NASA’s Mars science rover Perseverance has collected and stashed away the first of numerous mineral samples that the US space agency hopes to retrieve from the surface of the Red Planet for analysis on Earth, NASA said on Frida.
Tools attached to Perseverance and operated by mission specialists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles drilled a rock core slightly thicker than a pencil from an ancient Martian lake bed called the Jezero Crater, then hermetically sealed it in a titanium specimen tube inside the rover.
The feat, accomplished on September 6 and initially announced by NASA the same day, marked the first such mineral sample obtained from the surface of another planet, according to the space agency.
“We get to see a lot of things that rewrite the history books and what occurred September 6th at Jezero Crater is right up there with any of them,” Lori Glaze, Director Of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said at the top of a news conference on Friday to make the announcement.
The space agency plans to collect as many as 43 mineral samples over the next few months from the floor of Jerezo, a wide basin where scientists think water flowed and microbial life may have flourished billions of years ago.
The six-wheeled, SUV-sized vehicle is also expected to explore walls of sediment deposited at the foot of a remnant river delta once etched into a corner of the crater and considered a prime spot for study.
Mineral collection is the heart of the $2.7 billion Perseverance project.
Among the early findings from preliminary analysis of the samples was the presence of salt, NASA said.
“The presence of salt indicates that this rock was subject to water,” Yulia Goreva, Perseverance Return Sample Investigation Scientist, said at the news conference.
“We can look at the composition and look for tiny inclusions such as liquid bubbles or bubble fluids inside the salt. That would actually give us a glimpse of the Jezero crater at the time when it was wet and was able to sustain an ancient Martian life,” she said.
Two future missions to Mars, to be jointly conducted by NASA and the European Space Agency, are planned to retrieve those specimens in the next decade and return them to Earth, where astrobiologists will examine them for signs of tiny fossilised organisms.
Such fossils would represent the first conclusive proof that life has ever existed beyond Earth.
Perseverance, the fifth and by far most sophisticated rover NASA has sent to Mars since its first, Sojourner, arrived in 1997, landed in Jerezo Crater in February after a 293 million-mile flight from Earth.
Success of the first sample collection, taken from a flat, briefcase-sized rock using the rotary-percussive drill at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm, was verified through imagery taken by the rover’s cameras as the sample was measured, cataloged and stored, NASA said.
The rover’s sampling and caching system, consisting of more than 3,000 parts, was described by JPL’s interim director, Larry James, as “the most complex mechanism ever sent into space.”
“This is the first time we have ever collected a sample of a rock from another planet with the intention to bring that sample back to Earth where we can analyse it,” NASA’s Glaze said at the news conference.
“This is perhaps the most challenging thing we’ve ever tried to do on another planet,” she said.
Australian scholar hails success of China's crewed mission for space station construction – ecns
The success of China’s first manned flight during the construction of its space station showed the country’s ambition and space capability, said an Australian scholar in astrophysics.
Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist and cosmologist at the Australian National University (ANU), told Xinhua on Saturday that the task was a great step to getting the Tiangong space station ready.
“The taikonauts did a lot of work in establishing the Tiangong space station for full operation, with multiple spacewalks and upgrades,” he said. “This is exactly the work they needed to accomplish to progress the building of Tiangong to full operations.”
He noted that as the International Space Station started to show its age, “it is also important that this (Tiangong) is operating and can perform science into the future, which was what their 90-day mission was working towards.”
“It means that in the future, not just the International Space Station hosts experiments from around the world, so can the Tiangong space station,” Tucker said.
Three Chinese astronauts, the first sent to orbit for China’s space station construction, have completed their three-month mission and returned to Earth safely on Friday.
The success of the Shenzhou-12 manned spaceflight mission laid a solid foundation for the continued construction and operation of the country’s space station, said the China Manned Space Agency.
The harvest moon: A visual guide to full moons – USA TODAY
The harvest moon – the full, orange moon that reliably appears every autumn – has been a blessing for pre-Industrial Age farmers harvesting crops and an inspiration for songwriters from the Tin Pan Alley era to Neil Young.
Harvest moons are full moons that occur every year closest to the autumnal equinox, or beginning of fall, usually Sept. 22 or 23. This year’s harvest moon arrives Sept. 20 and will appear exactly opposite the sun at 7:54 p.m. EDT.
It’s called the harvest moon because the moon rises about the same time every evening for a few nights in a row in the Northern Hemisphere. It provides ample moonlight in the early evening for farmers harvesting summer crops.
The phenomenon occurs because of the moon’s position in the northern part of the sky during this time of year. In the Northern Hemisphere, the farther north an object is from the equator, the longer it’s visible across the sky.
In China, they celebrate the harvest moon with mooncake pastries and lanterns at their Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, because they believed the moon was at its brightest and fullest size.
Throughout history, different cultures have celebrated full moons because they were a way to signal changes in seasons, since the moon’s orbit around the Earth is a fairly consistent way to measure time passing without the use of calendars.
The moon takes about 30 days to revolve around the Earth, which is called a lunar cycle. Each lunar cycle is divided into eight moon phases based on the moon’s position relative to the sun.
Another way to measure time was by identifying the year’s solstices and equinoxes, which signal the beginning of seasons because of the Earth’s orbit around the sun.
The spring, or vernal, equinox happens around March 20 or 21 and, like the autumnal equinox, is when the day and night are of equal length. But the days will continue to get longer because more light is shed on Earth up until the summer solstice.
The summer solstice happens around June 20 or 21 and has the most daytime of the year, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. After that, the days will become shorter until the winter solstice on Dec. 21 or 22, when there’s the least daylight of any other day.
The etymology behind the word “lunatic,” a synonym for mentally ill, comes from the Latin root of luna, which means the moon. People as far back as 400 B.C. were noticing that peoples’ mental states were affected by the lunar cycle.
The gravitational force of the moon causes many visible changes on Earth, from affecting the ocean’s tides, animals’ migration habits, and humans’ ability to sleep. And full moons have been heralded through time to be the most impactful.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a reference book that’s been published since the 18th century, named the different full moons from names used by Native American, colonial American and European sources, so their meanings derive from characteristics of the Northern Hemisphere.
And in Christianity, if the moon appears before the spring equinox, it’s known as the lenten moon marking the last full moon of winter. If it appears after the equinox, it’s known as the paschal moon to mark the first full moon of spring.
Aside from the traditional names given to full moons based on the calendar, other types of special moons can occur and have names that denote them.
Because the moon completes its final cycle around 11 days before the Earth’s orbit finishes, every two-and-a-half years, a blue moon occurs. It used to be known as an extra full moon existing within a season, since each of the four seasons has three. Now, it’s more commonly used to describe a month that contains two full moons.
Another special kind of moon is called a supermoon. This happens when the full moon happens to fall at perigee – its closest point to Earth in its orbit. Perigee is when the moon is 225,744 miles from Earth and appears bigger and brighter than a normal full moon.
When the moon reaches apogee, it’s at its farthest from Earth with a distance of 251,966 miles. If a full moon occurs while the moon is at apogee, it is called a micromoon.
A blood moon occurs during a total lunar eclipse, which is when the Earth lines up exactly between the moon and the sun. The moon appears red because the sun is completely obscured by the earth, so the only light that reaches the moon is from Earth’s atmosphere. It can have a red tint because it’s reflecting the light from sunsets and sunrises happening on Earth.
PHOTOS The Associated Press, AFP
10:09 am UTC Sep. 18, 2021
12:55 pm UTC Sep. 18, 2021
SpaceX capsule with world's first all-civilian orbital crew set for splashdown – CTV News
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. —
Four space tourists safely ended their trailblazing trip to orbit Saturday with a splashdown in the Atlantic off the Florida coast.
Their SpaceX capsule parachuted into the ocean just before sunset, not far from where their chartered flight began three days earlier.
The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut.
The billionaire who paid undisclosed millions for the trip and his three guests wanted to show that ordinary people could blast into orbit by themselves, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them on as the company’s first rocket-riding tourists.
“Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us,” SpaceX Mission Control radioed.
“It was a heck of a ride for us … just getting started,” replied trip sponsor Jared Isaacman, referring to more private flights on the horizon.
SpaceX’s fully automated Dragon capsule reached an unusually high altitude of 363 miles (585 kilometres) after Wednesday night’s liftoff. Surpassing the International Space Station by 100 miles (160 kilometres), the passengers savored views of Earth through a big bubble-shaped window added to the top of the capsule.
The four streaked back through the atmosphere early Saturday evening, the first space travelers to end their flight in the Atlantic since Apollo 9 in 1969. SpaceX’s two previous crew splashdowns — carrying astronauts for NASA — were in the Gulf of Mexico.
Within a few minutes, a pair of SpaceX boats pulled up alongside the bobbing capsule. Once on the recovery ship, the four were due to have medical checks before going to Kennedy Space Center by helicopter for a reunion with their families
This time, NASA was little more than an encouraging bystander, its only tie being the Kennedy launch pad once used for the Apollo moonshots and shuttle crews, but now leased by SpaceX.
Isaacman, 38, an entrepreneur and accomplished pilot, aimed to raise US$200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Donating $100 million himself, he held a lottery for one of the four seats. He also held a competition for clients of his Allentown, Pennsylvania payment-processing business, Shift4 Payments.
Joining him on the flight were Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a St. Jude physician assistant who was treated at the Memphis, Tennessee hospital nearly two decades ago for bone cancer, and contest winners Chris Sembroski, 42, a data engineer in Everett, Washington, and Sian Proctor, 51, a community college educator, scientist and artist from Tempe, Arizona.
Strangers until March, they spent six months training and preparing for potential emergencies during the flight, dubbed Inspiration4. Most everything appeared to go well, leaving them time to chat with St. Jude patients, conduct medical tests on themselves, ring the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange, and do some drawing and ukulele playing.
Arceneaux, the youngest American in space and the first with a prosthesis, assured her patients, “I was a little girl going through cancer treatment just like a lot of you, and if I can do this, you can do this.”
They also took calls from Tom Cruise, interested in his own SpaceX flight to the space station for filming, and the rock band U2’s Bono.
Even their space menu wasn’t typical: Cold pizza and sandwiches, but also pasta Bolognese and Mediterranean lamb.
Before beginning descent, Sembroski was so calm that he was seen in the capsule watching the 1987 Mel Brooks’ film “Spaceballs” on his tablet.
Nearly 600 people have reached space — a scorecard that began 60 years ago and is expected to soon skyrocket as space tourism heats up.
Benji Reed, a SpaceX director, anticipates as many as six private flights a year, sandwiched between astronaut launches for NASA. Four SpaceX flights are already booked carry paying customers to the space station, accompanied by former NASA astronauts. The first is targeted for early next year with three businessmen paying $55 million apiece. Russia also plans to take up an actor and film director for filming next month and a Japanese tycoon in December.
Customers interested in quick space trips are turning to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The two rode their own rockets to the fringes of space in July to spur ticket sales; their flights lasted 10 to 15 minutes.
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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