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Basrawi News Encyclopedia – Written by: Haifa Hussein / The next generation lunar backpack from NASA could give astronauts the ability to create a three-dimensional map of the moon’s surface as they walk over the regolith.
The Kinetic Navigation and Mapping Bag (KNaCK) is a portable, wearable lidar scanner that uses light and lasers to measure range.
NASA researchers and industry partners have developed the device that can not only help astronauts in the airless wasteland of the moon’s south pole, but also on Earth. One of the proposed uses is a mountaineering expedition in an uninhabited environment. And hikers can create a real-time map for others, as well as other hikers they might be following – all from a simple backpack.
By using KNaCK during lunar rover expeditions, as well as when traveling on foot, astronauts can accurately map the terrain of a landscape, including deep valleys, mountains and caves. They can even mark important sites for follow-up.
The first woman and first person will land on the moon in 2025, as part of the NASA Artemis program, which will eventually land humans on Mars.
KNaCK is worn like a backpack for a rover, and uses an innovative type of frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) lidar to provide Doppler velocity and range to millions of measurement points per second.
These measurement points instantly create a real-time navigation system, providing the navigator with a 3D “point cloud” or a high-resolution map of the surrounding terrain. It’s like a high-powered version of laser rangefinders, or the highly sensitive proximity alarm that allows smart cars to avoid collisions.
Planetary scientist Dr Michael Zanetti, who leads the KNaCK project, said the sensor is a survey tool for scientific navigation and mapping on unusual terrain.
“It is able to create ultra-high-resolution 3D maps with an accuracy of up to centimeters and give them a rich scientific context,” Zanetti said.
It will also help ensure the safety of astronauts and roaming vehicles in a restricted environment by using GPS such as the moon, determining actual distances to distant landmarks and showing explorers in real time how far they have come.
This is a major challenge as explorers of the Artemis era prepare to undertake the first modern missions to the Moon, and the first ever to the South Pole.
The sun never rises more than 3 degrees above the lunar horizon in that region, leaving much of the terrain in deep shadow.
This makes it difficult to determine distances to different points of interest – they require maps and data to help astronauts plan for future bases.
The KNaCK project, started in 2020 with funding from NASA’s Early Career Initiative, partnered with Torch Technologies of Huntsville to develop the backpack’s prototype and associated navigation algorithms.
These algorithms will allow accurate mapping of a planet without GPS.
LiDAR works even in the dark, relieving astronauts of having to carry cumbersome lighting devices everywhere they go. They can even locate specific locations where they found some unique mineral or rock formations, so that others can easily return for further study.
This is vital for astronauts who will be working on a tight deadline, with flights limited due to the oxygen supply in their suits.
The device will undergo another major field test in late April at NASA’s Virtual Solar System Exploration Research Institute (SSERVI) in Kilburn Hall, New Mexico.
Kennedy and Marshall engineers will continue to use KNaCK to assess the impact of storms on dune erosion, ensuring the safety of future flight missions as they improve the system.
Next, the KNaCK team will work on miniaturizing the devices — a backpack prototype weighs about 40 pounds — and strengthening sensitive electronics against the opposite effects of microgravity and solar radiation.
Source: Daily Mail
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