The American space agency NASA has developed a portable device to guide future explorers to the moon.
The system is designed to map ground and guide astronauts through uncharted territories and dark areas of the moon.
The device can be worn as a backpack. It’s called the Kinematic Navigation and Mapping Backpack, or KNaCK. The system has been specifically designed to provide navigation assistance on the moon, which does not have the types of GPS systems that exist on Earth.
KNaCK is equipped with a technology called LiDAR to produce 3D maps in real time. LiDAR uses sensors and light lasers to map the environment and measure distances.
NASA engineers worked with private partners to develop the system. One of the partners is Aeva Inc. of Mountain View, California. The company provided LiDAR sensors and support for the project, NASA said.
The sensors it provided to NASA use a technology known as FMCW, Aeva said in a press release. NASA says the technology can provide “millions of measurement points per second” and create a high-quality map of an area’s terrain.
The company explained that the sun does not interfere with FMCW technology and it can work in the dark. It can help astronauts and lunar vehicles explore and map the lunar surface day and night.
James Reuther is the vice president of technology at Aeva. He said the KNaCK system will be important “to help astronauts perform critical operations Goals NASA’s Artemis program.
Artemis is NASA’s program to bring humans back to the moon. It aims to land American astronauts on the Moon by 2025. It would be the first time humans have visited the Moon since NASA’s Apollo 17 landing in 1972.
Michael Zanetti directs the KNaCK project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He said the device looked like an “overpowered version” of the laser-based technologies used in survey vehicle operating and driving assistance tools.
Zanetti noted that KNaCK can be used by astronauts for navigation operations and scientific mapping. “It will also help keep astronauts and mobile vehicles safe in a GPS-less environment such as the Moon,” he said.
Zanetti added that the system can provide real-time maps to show explorers “how far they’ve traveled and how far they still have to go to reach their destination.” destination.”
NASA also worked with Alabama-based Torch Technologies Inc. to develop a functional KNaCK backpack model. The device has been tested in several settings, including at a NASA research center in Kilbourne Hole, New Mexico. The center is used for lunar research as it is near a volcano crater which contains moon-like terrain.
The space agency says the device can become an important part of future exploration activities on the moon. This could be especially true for astronaut visits to the moon’s south pole. NASA wants to send explorers to this area. However, it receives little sunlight and would be difficult for astronauts to navigate.
The development team says they will work on reducing the size of KNaCK next. The current backpack model weighs around 18 kilograms. The goal is to produce a device the size of a soda can for easy transport.
Engineers are also working to find ways to protect the device’s sensitive electronics from the effects of microgravity and the radiation that exists in space.
I am Brian Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from NASA and Aeva Inc.
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words in this story
ground – nm a particular type of terrain
backpack -not. a bag for carrying things that has two straps and is worn on the back
navigate – v. find the right direction to travel using maps or other equipment
GPS (global positioning system) – nm a radio system that uses signals from satellites to tell you where you are and give you directions to other places
goal – nm something you are trying to achieve
survey – v. examine an area of land by taking measurements and recording details
destination – nm where someone or something is going
crater – nm a large hole in the ground created by the force of an object