Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Small Space News Story Roundup 34

As always, small stories that caught my eye

JAXA's SLIM Lander Continues to Surprise 

It was a surprise when JAXA's SLIM lunar lander (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) survived its first lunar night, considering it was never designed to survive the extreme cold of the two week lunar night. Temperatures can reach minus 274 F (minus 170C).

It was also surprise when it survived its second night in mid-March, and probably a bigger surprise.

SLIM has done it again, surviving its third night and responding the night of April 23 in Japan.   

On its X feed, JAXA shared an image captured by SLIM as it was coming out of its third lunar night spent on the moon.

In the translated tweet, the Japanese space agency wrote: "Last night (the night of April 23rd), we were able to successfully communicate with #SLIM, which had started up again, and confirmed that SLIM had survived for the third time. 

"Here is a photo of the surface of the moon taken last night with the navigation camera. As this photo was taken at the earliest age of the moon so far after the overnight awakening, the moon is bright overall and the shadows are very short."


Interestingly, India's Chandrayaan 2 was used to photograph SLIM on the moon. 

While SLIM was sending back images of the lunar surface, independent researcher in India Chandra Tungathurthi was using the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter to check up on the Japanese lunar lander. He shared some of the images he captured on his X feed.

Tungathurthi wrote: "I found SLIM using the Orbital high-resolution camera onboard Chandrayaan-2. The below picture was captured on 2024.03.16 at a pixel resolution of 16cm per pixel! Because of the low elevation of the sun, you see long-drawn shadows."

NASA Confirms Dragonfly Mission to Saturn's Moon Titan 

Remember the discussion about Mars Sample Return mission essentially being on hold due to skyrocketing costs and schedule delays? 

Last October, I ran a story about a very different mission to Titan, with a vehicle inspired by the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, but massively different. "Massively" in a couple of meanings of the word. First, instead of a small helicopter, they're talking about a nuclear-powered, car-sized, eight propeller drone. Much, much larger and much heavier as well.

(Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

NASA announced April 16 that the Dragonfly mission had passed its confirmation review. Passing the review allows Dragonfly to move into full-scale development. 

The confirmation review sets a formal commitment by NASA to the cost and schedule for a mission. NASA said that it confirmed a July 2028 launch for Dragonfly and a total mission cost of $3.35 billion.

If Dragonfly launches in 2028, it should arrive at Titan in 2034. NASA is saying they'll choose the Heavy Lift vehicle to allow that six year travel time. Being a one-way trip, it makes sense the overall mission cost should be a bit lower, but that Dragonfly copter will be an obvious place where costs could grow. 

As a reminder, the Mars Sample Return mission's cost was estimated at $8 to $11 billion, with the samples being returned to Earth in the late 2030s to 2040. Given the life of other projects, Dragonfly should still be returning data in the 2040s but the first returns will come well before that.

1 comment:

  1. It is possible the deep cold saturation improved capabilities due to the cryogenic effects. I have an original war department WWII materials handbook, a superb reference book, in it is an in depth essay on cryo treatments on steel alloys and some other related materials used for the war effort, interesting back then they understood many things regarding transformations and the beneficial improvements in hardening processes of steel alloys.
    Since then i understand many positive effects from cryogenic treatment of materials. A logging supply business near me literally puts everything they sell in their cryo tanks, from logging chains to chainsaws left in their factory packages, they provide lifetime garrantees on everything cryo treated, i have a husky chain saw bought it from them in 1995, the darn thing still runs like a charm, has the original spark plug in it even, and i use it well, putting up 2-3 cords a year plus yard work on our land.
    What i'm getting at is, is the lander benefitting from long term very deep saturation
    Those fellers running the cryo tanks had all sorts of customers who had their race engines cryo treated, many NASCAR shops had them treat their completely assembled race engines, claims stated not only did it provide a 2-5 hp improvement, the longevity and reliability of critical components from valve springs to con rods virtually eliminated in race and qualifying engine failures, for the predcted life cycle of their engines, such as one race qualifying engines and drive train parts, which they build to pretty much they know are good for only one qualifying race, or say a Daytona 500 race, because they do so much dyno and track testing they know how long engines and such last to the hour and minute. Gave my own motorcycle race engines cryo treatments, after doing so never had a failure from the usual parts that typically failed beforehand. If NASCAR guys are doing it its worth copycatting them, they truly understand how to build reliable engines. Recently sent a set of Carrillo rods back for inspection and refurb. A set of longer than stock rods had custom ordered, typically i ran those rods to 10,000rpm redline with intermittant over revs on down shift braking up to 12,000 rpm, and they after radiographic and UFI inspection they sent them back with a certificate those rods where virtually as good as brandy new. Raced that set of rods from 97 to 2005, now they are in a street bike, i'm de-tuning the engine so they should go forever now. (even the small end bushings where still within spec, no stretch on them, big ends perfectly round).
    The thing that makes this so intriguing to me is there is a lot of things going on at the molecular and atomic level at those absolute cold temps in those materials. Look at the electronics end of it and how there are materials which become superconductors when chilled down to these deep sub zero temperatures. I mean people use dry ice and liquid nitrogen for increasing the euphoric effects of Read there is speculation the possibility of life that lives down at those temperatures.
    Just fascinating stuff.