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Highest-ever concentration of microplastics found on seafloor: scientists – CTV News



Scientists say they have discovered the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor.

As part of an international research project led by the University of Manchester, scientists were able to uncover a staggering 1.9 million pieces of microplastics in a single square-metre of the ocean’s floor in the Mediterranean.

In a study, published in the journal “Science” on Thursday, the researchers showed how deep-sea currents act as conveyor belts to transport and deposit tiny plastic fragments and fibres across the seafloor.

As a result of these currents, “microplastic hotspots” or large accumulations can occur in certain locations, the study said.

“Almost everybody has heard of the infamous ocean ‘garbage patches’ of floating plastic, but we were shocked at the high concentrations of microplastics we found in the deep seafloor,” Ian Kane, the study’s lead author and an earth scientist at the University of Manchester, said in a press release.

“We discovered that microplastics are not uniformly distributed across the study area; instead, they are distributed by powerful seafloor currents which concentrate them in certain areas.”

While people often think of microplastics as tiny pieces of plastics in exfoliants, detergents, and glitter; the deposits found in the study area of the Tyrrhenian Sea, which is part of the Mediterranean Sea, consisted primarily of fibres from textiles and clothing.

These types of microplastics can easily enter rivers and oceans because they’re not effectively filtered out in domestic waste water treatment plants, the researchers said.

According to the scientists, more than 10 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans each year.

And although there has been much attention given to floating debris, such as plastic drinking straws and bags, which are visible on the surface, it only accounts for one per cent of the plastic that enters the world’s oceans.

The other 99 per cent of plastic waste is believed to be somewhere below the surface in the depths of the oceans.

The difficulty for scientists, however, has been locating where exactly all that plastic waste has wound up in the oceans.

That is why the international team set out to determine how deep ocean currents affects the location of microplastic hotspots. To do this, they collected sediment samples from the seafloor of the Tyrrhenian Sea and combined them with calibrated models and deep ocean currents and detailed mapping of the seafloor. They then analyzed all the samples using infra-red spectroscopy to determine the different plastic types.

“Our study has shown how detailed studies of seafloor currents can help us to connect microplastic transport pathways in the deep sea and find the ‘missing’ microplastics,” Mike Clare, a co-lead on the project and a researcher at the National Oceanography Centre, said.

The researchers said understanding where the microplastic hotspots are is vital because deep ocean currents carry oxygenated water and nutrients, which means these areas are also likely to house important ecosystems with marine life that can consume or absorb the harmful plastics.

“The results [of the study] highlight the need for policy interventions to limit the future flow of plastics into natural environments and minimize impacts on ocean ecosystems,” Clare said. 

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Russian space agency calls Trump's reaction to SpaceX launch… – Thomson Reuters Foundation



* NASA resumed human spaceflight on Saturday after hiatus

* Move ended Russian monopoly on flights to space station

* Moscow welcomes move, but queries Trump’s reaction

By Maria Kiselyova and Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW, May 31 (Reuters) – Russia’s space agency criticised U.S. President Donald Trump’s “hysteria” about the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from U.S. soil in nine years, but also said on Sunday it was pleased there was now another way to travel into space.

SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, on Saturday launched two Americans into orbit from Florida en route to the International Space Station (ISS), a landmark mission that ended Russia’s monopoly on flights there.

Trump, who observed the launch, said the United States had regained its place as the world’s leader in space, that U.S. astronauts would soon land on Mars, and that Washington would soon have “the greatest weapons ever imagined in history.”

NASA had had to rely on Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, to get to the ISS since its final space shuttle flight in 2011, and Trump hailed what he said was the end of being at the mercy of foreign nations.

The U.S. success will potentially deprive Roscosmos, which has suffered corruption scandals and a number of malfunctions, of the lucrative fees it charged to take U.S. astronauts to the ISS.

“The hysteria raised after the successful launch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is hard to understand,” Vladimir Ustimenko, spokesman for Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter after citing Trump’s statement.

“What has happened should have happened long ago. Now it’s not only the Russians flying to the ISS, but also the Americans. Well that’s wonderful!”

Moscow has said previously that it is also deeply worried about what it fears are U.S. plans to deploy weapons in space.

Moscow would not be sitting idly by, Ustimenko said.

“..We are not going to rest on our laurels either. We will test two new rockets this year, and next year we will resume our lunar programme. It will be interesting,” said Ustimenko. (Editing by Susan Fenton)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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After Dragon's historic docking, America has more new spaceships on the way – Ars Technica



SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft made history for the second time on Sunday.

On May 25, 2012, a Cargo Dragon was grabbed by the ISS. It became the first private spacecraft to visit the International Space Station. On Sunday, when Dragonship Endeavour docked with the station 15 minutes ahead of schedule, above the border of China and Mongolia, it became the first private spacecraft to fly crew there (or anywhere in orbit, for that matter).

After the docking, the spacecraft’s commander, NASA Astronaut Doug Hurley, was complimentary after he and Bob Behnken spent some time flying Dragon manually. “It flew just about like the sim, so my congratulations to the folks at Hawthorne,” he said, referring to SpaceX’s headquarters in California, where the astronauts spent many weeks practicing in a flight simulator. “It flew really well, very crisp. We couldn’t be happier about the performance of the vehicle.”

This bodes well for NASA, which is counting on the Crew Dragon vehicle to begin ferrying four-person crews to the International Space Station as soon as the end of August. Endeavour will now remain attached to the station for several weeks at least, depending on the performance of its solar panels in orbit. NASA would like the crew to remain on orbit for as much as three months, to conduct several spacewalks for space station maintenance.

Dragon’s flight will be declared a success only when Hurley and Behnken strap back into Endeavour, return through Earth’s atmosphere, and splash down safely in the ocean. This will complete the first crewed flight of a new orbital vehicle to launch from the United States since 1981. But it is very likely not the last. As many as four more vehicles may follow in the future.

Here’s a look at the status of each, with an estimate of when the vehicle will fly with humans for the first time.

Starliner (1-2 years)

As part of the commercial crew program, NASA paid SpaceX (Crew Dragon) and Boeing (Starliner) to develop spacecraft to carry humans to the space station and back. Boeing completed an aborted, uncrewed test flight of its Starliner vehicle in December, but the spacecraft was nearly lost on two occasions due to software issues.

Boeing has agreed to make a second test flight of Starliner, without astronauts, to ensure the safety of the spacecraft and demonstrate its capability of docking with the space station. This flight could occur by the end of 2020, and with about six months of data review, it’s possible a crewed mission could take place a year from now. But that would require nearly flawless execution—and as long as Dragon is flying safely NASA has no reason to rush a back-up provider along.

Orion (3-4 years)

NASA’s large deep space capsule has been under development since 2006 and made an uncrewed test flight in 2014 to demonstrate its ability to return at high velocity. Since then development has continued, but the capsule has largely been waiting for Boeing to complete the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket. When that rocket is ready, it is due to launch another uncrewed Orion on the Artemis I mission in late 2021 or 2022.

Only after this flight will NASA fully outfit Orion with life support for the Artemis II mission, which will carry a crew of astronauts around the Moon. Sometime in 2023 is probably the earliest reasonable expectation for this mission to take place.

Starship (4-8 years)

SpaceX is making progress on development and testing of its Starship vehicle (Friday’s fiery explosion, not withstanding). Eventually, this large vehicle will come in two basic forms, a cargo variant for payloads, and a crew vehicle that can take humans to the Moon, Mars, or elsewhere.

Starship timelines are always aspirational, but SpaceX does move fast, and it has built a factory in South Texas that should allow for accelerated production. Although the company has learned a lot about human spaceflight from its Crew Dragon experience, developing a complex vehicle like Starship will still take time. Our estimate of four to eight years is a blend between optimistic SpaceX schedules and the magnitude of the challenge the company faces.

Dream Chaser (5-10 years)

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser was originally part of the pool of candidates NASA considered in the commercial crew program before the space agency opted for Dragon and Starliner. However, NASA is still funding a cargo variant of the vehicle to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The vehicle could make its first launch on a Vulcan rocket by the end of 2021 or in 2022.

Meanwhile, the company says it remains committed to developing a crew version of Dream Chaser. It is not clear whether NASA will fund this, as the space agency has its low-Earth needs accounted for with Dragon and Starliner. There is a lot of public desire to see a winged vehicle like Dream Chaser, which evokes memories of the space shuttle, enter service. But it is not clear there is a commercial or government customer to support it at this time.

Listing image by NASA TV

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SpaceX Crew Dragon chalks up picture-perfect docking at International Space Station – CBS News



Nineteen hours after a spectacular Florida launch, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule caught up with the International Space Station early Sunday and glided in for a problem-free docking, bringing veteran astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the outpost in SpaceX’s first piloted space flight.

The historic mission marks a major milestone in NASA’s push to end the agency’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for carrying astronauts to and from the lab complex, the first piloted launch to orbit by a privately owned and operated spacecraft since the dawn of the space age.

The Crew Dragon capsule on final approach to the International Space Station.


“Welcome to Bob and Doug,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said to the crew in a call from mission control at the Johnson Space Center. “The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you’ve done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world.”

“We sure appreciate that, sir,” Hurley replied, floating in the space station’s Harmony module, flanked by crewmate Behnken, space station commander Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

“It’s obviously been our honor to be just a small part of this,” he said. “We have to give credit to SpaceX, the Commercial Crew Program and, of course, NASA. It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business, and we’re just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex.”

Following a picture-perfect climb to space Saturday atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Hurley and Behnken monitored an automated rendezvous with the station Sunday, approaching the lab complex from behind and below.

Executing a precise series of thruster firings, the Crew Dragon looped up to a point directly in front of the station and lined up on the lab’s forward docking port, the same one once used by visiting space shuttles.

Hurley, a former Marine test pilot, briefly took over manual control, firing thrusters by tapping high-tech touch-screen cockpit displays to verify a crew’s ability to fly the spacecraft by hand if needed.

The ship’s flight computer than resumed the approach and the Crew Dragon’s docking mechanism engaged its counterpart on the space station at 10:16 a.m. ET, about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. A few minutes later, the capsule was pulled in and locked in place by 12 motorized latches.

The combined Expedition 63 crew, back row, L-R: cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, space station commander Chris Cassidy, cosmonaut Ivan Vagner; front row, L-R: Crew Dragon joint operations commander Robert Behnken and vehicle commander Douglas Hurley. The American flag on the hatch above the astronauts first flew in space on the shuttle Columbia’s maiden flight in 1981; it was left aboard the station by Hurley and his Atlantis crewmates during the last shuttle mission in 2011. Hurley and Behnken plan to bring the flag home at the end of their current mission.


Cassidy, a former Navy SEAL, followed naval tradition and rang the ship’s bell aboard the station to announce the Crew Dragon’s arrival.

“Dragon, arriving,” he said. “The crew of Expedition 63 is honored to welcome Dragon and the Commercial Crew Program to … the International Space Station. Bob and Doug, glad to have you as part of the crew. Well done. Bravo zulu.”

“We here at SpaceX are honored to have been part of ushering in this new era of human spaceflight,” said Anna Menon, the spacecraft communicator at SpaceX’s Hawthorne, California, control center. “On behalf of the SpaceX and NASA partnership, congratulations on a phenomenal accomplishment. And welcome to the International Space Station.”

During the post-docking welcome aboard ceremony, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas asked the Crew Dragon astronauts “how does she handle?”

“It flew just like it was supposed to,” Hurley said. “We had a couple of opportunities to take it out for a spin, so to speak (flying manually), and my compliments to the folks back at Hawthorne and SpaceX for how well it flew. It’s exactly like the simulator, and we couldn’t be happier about the performance of the vehicle.”

A camera mounted in the Crew Dragon capsule looks over the shoulders of astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, right, showing the ship’s high-tech touchscreen displays in the moments after docking with the International Space Station.


Representative Brian Babin, a Texas Republican who represents the Johnson Space Center, asked the astronauts to describe their impressions of launching atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

Behnken, who flew twice aboard the space shuttle, recalled a fairly rough ride on the orbit while its two solid-fuel boosters were firing, but a smooth ascent after that with the shuttle’s three liquid-fueled engines.

He and Hurley expected the Falcon 9 ride to smooth out after the rocket’s first stage, powered by nine engines and generating 1.7 million pounds of thrust, was jettisoned about two-and-a-half minutes into flight. The Falcon’s second stage is powered by a single engine.

“We were surprised a little bit by how smooth things were off the pad,” Behnken said. “The space shuttle was a pretty rough ride heading into orbit with the solid rocket boosters, and our expectation was as we continued with (our) flight into second stage, that things would basically get a lot smoother than the space shuttle.

“But Dragon was huffin’ and puffin’ all the way into orbit, and we were definitely riding a Dragon all the way up,” he said. “So it was not quite the same ride, the smooth ride as the space shuttle was up to MECO [main engine cutoff], a little bit less Gs but a little bit more ‘alive’ is probably the best way I could describe it.”

The Crew Dragon is expected to remain docked to the station for six weeks to four months, allowing Behnken and Hurley to help Cassidy with a full slate of NASA and partner agency research and, possibly, with one or more spacewalks to install new solar array batteries and complete installation of a European experiment platform.

SpaceX Falcon-9 Rocket And Crew Dragon Capsule Launches From Cape Canaveral Sending Astronauts To The International Space Station
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, right, and Doug Hurley give a thumbs-up on their way to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on May 30, 2020.


Cassidy said he looked forward to the help.

“We’ve got a few things to take care of tonight, make sure we’re all safe and we know the plan in case something bad happens,” he said, referring to a standard emergency briefing given to all newly arrived crew members.

“And then we’re looking forward to some operational stuff later in the month, maybe we’ll get outside and do some spacewalks. So we’re all super excited to have two more crewmates to the Expedition 63 team.”

NASA originally planned a short one-week to 10-day test flight for the first piloted Crew Dragon. But delays in the agency’s Commercial Crew Program and scaled-back production of Russian Soyuz spacecraft forced NASA to reduce the lab’s U.S. and partner agency crew to just one — Cassidy.

NASA managers are holding off on making a decision on when the Crew Dragon will return to Earth until they get a better idea of how atomic oxygen in the extreme upper atmosphere might affect the capsule’s solar cells.

No matter how that works out, engineers want time to thoroughly evaluate the capsule’s performance before proceeding with the first operational flight. NASA and SpaceX hope to launch that flight, carrying an international three-man one-woman crew, in the late August timeframe.

SpaceX and NASA successfully launch two astronauts into space

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