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Eastern U.S. awaits 'Brood X' as billions of cicadas set to hatch after 17-year wait – Calgary Herald

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‘It’s kind of exciting to think about Brood X emerging because the last time these individuals were above ground was in 2004. … A lot’s happened in the last 17 years’

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For millions of Americans, this May will be an extra noisy month. A once-every-17 year hatch of periodic cicadas is set to occur across parts of the eastern United States – and it is expected to be big.

The hatch of the cicadas, called Brood X, will take place once the warming spring soil reaches a certain temperature. Billions of cicada nymphs, which have been living off tree roots for 17 years, will crawl out of the ground, shed their skin, and start feeding and looking for mates.

It is hard to predict the exact day the hatching will start, but Dr. Jessica Ware, an associate curator of invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, expects it will be sometime around May 13.

“May is going to be a loud month, for sure, for cicadas,” said Ware.

Male cicadas make a loud, chirping sound by vibrating a plate called a tymbal located on their abdomens.

“It’s this kind of dance; males are showing that they can call as loud and as long as possible, which means they’re probably a good mate. Females are listening. Are they calling loud? Are they calling long?… it’s kind of a complicated acoustic dance that they’re doing,” said Ware.

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Periodic cicadas are a different species from the annual cicadas that can be heard on most summer nights after dusk. Ware said scientists are not sure exactly why periodic cicadas developed such a long life-cycle, but it probably evolved as a survival mechanism.

Ware said cicadas are harmless, and their hatch provides food for birds, animals and other insects.

“It’s kind of exciting to think about Brood X emerging because the last time these individuals were above ground was in 2004. And so when you think about – a lot’s happened in the last 17 years,” said Ware.

Brood X cicada hatches will occur in the middle part of the Eastern United States, from as far south as Eastern Tennessee, all the way up to southern parts of New York.

A newly emerged adult cicada dries its wings on a tree in Arlington, Virginia May 12, 2004.
A newly emerged adult cicada dries its wings on a tree in Arlington, Virginia May 12, 2004. Photo by Reuters/File

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NASA clears Boeing Starliner for July 30th test flight to ISS – Yahoo Movies Canada

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More than 18 months after its failed first attempt to make it to the International Space Station, Boeing’s Starliner is ready for a second shot. Following a flight readiness review, NASA is moving forward with the craft’s upcoming July 30th uncrewed orbital flight test. Unless there’s an unforeseen delay, the capsule will launch from the Space Force’s Cape Canaveral Station mounted on an Atlas V rocket at 2:53PM ET. Should NASA postpone the flight, it will again attempt to carry out the test on August 3rd at the earliest.

The purpose of the flight is for NASA to conduct an end-to-end test of Starliner’s capabilities. It wants to know if the capsule can handle every aspect of a trip to the ISS, including launch, docking as well as atmospheric re-entry. “[Orbital Flight Test-2] will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” the agency said.

If the flight is a success, NASA will move forward with a crewed test of the Starliner. Steve Stich, commercial crew program manager at NASA, said that could happen “as soon as later this year.” Both Boeing and NASA have a lot invested in the viability of Starliner. For the aerospace company, its decision not to conduct an end-to-end test of the craft before its failed 2019 flight left the agency “surprised,” leading to questions about the project. Meanwhile, NASA is keen to have two capsules that can ferry its astronauts to the ISS. Right now, it’s limited to just SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. “It’s very important for the commercial crew program to have two space transportation systems,” Stich told reporters.

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SpaceX lands NASA launch contract for mission to Jupiter's moon Europa – Euronews

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By Steve Gorman

LOSANGELES – Elon Musk’s private rocket company SpaceX was awarded a $178 million launch services contract for NASA‘s first mission focusing on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and whether it may host conditions suitable for life, the space agency said on Friday.

The Europa Clipper mission is due for blastoff in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket owned by Musk’s company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp, from NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA said in a statement posted online.

The contract marked NASA‘s latest vote of confidence in the Hawthorne, California-based company, which has carried several cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in recent years.

In April, SpaceX was awarded a $2.9 billion contract to build the lunar lander spacecraft for the planned Artemis program that would carry NASA astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972.

But that contract was suspended after two rival space companies, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics Inc, protested against the SpaceX selection.

The company’s partly reusable 23-story Falcon Heavy, currently the most powerful operational space launch vehicle in the world, flew its first commercial payload into orbit in 2019.

NASA did not say what other companies may have bid on the Europa Clipper launch contract.

The probe is to conduct a detailed survey of the ice-covered Jovian satellite, which is a bit smaller than Earth’s moon and is a leading candidate in the search for life elsewhere in the solar system.

A bend in Europa’s magnetic field observed by NASA‘s Galileo spacecraft in 1997 appeared to have been caused by a geyser gushing through the moon’s frozen crust from a vast subsurface ocean, researchers concluded in 2018. Those findings supported other evidence of Europa plumes.

Among the Clipper mission’s objectives are to produce high-resolution images of Europa’s surface, determine its composition, look for signs of geologic activity, measure the thickness of its icy shell and determine the depth and salinity of its ocean, NASA said.

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NASA’s Europa Clipper will fly on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy – The Verge

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NASA’s Europa Clipper will start its journey to Jupiter’s icy moon aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket built by SpaceX. NASA will pay SpaceX $178 million to launch the vehicle in October 2024.

The Europa Clipper got the green light from NASA in 2015. It will fly by the moon 45 times, providing researchers with a tantalizing look at the icy world, believed to have an ocean lurking under its icy crust. The Clipper is equipped with instruments that will help scientists figure out if the moon could support life.

For years, the Clipper was legally obligated to launch on NASA’s long-delayed Space Launch System (SLS). But with the SLS perpetually delayed and over budget, NASA has urged Congress to consider allowing the Europa Clipper to fly commercial. Switching to another vehicle could save up to $1 billion, NASA’s inspector general said in 2019.

NASA got permission to consider commercial alternatives to the SLS in the 2021 budget, and started officially looking for a commercial alternative soon after.

The SLS has powerful allies in Congress, who have kept the costly program alive for years, even as it blew past budgets and deadlines. The first flight of the SLS was originally supposed to happen in 2017. That mission — launching an uncrewed trip around the Moon — has since been pushed to November 2021, and keeping to that new schedule remains “highly unlikely” according to NASA’s Office of Inspector General, a watchdog agency.

SpaceX first launched its Falcon Heavy rocket in 2018, and started flying satellites in 2019. Earlier this year, NASA selected the rocket as the ride to space for two parts of a planned space station orbiting the Moon.

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