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Westlake Legal Group > fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa

NASA finds ‘extraterrestrial sugar’ on meteorites, which may have ‘led to the origin of life’

It’s common for asteroids in the Solar System to carry water, one of the essential building blocks for life. But now, NASA researchers have found sugar molecules on two different meteorites, adding credence to the idea that asteroids play a crucial role in supporting life.

The researchers said they discovered ribose and “other bio-essential sugars including arabinose and xylose,” adding that ribose is crucial for RNA (ribonucleic acid), which copies genetic codes from DNA and delivers them to ribosomes used to build proteins essential for life.

“Other important building blocks of life have been found in meteorites previously, including amino acids (components of proteins) and nucleobases (components of DNA and RNA), but sugars have been a missing piece among the major building blocks of life,” said the study’s lead author, Yoshihiro Furukawa, in a statement.

Westlake Legal Group meteorites-hitting-earth NASA finds 'extraterrestrial sugar' on meteorites, which may have 'led to the origin of life' fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox-news/science/air-and-space/asteroids fox news fnc/science fnc d72b7103-2330-56c3-a3e5-8a47bfff459e Chris Ciaccia article

Artist’s concept of meteors impacting ancient Earth. Some scientists think such impacts may have delivered water and other molecules useful to emerging life on Earth. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)

COMETS AND ASTEROIDS COULD BE FLINGING LIFE ALL OVER THE GALAXY, STUDY FINDS

“The research provides the first direct evidence of ribose in space and the delivery of the sugar to Earth,” Furukawa added. “The extraterrestrial sugar might have contributed to the formation of RNA on the prebiotic Earth which possibly led to the origin of life.”

“It is remarkable that a molecule as fragile as ribose could be detected in such ancient material,” Jason Dworkin, one of the study’s co-authors, pointed out. “These results will help guide our analyses of pristine samples from primitive asteroids Ryugu and Bennu, to be returned by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 and NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.”

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which is on its way back to Earth, fired a “bullet” into the asteroid Ryugu in February to collect material from the space rock. OSIRIS-REx, which is orbiting the asteroid Bennu, has made several incredible discoveries on the space rock, including the presence of water.

Westlake Legal Group nasa-bennu NASA finds 'extraterrestrial sugar' on meteorites, which may have 'led to the origin of life' fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox-news/science/air-and-space/asteroids fox news fnc/science fnc d72b7103-2330-56c3-a3e5-8a47bfff459e Chris Ciaccia article

This is a mosaic image of asteroid Bennu, from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The discovery of sugars in meteorites supports the hypothesis that chemical reactions in asteroids – the parent bodies of many meteorites – can make some of life’s ingredients. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

SECOND INTERSTELLAR VISITOR MAY BE CARRYING WATER FROM BEYOND OUR SOLAR SYSTEM, SHOCKING STUDY SUGGESTS

Although the sugar in DNA was not detected in any of the meteorites, the researchers noted the presence of the “extraterrestrial sugar” that makes up RNA is important, nonetheless, with many researchers thinking it came first, only to be replaced by DNA.

“The sugar in DNA (2-deoxyribose) was not detected in any of the meteorites analyzed in this study,” said Danny Glavin, a co-author of the study, added. “This is important since there could have been a delivery bias of extraterrestrial ribose to the early Earth which is consistent with the hypothesis that RNA evolved first.”

Researchers ruled out the possibility of terrestrial sugars when they analyzed it, noting that the carbon in the sugars from the meteorites were “significantly enriched in the heavy 13C, beyond the amount seen in terrestrial biology.”

The research has been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

WATER DETECTED ON POTENTIALLY ‘HABITABLE’ EXOPLANET FOR FIRST TIME, SCIENTISTS SAY

A study published in October 2018 suggested that cometlike objects, such as the mysterious Oumuamua, could be “ferrying” microbial life across thousands of light-years, increasing the idea that panspermia, the hypothesis that life on Earth originated from microorganisms in outer space, is accurate.

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Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this report.

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NASA shares image of the sun resembling a jack-o’-lantern

NASA on Sunday got into the Halloween spirit and posted an image of the sun that resembled a flaming jack-o’-lantern.

NASA CHIEF SAYS PLUTO SHOULD BE A PLANET

The space agency said the photo was taken on Oct. 8, 2014 by its Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite. The flares that are visible are ultraviolet light from its active regions.

Westlake Legal Group halloween_sun_2014_2k NASA shares image of the sun resembling a jack-o’-lantern fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox news fnc/science fnc article 46367bd9-45c1-5619-b203-7ec1f0c8e147

NASA took a photo of the sun in 2014.

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“The active regions in this image appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy,” the statement read. “They are markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. This image blends together two sets of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths…typically colorized in gold and yellow, to create a particularly Halloween-like appearance.”

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NASA announces new VIPER Moon rover that will explore the lunar surface

NASA has unveiled its plan to send a new lunar rover, VIPER, to the surface of the Moon.

“VIPER is going to rove on the South Pole of the moon and assess where the water ice is,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during a wide-ranging speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington D.C. on Friday.

The government space agency notes that the Moon has vast reservoirs of water ice, an amount that could potentially reach millions of tons. The water will be used to sustain a human presence on the lunar surface.

NASA ASTRONAUT EYES MOON JACKPOT, RANGING FROM SPACE MINING TO POLAR ICE

“Water ice is oxygen to breathe, it’s water to drink,” Bridenstine said, adding that hydrogen in the water ice could also be used for rocket fuel. “We’re going to utilize the resources of the Moon to live and work for long periods of time.”

Westlake Legal Group NASAViper NASA announces new VIPER Moon rover that will explore the lunar surface James Rogers fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox-news/science/air-and-space/moon fox news fnc/science fnc fd11c0e1-df8a-557b-a77b-2d9ac79faaac article

Artist’s impression of NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. (Credits: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

NASA plans to land VIPER, which stands for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, on the Moon in December 2022. When it reaches the lunar surface, the golf-cart sized rover will collect about 100 days of data, roaming several miles. VIPER’s instruments, including a 1-meter (3.28 foot) drill, will be used to perform soil samples.

The lander and launch vehicle that will deliver the mobile robot to the Moon will be provided through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract to deliver science and technology payloads to and near the Moon, the space agency said, in a statement.

TRUMP CALLS TO CONGRATULATE ‘BRILLIANT’ NASA ASTRONAUTS DURING THEIR HISTORIC ALL-FEMALE SPACEWALK

NASA’s Artemis program aims to land American astronauts, including the first woman, on the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite.

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A VIPER mobility testbed, an engineering model created to evaluate the rover’s mobility system. (Credits: NASA/Johnson Space Center)

Initial mission capability for 2024 involves landing two astronauts on the Moon’s south pole. Astronauts will live and work out of the lander for six-and-a-half days, according to the agency.

NASA REVEALS ITS VISION FOR THE ARTEMIS MOON LANDER THAT WILL RETURN US ASTRONAUTS TO THE LUNAR SURFACE

Speaking at IAC, Bridenstine also raised the possibility that the next two astronauts to reach the moon could both be female. “That’s an important point to make,” he added.

NASA recently released a “woman on the Moon” illustration for the Artemis mission. “Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo and Goddess of the Moon and the hunt, encompasses all of our present efforts to return humans to the Moon — to prepare us and propel us on to Mars,” the space agency explains on its website. “The portrait of the Greek Goddess, Artemis is illustrated in the highlights and shadows of the crescent Moon topography. Her features are abstract enough that any woman can see themselves in her.”

Earlier this year, NASA released details of its vision for the Artemis Moon lander that will return U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface.

ON APOLLO 11 ANNIVERSARY, PENCE ANNOUNCES THAT ORION CAPSULE FOR MANNED MOON MISSIONS IS READY FOR DEBUT FLIGHT

In July, NASA said it was seeking “proposals from industry for the development of integrated human lunar landers and execution of crewed flight demonstrations to the lunar surface by 2024,” according to a notice posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website.

Speaking at Kennedy Space Center on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing on July 20, Vice President Mike Pence also announced that the Orion capsule that will take American astronauts back to the Moon is ready.

In documents posted on the FBO website, NASA explained that astronauts will be flown in an Orion spacecraft to the ‘Gateway,’ a space station orbiting the Moon. The Gateway vessel will be used to support the transfer of crew and supplies into the Moon Lander.

APOLLO 11 SHOCKER: BUZZ ALDRIN’S FACE DISCOVERED IN ICONIC PHOTO

After Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969, only 10 more men, all Americans, walked on the lunar surface.  Apollo 17 Mission Cmdr. Cernan became the last NASA astronaut to set foot on the Moon on Dec. 14, 1972.

Last week, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history when they completed the first all-female spacewalk.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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Neil Armstrong items to be auctioned off beginning Friday

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A fourth auction of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong’s personal belongings is set to begin Friday, continuing the commemoration of 50 years since NASA‘s first moon landing.

The three previous auctions have raised a total of about $12 million, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

APOLLO 11 SHOCKER: BUZZ ALDRIN’S FACE DISCOVERED IN ICONIC PHOTO

Armstrong, who died in 2012 at age 82, was a native of the Cincinnati area, having been born in Wapakoneta, about 112 miles north of the city.

Rick and Mark Armstrong, sons of the first man to step foot on the lunar surface, on July 20, 1969, told the newspaper they’ve made numerous charitable donations of memorabilia since the death of their father, who reportedly refused to commercialize his place in history.

“Contrary to what you may have heard from others, my brother and I have been very sensitive to this issue since my father’s passing,” Mark Armstrong wrote in an email, according to the Enquirer.

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Items to be up for bid Friday at a Heritage Auctions in Dallas include commemorative medals, small state flags that traveled aboard Apollo 11, and a flight path to the moon that was drawn and signed by Armstrong, the newspaper reported.

The auction will also include items signed by Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the two other members of the Apollo 11 crew.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6059761662001_6059759963001-vs Neil Armstrong items to be auctioned off beginning Friday fox-news/topic/apollo-11 fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox news fnc/science fnc Dom Calicchio article 5c04208f-7b71-5ec6-80f6-3a1c8bdd4845   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6059761662001_6059759963001-vs Neil Armstrong items to be auctioned off beginning Friday fox-news/topic/apollo-11 fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox news fnc/science fnc Dom Calicchio article 5c04208f-7b71-5ec6-80f6-3a1c8bdd4845

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Neil Armstrong items to be auctioned off beginning Friday

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6059761662001_6059759963001-vs Neil Armstrong items to be auctioned off beginning Friday fox-news/topic/apollo-11 fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox news fnc/science fnc Dom Calicchio article 5c04208f-7b71-5ec6-80f6-3a1c8bdd4845

A fourth auction of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong’s personal belongings is set to begin Friday, continuing the commemoration of 50 years since NASA‘s first moon landing.

The three previous auctions have raised a total of about $12 million, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

APOLLO 11 SHOCKER: BUZZ ALDRIN’S FACE DISCOVERED IN ICONIC PHOTO

Armstrong, who died in 2012 at age 82, was a native of the Cincinnati area, having been born in Wapakoneta, about 112 miles north of the city.

Rick and Mark Armstrong, sons of the first man to step foot on the lunar surface, on July 20, 1969, told the newspaper they’ve made numerous charitable donations of memorabilia since the death of their father, who reportedly refused to commercialize his place in history.

“Contrary to what you may have heard from others, my brother and I have been very sensitive to this issue since my father’s passing,” Mark Armstrong wrote in an email, according to the Enquirer.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Items to be up for bid Friday at a Heritage Auctions in Dallas include commemorative medals, small state flags that traveled aboard Apollo 11, and a flight path to the moon that was drawn and signed by Armstrong, the newspaper reported.

The auction will also include items signed by Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the two other members of the Apollo 11 crew.

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Alien life possibly found on Mars in 1970s, ex-NASA scientist says

In a stunning op-ed, a former NASA scientist says he is convinced that the space agency “found evidence of life” on Mars in the 1970s.

In the article, Gilbert Levin, who worked on the Viking missions to the Red Planet during that decade, makes it clear that he believes data from the Labeled Release (LR) in 1976 was supportive of finding life.

“On July 30, 1976, the LR returned its initial results from Mars,” Levin wrote in the op-ed, entitled “I’m Convinced We Found Evidence of Life on Mars in the 1970s.”

“Amazingly, they were positive. As the experiment progressed, a total of four positive results, supported by five varied controls, streamed down from the twin Viking spacecraft landed some 4,000 miles apart.”

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This artist’s impression shows how Mars may have looked about 4 billion years ago when almost half the planet’s northern hemisphere could have been covered by an ocean up to a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep in some places. (ESO/M. Kornmesser)

NASA: ANCIENT MARS OASIS COULD HAVE SUPPORT LIFE

He continued: “The data curves signaled the detection of microbial respiration on the Red Planet. The curves from Mars were similar to those produced by LR tests of soils on Earth. It seemed we had answered that ultimate question.”

The LR, which was led by Levin, took samples of Martian soil that contained organic compounds and looked for carbon dioxide. Astonishingly, the results seemed to indicate that the carbon dioxide was “being regenerated, possibly by microorganisms as on Earth.”

Fox News has reached out to NASA for comment for this story.

However, Levin seemed to criticize the space agency for not following up on the LR findings, even if NASA concluded that it “found a substance mimicking life, but not life.”

“Inexplicably, over the 43 years since Viking, none of NASA’s subsequent Mars landers has carried a life detection instrument to follow up on these exciting results,” he continued. “Instead the agency launched a series of missions to Mars to determine whether there was ever a habitat suitable for life and, if so, eventually to bring samples to Earth for biological examination.”

NASA has made subsequent visits to Mars, including the InSight lander, which landed in November 2018. The Curiosity rover, which has been on Mars since August 2012, detected a surprising spike in the level of methane that it has not yet been able to explain.

Last November, NASA announced that it had picked a landing spot for its upcoming Mars 2020 mission, a rover that will not include “a life-detection test,” Levin wrote.

“With our current measurements, we have no way of telling if the methane source is biology or geology, or even ancient or modern,” said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in a June statement. On Earth, methane is produced both biologically and geologically.

Levin pleaded for the space agency to put “life detection experiments on the next Mars mission possible” to be more precise in their hunt for life, but in also keeping “with well-established scientific protocol.” He also wants an independent group of scientists to review the Viking LR data.

“Such an objective jury might conclude, as I did, that the Viking LR did find life,” Levin concluded. “In any event, the study would likely produce important guidance for NASA’s pursuit of its holy grail.”

The newly published op-ed is not the first time Levin has suggested that life was found on Mars. In 1997, he published “his conclusion that the LR had, indeed, discovered living microorganisms on the Red Planet,” according to his website.

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Purdue honors Apollo 11 with Moon-themed helmets for homecoming game

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Purdue football players will wear a moonwalk-inspired helmet and commemorative astronaut-themed patch during Saturday’s homecoming game against Maryland.

Purdue is the alma mater of a host of astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, Gus Grissom, who was the second American in space, and Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon. The West Lafayette, Ind. school, dubbed ‘the cradle of astronauts,’ counts 25 former and current astronauts among its alumni.

Designed to resemble an astronaut’s helmet, the Boilermakers will take the field on Saturday wearing white helmets with a chrome gold mask. A gray and white Moon pattern on the helmets honors Armstrong and Cernan, and a center stripe commemorates Armstrong’s famous first steps on the lunar surface.

APOLLO 11: WHAT NEIL ARMSTRONG AND BUZZ ALDRIN SAW DURING DRAMATIC MOON LANDING

The helmet stripe also features the numbers 2, 25 and 64 — two Purdue alum walked on the Moon;  25 total Purdue astronauts; and 64 space missions completed by the school’s alums.

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Purdue players will wear the moon-inspired helmets for the homecoming game against Maryland. (Purdue University)

Additionally, a mission sticker with the Griffin from Purdue’s crest placing the school’s flag on the surface of the Moon will be featured on the back of the helmet. The school’s anniversary motto “150 years of giant leaps” is also incorporated into the sticker design.

A patch with the same design will also be on the players’ jerseys for the game against the Terrapins.

APOLLO 11: HOW ‘DUMB LUCK’ SAVED ICONIC MOON PHOTOS FROM BEING DESTROYED

In 2012, Purdue honored Neil Armstrong with a special helmet decal during a game at Notre Dame.

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The Boilermakers will take the field wearing white helmets with a chrome gold mask, which is designed to resemble an astronaut’s helmet. (Purdue University)

Some 13 Purdue astronaut alums will be attending Saturday’s homecoming game, including NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, who is a veteran of three spaceflights. Beth Moses, who became the first female commercial astronaut on Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane earlier this year, will also attend.

During a recent interview, Feustel told Fox News that America’s return to the Moon could unlock a vast trove of space resources.

NASA ASTRONAUT EYES MOON JACKPOT, RANGING FROM SPACE MINING TO POLAR ICE

NASA’s Artemis program aims to land American astronauts on the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite.

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The helmet stripe celebrates Purdue alums’ contribution to space exploration. (Purdue University)

After Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969, only 10 more men, all Americans, walked on the lunar surface.  Apollo 17 Mission Cmdr. Cernan became the last NASA astronaut to set foot on the Moon on Dec. 14, 1972.

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Westlake Legal Group purduesports-1 Purdue honors Apollo 11 with Moon-themed helmets for homecoming game James Rogers fox-news/us/personal-freedoms/proud-american fox-news/topic/apollo-11 fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox-news/science/air-and-space/moon fox news fnc/science fnc b4734600-61a4-5666-b21a-66d8899ed29e article

Purdue players will also wear a specially-designed commemorative patch for the homecoming game. (Purdue University)

Purdue’s game against Maryland kicks off at noon ET Saturday.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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NASA: Ancient Mars oasis could have supported life

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered evidence of an oasis on Mars more than 3 billion years ago, leaving scientists to wonder whether the Red Planet was capable of supporting life.

The research, published in Nature Geoscience, looks at data Curiosity has collected from the Gale Crater, the 150-mile-wide basin the rover is exploring. The scientists behind the study pointed out the rocks that are enriched with mineral salts as evidence of “shallow briny ponds that went through episodes of overflow and drying,” according to a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“We went to Gale Crater because it preserves this unique record of a changing Mars,” said the study’s lead author, William Rapin, in the statement. “Understanding when and how the planet’s climate started evolving is a piece of another puzzle: When and how long was Mars capable of supporting microbial life at the surface?”

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The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called “Old Soaker” may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA CHIEF SCIENTIST SAYS ‘WE’RE CLOSE’ TO MAKING ANNOUNCEMENTS ABOUT LIFE ON MARS

The Gale Crater, which is believed to be between 3.5 and 3.8 billion years old, serves as a reminder of the difference between Mars’ climate then, which was wet, to the desolate, arid climate it has today.

Mars once had a very wet surface, covered in wide, raging rivers. Water may be the lifeblood of our planet, but it’s unclear whether Mars ever supported (or still supports) life.

Rapin and his team analyzed the salts they found in a 500-foot-tall section of sedimentary rocks known as “Sutton Island,” visited by Curiosity in 2017.

He speculated that Sutton Island could have looked like the saline lakes that are seen on South America’s Altiplano, believed to be influenced by the climate in the same way Gale was. “During drier periods, the Altiplano lakes become shallower, and some can dry out completely,” Rapin added. “The fact that they’re vegetation-free even makes them look a little like Mars.”

The next steps for researchers will be to understand how long it took for Gale Crater to go from a shallow, briny lake to the arid, desolate region it is now.

“Finding inclined layers represents a major change, where the landscape isn’t completely underwater anymore,” said team member, Chris Fedo, in the statement. “We may have left the era of deep lakes behind.”

Westlake Legal Group Mars-oasis-2 NASA: Ancient Mars oasis could have supported life fox-news/science/air-and-space/nasa fox-news/science/air-and-space/mars fox news fnc/science fnc d6c96b82-76b7-5cfd-951a-9b6a282eb7c7 Chris Ciaccia article

This animation demonstrates the salty ponds and streams that scientists think may have been left behind as Gale Crater dried out over time. The bottom of the image is the floor of Gale Crater, with the peak being the side of Mount Sharp. (Credit: ASU Knowledge Enterprise Development (KED), Michael Northrop)

“We can’t say whether we’re seeing wind or river deposits yet in the clay-bearing unit, but we’re comfortable saying is it’s definitely not the same thing as what came before or what lies ahead,” he added.

MARTIAN METEOR COLLISION MAY HAVE TRIGGERED A 1,000 FOOT TSUNAMI

The Curiosity rover, which celebrated its seventh anniversary on the Red Planet in August, has made several remarkable discoveries, including finding “unusually high” levels of methane and a “shiny” object believed to be a meteorite.

NASA hopes the Curiosity rover, which “has a few more years before its nuclear power system degrades enough to significantly limit operations,” can provide additional clues about the planet prior to the launch of the Mars 2020 rover mission.

In November, NASA announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet. The rover is expected to reach the Martian surface on Feb. 18, 2021. NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

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Amazing ‘shapeshifter’ robots could explore Saturn’s moon Titan

New shapeshifting robots from NASA could give us new access to far-flung parts of the galaxy — including Saturn’s moon Titan.

The Shapeshifter concept is being developed at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and NASA describes it as a “contraption that looks like a drone encased in an elongated hamster wheel rolls across the yard, then splits in half.”

The Shapeshifter concept is something that will eventually allow for exploration of Saturn’s moon Titan, which is the only other world in the solar system known to have liquid in the form of methane lakes, rivers and seas on its surface, according to JPL Principal Investigator Ali Agha.

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An artist’s depiction of a fleet of Shapeshifter robots exploring Saturn’s moon Titan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marilynn Flynn)

“We have very limited information about the composition of the surface. Rocky terrain, methane lakes, cryovolcanoes – we potentially have all of these, but we don’t know for certain,” Agha said in a statement. “So we thought about how to create a system that is versatile and capable of traversing different types of terrain but also compact enough to launch on a rocket.”

NASA sees Shapeshifter as comprising several autonomous robots, known as “cobots,” that would be able to self-assemble into larger contraptions. They would then be able to move together or separate depending on the needs of the mission.

Agha sees a “mothercraft” type of lander that would touch down on Titan and serve as an energy source for the cobots while also carrying scientific instruments. Flight is easier on Titan, which has a dense atmosphere and low gravity.

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A prototype of the transforming robot Shapeshifter is tested in the robotics yard at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“It is often the case that some of the hardest places to get to are the most scientifically interesting because maybe they’re the youngest, or they’re in an area that was not well characterized from orbit,” Jason Hofgartner, JPL’s lead scientist for Shapeshifter, said in the same statement. “Shapeshifter’s remarkable versatility enables access to all of these scientifically compelling places.”

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NASA astronaut eyes moon jackpot, ranging from space mining to polar ice

From mining clean energy to harnessing polar ice for rocket fuel propellant, America’s return to the moon could unlock a vast trove of space resources, according to NASA astronaut Drew Feustel.

NASA’s Artemis program aims to land American astronauts on the moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite.

“I think it’s going to be to build efficiencies in our space economy – there are mining resources, rocket fuel potential, there is solar energy that’s not impeded by the atmosphere,” Feustel told Fox News. “We don’t know what resources are there because we haven’t explored it yet.”

NASA REVEALS ITS VISION FOR THE ARTEMIS MOON LANDER THAT WILL RETURN US ASTRONAUTS TO THE LUNAR SURFACE

Feustel highlighted, in particular, the moon’s polar ice caps, which have been garnering a great deal of attention in the build-up to the Artemis missions. “We do believe that there’s massive amounts of frozen water up there,” he said, adding that this could be used in the production of rocket fuel. “It’s a pretty efficient place to have a water storage solution to make propellants for rocket fuel.”

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NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel rests in a chair shortly after landing in a remote area outside the town of Dzhezkazgan (Zhezkazgan), Kazakhstan, on Oct. 4, 2018. (MAXIM SHIPENKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Other possibilities include mining the lunar surface for Helium-3, according to Feustel. Helium-3 is a non-radioactive isotope that could be used for power.

The Artemis program will also make history by landing the first woman on the moon. “At this point, any of the 45 active astronauts are fair game for missions to the moon,” Feustel said. “We’re all interested in this mission.”

NASA CHIEF: FUTURE ARTEMIS MOON MISSIONS WILL BUILD ON APOLLO 11’S INCREDIBLE LEGACY

Feustel, who has a Ph.D. in geological sciences, told Fox News that he would love to see the lunar surface up close.

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The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of the U.S and crewmate Oleg Artemyev of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, March 21, 2018. (REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov)

A veteran of three spaceflights, he also acknowledges that the 2024 deadline is looming. “It is close and it’s a formidable challenge for us,” he said. “The key is going to be the allocation of funds – I think we can do it with the right funding in place.”

“Nothing will happen if we can’t get the federal government to provide the allocation and for everyone to get on board — that’s what we’re working on,” he added.

BUZZ ALDRIN PREDICTS ARTEMIS PROGRAM WILL LEAVE DECADES-LONG LEGACY LIKE APOLLO

Feustel recently announced the winners of Emmy’s in science and technology programming at Lincoln Center in New York. The nominations were announced by astronauts on the International Space Station.  “It brought some visibility to the work that NASA is doing,” Feustel told Fox News.

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Artist’s rendering of an ascent vehicle separating from a descent vehicle and departing the lunar surface. (NASA)

NASA recently revealed details of its vision for the Artemis Moon Lander that will return U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface.

In a notice posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website, NASA seeks “proposals from industry for the development of integrated human lunar landers and execution of crewed flight demonstrations to the lunar surface by 2024.”

ON APOLLO 11 ANNIVERSARY, PENCE ANNOUNCES THAT ORION CAPSULE FOR MANNED MOON MISSIONS IS READY FOR DEBUT FLIGHT

Speaking at Kennedy Space Center on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing on July 20, Vice President Mike Pence also announced that the Orion capsule that will take American astronauts back to the moon is ready.

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Artist’s impression of the Artemis Lander on the lunar surface. (NASA)

In documents posted on the FBO website, NASA explains that astronauts will be flown in an Orion spacecraft to the ‘Gateway,’ a space station orbiting the moon. The Gateway vessel will be used to support the transfer of crew and supplies into the Moon Lander.

Initial mission capability for 2024 involves landing two astronauts on the moon’s South Pole. Astronauts will live and work out of the lander for 6.5 days, according to NASA.

TO PREPARE ASTRONAUTS FOR THE MOON, NASA IS USING A GIANT WATER TANK

Longer term, the lander will need to transport four people to the lunar South Pole.

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NASA astronaut Nick Hague sporting the Artemis logo during a spacewalk on Aug. 22. (NASA)

NASA anticipates that a three-stage landing system will be used to take astronauts to and from the lunar surface. “The three-stage concept includes a transfer element for the journey from the lunar Gateway to low-lunar orbit, a descent element to carry the crew to the surface, and an ascent element to return them to the Gateway,” it explained, in a statement. “From there, they would board Orion for the 250,000-mile trip back to Earth.”

The space agency, however, says that it is also interested in alternative approaches “that can accomplish the same long-term goals of global lunar access and a reusable landing system.”

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After Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, only 10 more men, all Americans, walked on the lunar surface. The last NASA astronaut to set foot on the moon was Apollo 17 Mission Cmdr. Gene Cernan on Dec. 14, 1972.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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