FP StaffFeb 07, 2022 15:05:45 IST
The International Space Station (ISS) has orbited Earth for over two decades now, making possible scientific discoveries that wouldn’t have been possible without this lab in the sky with an international crew of astronauts onboard.
However, as all things good, its date of retirement has been decided. NASA last week announced that the spacecraft will cease operations in 2031 and plunge into the South Pacific Ocean.
As dramatic as it may sound, the decommissioning of the International Space Station will be a highly technical and calculated move from NASA that will provide opportunities for further deep space exploration.
Let’s take a look at the space station’s history, duties and the inevitable retirement:
What is ISS
A brainchild of former US president Ronald Reagan, the ISS was proposed in 1984 as a permanently inhabited spacecraft.
Starting from 1998 till 2000, the space station was built piece by piece that were carried on board several space shuttles. On 2 November, 2000, it welcomed the first crew.
In the last more than 20 years, there have been over 200 astronauts and cosmonauts from 19 different countries onboard the space station at different points of time.
In NASA’s words “the International Space Station is a unique laboratory that is returning enormous scientific, educational, and technological developments to benefit people on Earth and is enabling our ability to travel into deep space”.
To give it a more perceptible definition, the ISS is an artificial satellite in low Earth orbit where astronauts can stay for months and conduct scientific research.
The ISS is a multinational collaborative project that involves NASA (the USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment laboratory for research in multitudes of fields including astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology and physics.
The ISS weighs about a million pounds on Earth and is approximately the size of an American football field. The space station can house a crew of six people. It also has laboratory modules from the US, Russia, Japan, and Europe.
How will ISS retire
NASA has presented the ISS Transition Report, which consists of its plans for the space station in the coming decade including its retirement.
According to NASA’s budget estimates, the ISS’ re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere will take place in January 2031.
The ISS mission control will start by lowering its altitude, which will result in higher velocity overall. The spacecraft would be manoeuvred to line up to its final target on ground, the South Pacific Oceanic Uninhabited Area (SPOUA).
Near Point Nemo, which is considered a space cemetery, where most decommissioned space projects are directed to. It is located about 2,700km away from land and is named after a character in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”.
The ISS was earlier meant to be operational for 15 years, but in 2014, NASA extended its time in space by another 10 years.
With NASA’s latest announcement, it will stay almost a decade longer than its earlier tenure.
The @Space_Station has provided a unique opportunity for research and results for more than 20 years — that’s a lot of science!
— NASA (@NASA) January 31, 2022
What after ISS
Once ISS is retired, it will be replaced by “one or more commercially-owned and operated space platforms”.
Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA, said in a statement that the private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with NASA’s assistance.
The space agency estimates to save $1.3 billion in 2031 alone by transitioning from ISS to renting space onboard private commercial platforms.
The money saved by this transition will be used in NASA’s deep space exploration initiatives.
With inputs from agencies
Facial Recognition—Now for Seals – Hakai Magazine
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Have you ever looked at a seal and thought, Is that the same seal I saw yesterday? Well, there could soon be an app for that based on new seal facial recognition technology. Known as SealNet, this seal face-finding system was developed by a team of undergraduate students from Colgate University in New York.
Taking inspiration from other technology adapted for recognizing primates and bears, Krista Ingram, a biologist at Colgate University, led the students in developing software that uses deep learning and a convolutional neural network to tell one seal face from another. SealNet is tailored to identify the harbor seal, a species with a penchant for posing on coasts in haulouts.
The team had to train their software to identify seal faces. “I give it a photograph, it finds the face, [and] clips it to a standard size,” says Ingram. But then she and her students would manually identify the nose, the mouth, and the center of the eyes.
For the project, team members snapped more than 2,000 pictures of seals around Casco Bay, Maine, during a two-year period. They tested the software using 406 different seals and found that SealNet could correctly identify the seals’ faces 85 percent of the time. The team has since expanded its database to include around 1,500 seal faces. As the number of seals logged in the database goes up, so too should the accuracy of the identification, Ingram says.
As with all tech, however, SealNet is not infallible. The software saw seal faces in other body parts, vegetation, and even rocks. In one case, Ingram and her students did a double take at the uncanny resemblance between a rock and a seal face. “[The rock] did look like a seal face,” Ingram says. “The darker parts were about the same distance as the eyes … so you can understand why the software found a face.” Consequently, she says it’s always best to manually check that seal faces identified by the software belong to a real seal.
Like a weary seal hauling itself onto a beach for an involuntary photo shoot, the question of why this is all necessary raises itself. Ingram believes SealNet could be a useful, noninvasive tool for researchers.
Of the world’s pinnipeds—a group that includes seals, walruses, and sea lions—harbor seals are considered the most widely dispersed. Yet knowledge gaps do exist. Other techniques to track seals, such as tagging and aerial monitoring, have their limitations and can be highly invasive or expensive.
Ingram points to site fidelity as an aspect of seal behavior that SealNet could shed more light on. The team’s trials indicated that some harbor seals return to the same haulout sites year after year. Other seals, however, such as two animals the team nicknamed Clove and Petal, appeared at two different sites together. Increasing scientists’ understanding of how seals move around could strengthen arguments for protecting specific areas, says Anders Galatius, an ecologist at Aarhus University in Denmark who was not involved in the project.
Galatius, who is responsible for monitoring Denmark’s seal populations, says the software “shows a lot of promise.” If the identification rates are improved, it could be paired with another photo identification method that identifies seals by distinctive markings on their pelage, he says.
In the future, after further testing, Ingram hopes to develop an app based on SealNet. The app, she says, could possibly allow citizen scientists to contribute to logging seal faces. The program could also be adapted for other pinnipeds and possibly even for cetaceans.
NASA launches nanosatellite in preparation for lunar 'Gateway' station – Yahoo News Canada
Nasa has launched a tiny CubeSat this week to test and orbit which will soon be used by Gateway, a lunar space station.
It’s all part of the space agency’s plan to put a woman on the moon by 2025.
The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (Capstone) mission launched from New Zealand on Tuesday.
Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, said: “Capstone is an example of how working with commercial partners is key for Nasa’s ambitious plans to explore the moon and beyond.
“We’re thrilled with a successful start to the mission and looking forward to what Capstone will do once it arrives at the Moon.”
Read more: Astronomers find closest black hole to Earth
The satellite is currently in low-Earth orbit, and it will take the spacecraft about four months to reach its targeted lunar orbit.
Capstone is attached to Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon, an interplanetary third stage that will send it on its way to deep space.
Over the next six days, Photon’s engine will periodically ignite to accelerate it beyond low-Earth orbit, where Photon will release the CubeSat on a trajectory to the moon.
Capstone will then use its own propulsion and the sun’s gravity to navigate the rest of the way to the Moon.
The gravity-driven track will dramatically reduce the amount of fuel the CubeSat needs to get to the Moon.
Read more: There might once have been life on the moon
Bradley Cheetham, principal investigator for CAPSTONE and chief executive officer of Advanced Space, “Our team is now preparing for separation and initial acquisition for the spacecraft in six days.
“We have already learned a tremendous amount getting to this point, and we are passionate about the importance of returning humans to the Moon, this time to stay!”
At the moon, Capstone will enter an elongated orbit called a near rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO.
Once in the NRHO, Capstone will fly within 1,000 miles of the moon’s north pole on its near pass and 43,500 miles from the south pole at its farthest.
It will repeat the cycle every six-and-a-half days and maintain this orbit for at least six months to study dynamics.
“Capstone is a pathfinder in many ways, and it will demonstrate several technology capabilities during its mission timeframe while navigating a never-before-flown orbit around the Moon,” said Elwood Agasid, project manager for Capstone at Nasa’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
“Capstone is laying a foundation for Artemis, Gateway, and commercial support for future lunar operations.”
It would be the first time people have walked on the moon since the last Apollo moon mission in 1972.
Just 12 people have walked on the moon – all men.
Nasa flew six manned missions to the surface of the moon, beginning with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in July 1969, up to Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt in December 1972.
The mission will use Nasa’s powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and the Orion spacecraft.
Watch: NASA launch paves way for moon orbit station
The year’s biggest and brightest supermoon will appear in July & here’s when you’ll … – Curiocity
Summer is here and with it? Sunshine – and some serious moonshine (of the visible variety, of course). This upcoming month, look up in anticipation of the biggest and brightest event of the year, the July Buck supermoon – which will hover over North America on July 13th.
Appearing 7% larger and lower in the sky, this particular event will be one well worth keeping an eye on when it rises above the horizon.
This will be the closest we’ll get to our celestial neighbour in 2022 (357,418 km) and while North America won’t get to see it when it reaches peak illumination at 2:38 pm ETC., it’ll still look pretty dang impressive after the sunsets.
Not sure when the moon rises in your area? Here’s the earliest that you’ll be able to see the moon in various cities across the continent according to the Farmer’s Almanac.
- Seattle, Washington – 9:50 pm PDT
- Vancouver, British Columbia – 10:02 pm PDT
- Calgary, Alberta – 10:35 pm MST
- Edmonton, Alberta – 10:49 pm MST
- Toronto, Ontario – 9:34 pm MST
- Montreal, Quebec – 9:18 pm MST
Until then, cross your fingers for a clear sky, friends! It’s going to be incredible.
When: Wednesday, July 13th
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