NASA's next-gen robotic lander is moving right along, having already completed tests on a first prototype. Now the Robotic Lunar Lander Development Project at Marshall Space Flight Center has received its latest test toy: a sophisticated new propulsion system that will be integrated into an autonomous lander prototype capable of landing softly in airless environments where parachutes and airbrakes won't do the job.
The new propulsion system consists of a series of jets carefully arrayed to achieve the right balance of thrust and control – a total lf 12 attitude control thrusters, three primary thrusters to slow the vehicle's descent, and one large "gravity canceling" thruster that eliminates part of the system's weight to simulate a more lunar-like environment.
The system runs on a green hydrogen peroxide propellant that leaves behind only water and oxygen, a solution not too far from the hydrogen peroxide in the common medicine cabinet. Project handlers have already carried out a firing test on all the thrusters, firing them in series based on a simulated flight scenario.
Next step: integration of the thrusters into a real prototype, complete avionics, for real landing tests. From the finished product NASA hopes to create a framework for creating a range of tailored robotic research landers capable of touching down on the moon, asteroids, or in other airless space environments. NASA sees it as a way to field a variety of scientific missions via a standardized lander system, giving mission planners an off-the-shelf means to reliably land science instruments in a variety of interesting places.
Besides, how else are we going to deliver a nuclear warhead to the center of an incoming asteroid?
i had a very similar idea. im glad they were already working on it, though a reply to my email saying so would have been nice too :D
Its a shame that 40 years after landing on the moon, they are just now putting together a proto type lander. How much money did they waste inventing the system when one was already available and tested?
Nasa is such a joke these days. I'd compare it to the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Disneyland, etc... It's nothing more than an American icon. After working first hand on the Joint Strike Fighter, no security clearance was needed and the technology ranged from 20-50 years old... I'm pretty sure the U.S. government has long surpassed most things the general public can imagine. UFO's, I think not, just the new top secret government version of Nasa. That's why those of us who have half a brain think these projects are a waste. They are, but they serve a purpose of keeping us from asking questions and realizing what's really going on in our own back yard.
Just my 2 cents.
@slygoose, paranoid much?
i think its great that nasa is planning to go to the moon again, being 16 i never got to see the first one, if anything, we should land on the moon every 25 years, that way we can test it with whatever new gadgets we have made. it would be even better if we could build a lunar base.
duct tape is like the force, it has a light side, a dark side, and it binds the universe together.
Seems like this technology already did exist(agreeing with Inwolf41). The only significance is the propellant being used is different from the standard variant that has been used for several years. What would be more amazing is something completely different from the standard vintage rocket technology we've been using since the 1940s. We won't get to a truly "new" propulsion system until we discover something that would make all reciprocating, turbine, turbofan, and rocket motors obsolete. We're probably several years from that (not putting a number on anything, but it's probably something we won't see in our lifetime).
We are really living in the age! The first commercial space port and this exciting new propulsion system, not to mention that plasma engine they're developing. I believe it's speed is 30-something miles/sec? Anyway, still amazing.
@guineapigworship - Not paranoid, just proud that America is so advanced that it won't admit it to it's own people. I never got to see the moon landing either and I'd love for it to happen.
My problem with Nasa is it's trying to do much with one thing. A phone that does GPS, phone, and is a computer, great idea. A spaceship that can haul multiple schoolbuses into space and land on the moon and then return again? Too much. We need to "Henry Ford" ourselves into space. We have a spaceship that works great already. Why did they waste all that money changing instead of just building more? We already have a space station. So simple steps. Use the current spaceship as the back and forth vehicle to the space station. Take stuff up in segments and assemble it there to create your space station to moon vehicles. Then set up a base on the moon and build a manufacturing facility to build the return to space station vehicles and afterwards deep space vehicles. You kind see where all this is going. Point being you only need to design and build something to do one function, which is cheaper and typically technically easier. This would create lots of new jobs and accelerate American dominance in Space.
Good example of a bad idea. The deep space mission where the astronauts are training for right now spending time in isolation for a year or so. Here's an idea. Start leaving the astronauts on the space station for longer durations. Because who cares if you survive a few years in isolation, if the space environment itself destroys your body before you can make the return trip. Let's use what we got and start collecting some hard data points!