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NASA is heading back to the Moon and Canada’s coming, too




On Monday, a rocket will be blasting off to orbit around the Moon as the first step in humanity’s grand return to the lunar surface.

But it’s not just an exciting moment for NASA. This time, the journey back to the Moon is an international collaboration, one that will see Canadian technology and Canadian astronauts making a clear mark on lunar history.

Canada is heading to the Moon — and Monday is just the start.

In under a decade, scientists hope to have developed a space station called the Lunar Gateway to serve as a stepping stone for travel to Mars and beyond, and Canada is developing a rover to explore the Moon’s surface.

“The idea is to set up a base camp on the surface of the moon, with an orbiting space station that will orbit the Moon,” Orbax Thomas, a physics researchers with the University of Guelph, told CTV National News.

“That will allow scientists to do research and learn things from the Moon in the hope that as we continue to expand out into the nether regions of the universe, and move towards putting up colonies in places like Mars, we have an opportunity to learn how to do that while we’re relatively close to home.”


At the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, U.S., the mission, given the name Artemis I, will launch during a two-hour window on Aug 29, the first test of a series of space exploration systems that NASA and its partners have been working on for years.

Utilizing the most powerful rocket that humans have ever built, the unmanned Orion spacecraft will be sent into space in order to orbit the Moon to collect data and test the capabilities of the spacecraft.

Only mannequins will be inside the Orion, but the spacecraft is designed to support humans, making this first test a crucial one for future missions.

Paul Delaney, professor of physics and astronomy at York University, explained to CTV News Channel on Saturday that these mannequins are “bristling with radiation detectors, making sure that the exposure to deep-space radiation that the astronauts are going to experience is within the expected limits.”

After the more-than-300-foot spacecraft completes its 42 day mission in space, it will return to Earth, splashing down in the ocean to test how future astronauts will get home.

If Artemis I is successful, it’ll soon be time for Artemis II, the first crewed flight back to the Moon — which is when Canada’s role in lunar exploration starts to become a crucial one.


Artemis II, currently projected for 2024, will see a spacecraft carry four human beings into orbit around the Moon for the first time since 1972.

One of those astronauts will be from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and will be the first non-American astronaut to fly to the Moon. It will also make Canada the second nation with an astronaut to travel all the way around the Moon.

A Canadian astronaut is also guaranteed to be on another flight in the future to the Gateway, the eventual space station set to orbit the Moon.

The Gateway will also be home to one of Canada’s biggest contributions to this stage of space exploration: the latest iteration of the iconic Canadarm.

In 1981, the first Canadarm made its space debut. These giant robotic arms were attached to the outsides of space shuttles and controlled by astronauts in the shuttle, used to move objects around in space that the astronauts otherwise could not.

The International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth currently hosts the Canadarm 2, which is permanently mounted on the space station and can be controlled from Earth or by astronauts in the station.

The Canadarm 3 will actually be smaller and lighter than previous versions at 8.5 metres in length, but it is planned to boast artificial intelligence, six 4k cameras and other cutting-edge technology.

“It’s the furthest into space that we’ve ever had a Canadarm,” Orbax said, noting that while the ISS is around 400 kilometres straight above us, the Gateway will be 400,000 kilometres away from Earth.

“And it will be not only moving objects, helping the Orion shuttle to dock onto the Gateway space station itself, but it’ll actually be used to build the Gateway itself.”

The Canadarm 3’s ability to perform some tasks without guidance will be hugely important to the Gateway’s functioning once it has been built. The space station won’t always have a crew, and there will be regular intervals in which the Gateway will be completely out of communication with crews on Earth, as its orbit takes it to the opposite side of the Moon.

According to the CSA, the Canadarm 3 will even be able to perform science experiments on its own while hurtling around the Moon.

The Canadarm has always been one of Canada’s most well-known contributions to space technology; it was Canada’s agreement to contribute the Canadarm 3 for the Gateway that secured a spot for a Canadian astronaut on the Artemis II.

Once the Gateway is built, scientists will be able to shuttle back and forth between the surface of the Moon and the Gateway space station orbiting around the Moon.

And soon, we’ll be leaving new footprints on the lunar surface. As early as 2025, Artemis III may be carrying a crew down to the Moon itself.

This mission aims to land the first woman on the Moon and the first person of colour.

“NASA is going to make history,” Randy Lycans, general manager of NASA’s Enterprise Solutions, said in a press conference.

The return to the Moon’s surface will be followed by a first for Canada: a lunar rover.

In 2021, it was announced that a Canadian rover would be landing on the Moon within the next five years as part of the lunar missions planned with NASA.

The CSA has already selected two Canadian companies, MDA and Canadensys, to design rover concepts.

The aim is to create a rover capable of surviving the lunar night during a planned two-week mission. One night on the Moon lasts for 14 Earth days, and conditions are extremely cold, as well as completely dark, posing challenges for rovers.

The rover is hoping to carry out a mission at the Moon’s south pole to test science instruments helping regulate functions such as mobility, navigations and thermal management, information that could help us in future trips to Mars.

The rollout of missions that starts on Monday with Artemis I is led by NASA, but involves contributions from not only CSA, but the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Although this next step in space exploration is beginning with a return to the Moon, the goal is to set us up for probing even deeper into space, with a lunar outpost as a reference for future research and future space travel.

“Space, unlike anything else, unifies us as a people,” Orbax said. “Whether you’re an academic, or whether you’re a scientist, or whether you’re a citizen, everybody has looked up and had that wonder of ‘what’s going on up there in the universe above us?’”

With files from Cristina Tenaglia

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Good planning gets the bike rolling – Science Daily



In surveys, a large majority of respondents usually agree that cycling can make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gases and to sustainable transport, especially in densely populated areas. In contrast, for many countries in reality there is a large gap between desired and actual numbers. In Germany, for example, only 20% of the short-distance of everyday trips in residential environments are covered by bicycle.

When asked about the reasons, one point repeatedly comes up top of the list: The perceived or actual lack of safety on the bike routes used. Increasing the share of cycling trips in the modal split thus depends crucially on a well-developed bike path infrastructure. However, designing efficient bike path networks is a complex problem that involves balancing a variety of constraints while meeting overall cycling demand. In addition, many municipalities still only have small budgets available for improving bicycle infrastructure.

In their study, researchers from the Chair of Network Dynamics / Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden (cfaed) at TU Dresden propose a new approach to generate efficient bike path networks. This explicitly considers the demand distribution and route choice of cyclists based on safety preferences. Typically, minimizing the travel distance is not the only goal, but aspects such as (perceived) safety or attractiveness of a route are also taken into account.

The starting point of this approach is a reversal of the usual planning process: Under real conditions, a bike path network is created by constantly adding bike paths to more streets. The cfaed scientists, on the contrary, start with an ideal, complete network, in which all streets in a city are equipped with a bike path. In a virtual process, they gradually remove individual, less used bike path segments from this network. The route selection of the cyclists is continuously updated. Thus, a sequence of bike path networks is created that is always adapted to the current usage. Each stage of this sequence corresponds to a variant that could be implemented with less financial effort. In this way, city planners can select the version that fits their municipality’s budget.

“In our study, we illustrate the applicability of this demand-driven planning scheme for dense urban areas of Dresden and Hamburg,” explains Christoph Steinacker, first author of the study. “We approach a real-life issue here using the theoretic toolbox of network dynamics. Our approach allows us to compare efficient bike path networks under different conditions. For example, it allows us to measure the influence of different demand distributions on the emerging network structures.” The proposed approach can thus provide a quantitative assessment of the structure of current and planned bike path networks and support demand-driven design of efficient infrastructures.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Technische Universität Dresden. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Laughing gas in space could mean life



To date, over 5000 exoplanetary systems have been discovered. Biosignatures are chemical components in a planet’s atmosphere that may indicate life, and they frequently include abundant gases in our planet’s atmosphere.

Scientists at UC Riverside suggest something is missing from the typical roster of chemicals astrobiologists use to search for life on planets around other stars — laughing gas.

Eddie Schwieterman, an astrobiologist in UCR’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said, “There’s been a lot of thought put into oxygen and methane as biosignatures. Fewer researchers have seriously considered nitrous oxide, but we think that may be a mistake.”

To reach this conclusion, scientists determined how much nitrous oxide a planet like Earth could conceivably produce. After that, they created simulations of that planet orbiting various types of stars and calculated the amounts of N2O that could be captured by a telescope like the James Webb Space Telescope.

Nitrous oxide, or N2O, is a gas produced in various ways by living things. Microorganisms continuously convert other nitrogen molecules into N2O through a metabolic process that can produce useful cellular energy.

Schwieterman said, “Life generates nitrogen waste products that are converted by some microorganisms into nitrates. In a fish tank, these nitrates build-up, which is why you have to change the water. However, under the right conditions in the ocean, certain bacteria can convert those nitrates into N2O. The gas then leaks into the atmosphere.”

N2O can be found in an environment and still not be an indication of life in some situations. This was considered in the new modeling. For instance, lightning can produce a small amount of nitrous oxide. However, lightning also produces nitrogen dioxide, giving astrobiologists a hint that non-living meteorological or geological processes produced the gas.

Others who have considered N2O as a biosignature gas often conclude it would be difficult to detect from so far away. Schwieterman explained that this conclusion is based on N2O concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere today. Because there isn’t much of it on this planet, which is teeming with life, some believe it would also be hard to detect elsewhere.

Schwieterman said“This conclusion doesn’t account for periods in Earth’s history where ocean conditions would have allowed for the much greater biological release of N2O. Conditions in those periods might mirror where an exoplanet is a today.”

“Common stars like K and M dwarfs produce a light spectrum that is less effective at breaking up the N2O molecule than our sun is. These two effects combined could greatly increase the predicted amount of this biosignature gas on an inhabited world.”

The study was conducted in collaboration with Purdue University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, American University, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Journal Reference:

  1. Edward W. Schwieterman, Stephanie L. Olson et al. Evaluating the Plausible Range of N2O Biosignatures on Exo-Earths: An Integrated Biogeochemical, Photochemical, and Spectral Modeling Approach. The Astrophysical Journal. DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ac8cfb

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Russian launches to space from U.S., 1st time in 20 years





For the first time in 20 years, a Russian cosmonaut rocketed from the U.S. on Wednesday, launching to the International Space Station alongside NASA and Japanese astronauts despite tensions over the war in Ukraine.

Their SpaceX flight was delayed by Hurricane Ian, which ripped across the state last week.

“I hope with this launch we will brighten up the skies over Florida a little bit for everyone,” said the Japan Space Agency’s Koichi Wakata, who is making his fifth spaceflight.

Joining him on a five-month mission are three new to space: Marine Col. Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman to orbit Earth; Navy Capt. Josh Cassada and Russia’s lone female cosmonaut, Anna Kikina.

“Awesome! said Mann as they reached orbit. “That was a smooth ride uphill. You’ve got three rookies who are pretty happy to be floating in space right now.”

They’re due to arrive at the space station Thursday, 29 hours after a noon departure from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and won’t be back on Earth until March. They’re replacing a U.S.-Italian crew that arrived in April.

Kikina is the Russian Space Agency’s exchange for NASA’s Frank Rubio, who launched to the space station two weeks ago from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket. He flew up with two cosmonauts.

The space agencies agreed over the summer to swap seats on their flights in order to ensure a continuous U.S. and Russian presence aboard the 260-mile-high (420-kilometre-high) outpost. The barter was authorized even as global hostilities mounted over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. The next crew exchange is in the spring.

Shortly before liftoff, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said that the key reason for the seat exchange is safety — in case an emergency forces one capsule’s crew home, there would still be an American and Russian on board.

In the meantime, Russia remains committed to the space station through at least 2024, Russia space official Sergei Krikalev assured reporters this week. Russia wants to build its own station in orbit later this decade, “but we know that it’s not going to happen very quick and so probably we will keep flying” with NASA until then, he said.

Beginning with Krikalev in 1994, NASA started flying cosmonauts on its space shuttles, first to Russia’s Mir space station and then to the fledgling space station. The 2003 Columbia reentry disaster put an end to it. But U.S. astronauts continued to hitch rides on Russian rockets for tens of millions of dollars per seat.

Kakina is only the fifth Russian woman to rocket off the planet. She said she was surprised to be selected for the seat swap after encountering “many tests and obstacles” during her decade of training. “But I did it. I’m lucky maybe. I’m strong,” she said.

Mann is a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in California, and taking up her mother’s dream catcher, a small traditional webbed hoop believed to offer protection. Retired NASA astronaut John Herrington of the Chickasaw Nation became the first Native American in space in 2002.

“I am very proud to represent Native Americans and my heritage,” Mann said before the flight, adding that everyone on her crew has a unique background. “It’s important to celebrate our diversity and also realize how important it is when we collaborate and unite, the incredible accomplishments that we can have.”

As for the war in Ukraine, Mann said all four have put politics and personal beliefs aside, “and it’s really cool how the common mission of the space station just instantly unites us.”

Added Cassada: “We have an opportunity to be an example for society on how to work together and live together and explore together.”

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has now launched eight crews since 2020: six for NASA and two private groups. Boeing, NASA’s other contracted taxi service, plans to make its first astronaut flight early next yea r, after delays to fix software and other issues that cropped up on test flights.


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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