NASA’s new ‘lifelike’ lab lets you experience conditions on moon

NASA scientists are showcasing their own moon model, which they claim is an exact reproduction of the real one in every manner.

The space agency claims that the scenery and ultra-realistic lighting of its new lab model perfectly represent lunar conditions. Scientists now have two primary types of lunar surfaces at their disposal to train future robots, rovers, and astronauts for journeys to the polar regions of the actual Moon.

Tons of synthetic lunar dust are housed in two huge indoor “sandboxes” at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. These structures are referred to as the Lunar Lab and the Regolith Testbed. Using both testbeds, the scientists can faithfully replicate the majority of the Moon’s regions. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) team from NASA has been able to test how effectively its lighting and hazard avoidance cameras handle the extremely low-angle illumination it will face while researching the Moon’s South Pole thanks to the Regolith Testbed.

In a recent renovation, NASA replaced a first moonscape that had been in use for several years with a second, larger testbed that is laden with more than 20 tonnes of light grey Lunar Highlands Simulant-1 (LHS-1). It can be altered to make a testbed that is smaller but deeper. It measures 62 feet by 13 feet by 1 foot.

The site’s initial sandbox contains the most Johnson Space Center artifacts. There is just one simulant (JSC-1A), which is eight tonnes in weight and measures around 13 feet by 13 feet by 1.5 feet. The JSC-1A simulant has a dark gray color and resembles the lunar basins.

The Lunar Lab has given research scientists and engineers from NASA and the private space industry the opportunity to examine how well science tools, robots, and humans might be able to operate, manipulate, navigate, and traverse the treacherous lunar surface safely. The Testbed also makes it possible to conduct research that is relevant to bodies besides the Moon, such as Mercury, nearby asteroids, and moons with regolith, like Phobos on Mars. The lunar polar regions are very different from the terrain the Apollo astronauts encountered.

Rovers and astronauts will have to maneuver in low-angle sunlight and avoid intense solar glare that makes it difficult to see at the lunar South Pole. The shadow of even the smallest boulder or crater will be very long. On rare occasions, the Sun will shine directly into your eyes because of ground reflections.

The NASA team stated in a press release that “researchers sometimes meticulously mold the dust using hand tools to mimic, as exactly as possible, features astronauts and rovers are expected to meet.”

These include tiny craters and pits that are only a few feet to a few yards across. Additionally, it might entail arranging tiny rocks and other debris to simulate real-world locations as seen by Moon-orbiting satellites.

The Testbed stands out from other comparable devices by having a pair of bright, powerful lights that imitate the Sun’s brilliant rays. The lighting conditions that are relevant to locations on the poles of the Moon and during a range of lunar periods, including the past, present, and future, can be faithfully replicated by researchers.

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