NASA in 2019: Beyond space missions, here's what NASA has accomplished this year - International Business Times, Singapore Edition - Canada News Media
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NASA in 2019: Beyond space missions, here's what NASA has accomplished this year – International Business Times, Singapore Edition

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In 2019, NASA continued to work towards expanding its space technology required to explore the possibility of sending human missions to Mars and sustainable human lunar missions as well. It has accomplished many innovations by carrying out research and sending missions of its own, as well as funding other parties towards achieving the set goals.

Here a few highlights:

  • In partnership with Google and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, NASA aided in achieving quantum supremacy. This was accomplished by showcasing the capacity to carry out computation in mere seconds, which would have taken thousands of years for the most sophisticated supercomputers of the world.
  • NASA launched two new technology demonstrations in order to improve space travel and navigation: Deep Space Atomic Clock and Green Propellant Infusion Mission. While the former made strides in getting closer to regulating the precision with which time is kept, the latter has been successfully showing a low-toxin propellant.
  • 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, the challenge to produce sustainable 3D printed prototypes of planetary habitats was also conducted.
  • Another important research pursued was the biology experiment known as ‘BioNutrients‘ at the International Space Station where microorganisms were being used to create nutrients that are naturally found in vegetables.

    Space Shuttle Challenger during lift-off.
    NASA/JSC
  • The space organization also showcased the synchronized maneuver between two CubeSats paired for laser communication pointing experiment and two CubeSats in lower-Earth orbit.
  • Made In Space Inc. bagged a contract from NASA to use 3D printing to produce and assemble parts for spacecraft in lower-Earth orbit.
  • A commercial terrain-relative navigation system meant for error-free lunar landings, and many other technologies on spacecraft, planes, balloons and suborbital rockets, were also tested by NASA.
  • Hundreds of small US businesses received funding amounting to nearly $180 million to improve competence in space and aeronautics.
  • Two new research institutes for space technology—Habitats Optimized for Missions of Exploration (HOME) and Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats institute (RETHi)—to learn about smart habitats, were also established.
  • More funding for two projects under NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, working towards the mining of asteroids and the exploration of lunar craters, were also provided.
  • In addition to all this, NASA licensed its technologies and software to commercial companies in order to enable the creation of solutions and products for people across the world.

    NASA logo
    Pixabay

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Study reveals unexpected rise in potent greenhouse gas – Space Daily

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Scientists had expected the levels of HFC-23, a type of hydrofluorocarbon and a potent greenhouse gas, to drop in the latest global survey of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, atmospheric concentrations of HFC-23 are rising.

HFC-23 is the byproduct of the production of HCFC-22, another hydrofluorocarbon that is commonly used in cooling systems in developing economies. India and China are two of the largest emitters of HFC-23, but in 2015, the two nations promised to rapidly reduce their HFC-23 emissions.

After making the pledge, officials in China and India reported tremendous progress with their HFC-23 abatement program, with the expectation that HFC-23 emissions would drop to nearly zero by 2017.

A new study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, suggests the opposite has happened.

Authors of the new study assumed China and India’s reported progress was real, and would lead to reduced concentration of HFC-23 in the atmosphere.

“We had no particular reason to distrust the reports. We were motivated to write the paper because the reported reductions were so dramatic,” study co-author Matthew Rigby, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Bristol in Britain, told UPI in an email. “Based on the reported values, we were expecting to see global atmospheric concentrations stabilize, following decades of growth. So it was a surprise to see them continue to grow, and in fact, grow at a faster rate than ever before.”

Rigby is a member of the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment, UGAGE, which measure greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at test sites around the globe.

The latest findings revealed a significant global rise in HFC-23 in 2017, but the data doesn’t pinpoint the exact source of the increase. Rigby and his colleagues acknowledged that their study doesn’t prove China and India failed to execute their HFC-23 abatement programs.

“From our analysis, we cannot definitively say that China and India have not achieved their reported emission reductions,” lead study author Kieran Stanley, a post-doctoral researcher at the Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany, told UPI. “However, seeing as China and India account for 75 percent of the total global HCFC-22 production in 2017, it is highly likely that China’s reported emissions reductions haven’t taken place.”

Because India’s HCFC-22 production accounts for just 7 percent of global production, it’s harder to guess how much progress the country has made in its efforts to reduce HFC-23 emissions.

According to Stanley, had China and India truly made the emissions reduction progress they reported, that would mean large amounts of illegal, unreported HCFC-22 were manufactured in 2017. If that had happened, Stanley said the hydrocarbon’s price should have dropped. It didn’t.

After the ozone-eating gases, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were banned by the Montreal Protocol, most industries adopted a variety of alternative gases — hydrofluorocarbons. While most of theses gases are less harmful to the ozone layer, some feature a greenhouse gas effect.

In 2016, parties to the Montreal Protocol signed the Kigali Amendment, aiming to reduce the warming impact of HFCs.

HFC-23’s greenhouse gas effect is particularly potent. Just 1 metric ton of HFC-23 is equivalent to the greenhouse gas effect of 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

This isn’t the first time scientists have found concentrations of a gas regulated by the Montreal Protocol and its amendments. In 2018, scientists found evidence of a dramatic rise in the ozone-eating gas CFC-11. Investigations revealed China’s foam industry as the primary driver of the emissions increase.

“These two findings do suggest that monitoring of the chemical industry may need to be improved in China,” Rigby said. “In light of the finding of new emissions of CFC-11 from China, the government has announced additional monitoring initiatives focused on ozone depleting substances. Hopefully, they will also be able to look into these continuing emissions of the greenhouse gas, HFC-23.”

Related Links

Space Technology News – Applications and Research


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TECH SPACE
Scientists film chemical bond making, breaking

Washington DC (UPI) Jan 17, 2020

Everything depends on chemical bonds. Without chemical bonds, everything would fall apart. And yet, scientists don’t entirely understand how chemical bonding works.
Now, for the first time, scientists have filmed chemical bond making and breaking in action. The breakthrough – described this week in the journal Science Advances – promises to offer scientists new insights into this fundamental atomic phenomenon.
The main reason chemical bonding isn’t well understood is that the processes … read more


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Earth's oldest asteroid impact 'may have ended ice age' – BBC News

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Scientists have identified the world’s oldest asteroid crater in Australia, adding it may explain how the planet was lifted from an ice age.

The asteroid hit Yarrabubba in Western Australia about 2.2 billion years ago – making the crater about half the age of Earth, researchers say.

Their conclusion was reached by testing minerals found in rocks at the site.

The scientists say the find is exciting because it could account for a warming event during that era.

The Curtin University research was published in the journal Nature Communications on Wednesday.

How did they date it?

The crater was discovered in the dry outback in 1979, but geologists had not previously tested how old it was.

Due to billions of years of erosion, the crater is not visible to the eye. Scientists mapped scars in the area’s magnetic field to determine its 70km (43 miles) diameter.

“The landscape is actually very flat because it’s so old, but the rocks there are distinctive,” researcher Prof Chris Kirkland told the BBC.

To determine when the asteroid hit Earth, the team examined tiny zircon and monazite crystals in the rocks. They were “shocked” in the strike and now can be read like “tree rings”, Prof Kirkland said.

These crystals hold tiny amounts of uranium. Because uranium decays into lead at a consistent pace, the researchers were able to calculate how much time had passed.

It is at least 200 million years older than the next most ancient impact structure – the Vredefort Dome in South Africa.

“We were interested in the area because the Western Australian landscape is very old but we didn’t expected [the crater] to be as old as this,” Prof Kirkland said.

“It’s absolutely possible that there’s an older crater out there just waiting to be discovered, but the difficulty is in finding the crust before it erodes and you lose that early Earth history”.

Could it have ended an ice age?

The timing of the impact could also explain why the world warmed around this time, according to the researchers.

Scientists believe the planet was previously in one of its “Snowball Earth” periods, when it was largely covered in ice. At some point, the ice sheets melted and the planet began to rapidly warm.

“The age of the [crater] corresponds pretty precisely with the end of a potential global glacial period,” Prof Kirkland said.

“So the impact may have had significant changes to our planetary climate.”

Using computer modelling, the team calculated that the asteroid struck a kilometres-thick ice sheet covering the Earth. The event would have released huge volumes of water vapour, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

This could have helped the planet’s warming during the Proterozoic era – a stage when oxygen had just appeared in the atmosphere and complex life had not yet formed.

“Obviously we were very excited just with the age itself,” Prof Kirkland said. “But placing that right with the context of Earth’s other events makes it become really very interesting.”

There is not enough modelling from the time to comprehensively test the theory, but “the rocks tell a story about the massive impact into the planet”.

Another theory for the warming event is that volcanic eruptions may have pushed carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

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Live coverage: Next SpaceX launch expected no earlier than Friday – Spaceflight Now

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Live coverage of SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 rocket launch from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission will launch SpaceX’s fourth batch of Starlink broadband satellites. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 rocket was raised vertical Monday on pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Staton in preparation for launch with SpaceX’s fourth batch of Starlink broadband satellites. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

Spaceflight Now members can watch a live feed of the launch pad. Our live coverage is made possible by the support of our members and we thank them for their support.

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