NASA invented and patented a quick, inexpensive way to reach the moon

The moon is both amazingly close to Earth and cosmicly far away: after the end of the space race, it is extraordinarily expensive and really hard to get there.

The journey got a little easier, however, thanks to the newly published NASA discovery.

The agency’s patent does not cover a new piece of equipment or a line of code, but a route – a lunar-bound mission designed to save time, fuel and money and boost its scientific value.

On June 30, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Fees Approve and publish NASA’s patent for orbital series NASA, learned earlier by Business Insider Do a tweet By a lawyer named Jeff Stack.

The technology is not for big astronauts carrying astronauts or rovers, but for small, more tight-budget missions tasked with doing meaningful science.

And the first spacecraft to take advantage of this new orbital path could make an unprecedented discovery of the moon from afar.

Dapper mission checkDark Ages Polymeter Meterfinder, or Dapper, spacecraft. (University of Colorado Boulder / NASA)

Called the Dark Ages Polarimeter Pathfinder or D-App, the next mission aims to record low-frequency radio waves emitted for the first time during the early ages of the universe – when atoms, stars, black holes, and galaxies began. Forms, and where scientists can detect the first signs of a yet-to-be-seen dark matter.

Charting the new budget-friendly path to the moon

When NASA landed three astronauts on the moon in 1968, it took the crew a few days to get there. Such direct shots are expensive, however, and require a formidable rocket to get well out of the Earth’s deep gravity.

There are many more efficient routes to the moon that could use smaller rockets – if you have time to save, that’s what robots do.

By spending some time orbiting the earth, for example, a spacecraft can steal some of the planet’s motion and in a long orbital range extended toward the moon at a lower cost.

Fuel is needed to improve orbit and maneuver through space, but every ounce carried by a spacecraft is the same that an engineer cannot dedicate to other components, including scientific instruments.

Calculus is especially difficult for a compact spacecraft like the one on the app, which would be about the size of a microwave, as there is (quite literally) less margin for error.

The relatively thin U.S. of NASA’s Explorer program. Faced with the additional challenge of trying to fly a dumpster on a 150 million budget, the team behind the concept of the mission realized they couldn’t afford to buy their own rocket ride all the way to lunar orbit.

Jack Burns, ast astrophysicist at the University of Colorado Boulder and head of the mission at DAP, told Business Insider, “This path to the moon arose out of necessity, as these things often do.” “We needed to keep the cost of the launch low and find a cheap way to get to the moon.”

They started with a flight they knew they could afford: a geosynchronous or high-Earth orbit, an area of ​​about 22,236 miles (about a tenth of the way to the moon) from Earth’s equator. It is a common place for telecommunications and other satellites built to orbit a place on the planet. The app is small enough to piggyback on such a mission.

“If we could only get into high-Earth orbit, geosynchronous orbit, then we could get the rest of the way there with just a modest fuel tank.”

After crushing the numbers, the team found a new low-energy raj on the moon, which the patent described as “a method of transferring a spacecraft from a geosynchronous transfer orbit to a lunar orbit”.

It lists the Earth’s and Moon’s gravitational aids to speed up and slow down D at the right moments, reducing the amount of propellant needed.

New moon ballNASA-patented route from geosynchronous transfer orbit to the moon. (NASA)

NASA says this new spin on gravity support keeps the flight time about 2/2 months, while similar options could take up to six months.

No spacecraft comes with a myriad of options to slip into the orbit of any angle around the moon, at practically any time. And it avoids the radiation field around the earth called the Van Allen belt, which damages sensitive electronics.

Why NASA is patenting and licensing the way to reach the moon

That sounds weird from a patent lunar trip, but Burns said it’s really no different than any other invention.

“This is a creation that was the result of modeling the number of planets, so it’s an intellectual property,” he said.

The search for NASA patents and licenses to achieve a “wide-ranging distribution” of technology, NASA executive Dan Lenny Kane told IPV Chadog in 2018.

Protecting patents and licensing technologies is a method that NASA and other government agencies use to ensure access to government-funded innovations, NASA representative Claire Scalley told Business Insider in an email.

The agency charges US 50,000 50,000 for licensing its patents but typically asks for US 5,000 5,000 to US 10,000 10,000, plus royalties.

The agency’s licensing website says, “It seeks to recoup some of NASA’s investment in patent filing and maintenance costs through explicit fees.”

In other words: doing the hard work of patenting and then charging a minimum for that work is a formal formal and industry-consistent practice of disseminating the fruits of NASA labor.

Unofficially, NASA’s plan prevents private companies and even foreign countries from stockpiling vital space technology for exorbitant amounts, and it helps promote American missions and international cooperation. (The agency occasionally publishes patents in the public domain.)

Burns said he does not believe NASA will “ever make money” from patenting the new route, as it is often a matter of historical record-keeping.

“It’s just a marker that shows that this is your intellectual property – you did this, and you were its creator – so at least people give credit when they use it.”

2 Nobel Prizes will wait in the moon ‘Silent Cone’

Dapper’s goal is to study the universe from the “cone of silence” on the far side of the moon. In the realm of solitude, wireless emissions cannot interfere with humanity’s cacophony, the antenna of selecting weak, low-frequency emissions from 13 billion years ago.

“This is the only true radio-quiet region of the internal solar system,” Burns said.

The pollution of humanity’s radio waves – which emanate from almost every electronic device – can easily turn on corners and horizons (so blocking fruit from blocking them is not fruitful). “To get equally calm, you have to get out of Jupiter’s orbit, and go a long way for noise from Earth.”

In particular, the mission seeks to detect the radio emissions of “neutral hydrogen” that dominated the universe very early on. Created a nucleus or core from this first atom within a microsecond of the Big Bang in the universe; The hot soup of the event’s ga ense, energy raja expanded and cooled, allowing the creation of protons, neutrons and electrons.

About 8080,000 years later, that microscopic soup cooled further, allowing a positively charged proton to capture a negatively charged electron and become a neutrally charged hydrogen atom.

The phase is often called the “Dark Ages” because in the visible wavelength of light, humans would not have seen anything.

“There are no stars. There are no galaxies. There is no other source of radiation. So how can you investigate that part of the universe?” Burns said. “You use one thing that got you a lot, which is neutral hydrogen.”

The problem is that those radio signals, which reach the earth in the range of 10 to 100-MHz, are not only filled with the atmosphere of our planet, but also match with numerous power supplies, garage-door openers, radio transmitters, space satellites. , Digital TV signals and more.

“Is the radio spectrum down at these frequencies? It’s just full of garbage,” Burns said.

Burns said that even in space there is so much interference between humanity and the sun that the radio equivalent temperature around the earth is “about a million degrees”.

Sliding behind the moon at the moment the sun is blocked like the earth, the d app is expected to make the first clear recordings of a neutral hydrogen signal. The first stars formed during the spacecraft, about 500 million years after the Big Bang, and possibly during an era called the “Cosmic Dawn”. The first can also collect evidence of black holes and galaxies.

And perhaps – only – the spacecraft could make the first direct discovery of a dark object, which makes up about 80 percent of the mass in the universe, but has not yet been identified.

For researchers who have successfully pursued such a mission, two Nobel Prizes in science can be expected.

“One is that you find out when the first stars and galaxies form and what they are. And number 2, you find out the dark matter,” Burns, who himself had the idea of ​​winning such a prize. .

The race for early-universe radio emissions continues

Burns and others came up with the Dark Edge Radio Explorer lunar mission about 10 years ago, which is why it is described in a patent, not a mission and a dapper, that NASA filed in 2015. (The USPTO is a notorious slow-moving federal organ.)

Burns said while NASA is excited about the courage – no one has ever done it before – the agency was bound by rules that chose science and hardware based on new approaches.

“There’s no history of low-frequency experiments in space. So, on the one hand, people are excited: ‘Wow, you’re opening up a whole new field of cosmology. That’s great. This is amazing. Do what you need to do,'” Burns said. The side is, ‘Well, you’ve never done this before, so it must be dangerous.’ And so you will be marked for dangers. “

Years later, Burns and his colleagues decided to shrink the car-sized spacecraft, fix the novel’s hardware for proven “heritage” techniques, and try again.

Gambling appears to work. NASA has paid several million dollars on the app to prove the idea and mature its hardware design in a flight-ready state over the next two years.

When that work is done, Dapper will have a good chance of getting full funding from NASA to build a spacecraft and book a rocket ride, possibly SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin or some other provider. (Burns said the mission is estimated at about 70 70 million, plus the cost of a launch.)

Burns is not convinced that this mission now requires a new patent to reach lunar orbit. In the years since his team came with him, commercial rocket providers have begun planning to launch to the moon. NASA is also working towards the launch of its giant space launch system rocket, which could easily carry a dapper in flight in the mid-2020s.

“Since this orbital route was first designed, the potential routes to get there have expanded significantly,” Burns said.

But time is running out. There is pressure to land humans (and their noisy electronics) at the moon’s poles, including efforts by China.

The nation’s space agency has also landed a spacecraft from the moon, where its robots are searching the surface for the first time.

“Now that we’ve made the Daper Instrument easier, a lot of people can make it. Many countries, even individual companies, can make this,” Burns said. “Every day I see a paper from China that has my figures in it, and they’re talking about their own mission.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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