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Lunar mission is latest milestone in China's space ambitions – Toronto Star

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WENCHANG, China – China’s latest trip to the moon is another milestone in the Asian powerhouse’s slow but steady ascent to the stars.

China became the third country to put a person into orbit 17 years ago and the first to land on the far side of the moon in 2019. Future ambitions include a permanent space station and putting people back on the moon more than 50 years after the U.S. did.

But even before the latest lunar mission lifted off before dawn Tuesday, a top program official maintained that China isn’t competing with anyone.

“China will set its development goals in the space industry based on its own considerations of science and engineering technology,“ Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center at the China National Space Administration, told reporters hours before the Chang’e 5 mission was launched.

“We do not place rivals (before us) when setting those goals,” Pei said.

Whether that is true or not is debatable. China has a national plan aimed at joining the United States, Europe and Japan in the top ranks of technology producers, and the space program has been a major component of that. It also is a source of national pride to lift the reputation of the ruling Communist Party.

What’s clear is that China’s cautious, incremental approach has racked up success after success since it first put a person in space in 2003, joining the former Soviet Union and the United States. That has been followed by more crewed missions, the launch of a space lab, the placing of a rover on the moon’s relatively unexplored far side and, this year, an operation to land on Mars.

The Chang’e 5 mission, if successful, would be the first time moon rocks and debris are brought to Earth since a 1976 Soviet mission. The four modules of the spacecraft blasted off atop a massive Long March-5Y rocket from the Wenchang launch centre on Hainan island.

The mission’s main task is to drill 2 metres (about 7 feet) into the moon’s surface and scoop up about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of rocks and other debris. The lander will deposit them in an ascender. A return capsule will deliver them back to Earth, landing on the grasslands of the Inner Mongolia region in mid-December.

“Pulling off the Chang’e 5 mission would be an impressive feat for any nation,“ said Florida-based expert Stephen Clark of the publication Spaceflight Now.

China prides itself on arriving at this point largely through its own efforts, although Russia helped early on with astronaut training and China’s crewed Shenzhou space capsule is based on Russia’s Soyuz.

While there has been collaboration with some other nations, notably those belonging to the European Space Agency, which has provided tracking support for Chinese missions, the United States isn’t one of them.

U.S. law requires Congressional approval for co-operation between NASA and China’s military-linked program. Ongoing political and economic disputes, notably accusations that China steals or compels the transfer of sensitive trade secrets, appear to dim the prospects for closer ties.

China’s space program has at times been seen as recreating achievements attained years ago by others, primarily the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Even China’s permanent space station, now under construction, is partly a response to its exclusion from the International Space Station, mainly at the insistence of the U.S.

Other countries are also forging ahead, underscored by the dramatic landing of America’s Curiosity Mars rover in 2012 and the return to Earth next month of Japan’s explorer Hayabusa2 with samples collected from the asteroid Ryugu.

Still, China can boast an “increasingly sophisticated and demonstrated space expertise,“ said Henry Hertzfeld, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs.

Lunar exploration remains a priority for China, something that in the future will likely take the form of “a human-machine combination,” Pei told reporters.

No target date for a crewed moon mission has been announced, but Pei said a goal down the line is to build an international lunar research station that can provide long-term support for scientific exploration activities on the lunar surface.

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“We will determine when to implement a manned lunar landing based on scientific needs and technical and economic conditions,“ he said.

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AP researcher Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.

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Spacewalking astronauts improve station's European lab | TheSpec.com – TheSpec.com

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Spacewalking astronauts installed a high-speed data link outside the International Space Station’s European lab on Wednesday and tackled other improvements.

NASA’s Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover floated out early and headed straight to Columbus, one of the three high-tech labs at the orbiting outpost.

“That’s a beautiful view,” Hopkins observed as the station soared 260 miles (420 kilometres) above Kazakhstan.

The astronauts hauled with them a fancy new antenna for Columbus that will provide faster communication with European researchers via satellites and ground stations. Although they had trouble driving in some of the bolts to attach the boxy antenna, the size of a small refrigerator, it appeared to be secure and Mission Control declared success.

Danish astronaut Andreas Morgensen guided the spacewalkers from Mission Control in Houston, where controllers wore masks and were seated apart because of the pandemic.

The spacewalkers also needed to hook up power and data cables for an experiment platform for science research outside the European lab that’s been awaiting activation for almost a year.

SpaceX delivered the platform named Bartolomeo to the space station last spring. The shelf was installed with the station’s robot arm, but had to wait until Wednesday’s spacewalk to get hooked up and activated.

Airbus, which built and runs Bartolomeo, is selling space on the platform for private research projects. It’s Europe’s first commercial venture outside the station.

Hopkins and Glover will perform a second spacewalk on Monday to complete battery upgrades to the station’s solar power grid. The latest spacewalk was the third for Hopkins and first for Glover.

They are part of SpaceX’s second astronaut flight that launched in November. Their docked Dragon capsule was visible on NASA TV during the spacewalk.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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nasa mars helicopter – Intelligent Aerospace

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WASHINGTON – NASA’s Perseverance explorer will land on the red planet on Feb. 18, but the rover won’t be the only newly arrived robotic explorer. The wheeled robot carries the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity on its belly, and NASA has posted a handy list of things to know about this mission. Although, several of the six facts seem to drive home that NASA doesn’t really know if Ingenuity is going to work. In fact, it could still be seen as a success at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory even if it crashes on its first flight, Ryan Whitwam reports for Extreme TechContinue reading original article.

The Intelligent Aerospace take:

January 27, 2021 –The Mars helicopter weighs in at four pounds on Earth (and 1.5 pounds on Mars) and has rotors that come in at four feet tip-to-tip. It is powered by a solar panel that charges Lithium-ion batteries, which allows for one 90-second flight per Martian day. In that time, it can fly up to 980 feet at an altitude up to 15 feet. It will fly autonomously.

Related: Six things to know about NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

Related: Smiths Interconnect’s contact technology launched on NASA Mars Perseverance Rover

Related: Northrop Grumman contributes navigation system for NASA’s mars rover mission

Jamie Whitney, Associate Editor
Intelligent Aerospace

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Spacewalking astronauts venture out to improve European lab – Toronto Star

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A pair of astronauts went spacewalking Wednesday to install a high-speed data link outside the International Space Station’s European lab.

NASA’s Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover floated out early and headed straight to Columbus, one of the three high-tech labs at the orbiting outpost.

“That’s a beautiful view,” Hopkins observed as the station soared 260 miles (420 kilometres) above Kazakhstan.

They hauled with them a fancy new antenna for Columbus that will provide faster communication with European researchers via satellites and ground stations. The boxy antenna is the size of a small refrigerator.

Danish astronaut Andreas Morgensen guided the spacewalkers from Mission Control in Houston, where controllers wore masks and were seated apart because of the pandemic.

The spacewalkers also needed to hook up power and data cables for an experiment platform for science research outside the European lab that’s been awaiting activation for almost a year.

SpaceX delivered the platform named Bartolomeo to the space station last spring. The shelf was installed with the station’s robot arm, but had to wait until Wednesday’s spacewalk to get hooked up and activated.

Airbus, which built and runs Bartolomeo, is selling space on the platform for private research projects. It’s Europe’s first commercial venture outside the station.

Hopkins and Glover will perform a second spacewalk on Monday to complete battery upgrades to the station’s solar power grid. The latest spacewalk was the third for Hopkins and first for Glover.

They are part of SpaceX’s second astronaut flight that launched in November. Their docked Dragon capsule was visible on NASA TV during the spacewalk.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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