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Lunar base: How NASA's moon water discovery could support human habitats – Inverse

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This week, NASA announced a discovery that could make a permanent lunar base reality.

On Monday, agency researchers announced they had detected abundant water on the Moon’s surface, trapped in small icy pockets throughout the lunar soil. The signals were detected by NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, also known as SOFIA. Taken together, the water is equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle per cubic meter of lunar soil, they estimate.

They also found the first evidence that water exists on the sunlit areas of the Moon, not just at the poles.

Essentially, the discovery suggests water may be far more accessible to humans than previously thought, dramatically expanding the areas of the Moon where humans might be able to establish a presence — and whether they can go even further into space.

Private companies like SpaceX and government agencies like NASA, as well as others in China and Europe, have all made clear they plan to establish lunar bases. But if they are to work, they need to make the most of what the local environment has to offer.

Basically, the more resources you can find and use once you are in space, the less you have to send up at launch.

“Water is a precious resource in space,” Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director, said during the agency’s press conference. “We want to know everything we can about water on the Moon.”

Location, location, location — One of the key impacts of this discovery on these plans is the fact that it broadens where on the Moon humans can set up shop for three key reasons.

First, astronauts would be able to drink the water, albeit after treating it.

Second, water is not just for drinking. Water can be converted into oxygen for astronauts, Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA, explained Monday.

Third, it can also be used to create fuel.

Fuel is one of the major challenges for a Moon base, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claimed in October 2019. The company’s Starship is designed to use liquid oxygen and methane, chemicals that astronauts can generate from carbon dioxide and water. SpaceX wants to build a fueling station on Mars that would utilize that planet’s stores. Musk noted at the time that the Moon’s lack of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen is a “big challenge” for refueling the Starship on the Moon. This news suggests it could make a perfect pit stop, too.

Back to the Moon, 2024 — NASA chose SpaceX’s Starship in April, along with two other pitches, as a potential solution for landing humans on the Moon in 2024. SpaceX has also detailed plans on using Starship rockets to serve as the basis for a “Moon Base Alpha.”

NASA’s crewed Moon mission forms part of the Artemis program. It involves establishing a Lunar Gateway — essentially a spaceport which would orbit around the Moon to support crewed missions. It also involves establishing an Artemis Base Camp near the South Pole, which would initially host one or two astronauts for around four months.

Work on the Moon.

Work on the Moon.NASA

“With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence by the end of the decade,” Hertz said. “At the Moon, we will prepare for human exploration of Mars.”

SpaceX and NASA are not the only two interested. The Chinese and European space agencies have also expressed interest in permanent settlements. Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos also said in a 2018 speech that “we must go back to the Moon, and this time to stay.”

But before astronauts start packing their drinking straws, more research needs to be done.

“We know there’s water at the moon, but we don’t know exactly how accessible lunar water is for our future explorers,” Bleacher said. “Knowing where we can find water is a good first step. But we need to know more about the water to understand if and how we can use it for both science and exploration.”

Water, water everywhere – but we might have to wait a bit to drink.

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Arecibo Observatory Telescope Collapses, Ending An Era Of World-Class Research – KCCU

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The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has collapsed, after weeks of concern from scientists over the fate of what was once the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. Arecibo’s 900-ton equipment platform, suspended 500 feet above the dish, fell overnight after the last of its healthy support cables failed to keep it in place.

No injuries were reported, according to the National Science Foundation, which oversees the renowned research facility.

“NSF is saddened by this development,” the agency said. “As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”

The Arecibo Observatory had been slated last month to be withdrawn from service, with the NSF citing the risk of an “uncontrolled collapse” because of failures in the cables that suspended the platform and its huge Gregorian dome above the 1,000-foot-wide reflector dish.

The telescope’s trademark dish, nestled amid thick tropical forest, was left with a huge gash in August after a cable fell and slashed through its panels. After a main cable snapped in early November, officials said they saw no way to safely preserve the unstable structure.

Instead, they were hoping to keep the visitors center and other buildings operational. But they also noted it would take weeks to work out the technical details of a plan.

Ángel Vázquez, the observatory’s director of telescope operations, says he was in the control room area when equipment began to plummet to the ground. In an interview that was posted to Twitter by scientist Wilbert Andrés Ruperto, Vázquez says he and other staff members had been in the process of removing valuable equipment when they heard a loud bang outside.

“When we looked outside the control room, we started to see the eventual downfall of the observatory,” Vázquez said. He added that strands of the remaining three cables had been unraveling in recent days, increasing the strain. And because two of the support towers maintained tension as the collapse occurred, some of the falling equipment was yanked across the side of the dish rather than falling straight down through its focal point.

“This whole process took 30 seconds,” Vázquez said, “and an unfortunate icon in radio astronomy was done.”

Vázquez said he has worked at the facility for 43 years, starting soon after college.

The massive reflector dish is made up of perforated aluminum panels, leaving an expanse of greenery underneath. But many of those panels have now fallen to the ground.

A record of discovery

In Arecibo’s nearly 60 years of operation, the observatory’s powerful capabilities made it a popular choice for researchers chasing breakthroughs in radio astronomy and atmospheric science. It was used for projects from sniffing out gravitational waves in space to tracking down potentially habitable planets far from Earth.

Arecibo’s legacy includes the detection of the first binary pulsar in 1974 — a discovery that bolstered a key idea in Einstein’s general theory of relativity and that earned two physicists the 1993 Nobel Prize in physics.

The observatory has been an inspiration to many. For its neighbors in Puerto Rico and for people worldwide, it has been a literal link between the terrestrial and the extraterrestrial. And in movies and art, it has been depicted as both Earth’s doorbell and its peephole into outer space.

Pierce Brosnan clambered around its ladders in the James Bond film GoldenEye. Jodie Foster marveled at its otherworldly promise in Contact. And in 1974, it was used to beam a “Hello” message into space.

Researchers have been mourning the telescope’s loss since the NSF announced its looming demise last month. Astronomer Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute compared it to learning your high school has burned down or to losing a big brother. Doing research at the facility was like going to a wonderful summer camp, he wrote in a recent farewell message to Arecibo.

“While life will continue, something powerful and profoundly wonderful is gone,” Shostak said.

Here’s how planetary scientist Ed Rivera-Valentin described one aspect of Arecibo’s importance earlier this year, on NPR’s Short Wave podcast:

“One of the really neat things about the Arecibo Observatory is that it’s a very versatile scientific instrument. Most telescopes, most radio telescopes, don’t have the ability to send out light. They only capture light. At the observatory, we can send and capture light. When an asteroid’s coming by, we are pretty much a flashlight that we turn on. We send radar out to it, and that radar comes back. … We can tell you how far these objects are down to a few meters.

“And we care about where these asteroids are going to be because what if, one day, this thing comes around and gets too close to Earth? But if we can let people know this is going to happen next year, we can actually prepare for it. Like, the dinosaurs — they didn’t have a space program, so they didn’t get to prepare for anything.”

The idea for the observatory was conceived in the late 1950s by Cornell University professor William E. Gordon, who was looking to build a huge tool to explore the Earth’s atmosphere and the composition of nearby planets and moons.

The site in Puerto Rico was chosen “to take advantage of the vicinity to the equator and of the topography of the terrain, which provided a nearly spherical valley and minimized excavation,” according to a lecture by longtime Cornell astronomy professor Martha Haynes.

The telescope underwent major upgrades in the 1970s and 1990s, allowing researchers to expand its role. Built with federal funds, Arecibo was managed for decades by Cornell before the University of Central Florida took up that role.

Arecibo and Puerto Rico have withstood natural calamities in recent years, including Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a series of earthquakes this year.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Arecibo Observatory Telescope Collapses, Ending An Era Of World-Class Research – NPR

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The Arecibo Observatory’s mammoth telescope collapsed overnight. It’s seen here in November, after a cable damaged its dish.

University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has collapsed, after weeks of concern from scientists over the fate of what was once the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. Arecibo’s 900-ton equipment platform, suspended 500 feet above the dish, fell overnight after the last of its healthy support cables failed to keep it in place.

No injuries were reported, according to the National Science Foundation, which oversees the renowned research facility.

“NSF is saddened by this development,” the agency said. “As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”

The Arecibo Observatory had been slated last month to be withdrawn from service, with the NSF citing the risk of an “uncontrolled collapse” because of failures in the cables that suspended the platform and its huge Gregorian dome above the 1,000-foot-wide reflector dish.

The Arecibo Observatory collapsed when its 900-ton receiver platform fell hundreds of feet, smashing through the radio dish below.

Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

The telescope’s trademark dish, nestled amid thick tropical forest, was left with a huge gash in August after a cable fell and slashed through its panels. After a main cable snapped in early November, officials said they saw no way to safely preserve the unstable structure.

Instead, they were hoping to keep the visitors center and other buildings operational. But they also noted it would take weeks to work out the technical details of a plan.

Ángel Vázquez, the observatory’s director of telescope operations, says he was in the control room area when equipment began to plummet to the ground. In an interview that was posted to Twitter by scientist Wilbert Andrés Ruperto, Vázquez says he and other staff members had been in the process of removing valuable equipment when they heard a loud bang outside.

“When we looked outside the control room, we started to see the eventual downfall of the observatory,” Vázquez said. He added that strands of the remaining three cables had been unraveling in recent days, increasing the strain. And because two of the support towers maintained tension as the collapse occurred, some of the falling equipment was yanked across the side of the dish rather than falling straight down through its focal point.

“This whole process took 30 seconds,” Vázquez said, “and an unfortunate icon in radio astronomy was done.”

Vázquez said he has worked at the facility for 43 years, starting soon after college.

The massive reflector dish is made of perforated aluminum panels, leaving an expanse of greenery underneath. But many of those panels have now fallen to Earth.

A record of discovery

In Arecibo’s nearly 60 years of operation, the observatory’s powerful capabilities made it a popular choice for researchers chasing breakthroughs in radio astronomy and atmospheric science. It was used for projects from sniffing out gravitational waves in space to tracking down potentially habitable planets far from Earth.

Arecibo’s legacy includes the detection of the first binary pulsar in 1974 — a discovery that bolstered a key idea in Einstein’s general theory of relativity and earned two physicists the 1993 Nobel Prize in physics.

The observatory has been an inspiration to many. For its neighbors in Puerto Rico and for people worldwide, it has been a literal link between the terrestrial and the extraterrestrial. And in movies and art, it has been depicted as both Earth’s doorbell and its peephole into outer space.

Pierce Brosnan clambered around its ladders in the James Bond film GoldenEye. Jodie Foster marveled at its otherworldly promise in Contact. And in 1974, it was used to beam a “Hello” message into space.

Researchers have been mourning the telescope’s loss since the NSF announced its looming demise last month. Astronomer Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute compared it to learning your high school has burned down or to losing a big brother. Doing research at the facility was like going to a wonderful summer camp, he wrote in a recent farewell message to Arecibo.

“While life will continue, something powerful and profoundly wonderful is gone,” Shostak said.

Here’s how planetary scientist Ed Rivera-Valentin described one aspect of Arecibo’s importance earlier this year, on NPR’s Short Wave podcast:

“One of the really neat things about the Arecibo Observatory is that it’s a very versatile scientific instrument. Most telescopes, most radio telescopes, don’t have the ability to send out light. They only capture light. At the observatory, we can send and capture light. When an asteroid’s coming by, we are pretty much a flashlight that we turn on. We send radar out to it, and that radar comes back. … We can tell you how far these objects are down to a few meters.

“And we care about where these asteroids are going to be because what if, one day, this thing comes around and gets too close to Earth? But if we can let people know this is going to happen next year, we can actually prepare for it. Like, the dinosaurs — they didn’t have a space program, so they didn’t get to prepare for anything.”

The idea for the observatory was conceived in the late 1950s by Cornell University professor William E. Gordon, who was looking to build a huge tool to explore the Earth’s atmosphere and the composition of nearby planets and moons.

The site in Puerto Rico was chosen “to take advantage of the vicinity to the equator and of the topography of the terrain, which provided a nearly spherical valley and minimized excavation,” according to a lecture by longtime Cornell astronomy professor Martha Haynes.

The telescope underwent major upgrades in the 1970s and 1990s, allowing researchers to expand its role. Built with federal funds, Aricebo was managed for decades by Cornell before the University of Central Florida took up that role.

Aricebo and Puerto Rico have withstood natural calamities in recent years, including Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a series of earthquakes this year.

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Arecibo Observatory Telescope Collapses, Ending An Era Of World-Class Research – Prairie Public Broadcasting

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The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has collapsed, after weeks of concern from scientists over the fate of what was once the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. Arecibo’s 900-ton equipment platform, suspended 500 above the dish, fell overnight after the last of its healthy support cables failed to keep it in place.

No injuries were reported, according to the National Science Foundation, which oversees the renowned research facility.

“NSF is saddened by this development,” the agency said. “As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”

The Arecibo Observatory had been slated last month to be withdrawn from service, with the NSF citing the risk of an “uncontrolled collapse” due to failures in the cables that suspended the platform and its huge Gregorian Dome above the 1,000-foot reflector dish.

The telescope’s trademark dish, nestled amid thick tropical forest, was left with a huge gash in August, after a cable fell and slashed through its panels. After a main cable snapped in early November, officials said they saw no way to safely preserve the unstable structure.

Instead, they were hoping to keep the visitors’ center and other buildings operational. But they also noted it would take weeks to work out the technical details of a plan.

Ángel Vázquez, the observatory’s director of telescope operations, says he was in the control room area when equipment began to plummet to the ground. In an interview that was posted to Twitter by scientist Wilbert Andrés Ruperto, Vázquez says he and other staff members had been in the process of removing valuable equipment when they heard a loud bang outside.

“When we looked outside the control room, we started to see the eventual downfall of the observatory,” Vázquez said. He added that strands of the remaining three cables had been unraveling in recent days, increasing the strain. And because two of the support towers maintained tension as the collapse occurred, some of the falling equipment was yanked across the side of the dish rather than falling straight down through its focal point.

“This whole process took 30 seconds,” Vázquez said, “and an unfortunate icon in radio astronomy was done.”

Vázquez said he has worked at the facility for 43 years, starting soon after college.

The massive reflector dish is made of perforated aluminum panels, leaving an expanse of greenery underneath. But many of those panels have now fallen to Earth.

A record of discovery

In Arecibo’s nearly 60 years of operation, the observatory’s powerful capabilities made it a popular choice for researchers chasing breakthroughs in radio astronomy and atmospheric science. It was used for projects from sniffing out gravitational waves in space to tracking down potentially habitable planets far from Earth.

Arecibo’s legacy includes the detection of the first binary pulsar in 1974 — a discovery that bolstered a key idea in Einstein’s general theory of relativity and earned the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The observatory has been an inspiration to many. For its neighbors in Puerto Rico and for people worldwide, it has been a literal link between the terrestrial and the extraterrestrial. And in movies and art, it has been depicted as both Earth’s doorbell and its peephole into outer space.

Pierce Brosnan clambered around its ladders in the James Bond film GoldenEye. Jodie Foster marveled at its otherwordly promise in Contact. And in 1974, it was used to beam a “Hello” message into space.

Researchers have been mourning the telescope’s loss since the NSF announced its looming demise last month. Astronomer Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute compared it to learning your high school has burned down, or to losing a big brother. Doing research at the facility was like going to a wonderful summer camp, he wrote in a recent farewell message to Arecibo.

“While life will continue, something powerful and profoundly wonderful is gone,” Shostak said.

Here’s how planetary scientist Ed Rivera-Valentin described one aspect of Arecibo’s importance earlier this year, on NPR’s Short Wave podcast:

“One of the really neat things about the Arecibo Observatory is that it’s a very versatile scientific instrument. Most telescopes, most radio telescopes, don’t have the ability to send out light. They only capture light. At the observatory, we can send and capture light. When an asteroid’s coming by, we are pretty much a flashlight that we turn on. We send radar out to it, and that radar comes back… We can tell you how far these objects are down to a few meters.

“And we care about where these asteroids are going to be because what if, one day, this thing comes around and gets too close to Earth? But if we can let people know this is going to happen next year, we can actually prepare for it. Like, the dinosaurs — they didn’t have a space program, so they didn’t get to prepare for anything.”

The idea for the observatory was conceived in the late 1950s by Cornell University professor William E. Gordon, who was looking to build a huge tool to explore the Earth’s atmosphere and the composition of nearby planets and moons.

The site in Puerto Rico was chosen “to take advantage of the vicinity to the Equator and of the topography of the terrain, which provided a nearly spherical valley and minimized excavation,” according to a lecture by longtime Cornell astronomy professor Martha Haynes.

The telescope underwent major upgrades in both the 1970s and 1990s, allowing researchers to expand its role. Built with federal funds, Cornell managed Aricebo for decades before the University of Central Florida took up that role.

Aricebo and Puerto Rico have withstood natural calamities in recent years, including Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a series of earthquakes earlier this year.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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