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NASA to launch test mission of asteroid-deflecting spacecraft –



A SpaceX rocket was set to blast off from California late Tuesday as NASA seeks to demonstrate a first-of-its-kind planetary defence system, designed to deflect an asteroid from a potential doomsday collision with Earth.

The DART mission will test NASA’s ability to alter an asteroid’s trajectory with kinetic force — crashing a robot spacecraft into it at high speed and nudging the space boulder just enough to keep our planet out of harm’s way.

DART’s target is a tiny fraction of the size of the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid that slammed into Earth about 66 million years ago, killing most of the planet’s animal species. It is not on a path that will cause it to hit Earth in the foreseeable future.

But scientists say smaller asteroids are far more common and pose a far greater theoretical threat to Earth in the near term.

NASA has hired Elon Musk’s company SpaceX to launch DART aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at 10:20 p.m. PT Tuesday (1:20 a.m. ET Wednesday) from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast, about 240 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles.

If liftoff is postponed NASA has an 84-day launch window in which to try again.

Once released into space, DART will journey 10 months to its destination, some 11 million kilometres from Earth.

Its target is an asteroid “moonlet” the size of a football stadium that orbits a much larger chunk of rock — about five times bigger — in a binary asteroid system named Didymos, the Greek word for twin.

The moonlet, called Dimorphos, is one of the smallest astronomical objects to receive a permanent name. But at 160 metres in diameter, its size is typical among the known asteroids — rubble-like remnants left over from formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Simpler than ‘Armageddon’

Scientists chose the Didymos system because its relative proximity to Earth and dual-asteroid configuration make it ideal to observe the results of the impact.

The key to avoiding a killer asteroid is to detect it well in advance and be ready with the means of changing its course, NASA planetary defence officer Lindley Johnson told a media briefing this month.

“We don’t want to be in a situation where an asteroid is headed toward Earth and then have to be testing this kind of capability,” he said.

The team behind DART, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, has determined that slamming a car-sized projectile into a Dimorphos-sized asteroid at 24,000 km/h should do the trick.

The DART spacecraft, a cube-shaped box with two rectangular solar arrays, is due to rendezvous with the Didymos-Dimorphos pair in late September 2022.

Cameras mounted on the impactor and on a briefcase-sized mini-spacecraft released from DART about 10 days beforehand will record the collision.

Observations from ground-based telescopes and radar will then measure how much the moonlet’s orbit around Didymos changes.

The DART team is expecting to shorten the orbital track by about 10 minutes but would consider at least 73 seconds a success.

The entire cost of the DART project will run about $330 million US, according to Lindley, well below that of many of NASA’s most ambitious science missions.

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Russia’s new module on ISS to offer docking opportunity for foreign spacecraft in future – TASS



KOROLYOV /Moscow Region/, November 26. /TASS/. NASA and Roscosmos have begun talks on harmonizing technical standards of Crew Dragon spaceships with the Russian module and Russian spacecraft with the US segment on the International Space Station (ISS), Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin said at the Flight Control Center on Friday.

“NASA and Roscosmos have launched talks on harmonizing technical standards that will allow not only Crew Dragon or Russian spaceships to dock with the American segment but, in general, this docking is possible and will require an adapter,” Rogozin said, replying to a question about whether US spacecraft would be able to dock to Russia’s new Prichal nodal module.

The Prichal module’s docking completed the formation of the ISS Russian segment, the Roscosmos chief said.

The Prichal nodal module will also serve as a prototype for similar modules for the future Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS) that will be the ‘joints’ of its space body, Rogozin said.

“This is one of the most important prototypes for creating the ROSS whose architecture will differ from the ISS. It should employ the principle of eternal service life: modules that use up their potential will be detached from the station and it will be augmented in a different direction with the help of such nodal modules that will serve as some joints of a new and large metal design engineering body,” Rogozin said.

A Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with the Progress M-UM space freighter and the Prichal nodal module blasted off from Launch Pad No. 31 (‘Vostok’) of the Baikonur spaceport to the orbital outpost at 16:06 Moscow time on November 24. The flight to the orbital outpost took two days. The Prichal module docked with the Russian Nauka research lab on November 26.

The new module will boost the capabilities of Russian spaceships, including the latest Oryol spacecraft, to dock with the ISS. Overall, the new module will have five docking ports. The first docking of a manned spacecraft with the Prichal module is scheduled for March 18.

The spacecraft-module also delivered about 700 kg of various cargo to the ISS, including equipment and consumables, water purification, medical control including sanitary and hygienic supplies, maintenance and repair tools, as well as standard food rations for the 66th Main Expedition crew.

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Italy and France sign agreement on space launchers



 Italy and France clinched an accord on Friday to strengthen their cooperation on space launchers as part of a broader bilateral treaty.

Among the goals laid out in the bilateral treaty were pledges to reinforce military connections, including at an industrial level, and work together in the space sector.

The two countries agreed to work together on liquid and solid propulsion and press ahead with the development of launchers Ariane 6 and Vega C, Italy’s innovation minister and France’s economy minister said in a joint press release.

Launchers are the second largest area of space-manufacturing activity in Europe after commercial satellites, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

For the development of Ariane 6, ESA is working with more than 600 companies in 13 European countries, led by prime contractor ArianeGroup, which is a joint venture of Airbus and Safran.

ESA is overseeing procurement and the architecture of the overall Vega-C launch system, while industry is building the rocket with Italy’s Avio as prime contractor.


(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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New Study: Arctic Ocean began warming decades earlier than previously thought – Digital Journal



Fram Strait in 2009.

Source – Algkalv, CC SA 3.0.

The Arctic Ocean has been getting warmer since the beginning of the 20th century – decades earlier than records suggest – due to warmer water flowing into the delicate polar ecosystem from the Atlantic Ocean.

The rapid expansion of the Atlantic Ocean into the Arctic Ocean represents indisputable evidence of the rapid changes occurring in this region. 

This so-called “Atlantification” of the Arctic Ocean has caused Arctic water temperature in the region studied to increase by around 2 degrees Celsius since 1900, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances on November 24, 2021.

Francesco Muschitiello, a co-author of the study and assistant professor of geography at the University of Cambridge, said the findings were worrisome because the early warming suggests there might be a flaw in the models scientists use to predict how the climate will change.

“The Arctic Ocean has been warming up for much longer than we previously thought,” Muschitiello told CNN. “And this is something that’s a bit unsettling for many reasons, especially because the climate models that we use to cast projections of future climate change do not really simulate these types of changes.”

The international team of researchers came to this conclusion after reconstructing 800 years of data from marine sediments in the Fram Strait, where the Atlantic meets the Arctic east of Greenland.

The precisely dated paleoceanographic records they used were based on organic biomarkers and benthic foraminiferal data. The marine sediments are “natural archives,” the researchers wrote, which record data on past climate conditions.

Fram Strait is located between Svalbard and Greenland. The Greenland Sea is to the south of Fram Strait, while the Arctic Ocean is to the north. Fram Strait is the only deep passage between the Arctic and World Oceans.
Source – Bdushaw, CC SA 3.0.

The results the team came up with show the Arctic Ocean began to warm rapidly at the beginning of the last century, and that this change likely preceded the warming documented by modern instrumental measurements, with records that only go back about 40 years. 

During the study, the researchers found that temperature and salinity, the saltiness of ocean water, remained fairly constant for the Arctic Ocean up until the 20th century. Since 1900, the ocean temperature has risen by approximately 2 degrees Celsius, while sea ice has retreated and salinity has increased, according to

“The reason for this rapid Atlantification of at the gate of the Arctic Ocean is intriguing,” said Muschitiello. “We compared our results with the ocean circulation at lower latitudes and found there is a strong correlation with the slowdown of dense water formation in the Labrador Sea.”

“In a future warming scenario, the deep circulation in this subpolar region is expected to further decrease because of the thawing of the Greenland ice sheet. Our results imply that we might expect further Arctic Atlantification in the future because of climate change.”

So what does this study have to do with the accuracy of today’s climate models? The researchers say the study may also expose a possible flaw in climate models because they do not reproduce this early Atlantification at the beginning of the last century.

Climate simulations generally do not reproduce this kind of warming in the Arctic Ocean, meaning there’s an incomplete understanding of the mechanisms driving Atlantification,” said Tommaso. “We rely on these simulations to project future climate change, but the lack of any signs of an early warming in the Arctic Ocean is a missing piece of the puzzle.”

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