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Astronauts can't return to moon by 2024 because spacesuits aren't ready, NASA watchdog – CTV News

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NASA’s goal of returning American astronauts to the moon by 2024 isn’t feasible because of significant delays in developing spacesuits, NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin said in a new report.

Even though NASA will have spent more than a billion dollars on the next-generation spacesuits, Martin concluded that the “suits would not be ready for flight until April 2025 at the earliest” and are “years away from completion.”

The report attributes the delays to funding shortfalls, COVID-19 impacts and technical challenges. Currently, there are 27 different companies supplying various components for the suits. SpaceX’s Elon Musk said on Twitter that the report makes it seem “like too many cooks in the kitchen,” adding that “SpaceX could do it if need be.”

SpaceX won a US$2.9 billion contract from NASA in April to develop the lunar lander for the Artemis program. But the awarding of that contract was delayed due to a protest from two competitors, Blue Origin and Dynetics. The inspector general said those protests, combined with delays to NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion Capsule, also contributed to NASA’s inability to meet its goal of a 2024 landing. The issues have resulted in approximately 20 months of delay to the flight suit delivery schedule, according to the report.

Current NASA Administrator Bill Nelson addressed the 2024 readiness question during a recent interview with CNN’s Rachel Crane.

“I’m soberly realistic. The goal is 2024, but space is hard. And we know when you are pushing the edge of the envelope, often there are delays. There’s a No. 1 factor and that’s safety, and it’s involving humans. There might be a delay, but the goal is late 2024.”

Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver has previously criticized the 2024 time line and compared the Artemis program to the parable of the emperor with no clothes.

In response to the release of the report, Garver told CNN, “Unfortunately, I don’t think the emperor has many clothes left on under the spacesuit either.”

An audit was carried out between August 2020 and July 2021 to examine the development of NASA’s next-generation spacesuits required for the International Space Station and Artemis missions that will return humans to the moon later this decade.

The development of new spacesuits is critical for “returning humans to the Moon, continuing safe operations on the International Space Station, and exploring Mars and other deep space locations,” according to the report.

These Extravehicular Mobility Units, or EMUs, include the spacesuit and hardware that astronauts use to connect to the ISS and other spacecraft.

“Currently, astronauts use EMUs designed 45 years ago for the Space Shuttle Program and rely on these refurbished and partially redesigned spacesuits for extravehicular activities on the ISS,” according to the report.

The development of new spacesuit technology has been ongoing at NASA for the last 14 years. Five years ago, work began on the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Units, or xEMU project. Two flight-ready xEMUs, as well as a test suit and a demo suit for the ISS, are also needed ahead of this historic lunar landing.

The report noted that the failure to complete the suits ahead of the November 2024 planned mission, known as Artemis III, isn’t the only factor impacting the schedule.

Recommendations to get back on track

To make sure the xEMUs are completed, the report made four recommendations including adjusting the schedule to reduce development risks and creating a master schedule that brings hardware and training needs together.

The document also suggests “ensuring technical requirements for the next-generation suits are solidified before selecting the acquisition strategy to procure suits for the ISS and Artemis programs” and making sure that strategy meets the needs of both programs.

“The lunar landing relies on the HLS Program, which is early in the design phase, but has specific requirements for the technical capability, functionality, and overall size of the suits,” according to the report. “However, the suits are also needed as soon as possible by the ISS Program to replace aging suits that have exceeded their design life by more than 25 years, necessitating costly maintenance to ensure astronaut safety. Thus far, NASA has struggled to align these schedules with mission needs.”

After receiving a draft of the report, NASA management agreed with the recommendations and has plans to address them.

“NASA intends to perform a demonstration prior to the first Artemis crewed mission” by June 2022, according a letter from Kathryn Lueders, NASA’s Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, that was included in the report.

The agency released a statement on Tuesday addressing the report.

“Sending the first woman and first person of color to the lunar surface and establishing a long-term presence at the Moon under Artemis is a priority for NASA. The agency is evaluating the current budget and schedule for Artemis missions and will provide an update later this year,” according to the statement.

The goal to land the first woman and the next man on the moon was established by the Trump administration originally for 2028, then moved up to November 2024. In addition to adopting the goal, the Biden administration added seeking to land the first person of color on the moon to the program’s goal.

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Strontium isotopes can map monarch butterfly migrations and help conservation efforts – Yahoo News Canada

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<img class="caas-img has-preview" alt="A monarch butterfly’s body can reveal where the caterpillar originated from. (Shutterstock)” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/84sKLFXSe_iNGEgg_HRU8g–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYzOQ–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/xbvwLWMGPR2u5NVdvn7f8g–~B/aD05NTk7dz0xNDQwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_canada_501/ceb7facd532b53ba539919c1a016b851″ data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/84sKLFXSe_iNGEgg_HRU8g–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYzOQ–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/xbvwLWMGPR2u5NVdvn7f8g–~B/aD05NTk7dz0xNDQwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_canada_501/ceb7facd532b53ba539919c1a016b851″>

A monarch butterfly’s body can reveal where the caterpillar originated from. (Shutterstock)

The eastern North American population of monarch butterflies are famous for their annual, multi-generational, round-trip migration from the oyamel fir forests of Central Mexico through the United States to Canada and back. Sadly, the population of monarch butterflies is declining, and the future of the monarch migratory phenomenon is uncertain.

Scientists can study migrations by looking at the chemicals stored within the teeth, bones, tusks and wings of animals. In the case of monarch butterflies, the signature contained in its wings reveals where it was a caterpillar, allowing researchers to trace its natal origin, or birthplace.

Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have different masses because they have a different number of neutrons. For some elements, such as hydrogen and strontium, the proportion of heavy versus light isotopes in the environment changes predictably between locations, giving locations unique isotopic signatures. A map of these local isotopic signatures is called an isoscape.

Read more: Explainer: what is an isotope?

Isotopes have informed conservation efforts for decades because they are helpful for identifying where an animal has migrated from.

Strontium (Sr) is an alkaline earth metal with four stable isotopes: 84Sr, 86Sr, 87Sr and 88Sr. Strontium isotopes ratios (the ratio of 87Sr to 86Sr) are a new addition to the ecologist’s isotopic toolbox. Strontium isotopes will help ecologists pinpoint the origins of migrating animals more precisely and solve longstanding questions related to the migratory connectivity and migratory patterns of monarch butterflies.

What bodies can reveal

As animals (including humans) feed and drink, they incorporate the local isotopic signature into their bodies. The isotopic signature of animal tissue can then be compared to an isoscape map to find out where the tissue was formed.

For example, the strontium isotope ratio of human teeth can tell you where a person spent their childhood because teeth are formed early in life. Human bones, however, will tell you where they spent the last decade of their life because bone tissue replaces itself every 10 years or so.

Some tissues grow in layers over time, like in tree rings or fish earbones. These layered tissues reveal where an animal was located at different times of its life, as shown with mammoth tusks.

A diagram showing how isotope geolocation works

A diagram showing how isotope geolocation works

Why do we need isotope geolocation?

Ideally, we would study animal migration by putting tiny radio transmitters on many individuals and tracking them for a long period of time. However, this approach isn’t practical in many situations.

For example, we cannot use a radio transmitter to find the origin of poached elephant ivory or the home range size of extinct lemur specimens from a museum. But we can use isotopes to learn something about the lives of these deceased animals.

Some animals, like insects, are too small and numerous to be effectively tracked using tagging methods. Although significant advances have been made in recent years, insects are still too small to be tracked with radio transmitters on a large scale. Therefore, isotopes are one of our best tools for answering questions about insect migratory patterns and connectivity. Given the current context of global climate change and population declines, we urgently need to know more about animal migration so that we can conserve migrations for future generations.

Read more: Monarch butterflies raised in captivity can still join the migration

The case of monarch butterflies

Hydrogen and carbon isotopes have been used for decades to trace the natal origins of monarch butterflies. These studies have helped guide conservation efforts and inform listing decisions.

For example, isotopes have helped researchers figure out which regions of the United States contribute the most monarchs to the overwintering population. Other studies have shown that some monarchs are opting for a non-migratory lifestyle and have shown that an extreme northwestern migration into Canada came from the Midwest.

Strontium isotope ratios and monarch butterflies

My collaborators and I recently demonstrated how strontium isotopes can be used to study animal migration. We found that strontium isotopes, especially when combined with hydrogen isotopes, can estimate the natal origin of a monarch butterfly to a more precise geographic location — about four times better — than using hydrogen alone.

In our study, we created a strontium isoscape map for the breeding range of the monarch butterfly. This means we now have a ready-to-use tool for estimating the natal origin of monarch butterflies using strontium.

We hope that applying strontium isotopes to both new and archived monarch specimens will advance our understanding of how monarch migration patterns and connectivity have changed over time, and ultimately help guide conservation actions to protect this migratory phenomenon.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Megan Reich, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa.

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Megan Reich receives funding from the Ontario Government (OGS and QEII-GSST), the University of Utah SPATIAL group (ORIGIN Graduate Fellowship), and the Entomological Society of Canada.

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World's most dangerous bird raised by humans 18000 years ago, study suggests – CTV News

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The earliest bird reared by humans may have been a cassowary — often called the world’s most dangerous bird because of its long, dagger-like toe.

Territorial, aggressive and often compared to a dinosaur in looks, the bird is a surprising candidate for domestication.

However, a new study of more than 1,000 fossilized eggshell fragments, excavated from two rock shelters used by hunter-gatherers in New Guinea, has suggested early humans may have collected the eggs of the large flightless bird before they hatched and then raised the chicks to adulthood. New Guinea is a large island north of Australia. The eastern half of the island is Papua New Guinea, while the western half forms part of Indonesia.

“This behavior that we are seeing is coming thousands of years before domestication of the chicken,” said lead study author Kristina Douglass, an assistant professor of anthropology and African studies at Penn State University.

“And this is not some small fowl, it is a huge, ornery, flightless bird that can eviscerate you,” she said in a news statement.

The researchers said that while a cassowary can be aggressive (a man in Florida was killed by one in 2019), it “imprints” easily — it becomes attached to the first thing it sees after hatching. This means it’s easy to maintain and raise up to adult size.

Today, the cassowary is New Guinea’s largest vertebrate, and its feathers and bones are prized materials for making bodily adornments and ceremonial wear. The bird’s meat is considered a delicacy in New Guinea.

There are three species of cassowary, and they are native to parts of northern Queensland, Australia, and New Guinea. Douglass thought our ancient ancestors most likely reared the smallest species, the dwarf cassowary, that weighs around 20 kilograms (44 pounds).

The fossilized eggshells were carbon-dated as part of the study, and their ages ranged from 18,000 to 6,000 years old.

Humans are believed to have first domesticated chickens no earlier than 9,500 years ago.

NOT FOR SNACKING

To reach their conclusions, the researchers first studied the eggshells of living birds, including turkeys, emus and ostriches.

The insides of the eggshells change as the developing chicks get calcium from the eggshell. Using high-resolution 3D images and inspecting the inside of the eggs, the researchers were able to build a model of what the eggs looked like during different stages of incubation.

The scientists tested their model on modern emu and ostrich eggs before applying it to the fossilized eggshell fragments found in New Guinea. The team found that most of the eggshells found at the sites were all near maturity.

“What we found was that a large majority of the eggshells were harvested during late stages,” Douglass said. “The eggshells look very late; the pattern is not random.”

These late-stage eggshells indicate people living at these two rock shelter sites were harvesting eggs when the cassowary embryos had fully formed limbs, beaks, claws and feathers, the study said.

But were humans purposefully collecting these eggs to allow them to hatch or collecting the eggs to eat? It’s possible they were doing both, Douglass said.

Consuming eggs with fully formed embryos is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, but Douglass said the research team’s analysis suggested people were hatching the chicks.

“We also looked at burning on the eggshells,” Douglass said in the news release. “There are enough samples of late stage eggshells that do not show burning that we can say they were hatching and not eating them.”

BIG BIRD AS VALUABLE RESEARCH

Less mature eggshells showed more signs of burning — suggesting that when cassowary eggs were consumed they were cooked and eaten when their contents were primarily liquid.

“In the highlands today people raise cassowary chicks to adulthood, in order to collect feathers, and consume or trade the birds. It is possible cassowaries were also highly valued in the past, since they are among the largest vertebrate animals on New Guinea. Raising cassowaries from chicks would provide a readily available source of feathers and meat for an animal that is otherwise challenging to hunt in the wild as an adult,” she explained via email.

However, there is still much the researchers don’t know.

To successfully hatch and raise cassowary chicks, people would need to know where the nests were, know when the eggs were laid and remove them from the nest just before hatching. This is no easy feat as birds don’t nest at the same sites each year. Once a female lays the eggs, male birds take over nest duty and don’t leave for 50 days while incubating the eggs.

“People may have hunted the male and then collected the eggs. Because males don’t leave the nest unattended they also don’t feed much during the incubation period making them more vulnerable to predators,” she said.

The research was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PNAS on Monday.

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Atlas V: Rocket launch creates strange lights in UK sky – BBC News

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Simon Woodley

Amateur stargazers in the UK were sent rushing for their cameras by strange cone-shaped lights in the sky created by a US rocket.

Nasa launched the Atlas V, carrying the Landsat 9 satellite, at about 20:00 BST on Monday.

About two hours later it performed a reversing manoeuvre, releasing two glowing clouds of vapour.

Clear skies made for an out-of-this-world view of the stellar spectacle, visible above large parts of UK.

Photographer Simon Woodley “couldn’t believe his eyes” when he snapped the launch from South Shields.

Mr Woodley was out taking photos of the moonrise when he saw the unknown bright light for “three or four minutes”.

“I went through the possibilities of comet or aircraft or even a laser beam. It was only when I got home I found out what it was,” he said.

Education charity UK Astronomy said the light was the rocket’s deorbit burn, created as it fires its engines to commence its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere before burning up.

Astronomer and science writer Will Gater said the glowing, tear drop-shaped clouds were a result of sunlight scattering off material released into space.

The light seen in the sky from Keighley

Elliott Stone

Elliott Stone, who snapped the rocket from his garden in Keighley, West Yorkshire, thought he was seeing a comet at first.

“I noticed it was travelling the wrong way, so I thought it must have been a plane with its light on,” Mr Stone said.

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What is the Landsat 9 satellite?

The rocket and satellite being launched

Bill Ingalls/NASA/EPA

  • Landsat 9 is part of a satellite array photographing and measuring the Earth’s surface
  • The first Landsat satellite launched in 1972
  • Designed to measure changes on Earth such as deforestation
  • Launched into orbit using an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California

Source: Nasa

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In Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, Ian Sproat was left “scrambling” to set up his camera when he saw the light above him.

“I was gobsmacked, I honestly thought it was a meteor or a comet, never did I expect to see the Landsat 9,” he said.

The light next to a lighthouse

Ian Sproat

Mr Sproat only went to the spot near St Mary’s Lighthouse because he thought he might be able to see the northern lights.

“When I got there and was setting up, a ball of light appeared above me,” he said.

He felt “truly blessed to have witnessed this spectacular sight”, he added.

Fellow astronomy enthusiast Freddy Lees snapped a photo of the rocket from Nottingham as it climbed above the tree line shortly after 22:00.

Nottingham

Freddy Lees

The light in Norwich

The NASA Atlas V rocket was launched from California’s Vandenberg Space Force base 20:11 BST.

Visible rocket burns are rare in European skies and more often seen above Florida or California.

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Follow BBC Yorkshire on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Send your story ideas to yorkslincs.news@bbc.co.uk.

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