NASA and Blue Origin are teaming up to test a robotic system that could help astronauts land on the moon.
Last week, the US space agency shared news that it will work with the private space company founded by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos to test technologies that could solve one of the biggest problems on the moon for humans — safely landing on it.
It’s all part of the Safe and Precise Landing – Integrated Capabilities Evolution project, also known as SPLICE.
The objective is to make it much easier to avoid obstacles as a spacecraft is preparing to land, using a combination of lasers, cameras, computers, and algorithms to “give spacecraft the artificial eyes and analytical capability” to land safely.
On Twitter last week, the Blue Origin account shared that there are some “very cool flight tests coming,” using the New Shepard rocket to these systems. The firm is set to play a big role in NASA’s lunar plans: beyond testing SPLICE, the firm developing a human landing system for the Artemis project that will return NASA astronauts to the moon in 2024.
If successful, SPLICE could aid in solving one of the toughest challenges in space exploration. It’s a struggle that NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong faced on the history-making crewed mission to the moon. GeekWire describes how, during the 1969 mission, Armstrong had to ease the controls in a split-second decision to avoid the rocks and debris on the lunar surface.
It’s an issue the next generation of NASA astronauts would face on their trip to the moon if it weren’t for the advances in technology over the past five decades. SPLICE will help spacecraft find their way to a safe spot within the designated landing ellipse, a circle that has gradually grown smaller as precision has improved.
“What we’re building is a complete descent and landing system that will work for future Artemis missions to the Moon and can be adapted for Mars,” project manager Ron Sostaric said in a statement. “Our job is to put the individual components together and make sure that it works as a functioning system.”