WASHINGTON , Sept. 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Following a series of critical contract awards and hardware milestones, NASA has shared an update on its Artemis program, including the latest Phase 1 plans to land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon in 2024.
In the 18 months since NASA accepted a bold challenge to accelerate its exploration plans by more than four years and establish sustainable exploration by the end of the decade, the agency has continued to gain momentum toward sending humans to the Moon again for the first time since the last Apollo lunar mission in 1972.
“With bipartisan support from Congress, our 21st century push to the Moon is well within America’s reach,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine . “As we’ve solidified more of our exploration plans in recent months, we’ve continued to refine our budget and architecture. We’re going back to the Moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new a generation of explorers. As we build up a sustainable presence, we’re also building momentum toward those first human steps on the Red Planet.”
In its formal plan, NASA captures Artemis progress to date, identifying the key science, technology and human missions, as well as the commercial and international partnerships that will ensure we continue to lead in exploration and achieve our ambitious goal to land astronauts on the Moon.
The agency’s powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and the Orion spacecraft are closer than ever to their first integrated launch. The spacecraft is complete while the core stage and its attached four engines are undergoing a final series of tests that will culminate in a critical hot fire test this fall.
Early Artemis Missions
Following a successful hot fire test, the core stage will be shipped to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with the spacecraft. NASA will launch an SLS and an Orion together on two flight tests around the Moon to check performance, life support, and communication capabilities. The first mission – known as Artemis I – is on track for 2021 without astronauts, and Artemis II will fly with crew in 2023.
In the Phase 1 plan, NASA notes additional details about conducting a new test during the Artemis II mission – a proximity operations demonstration. Shortly after Orion separates from the interim cryogenic propulsion stage, astronauts will manually pilot Orion as they approach and back away from the stage. This demonstration will assess Orion’s handling qualities and related hardware and software to provide performance data and operational experience that cannot be readily gained on the ground in preparation for rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking, as well as undocking operations in lunar orbit beginning on Artemis III.
While preparing for and carrying out these flight test missions, NASA already will be back on the Moon robotically – using commercial delivery services to send dozens of new science investigations and technology demonstrations to the Moon twice per year beginning in 2021.
In 2024, Artemis III will be humanity’s return to the surface of the Moon. After launching on SLS, astronauts will travel about 240,000 miles to lunar orbit aboard Orion, at which point they will directly board one of the new commercial human landing systems , or dock to the Gateway to inspect it and gather supplies before boarding the landing system for their expedition to the surface.
Wearing modern spacesuits that allow for greater flexibility and movement than those of their Apollo predecessors, astronauts will collect samples and conduct a range of science experiments over the course of nearly seven days. Using the lander, they will return to lunar orbit before ultimately heading home to Earth aboard Orion.
Work is progressing rapidly on the Gateway. NASA will integrate the first two components to launch – the power and propulsion element and the habitation and logistics outpost – in 2023. This foundation for the Gateway will be able to operate autonomously, conducting remote science experiments when astronauts are not aboard. NASA has selected the first two science instrument suites to conduct space weather investigations in lunar orbit before crew visits.
While NASA has not made a final decision to use the Gateway for Artemis III, Artemis IV and beyond will send crew aboard Orion to dock to the Gateway, where two crew members can stay aboard the spaceship in orbit while two go to the surface. Over time, the outpost will evolve, with new modules added by international partners, allowing crew members to conduct increasingly longer lunar missions.
As detailed in the agency’s concept for surface sustainability earlier this year, an incremental buildup of infrastructure on the surface will follow later this decade, allowing for longer surface expeditions with more crew. That concept calls for an Artemis Base Camp that would include new rovers, power systems, habitats, and more on the surface for long-term exploration of the Moon.
Throughout the Artemis program, robots and humans will search for, and potentially extract, resources such as water that can be converted into other usable resources, including oxygen and fuel. By fine-tuning precision landing technologies as well as developing new mobility capabilities, astronauts will travel farther distances and explore new regions of the Moon.
Learn more about NASA’s Artemis program at:
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Arctic sea ice at record low October levels: Danish institute – Bangkok Post
COPENHAGEN – Sea ice in the Arctic was at record lows for October, as unusually warm waters slowed the recovery of the ice, Danish researchers said Wednesday.
Diminishing sea ice comes as a reminder about how the Arctic is hit particularly hard by global warming.
Since the 1990s, warming has been twice as fast in the Arctic, compared to the rest of the world, as a phenomena dubbed “Arctic amplification,” causes air, ice and water to interact in a reinforcing manner.
“The October Arctic sea ice extent is going to be the lowest on record and the sea ice growth rate is slower than normal,” Rasmus Tonboe, a scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), told AFP, noting that the record was unequalled for at least 40 years.
According to preliminary satellite data used by the institute, sea ice surface area was at 6.5 million square kilometres (2.5 million square miles) on 27 October.
Every year, some of the ice formed in the Arctic waters melts in the summer.
It usually reaches a low point of about five million square kilometres, but then re-forms to cover about 15 million square kilometres in winter. Warmer temperatures are now reducing both the summer and winter extent of the ice.
Satellite data has been collected to monitor the ice precisely since 1979, and the trend towards a reduction is clear.
For the month of October, measurements show an 8.2 percent downward trend in ice over the last 10 years.
Already in September, researchers noted the second lowest extent of sea ice recorded in the Arctic, though not quite hitting the low levels recorded in 2012.
But warmer-than-normal sea water slowed the formation of new ice in October.
– ‘Vicious spiral’ –
Water temperatures in the eastern part of the Arctic, north of Siberia, was two to four degrees warmer than normal, and in Baffin Bay, it was one to two degrees warmer, DMI said in a statement.
The institute said this was following a trend observed in recent years, which was described as a “vicious spiral.”
“It’s a trend we’ve been seeing the past years, with a longer open water season making the sun warm the sea for a longer time, resulting in shorter winters so the ice doesn’t grow as thick as it used to,” Tonboe said.
Since the melting ice is already in the ocean it does not directly contribute to the rise in sea levels.
But as the ice disappears sunlight “gets absorbed in the ocean, helping to further warm the Earth,” Claire Parkinson, climate scientist at NASA, told AFP in September.
Thus, with less ice reflecting sunlight, oceans are heated directly.
Over the last 40 years the Arctic has also become more of a strategic interest to world powers.
Less ice in certain areas have opened up new maritime routes, which are destined to play a larger role in international trade, meaning a larger financial stake for Arctic state actors.
The region is also estimated to house 13 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas deposits.
Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) said Tuesday that under current levels of atmospheric CO2 — roughly 400 parts per million — the melting of Arctic sea ice would raise global temperatures by 0.2C.
That’s on top of the 1.5C of warming our current emissions levels have rendered all but inevitable, and the safer cap on global warming aimed for in the Paris climate accord.
Hubble telescope gives closer look at rare asteroid worth $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 – CBS News
There’s an extremely rare metalliclurking between Mars and Jupiter, and it’s worth more than the entire global economy. Now, the Hubble Space Telescope has given us a closer look at the object, which is worth an estimated $10,000 quadrillion.
A new study this week in The Planetary Science Journal delves deeper than ever before into the mysteries of the asteroid 16 Psyche, one of the most massive objects in the solar system’s main asteroid belt orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, about 230 million miles from Earth. It measures about 140 miles in diameter — roughly the size of Massachusetts.
Most asteroids are made of rocks or ice. But 16 Psyche is dense and mostly made of metal, possibly the leftover core of a planet that never succeeded in forming — a so-called “protoplanet,” which had its core exposed following hit-and-run collisions that removed the body of its mantle.
The study marks the first ultraviolet (UV) observations of the celestial object. New data reveals the asteroid may be made entirely of iron and nickel — found in the dense cores of planets.
“We’ve seen meteorites that are mostly metal, but Psyche could be unique in that it might be an asteroid that is totally made of iron and nickel,” lead author Dr. Tracy Becker said in a statement. “Earth has a metal core, a mantle and crust. It’s possible that as a Psyche protoplanet was forming, it was struck by another object in our solar system and lost its mantle and crust.”
Scientists studied the asteroid at two points in its rotation in order to view the details of both sides completely at UV wavelengths. They found the surface could be mostly iron, but warned that even a small amount of iron would dominate UV observations.
“We were able to identify for the first time on any asteroid what we think are iron oxide ultraviolet absorption bands,” Becker said. “This is an indication that oxidation is happening on the asteroid, which could be a result of the solar wind hitting the surface.”
Solar wind is the flow of charged particles from the sun’s upper atmosphere, called the corona, throughout the solar system. It’s responsible for the tails of comets as they soar across the sky, the formations of auroras and the possible “space weathering” of Psyche.
Researchers also said the asteroid became more and more reflective at deeper UV wavelengths, which could give some indication of its age.
“This is something that we need to study further,” Becker said. “This could be indicative of it being exposed in space for so long. This type of UV brightening is often attributed to space weathering.”
Metal asteroids are rare, so Psyche provides researchers with an exciting opportunity to study the inside of a planet. In 2022, NASA plans to launch the unmanned spacecraft Psyche on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to study the asteroid in an attempt to understand its history and that of similar objects — the first time a mission will visit a body made entirely of metal.
The orbiter is set to arrive at the asteroid in January 2026 to study it for nearly two years. The mission’s leader at Arizona State University estimates that the iron alone on today’s market would be worth $10,000 quadrillion — that’s a one followed by 19 zeroes.
“What makes Psyche and the other asteroids so interesting is that they’re considered to be the building blocks of the solar system,” Becker said. “To understand what really makes up a planet and to potentially see the inside of a planet is fascinating. Once we get to Psyche, we’re really going to understand if that’s the case, even if it doesn’t turn out as we expect. Any time there’s a surprise, it’s always exciting.”
Researchers toldin 2017, when the mission was confirmed, that they don’t plan to take advantage of the value of the asteroid’s composition.
“We’re going to learn about planetary formation, but we are not going to be trying to bring any of this material back and using it for industry,” Carol Polanskey, project scientist for the Psyche mission, said at the time.
There is water on the moon – Chemical & Engineering News
Using a telescope flying on a 747, astronomers say they have definitive evidence of water molecules on sunlit moon surfaces (Nat. Astronomy 2020, DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-01222-x).
It wasn’t long ago that scientists thought the moon was completely dry. Then, in 2009, a trio of papers reported spectroscopic evidence of O–H bonds in sunny areas, although researchers couldn’t say if these belonged to water or hydroxyl substituents on other molecules. In 2018, scientists reported ice in shaded craters.
The 2009 results were based on IR signals near 3 µm because that’s what the spacecraft used could measure. Water has an unambiguous IR signal at 6 µm.
Honniball and her colleagues observed the 6 µm signal on the sunlit lunar surface at high southern latitudes but not at lower latitudes. Previously, scientists assumed solar radiation would either destroy water molecules or push them to colder regions. Based on the new data, the team calculated that the moon’s surface is 100–400 parts per million water. But Honniball stresses that the moon is still a very dry place: its surface is probably about 100 times as dry as Sahara Desert sand.
The water they observed is neither ice nor liquid; it exists as lone molecules. The researchers don’t know whether these molecules are trapped inside glasses formed by meteorite impacts or tucked between grains of lunar dust. Honniball says they are planning follow-up observations that might nail that down. Water could be brought to the moon on meteorites, form during meteorite impacts, or come from inside the moon.
The group has applied for more trips on SOFIA to try to map the majority of the moon’s near side at different times. That could reveal more about the water molecules’ location and sources and might also show how water moves around the moon’s surface. “They deserve more time” to answer these questions, Sunshine says.
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