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Mars rover landing a moment of joy for Montreal-born NASA systems engineer – Montreal Gazette

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“I can’t even describe it, how happy you feel in that moment,” she says.

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Farah Alibay describes the moments between the time the Perseverance rover entered Mars’s atmosphere on Thursday and when it landed on the surface of the Red Planet as “the longest seven minutes of my life.”

After that tense time, the Montreal-born NASA systems engineer heard the words that still give her goosebumps: “Touchdown confirmed.”

Now Alibay, who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says she’s prepping for the next steps of the project, which include the daunting task of helping guide the rover as it searches for signs of ancient life on Mars.

“I can’t even describe it, how happy you feel in that moment,” Alibay said of the rover’s landing. “For me, I was screaming and jumping of happiness.”

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Alibay said the landing comes after a lot of long hours and personal sacrifices for the team as it sought to complete the complex operation during a global pandemic.

While the joy she felt at the landing moment will stay with her, Alibay said the celebrations themselves were short-lived.

“I think the next thought was like, ‘Oh, I still have a job to do. Okay, let’s go, let’s do this,”‘ she said.

The team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory next have the task of guiding the rover — nicknamed Percy — as it searches for evidence of ancient life.

The rover will use its two-metre arm to drill down and collect rock and soil samples to be sent back to Earth, where it will be analyzed for ancient microbes.

Now that the probe has landed, Alibay says her role is shifting to one of “uplink planning,” or helping to finalize and send the plans for rover’s next steps. She’s also been tasked with helping to co-ordinate use of a small, robotic helicopter that was carried to Mars aboard Perseverance.

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The fact that she’s helping to search for answers to some of humankind’s biggest questions is not lost on Alibay, who describes working on the project as a “privilege.”

“That question of ‘Are we alone’ is something that I think people have asked themselves for hundreds of years, if not thousands of years,” she said.

“To get to say that I am part of a team that might help start to answer that question, that is even daring to ask the question and daring to go make those observations, that is pretty incredible.”

Alibay was born in Montreal to parents who immigrated from Madagascar, then moved to Joliette when she was two. Her mother, who’d arrived in Sherbrooke at 15, became a teacher; her father studied engineering in France and moved later to Quebec, where the couple met and married.

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As a child, she says she was inspired by movies such as Apollo 13 and by pioneering female astronauts, including Canada’s Julie Payette.

Alibay’s field is only 25 to 30 per cent female, “and I am also a person of colour,” she told the Montreal Gazette last year. “There is not as much representation as in other fields. It is something I think is very important to change: Diverse teams are teams that perform better.”

While she moved away to England at the age of 13, Alibay said she remains a proud Canadian, remains close with her friends from Joliette and her family who still live in the province, and she hasn’t forgotten the country that welcomed her family and gave them a chance at a new life.

She said she’s happy to see her story being shared, and hopes it can inspire a new generation of kids to follow their dreams.

“We have such pride in being Canadian,” she said. “And so being able to share that and give back, it’s been a pleasure.”

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NASA hands SpaceX contract for first mission to Jupiter's moon Europa – Fox Business

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NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Southern California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)  has awarded SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) with the launch services contract for the Earth’s first mission to conduct detailed investigations of Europa. 

The “Europa Clipper” mission is set for October 2024 and NASA said in a Friday release that the spacecraft will launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

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The contract award is approximately $178 million dollars

Scientists at the agency will explore whether Jupiter’s icy moon, which is about 90% the size of Earth’s moon, could host conditions suitable for life. 

The world – discovered first by famed astronomer Galileo Galilei – shows strong evidence for an ocean of salty water beneath the planet’s crust, thought to contain twice as much water as Earth’s oceans combined.

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NASA believes that the moon’s ice shell is around 10 to 15 miles thick and its internal ocean is estimated to be around 40 to 100 miles deep.

The mission will send Europa Clipper to orbit around Jupiter to perform close flybys of Europa on an elliptical path. The orbiter’s suite of science instruments will help to measure the ocean’s depth and salinity and the thickness of its icy shell, map surface geology and composition, search for plumes of water vapor that could be emitted from Europa’s crust and subsurface lakes and produce high-resolution images of its surface.

This color view of Jupiter’s moon Europa was captured by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. Scientists are studying processes that affect the surface as they prepare to explore the icy body. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

JPL notes that understanding Europa habitability will help astrobiologists to better understand how life developed on Earth approximately 382 million miles away, in addition to efforts to find life beyond the blue marble.

While JPL leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, NASA’s Kennedy-based Launch Services Program will manage the Europa Clipper launch service. 

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Additionally, the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will orchestrate program management of the Europa Clipper mission.

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Buck Moon rises over Oshawa harbour – insauga.com

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July’s orange- or yellow-tinted full moon – known as a Buck Moon – arrived at 10:36 p.m. Friday night.

It’s called the Buck Moon because the antlers of male deer are in full-growth mode at this time.

Indigenous people of Canada have several other names for the phenomenon, including Berry Moon (Anishinabe), Feather Moulting Moon (Cree), Salmon Moon, (Tlingit) and Raspberry Moon (Algonquin, Ojibwe).

The full moon can be viewed in all its glory until tomorrow night.

Photo: Colin Ryan

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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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