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Boeing capsule returns to Earth after aborted space mission – CityNews Edmonton

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Boeing landed its crew capsule in the New Mexico desert Sunday after an aborted flight to the International Space Station that threatened to derail the company’s effort to launch astronauts for NASA next year.

The Starliner descended into the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in the predawn darkness, ending a two-day demo that should have lasted more than a week. All three main parachutes popped open and airbags also inflated around the spacecraft to ease the impact.

“Congratulations, Starliner,” said Mission Control, calling it a successful touchdown.

A test dummy named Rosie the Rocketeer — after Rosie the Riveter from World War II — rode in the commander’s seat. Also returning were holiday presents, clothes and food that should have been delivered to the space station crew.

After seeing this first test flight cut short and the space station docking cancelled because of an improperly set clock on the capsule, Boeing employees were relieved to get the Starliner back .

It was the first U.S. capsule designed for astronauts to return from orbit and land on the ground. NASA’s early crew capsules all had splashdowns. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which made its orbital debut last winter, also aims for the ocean at mission’s end.

The astronauts assigned to the first Starliner crew — two from NASA and one from Boeing — were part of the welcoming committee in the bitter cold.

The capsule’s first trip to space began with a smooth rocket ride from Cape Canaveral on Friday. But barely a half hour into the flight, it failed to fire its thrusters to give chase to the space station and ended up in the wrong orbit.

The problem was with the Starliner’s internal clock: It did not sync up with the Atlas V rocket, throwing off the capsule’s timing.

The capsule burned so much fuel trying to orient itself in orbit that there wasn’t enough left for a space station rendezvous. Flight controllers tried to correct the problem, but between the spacecraft’s position and a gap in communications, their signals did not get through. They later managed to reset the clock.

Boeing is still trying to figure out how the timing error occurred. The mission lasted nearly 50 hours and included 33 orbits around the Earth.

Last month’s parachute problem turned out to be a quick fix. Only two parachutes deployed during an atmospheric test because workers failed to connect a pin in the rigging.

NASA is uncertain whether it will demand another test flight from Boeing — to include a space station visit — before putting its astronauts on board. Boeing had been shooting for its first astronaut mission in the first half of 2020. This capsule is supposed to be recycled for the second flight with crew.

Despite its own setbacks, SpaceX remains in the lead in NASA’s commercial crew program.

SpaceX’s Dragon crew capsule successfully completed its first orbital demo last March. While the flight to the space station went well, the capsule exploded a month later on a test stand at Cape Canaveral.

If a launch abort test goes well next month, SpaceX could start launching NASA astronauts by spring and end a nearly nine-year gap in flying people from Cape Canaveral.

As its space shuttle program was winding down, NASA looked to private industry to take over cargo and crew deliveries to the space station. SpaceX kicked off supply runs in 2012. Two years later, NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing to ferry astronauts to the orbiting lab.

SpaceX got $2.6 billion under NASA’s commercial crew program, while Boeing received more than $4 billion.

The goal was to launch NASA astronauts by 2017.

Because of delays, NASA is looking to buy another two seats on Russian rockets in 2020 and 2021 to guarantee a continuing U.S. presence on the space station. Even when private companies are regularly carrying up astronauts for NASA, the space agency always will reserve a seat for a Russian in exchange for a free U.S. seat on a Soyuz.

Over the years, these Soyuz rides have cost NASA up to $86 million apiece, with the tab totalling in the billions.

An audit last month by NASA’s inspector general found a Starliner seat will cost slightly more than that, with a Dragon seat going for just over half the price.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

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India among 11 ‘countries of concern’ on climate change for U.S. spy agencies

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Afghanistan, India and Pakistan were among 11 countries singled out by U.S. intelligence agencies on Thursday as being “highly vulnerable” in terms of their ability to prepare for and respond to environmental and societal crises caused by climate change.

In a new National Intelligence Estimate, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) predicts that global warming will increase geopolitical tensions and risks to U.S. national security in the period up to 2040.

Such estimates are broad U.S. intelligence community assessments. Thursday’s report identifies as particular “countries of concern” Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Iraq, North Korea, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia. ODNI posted a declassified version online.

Heat, drought, water availability and ineffective government make Afghanistan specifically worrying. Water disputes are also a key geopolitical flashpoint in India and the rest of South Asia.

The report identifies two additional regions of concern to U.S. intelligence agencies. Climate change is “likely to increase the risk of instability in countries in Central Africa and small island states in the Pacific, which clustered together form two of the most vulnerable areas in the world.”

The report notes disparities around global approaches to tackling climate change, saying countries that rely on fossil fuel exports to support their economies “will continue to resist a quick transition to a zero-carbon world because they fear the economic, political, and geopolitical costs of doing so.”

The report also notes the likelihood of increasing strategic competition over the Arctic. It says that Arctic and non-Arctic states “almost certainly will increase their competitive activities as the region becomes more accessible because of warming temperatures and reduced ice.”

It predicts international competition in the Arctic “will be largely economic but the risk of miscalculation will increase modestly by 2040 as commercial and military activity grows and opportunities are more contested.”

 

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Mining the moon's water will require a massive infrastructure investment, but should we? – Yahoo News Canada

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<img class="caas-img has-preview" alt="Building a moon base will require extensive resources and infrastructure. (Shutterstock)” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/.m2KoEuLN10EA5S4WJVJgg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTQyNw–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/1uRhQ0.2td5TYJER6DobpA–~B/aD02NDE7dz0xNDQwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_canada_501/2d6de465d32ef88321836f92f2c4c30b” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/.m2KoEuLN10EA5S4WJVJgg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTQyNw–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/1uRhQ0.2td5TYJER6DobpA–~B/aD02NDE7dz0xNDQwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_canada_501/2d6de465d32ef88321836f92f2c4c30b”>

Building a moon base will require extensive resources and infrastructure. (Shutterstock)

We live in a world in which momentous decisions are made by people often without forethought. But some things are predictable, including that if you continually consume a finite resource without recycling, it will eventually run out.

Yet, as we set our sights on embarking back to the moon, we will be bringing with us all our bad habits, including our urge for unrestrained consumption.

Since the 1994 discovery of water ice on the moon by the Clementine spacecraft, excitement has reigned at the prospect of a return to the moon. This followed two decades of the doldrums after the end of Apollo, a malaise that was symptomatic of an underlying lack of incentive to return.

That water changed everything. The water ice deposits are located at the poles of the moon hidden in the depths of craters that are forever devoid of sunlight.

Since then, not least due to the International Space Station, we have developed advanced techniques that allow us to recycle water and oxygen with high efficiency. This makes the value of supplying local water for human consumption more tenuous, but if the human population on the Moon grows so will demand. So, what to do with the water on the moon?

There are two commonly proposed answers: energy storage using fuel cells and fuel and oxidizer for propulsion. The first is easily dispensed with: fuel cells recycle their hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis when they are recharged, with very little leakage.

Energy and fuel

The second — currently the primary raison d’être for mining water on the moon — is more complex but no more compelling. It is worth noting that SpaceX uses a methane/oxygen mix in its rockets, so they would not require the hydrogen propellant.

So, what is being proposed is to mine a precious and finite resource and burn it, just like we have been doing with petroleum and natural gas on Earth. The technology for mining and using resources in space has a technical name: in-situ resource utilization.

And while oxygen is not scarce on the moon (around 40 per cent of the moon’s minerals comprise oxygen), hydrogen most certainly is.

Extracting water from the moon

Hydrogen is highly useful as a reductant as well as a fuel. The moon is a vast repository of oxygen within its minerals but it requires hydrogen or other reductant to be freed.

For instance, ilmenite is an oxide of iron and titanium and is a common mineral on the moon. Heating it to around 1,000 C with hydrogen reduces it to water, iron metal (from which an iron-based technology can be leveraged) and titanium oxide. The water may be electrolyzed into hydrogen — which is recycled — and oxygen; the latter effectively liberated from the ilmenite. By burning hydrogen extracted from water, we are compromising the prospects for future generations: this is the crux of sustainability.

But there are other, more pragmatic issues that emerge. How do we access these water ice resources buried near the lunar surface? They are located in terrain that is hostile in every sense of the word, in deep craters hidden from sunlight — no solar power is available — at temperatures of around 40 Kelvin, or -233 C. At such cryogenic temperatures, we have no experience in conducting extensive mining operations.

Read more: US seeks to change the rules for mining the Moon

Peaks of eternal light are mountain peaks located in the region of the south pole that are exposed to near-constant sunlight. One proposal from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab envisages beaming sunlight from giant reflectors located at these peaks into craters.

Black and white image of the moon's surface

Black and white image of the moon’s surface

These giant mirrors must be transported from Earth, landed onto these peaks and installed and controlled remotely to illuminate the deep craters. Then robotic mining vehicles can venture into the now-illuminated deep craters to recover the water ice using the reflected solar energy.

Water ice may be sublimed into vapour for recovery by direct thermal or microwave heating – because of its high heat capacity, this will consume a lot of energy, which must be supplied by the mirrors. Alternatively, it may be physically dug out and subsequently melted at barely more modest temperatures.

Using the water

After recovering the water, it needs to be electrolyzed into hydrogen and oxygen. To store them, they should be liquefied for minimum storage tank volume.

Although oxygen can be liquefied easily, hydrogen liquefies at 30 Kelvin (-243 C) at a minimum of 15 bar pressure. This requires extra energy to liquefy hydrogen and maintain it as liquid without boil-off. This cryogenically cooled hydrogen and oxygen (LH2/LOX) must be transported to its location of use while maintaining its low temperature.

So, now we have our propellant stocks for launching stuff from the moon.

This will require a launchpad, which may be located at the moon’s equator for maximum flexibility of launching into any orbital inclination as a polar launch site will be limited to polar launches — to the planned Lunar Gateway only. A lunar launchpad will require extensive infrastructure development.

In summary, the apparent ease of extracting water ice from the lunar poles belies a complex infrastructure required to achieve it. The costs of infrastructure installation will negate the cost savings rationale for in-situ resource utilization.

Alternatives to extraction

There are more preferable options. Hydrogen reduction of ilmenite to yield iron metal, rutile and oxygen provides most of the advantages of exploiting water. Oxygen constitutes the lion’s share of the LH2/LOX mixture. It involves no great infrastructure: thermal power may be generated by modest-sized solar concentrators integrated into the processing units. Each unit can be deployed where it is required – there is no need for long traverses between sites of supply and demand.

Hence, we can achieve almost the same function through a different, more readily achievable route to in-situ resource utilization that is also sustainable by mining abundant ilmenite and other lunar minerals.

Let us not keep repeating the same unsustainable mistakes we have made on Earth — we have a chance to get it right as we spread into the solar system.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Alex Ellery, Carleton University.

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Alex Ellery does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Vikings Settled In North America As Early As 1021, Researchers Say – iHeartRadio

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New research has dated Viking ruins in Canada’s Newfoundland to 1021. While archeologists have known that Vikings had settled in North America hundreds of years before European explorers ventured across the Atlantic Ocean and reached the shores of North America, they had never been able to pinpoint exactly when they arrived.

new study published in Nature provides evidence that around 100 men and women settled at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland 1,000 years ago.

“This is the first time the date has been scientifically established,” said archaeologist Margot Kuitems, a researcher at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and the study’s lead author.

“Previously, the date was based only on sagas — oral histories that were only written down in the 13th century, at least 200 years after the events they described took place,” she said.

In order to build their new settlement and repair their ships, the Vikings had to cut down trees in the area. The researchers noted that a burst of cosmic radiation, possibly from a solar storm, hit the Earth in the year 993. Evidence of the storm can be found in tree rings, and researchers used that as a starting date to count the rings on the felled trees. After examining three different pieces of wood, they determined all three were cut down in 1021 using metal tools.

Researchers believe that the Vikings only stayed there for between three and 13 years before they returned to Greenland. The study authors are planning to continue their work and determine exactly how long the Vikings were at L’Anse aux Meadows.

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