinations beyond Earth orbit – something few companies can do. Further, we will benefit from the creative input they provide as well as the flexibility of the missions they can perform.”
Xplore’s spacecraft, Xcraft™, is a highly-capable ESPA-class spacecraft that can carry 30kg – 70kg of payload in 50U volume and provides customers with the opportunity to fly scheduled or custom orbital missions. The company works with commercial customers, non-profits, sponsors, and organizations seeking to send their brands, instruments and other materials to space. While most customers desire to fly instruments to gather valuable science data, an increasing number of customers seek to use the significance of a space mission to send creative payloads and magnify the human impact of their message.
Lisa Rich said,
“The value of sending a payload beyond Earth orbit — and having Space for Humanity become one of the first private customers to do so, is exemplary. Citizens identify with the import of these human achievements and want to participate. We want to provide customers as well as the public with the ability to take part in our great space future.”
Xplore launched its public outreach website, Xplore Space, for this very purpose. Their site, https://www.xplorespace.com/ gives citizens and space enthusiasts alike the ability to send their name on Xplore’s first mission to the Moon, for free. Names of citizens will be saved on Xplore’s data storage system and placed inside of the Xplore Xcraft. While Xplore performs science missions for space agencies and researchers, citizens will become voyagers alongside scientific instruments making new discoveries. Millions of people will join Xplore on its missions, participating in the exploration of space.
Lisa Rich said,
“We believe that space is for everyone and that all should have access to it. Xplore is on a mission to accelerate scientific knowledge to benefit humanity — and for our part, we will start by expanding the human footprint by giving citizens the ability to send their name to the Moon so they are represented on our journey.”
About Xplore: Xplore is a Seattle-based company offering Space as a Service™. Xplore provides hosted payloads, communication relay services and exclusive datasets to its customers via the Xcraft™, the company’s multi-mission spacecraft. Xplore’s mission is to expand robotic exploration via commercial missions at and beyond Earth, to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange points and near-Earth asteroids for national space agencies, national security agencies, sovereign space agencies and universities. Visit: https://www.xplore.com
Almost a quarter of a million miles away from home, the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions are the closest extraterrestrial water source. These craters have remained dark for billions of years, but student-developed technologies can help shine light on all they have to offer.
“It’s an exciting time for NASA and students across the country,” said Drew Hope, Game Changing Development program manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “Thanks to our partnership with the Office of STEM Engagement, this is the most money NASA has awarded in a student challenge directly connected to Artemis. I look forward to seeing the inventive designs come to life as well as how they can advance our exploration capabilities in permanently shadowed craters on the Moon.”
The selected teams will develop ways to collect data in and around permanently shadowed regions, generate wireless power for future infrastructure, enable autonomous mobility even in the most extreme environments, and more. Such systems could benefit NASA’s Artemis program and be used to study the Moon ahead of a human landing in 2024 or help establish a sustained presence by 2028.
The award values vary and are based on each team’s proposed concept and budget. The 2020 BIG Idea Challenge awardees are:
Arizona State University in Tempe – $84,333
Ball-shaped probes and a spring catapult capable of launching them from a lunar lander to different locations in and around a crater. The probes can collect and send data directly to the lander for several hours. Being able to quickly learn about a region on the Moon can help inform the potential for future human exploration as well as small rover deployments.
Colorado School of Mines in Golden with the University of Arizona in Tucson – $114,000
Working in permanently shadowed regions on the Moon and extracting water believed to be there will require a power source for lights and machinery. This wireless energy demonstration uses lasers to power small stationary receivers. To prove the concept of laser power beaming, several two-inch cubes covered in solar panels deploy from a lander to the surface and measure the amount of light received from a lander-mounted laser.
Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire – $83,000
Small and lightweight robot explorers that travel and work independently or as a group. Multiple rovers can connect to distribute power and form a tram-like system to navigate soft lunar terrain. The four-wheeled rover scouts can transport instruments to different locations near the Moon’s poles.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge – $163,900
A lightweight tower that extends approximately 100 feet from a lunar lander. The top of the tower serves as a payload platform for a variety of instruments. The tower could enhance lunar activities, serving as a communications relay between payloads inside a deep crater and a lander as well as imaging the lunar surface at a higher resolution than spacecraft in orbit around the Moon.
Michigan Technological University in Houghton– $161,074
A small rover to lay lightweight, superconducting cable that tethers to a lander as it traverses craters in permanently shadowed regions. Once in its final destination, the rover acts as a recharging hub and communication relay for other robots working in the area, providing continuous power without requiring direct sunlight.
Northeastern University in Boston – $90,889
This two-part system makes use of a small, legged rover (SCOUT) and support module (DOGHOUSE). At the crater’s rim, SCOUT will drop off DOGHOUSE and then autonomously navigate inside the permanently shadowed region to explore the terrain. DOGHOUSE acts as a charging station and a communication relay hub. This technology could be used to survey a site ahead of other robotic, or even human, operations.
Pennsylvania State University in State College – $145,933
An instrument to measure the composition of lunar soil in permanently shadowed regions. The technology uses a laser to determine the location and concentration of resources, such as water ice. This in-situ resource utilization prospecting work is needed to establish a sustained human presence on the Moon under Artemis.
University of Virginia in Charlottesville – $123,596
A high-power laser attached to a lander that is located on the rim of a crater. The laser beams energy to a rover inside the crater, remotely delivering power. This technology could energize systems operating in the dark for extended periods of time, without requiring rovers to leave the region to recharge.
The grants will be used to develop and test the technologies in simulated environments over the next 10 months, demonstrating their readiness for a potential lunar mission as early as 2023. The teams will present the results of their research and development to a panel of NASA and industry experts at a face-to-face design review in November 2020.
“One of the most exciting things about this challenge is that several of the concepts, if proven to be viable as a result of these awards, could eventually be integrated and operated together on the surface of the Moon,” said Chad Rowe, acting Space Grant project manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These students are part of the Artemis generation and they are helping fulfill NASA’s mission needs today, while developing relevant hands-on experience that will prepare them for aerospace careers after graduation.”
The Game Changing Development program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate partnered with the Office of STEM Engagement’s Space Grant project to fund unique concepts that address near-term capability requirements to support exploration of permanently shadowed regions in-and-near the Moon’s polar regions. The additional funds contributed for the first time by the Office of STEM Engagement allow for larger awards, more opportunities for high-fidelity concept development, and enriched student participation in NASA’s missions by leveraging the vast network of institutions comprising the Space Grant consortia spanning every state, Puerto Rico and D.C.
On 12 October 2019, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope provided astronomers with their best look yet at an interstellar visitor — Comet 2I/Borisov — which is believed to have arrived here from another planetary system elsewhere in our galaxy.
This observation is the sharpest view ever of the interstellar comet. Hubble reveals a central concentration of dust around the solid icy nucleus.
Comet 2I/Borisov is only the second such interstellar object known to have passed through our Solar System. In 2017, the first identified interstellar visitor, an object dubbed ‘Oumuamua, swung within 38 million kilometres of the Sun before racing out of the Solar System.
“Whereas ‘Oumuamua looked like a bare rock, Borisov is really active, more like a normal comet. It’s a puzzle why these two are so different,” explained David Jewitt of UCLA, leader of the Hubble team who observed the comet.
Our Milky Way is a frugal galaxy. Supernovas and violent stellar winds blow gas out of the galactic disk, but that gas falls back onto the galaxy to form new generations of stars. In an ambitious effort to conduct a full accounting of this recycling process, astronomers were surprised to find a surplus of incoming gas.
“We expected to find the Milky Way’s books balanced, with an equilibrium of gas inflow and outflow, but 10 years of Hubble ultraviolet data has shown there is more coming in than going out,” said astronomer Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, lead author of the study to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.
Fox said that, for now, the source of the excess inflowing gas remains a mystery.
** Both young and old craters at lunar south pole have water:
The majority of the reported ice deposits are found within large craters formed about 3.1 billion years or longer ago, the study found. Since the ice can’t be any older than the crater, that puts an upper bound on the age of the ice. Just because the crater is old doesn’t mean that the ice within it is also that old too, the researchers say, but in this case there’s reason to believe the ice is indeed old. The deposits have a patchy distribution across crater floors, which suggests that the ice has been battered by micrometeorite impacts and other debris over a long period of time.
If those reported ice deposits are indeed ancient, that could have significant implications in terms of exploration and potential resource utilization, the researchers say.
“There have been models of bombardment through time showing that ice starts to concentrate with depth,” Deutsch said. “So if you have a surface layer that’s old, you’d expect more underneath.”
While the majority of ice was in the ancient craters, the researchers also found evidence for ice in smaller craters that, judging by their sharp, well-defined features, appear to be quite fresh. That suggests that some of the deposits on the south pole got there relatively recently.
“That was a surprise,” Deutsch said. “There hadn’t really been any observations of ice in younger cold traps before.”
The Chandrayaan-2 mission launched in July and was designed to tackle a host of questions about the moon, with a particularly sharp eye to the water ice the spacecraft’s predecessor spotted at the south pole. The current orbiter carries eight different instruments — and Indian scientists are already poring over some of the mission’s very first science data.
The orbiter carries two cameras, both of which have been hard at work. The Terrain Mapping Camera began surveying the moon as soon as Chandrayaan-2 arrived in orbit. Now, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which runs the mission, has also released images taken by a second instrument, the Orbiter High Resolution Camera.
With the release yesterday by NOAA of its September update of its graph showing the long term sunspot activity of the Sun, we find ourselves in what might be the longest stretch of sunspot inactivity in decades, part of what might become the most inactive solar minimum in centuries.
In the last four months the Sun has produced practically no sunspots. There were two in June, two in July, and one in August. The September graph, posted below with additional annotations by me to give it context, shows that the past month was as weak as August, with only one sunspot again.
These scarps have so far been found in the highest latitudes of those two glacial bands, which might also explain why they appear more solid with the appearance of only the beginning of degradation. The buried glaciers found in the lower latitudes always look more degraded. As Dundas notes,
We expect that ice at lower latitudes will be less stable because the temperatures are warmer, so on average (over millions of years) at lower latitudes there will be less frequent deposition and more sublimation, so this fits together.
One striking conclusion that we can begin to draw from all this recent research is that ice is likely far more prevalent close to the Martian surface then previously believed. Not only will it be reachable by colonists by simply drilling down to an underground ice table, from 30 degrees latitude and higher there will be numerous places where it will be either close to the surface, or exposed and accessible.
** And more Mars surface imagery analysis from Bob Zimmerman at Behind The Black:
NASA’s InSight spacecraft has used its robotic arm to help its heat probe, known as “the mole,” dig nearly 2 centimeters (3/4 of an inch) over the past week. While modest, the movement is significant: Designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground to gauge the heat escaping from the planet’s interior, the mole has only managed to partially bury itself since it started hammering in February 2019.
The recent movement is the result of a new strategy, arrived at after extensive testing on Earth, which found that unexpectedly strong soil is holding up the mole’s progress. The mole needs friction from surrounding soil in order to move: Without it, recoil from its self-hammering action will cause it to simply bounce in place. Pressing the scoop on InSight’s robotic arm against the mole, a new technique called “pinning,” appears to provide the probe with the friction it needs to continue digging.
Since Oct. 8, 2019, the mole has hammered 220 times over three separate occasions. Images sent down from the spacecraft’s cameras have shown the mole gradually progressing into the ground. It will take more time — and hammering — for the team to see how far the mole can go.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2558 tasks.
The rover has made a wheel scuff at “Culbin Sands,” reports Fred Calef, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Curiosity purposely ran over a megaripple (fine grained sandy ripple with a coarser pebble coating), Calef notes, to create a “scuff” which churned up and bisected the feature to observe any layering or material within.
Reports Ashley Stroupe, Mission Operations Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the rover is taking its last views of the Glen Etive 2 drill sample. A recent plan had the robot cleaning out the remaining sample within the drill and doing contact science analysis on the dumped sample.
Both the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam will be taking a look at “Penicuik,” a pebble target, and “Monach Isles,” a potential small meteorite. Also planned is a standard environmental observation suite: a Mastcam crater rim extinction and tau, and a Navcam supra-horizon movie.