NASA has recently launched a remote sensing technology known as the “Kinematic Navigation & Cartography (KNaCK)”, which is designed to help astronauts on the moon with navigation and pathfinding at the south pole of the moon, where there are no GPS or other such navigation facilities available. By collaborating with the industry partners, i.e., Torch Technologies and Aeva, NASA has given the finishing touch to this telecommunicational technology by collaborating with them. This technology will create 3D images of the nearby mountains and hilly areas on the moon and will guide the astronauts about the distance that is already being covered and left.
NASA’s “Early Career Initiative” pioneered this project in 2020, and then in 2021, its prototype was manufactured, which was then tested by the engineers and has already received an approval license from NASA for its successful testing and trials. KNaCK is based on the principle of LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and uses the mechanism of Frequency Modulated Continuous-wave (FMCW) to give information about the Doppler range and velocity to astronauts, which consequently helps them take millions of measurements per second. Then, through these measurements, a proper navigational map of the moon is created in ultra-high-resolution pixels by incorporating the LIDAR technology for imaging, which will ultimately assist the astronauts in making their next known move on the moon. This technology will increase the quality of life of astronauts on the moon, especially at the south pole, as they can now take their every step by being aware of the navigational parameters and exploring things more quickly and efficiently there.
As humans, we tend to orient ourselves based on landmarks: a certain structure, a grove of trees. On the Moon, those things do not exist. KNaCK will allow explorers crossing the surface to constantly identify their movement, direction, and orientation to distant peaks or their base of operations. They can even mark specific locations where they discovered some unusual mineral or rock formation so that others can easily return for further research, “said planetary scientist Dr. Michael Zanetti.
The design of KNaCK is like a person wearing a backpack, but major modifications are expected in its design parameters and the weight conversions as well. Presently, it weighs around 40 pounds, and researchers are trying to reduce it to a level so that it can be worn like a helmet on an astronaut’s head.