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Rocket Lab Spacecraft Confirmed for Mars as NASA Greenlights ESCAPADE Small Satellite Interplanetary Mission – Stockhouse

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The ESCAPADE mission – led by the University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory to study Mars’ magnetosphere – with two Rocket Lab Photon spacecraft has received NASA approval to move toward launch.

Rocket Lab, a global leader in dedicated launch and space systems, today announced it will begin final mission design and manufacture to supply two interplanetary Photon spacecraft for a science mission to Mars, delivering Decadal-class science at a fraction of the cost of typical planetary missions.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210823005300/en/

A render of Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft orbiting Mars for the ESCAPADE mission. (Photo: Business Wire)

The Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission will orbit two Rocket Lab-built Photon spacecraft around Mars to understand the structure, composition, variability, and dynamics of Mars’ unique hybrid magnetosphere. The mission will also support crewed exploration programs like Artemis through improved solar storm prediction.

ESCAPADE is the latest of only three missions proceeding under the current round of NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEX) program to conduct compelling planetary space science with small satellites and provide more opportunities for flight experience to the science community. The ESCAPADE mission, led by principal investigator Robert Lillis at the University of California, Berkeley, is the latest SIMPLEX mission to pass Key Decision Point-C (KDP-C), confirming it for implementation in preparation for launch to Mars in 2024. The ESCAPADE mission is managed by the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Division and will be the first Heliophysics mission to visit another planet.

Following deployment from a NASA-provided commercial launch vehicle, the pair of Photons will conduct an 11-month interplanetary cruise before inserting themselves into elliptical orbits around Mars to begin the science phase. Both Photons incorporate satellite subsystems developed and manufactured by Rocket Lab, including star trackers, reaction wheels, ranging transceivers for deep space navigation, and in-space propulsion systems. By leveraging vertically-integrated spacecraft manufacturing, the ESCAPADE mission will be delivered at a fraction of the cost of traditional planetary missions. This supports U.S. national strategy for Decadal-class science by increasing the pace of scientific discovery and more sustainable crewed exploration by improving our understanding of the space environment.

Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO, Peter Beck, says “ESCAPADE is an innovative mission that demonstrates that advanced interplanetary science is now within reach for a fraction of traditional costs, and we’re proud to make it possible with Photon,” he said. “Passing the Key Decision Point is a critical milestone in ESCAPADE’s development and is testament to the world-class science and engineering work of the UC Berkeley and Rocket Lab teams. We are delighted to receive the green light from NASA to proceed to flight.”

ESCAPADE is one of several missions beyond Earth orbit currently under development by Rocket Lab using the Photon spacecraft, including the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon in support of NASA’s Artemis program and Rocket Lab’s own privately-funded science mission to Venus.

Images and video content:

www.rocketlabusa.com/news/updates/link-to-rocket-lab-imagery-and-video

About Rocket Lab:

Rocket Lab is a global leader in space, building rockets and spacecraft that make it easier to get to orbit and to do amazing things there. Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab provides end-to-end mission services that provide frequent and reliable access to space for civil, defense, and commercial markets. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron and Neutron launch vehicles and Photon satellite platform. Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle is the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually and has delivered more than 100 satellites to orbit for private and public sector organizations, enabling operations in national security, scientific research, space debris mitigation, Earth observation, climate monitoring, and communications. Rocket Lab and Vector Acquisition Corporation (Nasdaq: VACQ), a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company, announced a proposed business combination in the first quarter of 2021 (https://bwnews.pr/3yBYYzd). Vector’s shareholders voted to approve its proposed merger with Rocket Lab USA, Inc. at its annual general meeting of shareholders held on August 20, 2021. The merger is scheduled to close on August 25, 2021, and the common stock and warrants of the combined company, which will be renamed “Rocket Lab USA, Inc.”, are set to commence trading on the Nasdaq Capital Market on August 25, 2021, under the new ticker symbols, “RKLB” and “RKLBW”, respectively.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release may contain certain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, including statements regarding Vector’s, Rocket Lab’s or their respective management teams’ expectations, hopes, beliefs, intentions or strategies regarding the future. The words “anticipate”, “believe”, “continue”, “could”, “estimate”, “expect”, “intends”, “may”, “might”, “plan”, “possible”, “potential”, “predict”, “project”, “should”, “would” and similar expressions may identify forward-looking statements, but the absence of these words does not mean that a statement is not forward-looking. These forward-looking statements are based on Rocket Lab’s current expectations and beliefs concerning future developments and their potential effects. Many factors could cause actual future events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements in this press release, including but not limited to: (i) the risk that the proposed transaction with Vector may not be completed in a timely manner or at all, (ii) the failure to satisfy the conditions to the consummation of the proposed transaction with Vector, including the adoption of the merger agreement governing the proposed transaction by Vector’s shareholders, and (iii) the occurrence of any event, change or other circumstance that could give rise to the termination of the merger agreement. There can be no assurance that the future developments affecting Rocket Lab will be those that we have anticipated. These forward-looking statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties (some of which are beyond Rocket Lab’s control) or other assumptions that may cause actual results or performance to be materially different from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Except as required by law, Rocket Lab is not undertaking any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

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This Canadian 'Dark Sky Highway' is a stargazer dream – The Weather Network

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E.C. Manning Provincial Park is one of the most popular provincial parks in British Columbia.

Located in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, its climate and geography have combined to make this park a go-to destination for stargazers across the country.

The park is within a three-hour drive from either the Lower Mainland or the Okanagan, with the closest city being about 45 minutes away. Road trippers can get there using BC Highway 3, also known as the Crowsnest Highway, located along what has become known as the Dark Sky Highway, due to the limited light pollution.


Photo of the night sky captured along B.C.’s Dark Sky Highway. The five bright stars stretched out through the right-hand side of the image are part of the constellation Ursa Major, aka the Big Dipper. (Mia Gordon)

Every year, photographers from around the country come out here to get a good glimpse of the Milky Way and other incredible constellations, and now the Manning Resort and the park are working towards becoming a dark sky designation.

“That means it is a continued commitment to preserve and protect the night and the environment but more specifically the organisms that live in the park that rely on the night to hunt and navigate,” explained Manning Park Communications Manager Emma Schram.

Every year, the resort partners with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for an Astronomy Weekend, where visitors can speak with experts, learn how to use a telescope, and even participate in yoga under the stars. This year’s event is taking place October 15-17, and while it is sold out, any time of year is the perfect time to go stargazing in the park.

Learn more about this stargazer’s dream destination in the video above.


Thumbnail image courtesy: Getty Images

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Faces of 3 Egyptian mummies revealed for the first time – Editorials 99

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New DNA sequencing technology is giving us a first glimpse at what ancient men looked like — before they were mummies.

Genetic researchers have revealed highly detailed three-dimensional renderings of the faces of three Egyptian men who lived more than 2,000 years ago, using DNA pulled from their mummified remains.

The digital reconstructions show the men at age 25, who were unearthed in the vicinity of the ancient Egyptian city of Abusir el-Meleq, in the south of Cairo. Scientists estimate the men were each buried sometime between 1380 B.C. and A.D. 425, Live Science has reported. Their DNA was previously sequenced in 2017 at the Max Planck institute in Germany — at the time, the first successful reconstruction of an Egyptian mummy’s genome in history.

Since then, researchers at Parabon NanoLabs in Reston, Virginia have used forensic DNA phenotyping to create 3D models of the men’s faces, a process by which genetic data is used to predict facial features and other physical characteristics of the sampled mummy.

“This is the first time comprehensive DNA phenotyping has been performed on human DNA of this age,” Parabon said in a statement

The technology is already being used to solve modern cold cases involving unidentified victims.
Parabon NanoLabs

The lab used a combination of efforts to reconstruct the faces. Some features, including skin and eye color, can be predicted via genetic markers in the individual’s genome, while others are measured through what’s left of their physical remains.

Parabon’s methods revealed that the men had light brown skin with dark eyes and hair, and that the men were more genetically similar to modern-day Mediterranean populations than that of Egypt today.

Their process had to account for the fact that human DNA degrades over time, and is likely to be contaminated by bacterial DNA. In this case, researchers use genetic commonalities between human populations to fill in the gaps of their mummy genome.

Researchers see that this process could eventually be used in contemporary forensics, in order to identify more recent remains of unknown individuals.

Parabon’s work in genetics has already been used to crack 175 cold cases, including nine solved using the methods described in the current study, they told Live Science.

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Some animal species can survive successfully without sexual reproduction: study – CTV News

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TORONTO —
An international team of researchers have found that some animals can survive over very long periods of time — possibly millions of years — without sexual reproduction.

By studying a tiny beetle mite species, just one-fifth of a millimetre in size, scientists found that asexual reproduction can be successful in the long term.

The study authors note that until now, the survival of an animal species over a geologically long period of time without sexual reproduction was considered very unlikely, if not impossible.

Asexual reproduction involves one parent and produces offspring that are genetically identical to each other and the parent, while sexual reproduction involves two parents and produces offspring that are genetically unique.

Using the Oppiella nova beetle mite, an all-female species, researchers from the Universities of Cologne and Göttingen, the University in Lausanne in Switzerland and the University of Montpellier in France, demonstrated for the first time the so-called Meselson effect in animals.

According to the study, the Meselson effect is a characteristic trace in the genome of an organism that suggests “purely asexual reproduction.”

In the study, researchers looked at different populations of the Oppiella nova and the closely related, but sexually reproducing species, Oppiella subpectinata in Germany and sequenced their genomes. The study found that the sequencing of the Oppiella nova genomes showed the Meselson effect.

The findings were published Tuesday in peer-reviewed scientific journal PNAS.

Scientists had previously considered the Oppiella nova species an “ancient asexual scandal” as they couldn’t determine how the beetles were managing to reproduce without having sexual intercourse.

Initially, the study notes that biologists thought these beetles were hiding their acts of reproduction.

“There could be, for example, some kind of ‘cryptic’ sexual exchange that is not known. Or not yet known,” first author of the study Alexander Brandt of the University of Lausanne said in a press release.

“For example, very rarely a reproductive male could be produced after all — possibly even ‘by accident’,” he added.

However, the Oppiella nova beetle mite clones itself rather than reproducing, according to the study.

Researchers say the existence of ancient asexual animal species can be difficult to explain as asexual reproduction can seem “very disadvantageous” in the long term due to a lack of genetic diversity.

Biologists say there is typically an “evolutionary advantage” to having two different genomes that only a pair of parents can supply. Through sexual reproduction, this ensures a “constant ‘mixing’ of the two copies” of the genome in each of their cells.

This means that the two sets of genetic information remain very similar, but there are differences that allow organisms on earth to adapt over time, evolving characteristics that best suit the changing environment.

Researchers also found that it is possible for asexually reproducing species to introduce genetic variance into their genomes and thus adapt to their environment during evolution, despite producing genetic clones of themselves.

Scientists say that lack of “genome mixing” compared to sexual species causes the two genome copies of asexual animals to accumulate separate mutations and evolve independently over time.

While the survival rate of a species without sexual reproduction is quite rare, scientists conclude that it is not impossible.

“Our results clearly show that O. nova reproduces exclusively asexually. When it comes to understanding how evolution works without sex, these beetle mites could still provide a surprise or two,” Jens Bast, junior research group leader at the University of Cologne, said in the press release.

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