There is no GPS on the moon.  NASA and ESA have to fix that before humans come back in 2 years.

There is no GPS on the moon. NASA and ESA have to fix that before humans come back in 2 years.

There is no GPS on the moon.  NASA and ESA have to fix that before humans come back in 2 years.

An illustration shows what a lunar base might look like, with astronauts walking around in suits doing chores and Earth on the horizon.

An artist’s impression of mining activities on a lunar base.ESA – P. Carril

  • Dozens of lunar missions are planned for the next decade.

  • But right now, there is no satellite navigation system between the Earth and the Moon.

  • NASA and ESA are developing ways to help rockets navigate to the moon autonomously.

When NASA’s Artemis 1 mission successfully flew around the moon in November, it showed the world that humans are on their way back.

NASA and the European Space Agency aim to put boots on the moon by 2025 and establish a permanent lunar base in orbit within the next two years. China and Russia are also working together to establish a separate lunar base, with crewed landings scheduled for 2036.

But right now, there’s no GPS to get us there. Astronauts cannot navigate autonomously in deep space, and each mission relies on expertly trained engineers constantly running missions from the ground.

That will quickly become untenable with missions coming and going.

Space agencies are working to put satellite navigation, or satnav, on rockets that travel the 239,000 miles between Earth and the moon. They are also planning to build a completely new navigation network. around Moon. That’s how.

The way space agencies navigate today is cumbersome and expensive

Apollo 11 staff watch liftoff at the launch control center

Hundreds of people were needed to help the Apollo mission rockets sail to the moon. Here, Apollo 11 personnel watch lift off on July 16, 1969.POT

Today, the only way to get from point A to point B in space is to do complicated physics-based calculations, customized for each mission.

As the spacecraft drifts through space, the only point of reference is Earth. So you need to send a signal to Earth to understand where you are, which means there are massive blind spots.

NASA completely lost communication with the Orion, the spacecraft used in the Artemis 1 mission, as it went behind the moon. For a few minutes, all the engineers could do was hold their breath and hope the spacecraft emerged unscathed on the other side.

This is resource-intensive and expensive, Javier Ventura-Traveset, chief engineer in ESA’s Galileo Office of Navigation Sciences, told Insider. (The US government runs GPS; Galileo is the European version.)

What space exploration needs now is a way for spacecraft to triangulate their position from space, so they can navigate autonomously without intervention from Earth.

Using Earth’s satellites to go to the Moon could help

Surprisingly, the cheapest way to bring satellite navigation into deep space is to take advantage of satellites around Earth, Elizabeth Rooney, a senior engineer at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, told Insider. The company is working with ESA to develop satellite navigation. satellite in space.

There are some major problems with this approach. Chief among them is that these satellites point toward Earth.

That means most of the signal from the satellites is blocked and only a little bit is overflow. The bit that spills out is much weaker than the main signal, and it gets even weaker further from Earth.

An infographic shows how the Earth blocks much of the main signal of GNSS signals.

Beyond Earth’s immediate perimeter, called here the space service volume, Earth blocks much of the signal coming from Earth’s navigation satellites (here called GNSS satellites, for Global Navigation Satellite System).POT

Given all these limitations, it might seem that using this signal to navigate to the moon would be impossible. But engineers have spent decades developing sensitive detectors that could tap into that signal from deep space.

And they got it.

In 2019, four satellites were able to determine their position in space using signals from Earth’s GPS satellites.

They were 116,300 miles away, about halfway to the moon, Ventura-Traveset said.

We really need a way to get to the moon autonomously.

The next frontier is detecting that signal in the other half of the trip. But Ventura-Traveset is confident.

ESA and NASA have been refining their detectors that could harness signals from Earth’s satellites and are ready to test them on upcoming missions to the moon.

A schematic shows the first stage of ESA's Moonlight initiative

As part of the ESA initiative, a detector will be mounted on a moon-orbiting satellite, called the Lunar Pathfinder, to see if it can navigate autonomously.ESA-K Oldenburg/Insider

ESA’s receiver, called NaviMoon, will be launched aboard the Lunar Pathfinder satellite in 2025 or 2026. ESA predicts that NaviMoon should be able to determine the satellite’s position to an accuracy of about 60 meters (about 200 feet), Ventura said. transvestite

The hope is that thanks to this detector, the satellite can navigate autonomously around the moon, he said. It is also very light, around 4 kilograms (8 pounds) in total, and could replace much of the heavier equipment on board a spacecraft.

An image shows the receiver component of ESA's Navimoon.

The NaviMoon satellite navigation receiver is being tested.sstl

NASA is also working on detectors, developed with the Italian Space Agency. Their goal is to launch the first of these receivers to the moon’s surface in 2024 as part of the Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment.

There’s a “friendly little competitive race” between ESA and NASA to get the satellite navigation signal from Earth to the moon, James Joseph “JJ” Miller, deputy director for Policy and Strategic Communications within the Space Navigation and Communications Program at NASA headquarters, he told Insider in an interview.

Miller said many other countries have begun looking to invest in deep-space navigation technology.

“Everyone has come to understand that this is an emerging user that’s not going to go away, that we actually have to prepare and make cis-lunar space, all of the space between the Earth and the Moon, as robust and reliable as possible. with these signs,” he said.

Eventually, we will need a satellite navigation network. around Moon

An infographic shows how ESA's Moonlight initiative would work

An infographic shows how ESA’s Moonlight initiative would work

In ESA’s second phase of Moonlight, a network of satellites should help triangulate the position of spacecraft on the surface.ESA-K Oldenburg/Insider

The signal from Earth’s satellites can get spacecraft all the way to the Moon, but once they’re on the surface, the signal won’t be very useful.

At that point, these signals can only reach what is visible from Earth, so the dark side of the moon and the lunar poles are off limits.

So the plan is to give the moon its own fleet of communication and navigation satellites, called the Moonlight initiative. The first node in Moonlight would be NASA’s Pathfinder satellite.

Ventura-Traveset said the ESA aims to test a basic Moonlight infrastructure by 2027 and a more comprehensive infrastructure by 2030.

NASA is also working on building its own network, called LunaNet. NASA’s Gateway, a space station the agency intends to send to orbit the moon, would be another node in the network.

“We would envision a type of architecture that includes NASA and ESA satellites working together,” NASA’s Miller said.

Lunar colonists will need high-speed internet

An illustration shows a satellite and Earth reflected in the viewfinder or a future lunar astronaut.

An illustration shows a satellite and Earth reflected in the viewfinder or a future lunar astronaut.

Satellites could help future moon astronauts navigate on the moon, as can be seen in this artist’s impression.THAT

There’s a more commercial aspect to getting humans back to the moon. Ultimately, lunar colonists would have to set up camp so they could mine minerals and water, which could be used to power rockets en route to Mars.

Visitors to the Moon will need to be able to communicate with Earth, talk to each other effectively and be entertained, Ventura-Traveset said.

Later, lunar colonists could have access to high-speed Internet, video conference with loved ones on Earth, stream shows and create their own content from space, Ventura-Traveset said.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who would argue that that’s not the way we’re going to go,” Ventura-Traveset said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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