China is looking to build ginormous miles-wide ‘megastructures’ in space including solar power plants, tourism complexes, gas stations and even a facility to mine ASTEROIDS
- The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) directed research
- This included to design new lighter weight materials for launch into Earth orbit
- Other research projects will include robotic systems to build structures in orbit
- The structures may be decades away, with research happening over five years
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China is planning to build miles-wide ‘megastructures’ in orbit, including solar power plants, tourism complexes, gas stations and even asteroid mining facilities.
The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) announced a new five-year plan, directing researchers to develop technologies and techniques.
The structures will require lightweight materials to allow larger objects to get into orbit with existing rockets. Researchers will also need to adopt technology to allow for in-orbit assembly and control.
The Chinese government said there is an ‘urgent need’ for megaprojects in space that would require ultra-large spacecraft to keep them in orbit.
The first project of this type will be a solar power station in high orbit, that will be about a mile wide and ‘beam’ electricity back to a base station in China to feed into the grid by 2035. Increasing to a megawatt of electricity by 2050.
Other projects could include new massive orbital platforms covering miles of space, dwarfing the International Space Station which is just 350ft across.
China is planning to build miles-wide ‘megastructures’ in orbit, including solar power plants, tourism complexes, gas stations and even asteroid mining facilities
China is planning to build mile-wide ‘megastructures’ in orbit, including solar power plants, tourism complexes, gas stations and even asteroid mining facilities. It could also include space stations like the International Space Station, constructed over decades from new modules
China sent its first crew to the Tiangong space station earlier this year. A modular platform that will be built up over the coming years with new additions built on Earth and sent to space
CHINESE SPACE PROJECTS UNDER DEVELOPMENT
Space-based solar power
The Chinese government recently opened a research facility to study space-based solar power.
They plan to build a mile wide solar plant and use microwaves to beam signals back down to the Earth.
They hope to have a megawatt facility in orbit and operational by 2050.
Space-based 32ft aperture telescope
Various departments of the Chinese government are working on a new ‘in-orbit’ telescope project.
It would have a massive 32ft aperture, which is over twice the size of the NASA James Webb space telescope.
Tiangong space station
China launched the first module of its Tiangong space station earlier this year with plans for future expansion.
It is similar, but significantly smaller than the ISS with new modules added gradually over time.
These megastructures could include space stations like the ISS, which was built up in parts in orbit, with the most recent module added earlier this year.
China already has its own space station travelling above the planet, named Tiangong – first occupied this year.
It plans to gradually expand its size over the coming years, with new research modules and even a telescope.
It is unclear if this will form the basis of a wider base of operations, or if a new facility will be launched in the future.
No specific details have been revealed by the NSFC over the megastructures.
Some, like the space based power plant and giant 32ft aperture telescope, are already in the works, but the new details are about research directions.
It came in the form of a document published revealing guidelines for researchers on how to access funding.
It directs researchers to focus on making these large-scale projects possible.
Specifically it orders them to focus on developing ‘major strategic aerospace equipment for the future use of space resources’.
It also wants experts to focus on the ‘exploration of the mysteries of the universe, and long-term habitation in orbit’.
The new project isn’t designed to actually put these structures in orbit, but rather spend the next half decade minimising the weight of spacecraft and materials.
It will require multiple rocket launches to build something like a mining facility around an asteroid.
However, finding new, lighter weight but durable materials, could reduce the number of trips and make it more cost effective.
A 2020 study published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that space-based construct was essential to drive space-based technology forward.
‘With the rapid development of space technology and the increasing demand for space missions, the traditional spacecraft manufacturing, deployment and launch methods have been unable to meet existing needs,’ the report found.
‘In-space assembly (ISA) technologies can effectively adapt to the assembly of large space structures, improve spacecraft performance, and reduce operating costs.’
The Chinese government plans to put a megawatt scale solar power station in orbit and beam the electricity back to Earth for use in the Chinese power grid by 2050
This allows for the creation of ‘fixed structures such as space infrastructure, gas stations, space manufacturing facilities, space tourism complexes, and asteroid mining stations spacecraft,’ the report added.
But to reach this stage, a number of new technologies need to be developed – not just new materials, but advances in robotics and artificial intelligence.
The proposals for research funding include modelling for orbital dynamics, and simulations for controlling a space-based assembly process.
The Chinese government is expected to release about $2.3 million for five research projects exploring large structures in orbit and how to make them feasible.
The Chinese government have directed researchers to create lighter weight materials that would require fewer launches to build structures in Earth orbit in the future
Other work being developed by China includes a huge telescope project that will be built in space from parts shipped up from the ground, in partnership with the University of Surrey in the UK, rather than on the Earth and sent to orbit whole.
Known as the Ultra-Large Aperture On-Orbit Assembly Project, the current focus is on how to automate intelligent on-orbit assembly.
It will have a 10 metre aperture, more than double the size of the NASA and ESA James Webb Space Telescope’s aperture, scheduled to launch later this year.
The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) is currently building a test facility in Chongqing, that will eventually receive power beamed down from solar power stations in orbit – with small scale tests starting next year.
Developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC), the Voyager Station could be operational as early as 2027, with the infrastructure built in orbit around the Earth
‘As human exploration of space continues to surpass Earth’s orbit, the in-space manufacturing and assembly of large space structures are essential for human sustainable exploration,’ said Zhihui Xue, a roboticist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
It isn’t just China exploring these concepts, a recent report for the UK government suggested the country invest in its own space-based solar plant, and a number of private developers are working on space station concepts.
Among them is one being developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC).
The Voyager Station could be operational as early as 2027, with the infrastructure built in orbit around the Earth rather than on the ground and shipped up.
It will feature a series of pods attached to the outside of the rotating ring and some of these pods could be sold to the likes of NASA and ESA for space research.
China reveals plans to launch a fleet of mile-long solar panels into space to beam energy back to Earth by 2035 – and says the system could have the same output as a nuclear power station by 2050
China plans to launch a fleet of mile-long solar panels into space by 2035 and beam the energy back to Earth in a bid to meet its 2060 carbon neutral target.
Reports suggest that once fully operational by 2050, the space-based solar array will send a similar amount of electricity into the grid as a nuclear power station.
The idea for a space power station was first suggested by science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov in 1941 and has been explored by several countries including the UK and US.
Above the Earth there are no clouds and no day or night that could obstruct the sun’s ray – making a space solar station a constant zero carbon power source.
However, the Chinese government appear to be ready to go from exploring the science and technology behind the idea, to putting a system into practice.
In the city of Chongqing, the Chinese government has broken ground on the new Bishan space solar energy station where it will begin tests by the end of the year, with the hope of having a functioning megawatt solar energy station by 2030.
It isn’t clear how much the full space power station will cost to launch or operate, but it is expected to be operational by 2035 and at capacity by 2050.
Some animal species can survive successfully without sexual reproduction: study – CTV News
An international team of researchers have found that some animals can survive over very long periods of time — possibly millions of years — without sexual reproduction.
By studying a tiny beetle mite species, just one-fifth of a millimetre in size, scientists found that asexual reproduction can be successful in the long term.
The study authors note that until now, the survival of an animal species over a geologically long period of time without sexual reproduction was considered very unlikely, if not impossible.
Asexual reproduction involves one parent and produces offspring that are genetically identical to each other and the parent, while sexual reproduction involves two parents and produces offspring that are genetically unique.
Using the Oppiella nova beetle mite, an all-female species, researchers from the Universities of Cologne and Göttingen, the University in Lausanne in Switzerland and the University of Montpellier in France, demonstrated for the first time the so-called Meselson effect in animals.
According to the study, the Meselson effect is a characteristic trace in the genome of an organism that suggests “purely asexual reproduction.”
In the study, researchers looked at different populations of the Oppiella nova and the closely related, but sexually reproducing species, Oppiella subpectinata in Germany and sequenced their genomes. The study found that the sequencing of the Oppiella nova genomes showed the Meselson effect.
The findings were published Tuesday in peer-reviewed scientific journal PNAS.
Scientists had previously considered the Oppiella nova species an “ancient asexual scandal” as they couldn’t determine how the beetles were managing to reproduce without having sexual intercourse.
Initially, the study notes that biologists thought these beetles were hiding their acts of reproduction.
“There could be, for example, some kind of ‘cryptic’ sexual exchange that is not known. Or not yet known,” first author of the study Alexander Brandt of the University of Lausanne said in a press release.
“For example, very rarely a reproductive male could be produced after all — possibly even ‘by accident’,” he added.
However, the Oppiella nova beetle mite clones itself rather than reproducing, according to the study.
Researchers say the existence of ancient asexual animal species can be difficult to explain as asexual reproduction can seem “very disadvantageous” in the long term due to a lack of genetic diversity.
Biologists say there is typically an “evolutionary advantage” to having two different genomes that only a pair of parents can supply. Through sexual reproduction, this ensures a “constant ‘mixing’ of the two copies” of the genome in each of their cells.
This means that the two sets of genetic information remain very similar, but there are differences that allow organisms on earth to adapt over time, evolving characteristics that best suit the changing environment.
Researchers also found that it is possible for asexually reproducing species to introduce genetic variance into their genomes and thus adapt to their environment during evolution, despite producing genetic clones of themselves.
Scientists say that lack of “genome mixing” compared to sexual species causes the two genome copies of asexual animals to accumulate separate mutations and evolve independently over time.
While the survival rate of a species without sexual reproduction is quite rare, scientists conclude that it is not impossible.
“Our results clearly show that O. nova reproduces exclusively asexually. When it comes to understanding how evolution works without sex, these beetle mites could still provide a surprise or two,” Jens Bast, junior research group leader at the University of Cologne, said in the press release.
Footprints prove humans roamed America 23,000 years ago – DodoFinance
Footprints are the first undisputed evidence that humans have ever been found in the Americas during the so-called Last Ice Maximum.
The researchers write that in the magazine Science. In the center is a decent collection of footprints found in White Sands National Park, located on the southern border of the United States. Dating indicates that the oldest footprints are around 23,000 years old. “This corresponds to the highest point of the last glacier, also called the last glacial maximum, and in fact the oldest footprints we know of in the Americas,” said researcher Kathleen Springer.
Children and adolescents
Judging by their size, the footprints appear to have been left mostly by adolescents and young children. Only a few fingerprints are attributed to adults. People left their marks while digging in the soft mud by a shallow lake. In addition to the 23,000-year-old footprints, somewhat more recent footprints have also been found; together they testify that the people were present here for a period of about 2000 years.
Giant wolves and mammoths
And people weren’t the only ones walking there; Footprints of mammoths, birds, large land sloths and large wolves have also been found in the same area. “This is an important place, because all the traces we found here are testimony to human interaction in a landscape that was also home to extinct animals such as mammoths and land sloths,” said researcher Sally Reynolds. We can see how people and animals coexisted here and dating the footprints also gives us a better idea of what the landscape looked like at the time.
Go out together
But what makes the discovery of these footprints particularly interesting, of course, is that the oldest footprints are no less than 23,000 years old. For years, scientists have been the subject of heated debate about when the first humans arrived in America. It is generally believed that this was not until after the melting of the North American ice caps, around 16,000 years ago. But the footprints prove that people have already set foot in America. “White Sands provides us with the first unequivocal evidence of the presence of humans in the Americas during the last ice maximum,” said researcher Dan Odess.
Important for previous finds
In recent years, there have been tentative indications that humans roamed the Americas already over 16,000 years ago. But these clues were not very convincing on their own. “One of the reasons why this discovery (footprints, note) is so important is that it makes more plausible the idea that other very old sites really indicate the presence of humans – even if the evidence that these sites contain are less convincing. This does not mean that all of these sites are real (and therefore were left behind by humans over 16,000 years ago, editor’s note), but it does mean that we cannot immediately exclude this.
Finally, the engravings also give us a unique glimpse into the life of these first “Americans”. “The footprints left at White Sands give a picture of what happened here,” said researcher Matthew Bennett. “Adolescents interacting with young children and adults. We can see our ancestors as very functional people who engaged in hunting and survival, but what we see here is that they also played and people of different ages came together.
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Hubble telescope helps find six 'dead' galaxies from the early universe – Yahoo Movies Canada
You’d think large galaxies in the early universe would have had plenty of ‘fuel’ left for new stars, but a recent discovery suggests that wasn’t always the case. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) have found six early galaxies (about 3 billion years after the Big Bang) that were unusually “dead” — that is, they’d run out of the cold hydrogen necessary for star formation. This was the peak period for star births, according to lead researcher Kate Whitaker, so the disappearance of that hydrogen is a mystery.
The team found the galaxies thanks to strong gravitational lensing, using galaxy clusters to bend and magnify light from the early universe. Hubble identified where stars had formed in the past, while ALMA detected cold dust (a stand-in for the hydrogen) to show where stars would have formed if the necessary ingredients had been present.
The galaxies are believed to have expanded since, but not through star creation. Rather, they grew through mergers with other small galaxies and gas. Any formation after that would have been limited at most.
The findings are a testament to the combined power of Hubble and ALMA, not to mention Hubble’s capabilities decades after its launch. At the same time, it underscores the limitations of both the technology and human understanding by raising a number of questions. Whitaker noted that scientists don’t know why the galaxies died so quickly, or what happened to cut off the fuel. Was the gas heated, expelled or just rapidly consumed? It might take a while to provide answers, if answers are even possible.
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