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NASA astronauts go back to the future with capsule launch

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — It’s back to the future as NASA astronauts launch again from the U.S. — aboard a retro-style “Right Stuff” capsule.

Make no mistake: This is not your father’s — or grandfather’s — capsule.

SpaceX’s Dragon crew capsule outshines NASA’s old Apollo spacecraft in virtually every way. The Dragon’s clean lines and minimalist interior, with touchscreens instead of a mess of switches and knobs, make even the space shuttles seem yesteryear.

This fresh take on a vintage look will be on full display Wednesday when SpaceX plans to launch NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station — a first for a private company.

It will be the first astronaut launch from Florida since Atlantis closed out the space shuttle program in 2011, and the first American-made capsule to carry people into orbit since the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket — with the crew capsule atop — will soar from the same pad used for both of those earlier missions.

Russia’s workhorse Soyuz capsules, still in use after a half-century plus, have kept NASA astronauts flying to the space station. While reliable, the Soyuz looks dated compared with the snappy Dragon.

“We want it to not only be as safe and reliable as you’d expect from the most advanced spacecraft in the world … we also want it to look amazing and look beautiful,” said Benji Reed, a SpaceX mission director.

SpaceX and Boeing, NASA’s other commercial crew provider, opted for capsules from the start.

Another early competitor, Sierra Nevada Corp., proposed a small space plane for astronauts, but did not make the final cut. NASA has since hired the company to haul space station supplies aboard its mini shuttle starting as soon as next year.

There was no need for another flying machine like the shuttle, which was built to haul hefty satellites and space station parts, said retired NASA manager Steve Payne.

“What we’re trying to do now is just taxi service up and down, and you don’t need the huge semi anymore. You can use a sedan,” Payne told The Associated Press.

“Yes, wings are nice. They give you more options as to where to land and a little more control,” said Payne, a former Navy fighter pilot. “But they’re not absolutely necessary. And since we’re trying to make this inexpensive and reusable and as simple as we can make it so that it’s cost effective, capsules work.”

SpaceX based its crew capsule on its long-running reusable cargo capsule, also named Dragon and ending space station missions with old-fashioned splashdowns.

The two astronauts were deeply involved in the new capsule’s development over the past five years. In true test flight fashion, they offered suggestions and tweaked here and there, to benefit not just themselves but future crews.

“Our goal through this entire process is to not turn the spacecraft into Bob and Doug’s excellent machine, with a bunch of things that only Doug likes or only Bob likes,” Behnken said.

Although the full automated Dragon has four seats lined up in a row, only the centre two will be occupied for this especially risky test flight. A test dummy soloed on last year’s Dragon crew capsule debut.

This Dragon now has a name, courtesy of its crew. Hurley and Behnken promise to reveal it on launch day, one of many traditions they’re setting into motion as NASA’s commercial crew program finally takes wing.

The practice hearkens back to NASA’s early days: Project Mercury’s John Glenn became the first American to circle the Earth aboard Friendship 7; Gemini 3’s Gus Grissom and John Young sailed into orbit aboard Molly Brown; and Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins flew to the moon aboard Columbia.

“We have to save some suspense for the mission itself,” Behnken said. “We’ve got something for you to look forward to on launch day.”

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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.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

Source: – 570 News

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Edited By Harry Miller

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Hope Mars mission: How to watch the UAE make history Tuesday – MSN Money

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The United Arab Emirates will head to Mars for the first time on Tuesday. From Tanegashima, a Japanese island in the north Pacific ocean, a Mitsubishi H-IIA booster will carry a car-sized probe known as “Al Amal,” or “Hope,” to space — and onto the red planet.






© Provided by CNET
The Hope probe (Al Amal) will circle Mars on a 55 day orbit, analyzing its atmosphere. MBRSC






© Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre


The probe is expected to reach orbit around the red planet in early 2021. It’s designed to give a full picture of the Martian atmosphere, offering a holistic view of how Mars’ climate varies during the year. 

How to watch the Hope probe launch to Mars

The launch from Tanegashima, Japan, opens Tuesday, July 14, at 1:51 p.m. PT. It’ll launch on a Mitsubishi H-IIA booster. The rocket isn’t quite as famous as the likes of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rockets, but it does have a great launch history, with over 40 successful launches under its belt, mostly of Japanese satellite systems.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre will carry a livestream of the launch from Japan, which you can watch via this link. Or, tune into the livestream below:

Replay Video

One big hope

Hope is the first interplanetary mission led by an Arab, Muslim-majority country and, if successful, will add another nation to the list of Martian explorers.  

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“The intent was not to put a message or declaration to the world,” Sarah Al Amiri, chair of the UAE Council of Scientists and deputy project manager for the Emirates Mars Mission, told CNET in March. “It was, for us, more of an internal reinforcement of what the UAE is about.”  The historic launch is set to be livestreamed across the globe. 

The satellite will study the connections between Mars’ lower and upper atmosphere and examine what causes the loss of hydrogen and oxygen into space. It’ll collect data for two years after achieving its orbit around Mars in February 2021. There’s an option to extend the mission to 2025.

Aboard Hope are three instruments which will enable the probe to study the Martian atmosphere more intensely. There’s a high-resolution camera known as the Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI), a UV imager known as the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS), and a scanning infrared imager dubbed the Emirates Mars InfraRed Spectrometer (EMIRS).  

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New Class of Radio-Astronomical Objects Discovered: Odd Radio Circles | Astronomy – Sci-News.com

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An international team of astronomers has discovered an unexpected new class of radio-astronomical objects, consisting of a circular disk, which in some cases is limb-brightened, and sometimes contains a galaxy at its center. Named ‘Odd Radio Circles,’ these objects do not seem to correspond to any known type of astronomical object.

ASKAP radio continuum image of ORC 1 (contours) overlaid onto a DES 3-color composite image. Two galaxies of interest: ‘C’ lies near the center of ORC 1 and ‘S’ coincides with the southern radio peak. Image credit: Norris et al, arXiv: 2006.14805.

Circular features are well-known in radio-astronomical images, and usually represent a spherical object such as a supernova remnant, a planetary nebula, a shell around a star, or a face-on disk such as a protoplanetary disk or a star-forming galaxy.

They may also arise from imaging artifacts around bright astronomical objects.

Western Sydney University and CSIRO astronomer Ray Norris and his colleagues report the discovery of a class of circular feature in radio images that do not seem to correspond to any of these known types of object or artifact, but rather appear to be a new class of astronomical object.

“For brevity, and lacking an explanation for their origins, we dub these objects Odd Radio Circles (ORCs),” they said.

The researchers spotted three ORCs — named ORCs 1, 2 and 3 — in images from the Pilot Survey of the Evolutionary Map of the Universe, which is an all-sky continuum survey using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope (ASKAP).

A further radio source, called ORC 4, was discovered in archival observations of the galaxy cluster Abell 2142 taken with the Giant MetreWave Radio Telescope (GMRT).

All four ORCs are similar in displaying a strong circular symmetry and none of them have obvious counterparts in optical, infrared and X-ray wavelengths.

They differ in that two of them have a central galaxy while two do not, and three of them (ORCs 1, 2 and 4) consist of a partly filled ring while one (ORC 3) seems to be a uniform disk. There is also the puzzling fact that two of them are very close together, implying that these two ORCs have a common cause.

If the central galaxy in ORC 4 is associated with the ring, then the ring is 4.2 billion light-years away and has a size of 1.1 by 0.9 million light-years.

ASKAP radio continuum images of ORCs 2 and 3 from the Pilot Survey of the Evolutionary Map of the Universe and of ORC 4 from GMRT archival data. On the left are gray-scale images, with the synthesized beam shown in the bottom left corner, and radio contours overlaid onto DES optical images on the right. Image credit: Norris et al, arXiv: 2006.14805.

ASKAP radio continuum images of ORCs 2 and 3 from the Pilot Survey of the Evolutionary Map of the Universe and of ORC 4 from GMRT archival data. On the left are gray-scale images, with the synthesized beam shown in the bottom left corner, and radio contours overlaid onto DES optical images on the right. Image credit: Norris et al, arXiv: 2006.14805.

“We consider it likely that the ORCs represent a new type of object found in radio-astronomical images,” the scientists said.

“The edge-brightening in some ORCs suggests that this circular image may represent a spherical object, which in turn suggests a spherical wave from some transient event.”

“Several such classes of transient events, capable of producing a spherical shock wave, have recently been discovered, such as fast radio bursts, gamma-ray bursts, and neutron star mergers. However, because of the large angular size of the ORCs, any such transients would have taken place in the distant past.”

“It is also possible that the ORCs represent a new category of a known phenomenon, such as the jets of a radio galaxy or blazar when seen end-on, down the ‘barrel’ of the jet.”

“Alternatively, they may represent some remnant of a previous outflow from a radio galaxy.”

“However, no existing observations of this phenomenon closely resemble the ORCs in features such as the edge-brightening or the absence of a visual blazar or radio galaxy at the center.”

“We also acknowledge the possibility that the ORCs may represent more than one phenomenon,” they added.

“Further work is continuing to investigate the nature of these objects.”

The astronomers submitted their paper for publication in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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Ray P. Norris et al. 2020. Unexpected Circular Radio Objects at High Galactic Latitude. Nature Astronomy, submitted for publication; arXiv: 2006.14805

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UAE's Mars orbiter launch from Japan delayed by weather – ThePeterboroughExaminer.com

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TOKYO – The liftoff of the United Arab Emirates’ Mars orbiter was postponed until Friday due to bad weather at the Japanese launch site.

The orbiter named Amal, or Hope, is the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission. The launch was scheduled for Wednesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, but the UAE mission team announced the rescheduled date on Twitter.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA rocket will carry UAE’s craft into space. Mitsubishi launch official Keiji Suzuki had said on Monday a postponement was possible as intermittent lightning and rain were forecast over the next few days.

Heavy rain has fallen for more than a week in large areas of Japan, triggering mudslides and floods and killing more than 70 people, most of them on the southern main island of Kyushu.

Hope is set to reach Mars in February 2021, the year the UAE celebrates 50 years since its formation. A successful Hope mission would be a major step for the oil-dependent economy seeking a future in space.

Hope carries three instruments to study the upper atmosphere and monitor climate change and is scheduled to circle the red planet for at least two years.

Emirates Mars Mission Project Director Omran Sharaf, who joined Monday’s briefing from Dubai, said the mission will provide a complete view of the Martian atmosphere during different seasons for the first time.

Two other Mars missions are planned in coming days by the U.S. and China. Japan has its own Martian moon mission planned in 2024.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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