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Daughter of pioneering astronaut Alan Shepard soars to space aboard Blue Origin rocket

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The eldest daughter of pioneering U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard took a joyride to the edge of space aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocketship on Saturday, 60 years after her late father’s famed suborbital NASA flight at the dawn of the Space Age.

Laura Shepard Churchley, 74, who was a schoolgirl when her father first streaked into space, was one of six passengers buckled into the cabin of Blue Origin’s fully autonomous New Shepard spacecraft as it lifted off from a launch site outside the west Texas town of Van Horn.

The crew capsule separated from the top of six-story-tall rocket as it soared to an altitude of at least 62 miles (100 km) before falling back to Earth to descend under a canopy of three parachutes to the desert floor for a safe landing.

The entire flight, from liftoff to touchdown, lasted just over 10 minutes, with the crew experiencing a few minutes of weightlessness at the apex of the suborbital flight.

New Shepard’s reusable rocket booster flew itself back to Earth and touched down a short distance from where the capsule landed moments later.

Bezos arrived with members of Blue Origin’s recovery team to greet and embrace the newly minted citizen astronauts as they emerged from the capsule, all smiles, in their blue flight suits. He then pinned astronaut wings to each of their collars amid a flurry of applause and cheers.

As she chatted with Bezos, Churchley briefly recounted her wonder at seeing the blackness of space from inside the capsule.

Voices of Churchley and her crewmates exclaiming excitement at the ride could be heard in audio transmissions from the capsule played during a live launch webcast by Blue Origin as the vehicle neared the climax of its flight.

The spacecraft itself is named for Alan Shepard, who in 1961 made history as the second person, and first American, to travel into space – a 15-minute suborbital flight as one of NASA’s original “Mercury Seven” astronauts. A decade later, Shepard walked on the moon as commander of the Apollo 14 mission, famously hitting two golf galls on the lunar surface.

“I kind of feel a little bit like I’m following in my father’s footsteps,” Churchley said in pre-recorded remarks before the flight. “I feel like he’s right here with me.”

CITIZEN ASTRONAUTS

Churchley was one of two honorary, non-paying guest passengers chosen by Blue Origin for Saturday’s flight. The other was Michael Strahan, 50, a retired National Football League star and co-anchor of ABC television’s “Good Morning America” show.

They were joined by four wealthy customers who paid undisclosed but presumably hefty sums for their New Shepard seats – space industry executive Dylan Taylor, engineer-investor Evan Dick, venture capitalist Lane Bess and his 23-year-old son, Cameron Bess. The Besses made history as the first parent-child pair to fly in space together, according to Blue Origin.

The flight briefly set a record for the number of humans in space at any one time – 19 total – including seven crew members and three visitors aboard the International Space Station and three Chinese taikonauts aboard their own newly build space station, according to Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell.

The launch was the third space tourism flight for Blue Origin, the company formed two decades ago by Bezos – founder and executive chairman of Amazon.com Inc. It was the company’s first with a crew of six passengers.

No mention was made during the Blue Origin launch webcast of the deadly partial roof collapse https://www.reuters.com/world/us/injuries-reported-after-roof-collapse-amazon-warehouse-illinois-ap-2021-12-11 at an Amazon.com warehouse struck by a tornado late on Friday in the town of Edwardsville, Illinois, or the search for people trapped in the rubble.

Bezos himself tagged along on Blue Origin’s inaugural flight https://www.reuters.com/technology/jeff-bezos-worlds-richest-man-set-inaugural-space-voyage-2021-07-20 in July, joining his brother, Mark Bezos, trailblazing octogenarian female aviator Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daeman, a Dutch high school graduate and beneficiary of a $28 million auction sweepstake.

Actor William Shatner, who embodied the promise of space travel in his role as Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise on the 1960s TV series “Star Trek,” joined https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/star-trek-actor-shatner-poised-blue-origin-space-jaunt-2021-10-13 the second New Shepard crew in October to become the oldest person in space at age 90.

British billionaire Richard Branson beat Bezos to the punch by nine days when he rode along https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/virgin-galactics-branson-ready-space-launch-aboard-rocket-plane-2021-07-11 on the first fully crewed voyage of his own space tourism venture Virgin Galactic Holding Inc, soaring to the edge of space over New Mexico in a rocket plane released at high altitude from a carrier jet.

A third player in the burgeoning space tourism sector, fellow billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, inaugurated his SpaceX citizen-astronaut service in September with the launch of the first all-civilian crew https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/spacex-capsule-with-worlds-first-all-civilian-orbital-crew-set-splashdown-2021-09-18 ever to reach Earth orbit.

(Repotring by Joe Skipper in Van Horn, Texas and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill Berkrot)

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Consistent Asteroid Collisions Rock Previous Thinking on Mars Impact Craters – SciTechDaily

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This image provides a perspective view of a triple crater in the ancient Martian highlands. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

New Curtin University research has confirmed the frequency of asteroid collisions that formed impact craters on <span aria-describedby="tt" class="glossaryLink" data-cmtooltip="

Mars
Mars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars’ surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname "The Red Planet." Mars’ name comes from the Roman god of war.

“>Mars has been consistent over the past 600 million years.

New Curtin University research has confirmed the frequency of asteroid collisions that formed impact craters on Mars has been consistent over the past 600 million years.

The study, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, analyzed the formation of more than 500 large Martian craters using a crater detection algorithm previously developed at Curtin, which automatically counts the visible impact craters from a high-resolution image.

Despite previous studies suggesting spikes in the frequency of asteroid collisions, lead researcher Dr. Anthony Lagain, from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said his research had found they did not vary much at all for many millions of years.

Impact Craters on Mars

One of the 521 large craters that has been dated in the study. The formation age of this 40km crater has been estimated using the number of small craters accumulated around it since the impact occurred. A portion of these small craters are shown on the right panel and all of them have been detected using the algorithm. In total, more than 1.2 million craters were used to date the Martian craters. Credit: Curtin University

Dr. Lagain said counting impact craters on a planetary surface was the only way to accurately date geological events, such as canyons, rivers, and volcanoes, and to predict when, and how big, future collisions would be.

“On Earth, the erosion of plate tectonics erases the history of our planet. Studying planetary bodies of our Solar System that still conserve their early geological history, such as Mars, helps us to understand the evolution of our planet,” Dr. Lagain said.

“The crater detection algorithm provides us with a thorough understanding of the formation of impact craters including their size and quantity, and the timing and frequency of the asteroid collisions that made them.”

Past studies had suggested that there was a spike in the timing and frequency of asteroid collisions due to the production of debris, Dr. Lagain said.

“When big bodies smash into each other, they break into pieces or debris, which is thought to have an effect on the creation of impact craters,” Dr. Lagain said.

“Our study shows it is unlikely that debris resulted in any changes to the formation of impact craters on planetary surfaces.”

Co-author and leader of the team that created the algorithm, Professor Gretchen Benedix, said the algorithm could also be adapted to work on other planetary surfaces, including the Moon.

“The formation of thousands of lunar craters can now be dated automatically, and their formation frequency analyzed at a higher resolution to investigate their evolution,” Professor Benedix said.

“This will provide us with valuable information that could have future practical applications in nature preservation and agriculture, such as the detection of bushfires and classifying land use.”

Reference: “Has the impact flux of small and large asteroids varied through time on Mars, the Earth and the Moon?” by Anthony Lagain, Mikhail Kreslavsky, David Baratoux, Yebo Liu, Hadrien Devillepoix, Philip Bland, Gretchen K. Benedix, Luc S. Doucet and Konstantinos Servis, 7 January 2022, Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117362

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B.C. researchers uncover mechanism that keeps large whales from drowning while feeding on krill – CTV News Vancouver

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Vancouver –

New research from the University of British Columbia is shedding light on the ways that whales feed underwater without flooding their airways with seawater.

The research, published this month in Current Biology, shows that lunge-feeding whales – the type that lunge and gulp at large schools of krill – have a special mechanism in the back of their mouths that stops water from entering their lungs when eating.

“It’s kind of like when a human’s uvula moves backwards to block our nasal passages, and our windpipe closes up while swallowing food,” says lead author Dr. Kelsey Gil, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of zoology, in a statement.

Specifically, a fleshy bulb acts as a plug, to close off upper airways, while a larynx closes to block lower airways.

The humpback whale and the blue whale are both lunge-feeders, but the scientists’ research focused on fin whales, thanks in part to being able to travel to Iceland in 2018 and examine carcass remains at a commercial whaling station.

“We haven’t seen this protective mechanism in any other animals, or in the literature. A lot of our knowledge about whales and dolphins comes from toothed whales, which have completely separated respiratory tracts, so similar assumptions have been made about lunge-feeding whales,” Gil said.

Lunge-feeders are impressive, Gil said, because sometimes the amount of food and water they consume is larger than their bodies. After snapping at krill, and while blocking the water from their airways, the whales then drain the ocean water through their baleen, leaving behind the tasty fish.

The study’s senior author Dr. Robert Shadwick, a professor in the UBC department of zoology, says the efficiency of the whales’ feeding is a key factor in their evolution.

“Bulk filter-feeding on krill swarms is highly efficient and the only way to provide the massive amount of energy needed to support such a large body size. This would not be possible without the special anatomical features we have described,” he said in a statement. 

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Study confirmed the frequency of asteroid collisions that formed Mars craters – Tech Explorist

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Mapping and counting impact craters are the most commonly used technique to derive detailed insights on geological events and processes shaping the surface of terrestrial planets. Scientists from Curtin University have used a crater detection algorithm to analyze the formation of more than 500 large Martian craters.

The algorithm they used automatically counts the visible impact craters from a high-resolution image. Scientists found that the frequency of asteroid collisions that formed Mars craters has been consistent for over 600 million years.

Lead scientist Dr. Anthony Lagain from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences said, “Despite previous studies suggesting spikes in the frequency of asteroid collisions, this research had found they did not vary much at all for many millions of years.”

“Counting impact craters on a planetary surface was the only way to accurately date geological events, such as canyons, rivers, and volcanoes, and to predict when, and how big, future collisions would be.”

“On Earth, the erosion of plate tectonics erases the history of our planet. Studying planetary bodies of our Solar System that still conserve their early geological history, such as Mars, helps us to understand the evolution of our planet.”

“The crater detection algorithm provides us with a thorough understanding of the formation of impact craters, including their size and quantity, and the timing and frequency of the asteroid collisions that made them.”

“Past studies had suggested that there was a spike in the timing and frequency of asteroid collisions due to the production of debris.”

“When big bodies smash into each other, they break into pieces of debris, which is thought to affect the creation of impact craters.”

“Our study shows it is unlikely that debris resulted in any changes to the formation of impact craters on planetary surfaces.”

Co-author and leader of the team that created the algorithm, Professor Gretchen Benedix, said“the algorithm could also be adapted to work on other planetary surfaces, including the Moon.”

“The formation of thousands of lunar craters can now be dated automatically, and their formation frequency analyzed at a higher resolution to investigate their evolution.”

“This will provide us with valuable information that could have future practical applications in nature preservation and agriculture, such as the detection of bushfires and classifying land use.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Anthony Lagain et al. Has the impact flux of small and large asteroids varied through time on Mars, the Earth, and the Moon? DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117362

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