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Australia is putting a rover on the Moon in 2024 to search for water – Devdiscourse

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By Joshua Chou, Senior lecturer, University of Technology Sydney Sydney, Nov 6 (The Conversation) Last month the Australian Space Agency announced plans to send an Australian-made rover to the Moon by as early as 2026, under a deal with NASA. The rover will collect lunar soil containing oxygen, which could eventually be used to support human life in space.

Although the deal with NASA made headlines, a separate mission conducted by private companies in Australia and Canada, in conjunction with the University of Technology Sydney, may see Australian technology hunting water on the Moon as soon as mid-2024.

If all goes according to plan, it will be the first rover with Australian-made components to make it to the Moon.

Roving in search of water The ten-kilogram rover, measuring 60x60x50cm, will be launched on board the Hakuto lander made by ispace, a lunar robotic exploration company based in Japan.

The rover itself, also built by ispace, will have an integrated robotic arm created by the private companies Stardust Technologies (based in Canada) and Australia’s EXPLOR Space Technology (of which I am one of the founders).

Using cameras and sensors, the arm will collect high-resolution visual and haptic data to be sent back to the mission control centre at the University of Technology Sydney.

It will also collect information on the physical and chemical composition of lunar dust, soil and rocks — specifically with a goal of finding water. We know water is present within the Moon’s soil, but we have yet to find a way to extract it for practical use.

The big push now is to identify regions on the Moon where water sources are more abundant, and which can deliver more usable water for human consumption, sample processing, mining operations and food growth.

This would also set the foundation for the establishment of a manned Moon base, which could serve as a transit station for further space exploration (including on Mars).

Moon-grade materials Once the Hakuto lander takes off, the first challenge will be to ensure it lands successfully with the rover intact. The rover will have to survive an extreme environment on the lunar surface.

As the moon rotates relative to the Sun, it experiences day and night cycles, just like Earth. But one day on the Moon lasts 29.5 Earth days. And surface temperatures shift dramatically during this time, reaching up to 127 degree Celsius during the day and falling as low as -173 degree Celsius at night.

The rover and robotic arm will also need to withstand the effects of space radiation, vibrations during launch, shock from the launch and landing, and exposure to dust and water.

At the same time, the arm must be light enough to conduct advanced manoeuvres, such as grabbing and collecting moon rocks. Advanced space-grade aluminium developed in Australia will help protect it from damage.

The team behind the mission is currently in the process of testing different designs of the robotic arm, and figuring out the best way to integrate it with the rover. It will be tested together with the rover at a new lunar test bed, at the EXPLOR Space Technologies facility in New South Wales.

Like the one used by NASA, this test bed can mimic the physical and chemical conditions on the Moon. It will be critical to determining whether the rover can stay mobile and continue to function under different environmental stressors.

Step into your astronaut boots The rover will also send back data that allows people on Earth to experience the Moon with virtual reality (VR) goggles and a sensor glove. Haptic data collected back by the robotic arm will essentially let us “feel” anything the arm touches on the lunar surface.

We plan to make the experience available as a free app — and hope it inspires future generations of space explorers. (The Conversation) CPS

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Mammoths, Yukon horses alive 1000s of years longer: study – CTV News

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A new study analyzing soil samples and DNA from Canada’s permafrost has found evidence that woolly mammoths and Yukon wild horses may have survived thousands of years longer than previously thought.

The paper, published in the journal Nature Communications, compiled a 30,000-year DNA record of past environments, based on cored permafrost sediments taken from the Klondike region of central Yukon.

The researchers, who hail from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., the University of Alberta, the American Museum of Natural History and the Yukon government, say in a news release that their analysis reveals mammoths and horses were already in steep decline prior to the climatic instability of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition between 11,000 and 14,000 years ago, during which a number of large species such as mammoths, mastodons and sabre-toothed cats disappeared.

However, the researchers say mammoths and horses didn’t immediately disappear as a result of overhunting by humans as previously believed.

Instead, they say the DNA evidence shows both the woolly mammoth and North American horse were around until as recently as 5,000 years ago during the mid-Holocene — the epoch humans currently live in, which began about 11,000 years ago.

The study builds on previous research done by McMaster scientists, who in 2020 reported that woolly mammoths and the North American horse were likely in the Yukon about 9,700 years ago.

“The rich data provides a unique window into the population dynamics of megafauna and nuances the discussion around their extinction through more subtle reconstructions of past ecosystems,” said Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary geneticist and lead author on the paper, who also serves as director of the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre.

Using tiny soil samples containing billions of microscopic genomic sequences from animal and plant species, as well as DNA capture-enrichment technology developed at McMaster, the researchers were able to reconstruct ancient ecosystems at different points in time during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition.

The researchers say the Yukon environment continued to experience massive change throughout the early Holocene, with formerly rich grasslands known as the “Mammoth Steppe” becoming overrun by shrubs and mosses.

Due in part to a lack of megafaunal “ecological engineers” such as large grazing herds of mammoths, horses and bison, grasslands no longer prosper in northern North America, according to a news release on the study.

“Now that we have these technologies, we realize how much life-history information is stored in permafrost,” said Tyler Murchie, a postdoctoral researcher in McMaster’s department of anthropology and a lead author of the study.

“The amount of genetic data in permafrost is quite enormous and really allows for a scale of ecosystem and evolutionary reconstruction that is unparalleled with other methods to date.”

Co-author Ross MacPhee of the American Museum of Natural History added that while “mammoths are gone forever, horses are not.”

“The horse that lived in the Yukon 5,000 years ago is directly related to the horse species we have today, Equus caballus. Biologically, this makes the horse a native North American mammal, and it should be treated as such.”

Meanwhile, the researchers caution that permafrost is at risk of being lost forever as the Arctic warms, stressing the need to gather and archive more samples.

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Chinese rover investigates 'cube' on far side of the moon – CBC News

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A photograph of a cube-like object captured by a Chinese rover on the far side of the moon has fanned speculation over what it could be.

The Yutu-2 caught an image of what seems like a large cubic object on the horizon about 80 metres from its location, said Our Space, a Chinese government science website, citing the rover’s last log on Dec. 3.

The solar-powered Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” in Chinese, will cover the distance of 80 metres in two to three lunar days, according to Our Space, or two to three Earth months. The robotic rover has been operating in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin since its deployment in January 2019.

The mission was a historic first, with no other nation having landed on the far side of the moon until then. With the moon tidally locked to Earth — rotating at the same speed as it orbits our planet — most of its “dark side” is never visible to those on Earth.

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Comet Leonard will be visible this December before vanishing forever – CTV News

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There is a new comet in town, and December is your only chance to see it before disappears forever. Astronomers say that Comet Leonard is our best and brightest comet to see in 2021.

The comet was first discovered in January by astronomer Greg Leonard. The celestial object has likely spent the last 35,000 years traveling toward the sun, according to Sky & Telescope, and once it makes a close pass of our star on January 3, we won’t be seeing the comet again.

As the comet nears the sun, it brightens, which is why the weeks leading up to this event make the comet easier to see.

It’s also an ultrafast comet, blazing through the inner solar system at 158,084 miles per hour (71 kilometres per second), but it will still appear like a slow-moving object due to its distance from Earth, according to EarthSky.

Comet Leonard will make it closest approach to Earth on December 12, coming within 21 million miles (34 million kilometres) of our planet. Then, it will sweep by Venus on December 18.

The comet will be visible in the skies of both the Northern and Southern hemispheres this month.

It’s difficult to predict how well we may be able to see a comet, but you”ll probably need binoculars to spot this one, according to NASA. Keep an eye out for an object that looks like a fuzzy star.

“In the first couple of weeks of December, Comet Leonard can be found in the east before sunrise, passing between Arcturus and the handle of the Big Dipper,” the agency shared in a post.

“It approaches the horizon right around the time of its closest approach to Earth, meaning it’ll likely be brighter but more challenging to observe. It then switches over to being an evening object after around Dec. 14th, for just a little while after the Sun sets — as it begins its long haul outward from the Sun again, progressively fading in brightness.”

As comets near the sun, these giant iceballs begin to shed some of their material, which forms a halo, or coma, around the object.

Dust and gas stream behind comets to form their extremely long tails. Most comets originate from the icy edge of our solar system and only become visible to us as they travel through the inner solar system, where Earth is located, during their long orbits of the sun.

It’s possible that Comet Leonard will be visible to skywatchers looking with the naked eye, but if you’re worried about missing this once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience, The Virtual Telescope Project will be sharing a livestream from its observatory in Rome.

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