A lunar lander called Blue Ghost will touch down on the Earth's Moon in 2023, carrying with it a Montana State University experiment on how outer space radiation affects computers. Marshall Swearingen of MSU News reported that RadPC has already been tested in Earth orbit and on the International Space Station. NASA had earlier accepted the project as part of a payload headed toward the lunar surface, but a schedule this past week gives the Bozeman, Montana, project team some definite deadlines to put together the finishing touches.

Brock LaMeres, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering professor, said, "We were doing prototyping and testing, and then overnight this announcement changed everything. It's exciting because all of a sudden we're scheduling meetings with upper-level NASA people to lay out the schedule for everything that has to happen before launch."

LaMeres, the project leader, says the RadPC project has been developed, working closely with NASA, over the last 10 years, involving over 62 undergraduates, 17 graduate students and a dozen faculty, including engineers in the Space science and Engineering Lab in the Department of Physics at the MSU campus.

The study involves a way for space computers to deal with radiation, such as high-energy particles from the Sun. Earth's atmosphere shields much of that radiation. LaMeres explained in a news release that multiple common computer processors worth together. If a radiation particle disrupts one processor, one of others takes over immediately, and the computer keeps working. The unique software program handles the redundancy. The RadPC has flown on the International Space Station and has been tested on high-altitude balloons and on two small orbiting satellites.

The MSU prototype is one of a dozen tech projects on the lander as part of the Artemis program, which hopes to establish a human base on the Moon in 2024, leading to a mission to Mars. MSU has a $1.6 million NASA grant to get the project delivered in a year, with a further year of testing before the launch. More information at the MSU News Service.

Jake Davis (left) and Chris Major work on RadPC at MSU. (MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez)

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