May 23, 2022

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NASA’s ‘moon bag’ could prevent astronauts from getting lost on the moon

NASA planetary scientist Michael Zanetti tests the backpack at the Potrillo volcanic field in New Mexico.

NASA planetary scientist Michael Zanetti tests the backpack at the Potrillo volcanic field in New Mexico.
picture: NASA/Michael Zanetti

The moon isn’t where you want to get lost, but it can be a little tricky to track your dusty step without a GPS. Fortunately, space engineers may have found a way around this limitation, by designing a wearable backpack that aims to create a real-time 3D map of the moon’s terrain.

The Kinetics Navigation and Mapping Kit (KNaCK) is a collaborative effort between NASA and private industry partners to help future explorers orient themselves lessExplore the south polar regions of the moon. KNaCK enables real-time, on-demand navigation and operates using a pulsed laser that measures distances to nearby objects and surface properties. On the moon, the system could provide backpacking astronauts with 3D images, Average-Accuracy map of the surrounding area. according to for NASA

This technology is known as frequency-modulated continuous wave lidar and is capable of providing the speed and range of millions of measurement points per second, including the speed and distance between turbulent dust particles. This is, in short, impressive.

The backpack combines real-time HD video recording, displayed in the upper left panel, lidar range data, displayed in the upper right panel, and lidar velocity data.
The drawing: NASA/Michael Zanetti

“Essentially, the sensor is a scanning tool for both scientific navigation and mapping, capable of creating ultra-high-resolution 3-D maps at centimeter resolution and giving them a rich scientific context,” said Michael Zanetti, who leads the KNaCK project at NASA’s MarshallSpace. Flight Center, said in statment. “It will also help ensure the safety of astronauts and roaming vehicles in a restricted environment using a GPS like the Moon, determining true distances to distant landmarks and showing explorers in real time how far they have come and how far they haven’t.” reach your destination.”

NASA plans to return humans to the Moon no later than 2025 as part of the Artemis program. But this time, the astronauts will land near the moon’s south pole. This region is of particular interest to scientists, with evidence to suggest that it may contain it. subsurface water ice which can be used as a valuable resource for lunar exploration.

However, much of the Moon’s south pole is shrouded in shadow, which could make it difficult for future astronauts to calculate distances to lunar stops. Because time on the Moon is precious, KNaCK will make it easy to measure the exact amount of oxygen needed for self-driving travel.

“As human beings, we tend to orient ourselves based on landmarks: a specific building, a grove of trees,” Zanetti said. “These things do not exist on the Moon. KNaCK will continuously allow surface explorers to determine their movement and direction and direct them to distant peaks or their base of operations. They can even pinpoint specific locations where they have found some unique rock or mineral formations, so others can easily come back for more.” study”.

KNaCK underwent testing in November 2021 at an ancient crater in Potrillo, New Mexico, and another test is scheduled for late April at NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) in Kilburn Hall, New Mexico. Mexico. The team responsible for the navigation system is working to reduce the weight of the backpack, which currently weighs about 40 pounds, and to protect the electronics from the strong solar radiation and microgravity to which the Moon is exposed.

Plus: NASA has chosen a really nice place to land the next lunar module.

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