By 2020, NASA plans to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon. To make this possible, a reliable stream of consumables such as fuel, food and oxygen, spare parts, and exploration equipment would have to make its way from the Earth to the Moon as predictably as any Earth-based delivery system. To figure out how to do that, MIT researchers created SpaceNet, a software tool for modeling interplanetary supply chains.

SpaceNet is based on a network of nodes on planetary surfaces, in stable orbits around the Earth, the Moon or Mars, or at well-defined points in space where the gravitational force between the two bodies cancels each other out. These nodes act as a source, point of consumption, or transfer point for space exploration logistics. The system evaluates the capability of vehicles to carry pressurized and unpressurized cargo; it simulates the flow of vehicles, crew, and supply items through the trajectories of a space supply network. The latest version, SpaceNet 1.3, was released this month.

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