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Boeing's Starliner crew capsule launches on first space flight – CTV News

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. —
Boeing’s new Starliner capsule rocketed toward the International Space Station on its first test flight Friday, a crucial dress rehearsal for next year’s inaugural launch with astronauts.

The Starliner carried Christmas treats and presents for the six space station residents, hundreds of tree seeds similar to those that flew to the moon on Apollo 14, the original air travel ID card belonging to Boeing’s founder and a mannequin named Rosie in the commander’s seat.

The test dummy — named after the bicep-flexing riveter of World War II — wore a red polka dot hair bandanna just like the original Rosie and Boeing’s custom royal blue spacesuit.

“She’s pretty tough. She’s going to take the hit for us,” said NASA’s Mike Fincke, one of three astronauts who will fly on the next Starliner and, as test pilots, take the hit for future crews.

As the astronauts watched from nearby control centres, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the capsule blasted off just before sunrise from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was a one-day trip to the space station, putting the spacecraft on track for a docking Saturday morning.

This was Boeing’s chance to catch up with SpaceX, NASA’s other commercial crew provider that completed a similar demonstration last March. SpaceX has one last hurdle — a launch abort test — before carrying two NASA astronauts in its Dragon capsule, possibly by spring.

The U.S. needs competition like this, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Thursday, to drive down launch costs, boost innovation and open space up to more people.

“We’re moving into a new era,” he said.

The space agency handed over station deliveries to private businesses, first cargo and then crews, in order to focus on getting astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars.

Commercial cargo ships took flight in 2012, starting with SpaceX. Crew capsules were more complicated to design and build, and parachute and other technical problems pushed the first launches from 2017 to now next year.

It’s been nearly nine years since NASA astronauts have launched from the U.S. The last time was July 8, 2011, when Atlantis — now on display at Kennedy Space Center — made the final space shuttle flight.

Since then, NASA astronauts have travelled to and from the space station via Kazakhstan, courtesy of the Russian Space Agency. The Soyuz rides have cost NASA up to $86 million apiece.

“We’re back with a vengeance now,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said from Kennedy, where crowds gathered well before dawn.

Chris Ferguson commanded that last shuttle mission. Now a test pilot astronaut for Boeing and one of the Starliner’s key developers, he’s assigned to the first Starliner crew with Fincke and NASA astronaut Nicole Mann. A successful Starliner demo could see them launching by summer.

“This is an incredibly unique opportunity,” Ferguson said on the eve of launch.

Mann juggled a mix of emotions: excitement, pride, stress and amazement.

“Really overwhelmed, but in a good way and really the best of ways,” she said.

Built to accommodate seven, the white capsule with black and blue trim will typically carry four or five people. It’s 16.5 feet (5 metres) tall with its attached service module and 15 feet (4.5 metres) in diameter.

Every Starliner system will be tested during the eight-day mission, from the vibrations and stresses of liftoff to the Dec. 28 touchdown at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Parachutes and air bags will soften the capsule’s landing. Even the test dummy is packed with sensors.

Bridenstine said he’s “very comfortable” with Boeing, despite the prolonged grounding of the company’s 737 Max jets. The spacecraft and aircraft sides of the company are different, he noted. Boeing has long been involved in NASA’s human spacecraft program, from Project Mercury to the shuttle and station programs.

Boeing began preliminary work on the Starliner in 2010, a year before Atlantis soared for the last time.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX made the final cut. Boeing got more than $4 billion to develop and fly the Starliner, while SpaceX got $2.6 billion for a crew-version of its Dragon cargo ship.

NASA wants to make sure every reasonable precaution is taken with the capsules, designed to be safer than NASA’s old shuttles.

“We’re talking about human spaceflight,” Bridenstine cautioned. “It’s not for the faint of heart. It never has been, and it’s never going to be.”

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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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