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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, NASA Team Up to Simulate Lunar Gravity

The two parties announced on Tuesday that they would collaborate on ways to test new technology bound for the moon.

NASA and Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company, have teamed up to emulate the gravity of the moon in the company’s New Shepard rocket.

“The unique gravity of the lunar surface is one of the many variable conditions in which technologies bound for the Moon will have to perform well,” explains the statement from the space agency.

The first step to achieve this milestone is to convert the capsule of the ship into a centrifuge, similar to washing machines but much more powerful.

“The New Shepard updates will allow the vehicle to use its reaction control system to impart a rotation to the capsule. As a result, the entire capsule essentially acts as a large centrifuge to create artificial gravity environments for the payloads inside,” says the NASA statement.

The innovation is expected to be ready by the end of 2022 and will become a complement to the Artemis program, which seeks to take a man again and for the first time a woman to the moon in 2024.

Before achieving the grand goal of getting cargo and a crew to the moon, the first test flight will target 11 rotations per minute to provide more than two minutes of continuous lunar gravity. It will expose the technology to challenging and difficult-to-operate conditions.

• What Is the Goal?

According to Christopher Baker, director of NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, one of today’s constant challenges of living and working in space is reduced gravity.

He added that many of the systems designed on Earth for astronauts do not work the same way elsewhere. What is sought with New Shepard is to improve the time of exposure to lunar gravity and the payload capacity.

“Currently, NASA can approximate the Moon’s gravity in parabolic flights and in centrifuges in suborbital vehicles, both invaluable options for maturing promising innovations,” he said.

“But these methods provide only seconds of exposure to lunar gravity at a time or limit the size of the payload, forcing NASA to explore options of greater duration and size. Blue Origin’s new lunar gravity testing capability, expected to be available in late 2022, is responding to that need.”

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Alex Pantin

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