The Artemis rocket, NASA’s behemoth Space Launch System (SLS) designed to take humanity back to the moon is scheduled for its first test launch on August 29th. Leading up to that launch, the megarocket began rolling out to its designated launchpad, 39B, earlier this week at an incredible speed of 1km/h. The launch, which will send an unmanned Orion space capsule into lunar orbit, is a test run for ultimately sending astronauts back for a lunar flyby in 2024 and a lunar landing as early as 2025.
That test launch, which is slated to last up to 42 days and should reach within 100 km of the lunar surface, will end only months before the 50th anniversary of the last time man was on the moon. The Apollo 17’s twelve-day mission returned home in mid-December 1972. In Greek mythology, Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo.
There will also be a Snoopy doll. Snoopy has long been associated with NASA’s space efforts, and this doll and other toys will be used as zero-gravity indicators to let researchers know when the rocket has entered zero gravity. Four Lego minifigures will also be on the flight in a nod to the longstanding relationship between NASA and Lego and as part of an effort to promote STEM education.
In addition to the scientific efforts of the Orion capsule, the ship will also carry over fifty kilograms of mementos, including a space time capsule, seeds, and an Amazon Alexa embedded in a device called Callisto, who in keeping with NASA’s Greek mythology inclinations, was Artemis’ hunting attendant.
In spite of this memento laden crewless Orion capsule, NASA claims that once it gets figuratively off the ground, its new Artemis program will, in contrast to the earlier Apollo missions, be less focused on ‘flags and footprints’ and more on science research and getting humanity ready for longer term habitats on the moon and ultimately Mars.
Notably, Israel isn’t the only country collaborating with the United States on its return to the moon. The Artemis program is a multinational effort of which Israeli is a recent member. Saudi Arabia just signed on as the 21st nation to the Artemis Accords during US President Joe Biden’s recent middle east trip. Canada is another collaborator on the Artemis project. The Canadian government will be providing a third iteration of its famous robotic Canadarm, as well as a moon rover for the project. A Canadian astronaut will also fill one of the four seats on the first crewed Artemis flight to the moon.
Given its interest in mankind’s return to the moon, Canada is keen on having its astronauts on their best behavior. As such, there was a recommendation to amend Canada’s criminal laws to specifically include the possibility of prosecution for misdemeanors committed on the moon by Canadians. Crimes committed on the International Space Station by Canadians already fall within the long-arm of the Canadian justice system.
While the US has not yet followed suit with similar legislation, US Vice President Kamala Harris recently announced an interest in revising other aspects of US space regulations so that they are more in-line with the current state of commercial space exploration. A follow-up tweet announced that this will be explored in greater detail next month, around the same time that the Artemis rocket will be sitting in Lunar orbit
However, expanding Canadian, or any other jurisdiction for that matter, onto the moon might come in conflict with what NASA administrator Bill Nelson claims is China’s goal of claiming the moon as its own: “We must be very concerned that China is landing on the moon and saying: It’s ours now and you stay out.” In their defense, China rejects that assertion.
Of course, China isn’t the only national player that might lay claim to some or all of the moon. The Artemis Accords to which Israel is a signatory, allow for national efforts to mine and extract valuable resources from the moon and other celestial bodies — a potentially, hugely profitable endeavor. In spite of non-appropriation and ‘province of all mankind’ language within the universally accepted Outer Space Treaty.
All these lunar land claims could create some interesting legal precedent. The last time NASA had a legal tussle with putative private property proprietors in space. they won against the pro se claimant on a technicality (Nemitz v. NASA, 126 Fed. Appx. 343 (2005). Hopefully with so many potential claimants and the possibility of a manned lunar base, the next time NASA is sued for landing on someone’s lunar claim, the outcome will be more interesting.
Prof. Dov Greenbaum is the director of the Zvi Meitar Institute for Legal Implications of Emerging Technologies at the Harry Radzyner Law School, at Reichman University.
NASA Wants To Mine The Moon, But Law Experts Say It's Not That Simple – SlashGear
The first roadblock facing humans as we seek to expand our presence in the solar system lies in technology. NASA reports that it takes about seven months (measured in Earth days) to travel from our planet’s surface to Mars. Thrillist notes that travel to the Moon only requires a three-day journey, while exploration of Jupiter or Saturn (the next bodies out from Mars) would require a lengthy, six- or seven-year voyage, respectively. On a technical level, our current means of launching satellites and humans at these distant bodies is exactly that, a launch (via NASA). In order to make space travel more feasible for human explorers, we would need to develop a propulsion system that could continually deliver powered flight to a spacecraft, or at least the ability to continually augment flight speed, rather than simply relying on initial launch velocity to carry the craft along to its final destination.
This means a combination of two distinct realities: Humans must develop a brand new means of propulsion that requires far less storage space and mass, a revolutionary idea to be sure; and we must develop the ability to hop between planets and refuel along this lengthy journey. Therefore, technological advancement that would support increased space travel would require both colonization and a capacity for extracting mineral resources from the surfaces of neighboring planets and moons. Continuous habitation in new worlds would be required to support these efforts.
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.
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.
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.
- 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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