“Wow, it’s so beautiful out here!” Chinese astronaut Liu Boming gasped as he slipped out of the Tianhe core module of China’s space station to begin a spacewalk at 8:11 a.m. on Sunday.
Liu was conducting the mission’s first extravehicular activity to install equipment such as foot restraints and workbench on a robotic arm. He is one of three astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft, which was launched on June 17 to visit the Tiangong space station. They will remain in orbit for three months to carry out repairs and other tasks.
About three hours later, fellow astronaut Tang Hongbo pulled himself out of Tianhe to assist Liu in finishing the equipment installation. They also worked together to lift a panoramic camera outside the core module before completing their spacewalk at 2:57 p.m.
Tang Hongbo eats an apple in the Tianhe core module. Photo: VCG
The successful spacewalk was the second in Chinese history after Zhai Zhigang performed a nearly 20-minute spacewalk in 2008 during the Shenzhou-7 mission. The Tianhe core module was launched into space in April, marking the start of the Tiangong space station deployment slated to be completed within two years.
According to the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO), the latest spacewalk lays a foundation for smooth implementation of future extravehicular activities on the space station. The country plans to carry out 11 missions to help with the construction of Tiangong, including four manned launches, Caixin has previously reported.
On June 17, China successfully sent the three astronauts into space to board the Tianhe core module. Yang Liwei, director of the CMSEO and the first Chinese astronaut sent into space, told the state-run broadcaster CCTV that he was “so envious of them” as their new home is so much more capacious than the 2.8 meter-wide Shenzhou-5 he crammed into in 2003.
Tianhe provides astronauts a working and living space of about 50 cubic meters, Bai Linhou, the space station’s deputy chief designer, told CCTV.
The total space available in the core module, including the manned and cargo spaceships, is now nearly 150 cubic meters, 10 times larger than the past, Bai said, calling the current accommodations a “villa” by comparison.
Each astronaut has their own bedroom, though the team shares a single bathroom, amenities which are designed to help maintain their physical and mental well-being while in conditions of extended weightlessness and confined space, said Huang Weifen, chief designer of astronaut systems for the space program.
The three-month stay is likely to test the endurance of the astronauts as they seek to avoid illness and respond to potential emergency incidents. To keep tabs on the well-being of the crew, Tianhe has been equipped with an acoustic and optical alarm system to act as an early warning system on the ground for monitoring, Huang said.
By doing this, its not necessary for the astronauts to stay awake and be on guard at all ties, she said. In addition, the core module has special heating equipment, dedicated areas with suitable lighting for ensuring they sleep well, and a pantry stocked with more than 120 types of space food.
A bag of apple floats in the Tianhe core module. Photo: VCG
To keep their muscles from atrophying, astronauts must undertake at least two hours of exercises, three to four times a week, on treadmills and stationary bicycles designed to address issues of long-term weightlessness.
“Astronauts (can) adjust their mood and have fun, while watching movies, listening to their favorite music as well as reading books,” Huang said. “We’ve also developed a virtual reality-based system via which astronauts can see their families, familiar life scenes and beautiful landscapes.”
Yang said the mission was doing everything possible to allow the space crew to enjoy a comfortable life in orbit.
Among the new technologies is a regenerative life-support system in which Chinese astronauts’ urine and body moisture can be recycled into distilled water they can safely drink and use during sanitary work, said Pang Zhihao, a researcher from the China Academy of Space Technology. The system also produces oxygen by water electrolysis, he said.
As astronauts need to stay in space for longer periods, there is a tradeoff involved with the resources they need to sustain themselves. By recycling as much as possible, this reduces the need for more powerful launch vehicles as well as saving money, Pang said.
Contact reporter Wang Xintong (firstname.lastname@example.org) and editor Lu Zhenhua (email@example.com)
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(Bloomberg) — A population equivalent to that of Germany — 83 million people — could be killed this century because of rising temperatures caused by greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a new study that might influence how markets price carbon pollution.
The research from Columbia University’s Earth Institute introduces a new metric to help companies and governments assess damages wrought by climate change. Accounting for the “mortality cost of carbon” could give polluters new reasons to clean up by dramatically raising the cost of emissions.
“Based on the decisions made by individuals, businesses or governments, this tells you how many lives will be lost or saved,” said Columbia’s Daniel Bressler, whose research was published Thursday in the journal Nature Communications. “It quantifies the mortality impact of those decisions” by reducing questions down “to a more personal, understandable level.”
Read more: How Biden Is Putting a Number on Carbon’s True Cost: QuickTake
Adapting models developed by Yale climate economist and Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus, Bressler calculated the number of direct heat deaths that will be caused by current global-warming trajectories. His calculations don’t include the number of people who might die from rising seas, superstorms, crop failures or changing disease patterns affected by atmospheric warming. That means that the estimated deaths — which approximates the number of people killed in World War 2 — could still be a “vast underestimate,” Bressler said.
Every 4,434 tons of carbon spewed in 2020 into the Earth’s atmosphere will kill one person this century, according to the peer-reviewed calculations that see the planet warming 4.1 degrees Celsius by 2100. So far the planet has warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial times.
The volume of pollution emitted over the lifetime of three average U.S. residents is estimated to contribute to the death of another person. Bressler said the highest mortality rates can be expected in Earth’s hottest and poorest regions in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
Read more: Life and Death in Our Hot Future Will be Shaped by Today’s Income Inequality
The new metric could significantly affect how economies calculate the so-called social cost of carbon, which U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration set at $51 a ton in February. That price on pollution, which complements carbon markets like the European Union’s Emissions Trading System, helps governments set policy by accounting for future damages. But the scale revealed by Bressler’s research suggests the social cost of carbon should be significantly higher, at about $258 a ton, if the world’s economies want to reduce deaths caused by global warming.
A higher cost on carbon pollution could immediately induce larger emission cuts, which in turn could save lives. Capping global average temperature increase to 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, compared with modest emissions reductions that would warm the planet 3.4 degrees Celsius, could save 74 million people from dying of heat.
“People shouldn’t take their per-person mortality emissions too personally,” said Bressler. Governments need to mobilize “large-scale policies such as carbon pricing, cap and trade and investments in low carbon technologies and energy storage.”
The rocket billionaire discourse, heady as it is, can distract from the facts. Here’s one: NASA saved at least $548 million, and perhaps more, thanks to just one contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Last week, the US space agency tapped the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch a space probe to one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, in 2024. The much-awaited Europa Clipper mission will fly by and assess the evidence of water—and extra-terrestrial life—on the astronomical body. The mission was driven through Congress thanks in large part to the support of one former representative, John Culberson, a Texas Republican who navigated it through the sea of veto points and competing priorities that often stands between scientific hopes and their realization.
One way the mission avoided political pitfalls was a linkage with Boeing’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, a huge space vehicle designed to return humans to the moon or Mars. The rocket had just one problem: It was hastily assembled from the remains of a canceled NASA program, and there were no concrete plans for it. A decade ago, the folks behind each project joined forces to justify one another’s work. “Once built, SLS would be a rocket with nowhere to fly,” David W. Brown writes in The Mission, his account of the project. “Europa was a somewhere.”
The delayed SLS has yet to fly. Its first mission is expected around the end of this year. But since the SLS became central to the Trump administration’s Artemis program to return to the moon, NASA auditors have pointed out, in addition to the massive cost, that there would not be enough SLS rockets for both the moon and Europa missions.
In 2019, NASA’s inspector general sounded out the possibilities (pdf), and wasn’t bullish on any of them, particularly on price: Even accounting for the fact that the SLS could get the probe to Jupiter faster (saving money spent on the program back home), the system would cost about $726 million. Two other rockets available for purchase, the United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV and the Falcon Heavy, were forecast to cost$450 million each.
The Europa Clipper wound up with a cheaper ride
The deal NASA eventually made with SpaceX for the Falcon Heavy, however, will cost just $178 million. The drop in cost is directly traceable to SpaceX’s approach to designing reusable rockets, and to the partnership NASA struck with Musk’s space firm in its early days.
Think about that: In just two years, the price of launching a space probe fell by 75%; it’s less than the cost of the rocket that launched the latest Mars rover last year. This will enable NASA to direct more resources to other science programs (as well as getting the SLS off the ground).
“Having that launch capability at that price point just saves so much, particularly for the science part of NASA that just does not have the mega-budgets that human spaceflight does,” says Casey Dreier, a space policy analyst at the Planetary Society. “To see other future missions by NASA able to leverage the lift capability of the Heavy at that price point opens up a significant amount of space access.”
The Falcon Heavy, which didn’t even exist when the Europa mission was being planned, has only flown three times. But it will launch at least five more times, including for a NASA mission to an asteroid called Psyche, before the Europa mission is expected to get underway in late 2024.
This is a transformative period for the maturing space industry, as billionaire funders and new business models increase the capacity of private actors. The egos involved may take up a lot of oxygen, but the goals of the commercial space business are not mutually exclusive with NASA’s scientific pursuits; quite the opposite, in fact: They’re enabling more science than before.
(Bloomberg) — The International Space Station got an unplanned push when the thrusters on a new Russian module turned on unexpectedly after docking.
The movements caused a brief loss of attitude control but the space station suffered no damage and none of the seven crew members was injured, ISS flight controllers in Houston said on NASA TV. The U.S National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning a news conference later Thursday to discuss the incident.
The mishap occurred a day before Boeing Co. was scheduled to launch its Starliner capsule on a test flight to the orbiting lab as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The Boeing mission is a do-over of a botched test from December 2019 and the Starliner won’t be carrying a crew on the flight, which is scheduled to blast off from Florida at 2:53 p.m. Eastern time on Friday.
NASA is “monitoring the impact to tomorrow’s launch of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft,” according to a statement by the space agency.
Russian cosmonauts had opened the new Nauka module’s hatch and were incorporating its computers with the existing Zvedza service module when the newly arrived spacecraft began firing at 12:45 p.m. Eastern. The thruster firings changed the station’s attitude by 45 degrees, NASA said.
A Russian Progress cargo craft attached to the station began firing its own thrusters to counteract the effect from the Nauka module. Roscosmos flight controllers planned to reconfigure the Nauka thrusters to prevent a recurrence, NASA said. The U.S. space agency and Russia are investigating why the unplanned thrusting occurred.
(Updates with NASA comment in fourth paragraph. A previous version of this story corrected the time in the fifth paragraph.)
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