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SpaceX wins contract to build missile tracking satellites for US military – CNET



A stack of SpaceX Starlink satellites being deployed in orbit.


SpaceX is now in the business of building satellites that do more than beam broadband around the globe. Elon Musk’s space company is one of two awarded a contract from the Space Development Agency (part of the US Department of Defense) to build four satellites each that can track missile threats from low-Earth orbit.

SpaceX will receive over $149 million for the job, while major defense contractor L3 Harris will receive over $193 million, SDA announced on Monday. 

The satellites will be developed around an infrared sensor with a wide field of view that can track even hypersonic missiles. The SpaceX satellite will be based around the guts of the Starlink satellite, but the sensor will come from another supplier, Space Development Agency Director Derek Tournear told SpaceNews. 

L3 Harris will be producing the full satellites, including the sensor, in house.  

SpaceX has already launched several hundred Starlink satellites on its way to eventually producing tens of thousands if its broadband mega-constellation is to meet the company’s full ambitions. 

The eight satellites will be part of the first generation of what the SDA calls “the tracking layer” and must be designed to interface with “transport layer” satellites being developed by Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems. Transport layer satellites communicate with tracking layer satellites and route the information they gather to where it’s needed on Earth. 

The companies will be required to deliver the satellites by September 2022, and if all works well, the US military could order up to 30 more of the tracking satellites to add to the system in the coming years. 

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NASA finds definitive evidence of water on moon’s surface – Global News



The moon lacks the bodies of liquid water that are a hallmark of Earth but scientists said on Monday lunar water is more widespread than previously known, with water molecules trapped within mineral grains on the surface and more water perhaps hidden in ice patches residing in permanent shadows.

While research 11 years ago indicated water was relatively widespread in small amounts on the moon, a team of scientists is now reporting the first unambiguous detection of water molecules on the lunar surface. At the same time, another team is reporting that the moon possesses roughly 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers) of permanent shadows that potentially could harbor hidden pockets of water in the form of ice.

Water is a precious resource and a relatively plentiful lunar presence could prove important to future astronaut and robotic missions seeking to extract and utilize water for purposes such as a drinking supply or a fuel ingredient.

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A team led by Casey Honniball of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland detected molecular water on the lunar surface, trapped within natural glasses or between debris grains. Previous observations have suffered from ambiguity between water and its molecular cousin hydroxyl, but the new detection used a method that yielded unambiguous findings.

The only way for this water to survive on the sunlit lunar surfaces where it was observed was to be embedded within mineral grains, protecting it from the frigid and foreboding environment. The researchers used data from the SOFIA airborne observatory, a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a telescope.

“A lot of people think that the detection I’ve made is water ice, which is not true. It’s just the water molecules – because they’re so spread out they don’t interact with each other to form water ice or even liquid water,” Honniball said.

NASA spacecraft gets sample from nearby asteroid Bennu

NASA spacecraft gets sample from nearby asteroid Bennu

The second study, also published in the journal Nature Astronomy, focused upon so-called cold traps on the moon, regions of its surface that exist in a state of perpetual darkness where temperatures are below about negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 163 degrees Celsius). That is cold enough that frozen water can remain stable for billions of years.

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Using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, researchers led by planetary scientist Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado, Boulder detected what may be tens of billions of small shadows, many no bigger than a small coin. Most are located in the polar regions.

“Our research shows that a multitude of previously unknown regions of the moon could harbor water ice,” Hayne said. “Our results suggest that water could be much more widespread in the moon’s polar regions than previously thought, making it easier to access, extract and analyze.”

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NASA is planning a return of astronauts to the moon, a mission envisioned as paving the way for a later journey carrying a crew to Mars. Accessible sources where water can be harvested on the moon would beneficial to those endeavors.

“Water is not just constrained to the polar region. It’s more spread out than we thought it was,” Honniball said.

Another mystery that remains unsolved is the source of the lunar water.

“The origin of water on the moon is one of the big-picture questions we are trying to answer through this and other research,” Hayne said. “Currently, the major contenders are comets, asteroids or small interplanetary dust particles, the solar wind, and the moon itself through outgassing from volcanic eruptions.”

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Click to play video 'NASA aiming for 2024 Moon landing'

NASA aiming for 2024 Moon landing

NASA aiming for 2024 Moon landing

Earth is a wet world, with vast salty oceans, large freshwater lakes and ice caps that serve as water reservoirs.

“As our closest planetary companion, understanding the origins of water on the moon can also shed light on the origins of Earth’s water – still an open question in planetary science,” Hayne added.

© 2020 Reuters

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A Full Blue Moon Will Rise Over Metro Vancouver Skies This Halloween – 604 Now



Travel & Outdoors

Sky watchers can take in the incredible wonder of the Hunter’s Blue Moon, which will be making a rare appearance this Halloween.

The full blue moon will be visible over North American skies on Oct. 31st. The lunar event is even more special considering it means there are two full moons in October—the Harvest Moon at the beginning of the month and the Hunter’s Moon at the end.

Typically, there is only one full moon per month. And the second full moon in a month is even more magical—because it’s a blue moon.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the timing of the full blue moon rising on Halloween night is also extremely rare.

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“Despite all the creative Halloween full moon pictures, a full moon occurring on Halloween is not a common occurrence and only happens every 18 to 19 years,” the website reads.

The Hunter’s Blue Moon also rises right before the end of Daylight Saving Time.

It’s at the perfect timing—with Halloween landing on a Saturday this year and people getting an extra hour of sleep on Sunday, as we turn back the clocks.

Hunter’s Blue Moon

When: Visible across North American skies on Saturday, Oct. 31st, 2020

For more things to do and see in Metro Vancouver and beyond, check out our Travel & Outdoors section.

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“Our Water Moon” –NASA’s Lunar Discovery – The Daily Galaxy –Great Discoveries Channel



Moon South Pole

Our Moon has yielded some long-held secrets in recent weeks, from possible evidence of ancient life on Venus to NASA’s new discovery of large deposits of water.

Fragments of Ancient Venus Life?

Research by Yale astronomers suggests that our Moon –formed bout 4.51 billion years ago from debris left over after a giant impact between Earth and a Mars-sized body called Theia– may harbor clues that our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus, may have had an Earth-like environment billions of years ago, with water and a thin atmosphere. “Pieces of Venus — perhaps billions of them — are likely to have crashed on the moon,” suggest astronomers Sam Cabot and Greg Laughlin, as asteroids and comets slammed into Venus over the eons dislodging as many as 10 billion rocks and sent them into an orbit that intersected with Earth and Earth’s moon.

A Watery Moon

A new discovery announced today by NASA revealed that observations by the SOFIA telescope and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter showed signs of water in the sun-baked lunar soil, as well as in small, dark craters that go beyond past discoveries of significant deposits of water at the large, permanently shadowed craters at its poles. The new discovery that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places sets the stage for a manned radiation-hardened moon base –where, as our Blue Planet proves, there is water, there can be life.

SOFIA Detects Water Molecules at Clavius Crater

“Prior to the SOFIA observations, we knew there was some kind of hydration. But we didn’t know how much, if any, was actually water molecules – like we drink every day – or something more like drain cleaner,” said Casey Honniball, a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center and a researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the lead author of the study, Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA, published in Nature Astronomy, who used infrared instruments onboard SOFIA to study the sunlit lunar surface.

The observations, which spanned a mere 10 minutes, focused on a region at high southern latitudes near the moon’s large crater, Clavius, and they revealed a strong infrared emission at a wavelength of six microns (µm) from the crater and the surrounding landscape. Warmed by the sun, something on the lunar surface was reemitting the absorbed radiation just as molecular water—plain H2O—would.

“Clues to Alien Life” –Billions of Fragments of Venus May Exist on the Moon

NASA revealed that SOFIA detected water molecules (H2O) in Clavius Crater (shown below along with an image of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy –SOFIA), one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere. Previous observations of the Moon’s surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface.

"Our Water Moon" --NASA's Lunar Discovery"Our Water Moon" --NASA's Lunar Discovery

H2O on Sunlit Side

“We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon,” said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”

As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil. Despite the small amounts, the discovery raises new questions about how water is created and how it persists on the harsh, airless lunar surface.

Under NASA’s Artemis program, the agency is eager to learn all it can about the presence of water on the Moon in advance of sending the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 and establishing a sustainable human presence there by the end of the decade.

Apollo Missions’ Dry Moon –H2O or OH?

SOFIA’s results build on years of previous research examining the presence of water on the Moon. When the Apollo astronauts first returned from the Moon in 1969, it was thought to be completely dry. Orbital and impactor missions over the past 20 years, such as NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, confirmed ice in permanently shadowed craters around the Moon’s poles. Meanwhile, several spacecraft – including the Cassini mission and Deep Impact comet mission, as well as the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 mission – and NASA’s ground-based Infrared Telescope Facility, looked broadly across the lunar surface and found evidence of hydration in sunnier regions. Yet those missions were unable to definitively distinguish the form in which it was present – either H2O or OH.

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Scientists using NASA’s telescope on an airplane, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, discovered water on a sunlit surface of the Moon for the first time. SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that allows astronomers to study the solar system and beyond in ways that are not possible with ground-based telescopes. Molecular water, H2O, was found in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth in the Moon’s southern hemisphere. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.

SOFIA’s Infrared Zooms in on Clavius Crater

SOFIA offered a new means of looking at the Moon. Flying at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet, this modified Boeing 747SP jetliner with a 106-inch diameter telescope reaches above 99% of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere to get a clearer view of the infrared universe. Using its Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST), SOFIA was able to pick up the specific wavelength unique to water molecules, at 6.1 microns, and discovered a relatively surprising concentration in sunny Clavius Crater.

“Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space,” said Honniball, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Yet somehow we’re seeing it. Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there.”

Several Forces at Play

Several forces could be at play in the delivery or creation of this water. Micrometeorites raining down on the lunar surface, carrying small amounts of water, could deposit the water on the lunar surface upon impact. Another possibility is there could be a two-step process whereby the Sun’s solar wind delivers hydrogen to the lunar surface and causes a chemical reaction with oxygen-bearing minerals in the soil to create hydroxyl. Meanwhile, radiation from the bombardment of micrometeorites could be transforming that hydroxyl into water.

Emergence of Life –“Played an Important Role on Evolution of the Moon”

How the water then gets stored – making it possible to accumulate – also raises some intriguing questions. The water could be trapped into tiny beadlike structures in the soil that form out of the high heat created by micrometeorite impacts. Another possibility is that the water could be hidden between grains of lunar soil and sheltered from the sunlight – potentially making it a bit more accessible than water trapped in beadlike structures.

“Accidental Discovery” –A Test Observation

For a mission designed to look at distant, dim objects such as black holes, star clusters, and galaxies, SOFIA’s spotlight on Earth’s nearest and brightest neighbor was a departure from business as usual. The telescope operators typically use a guide camera to track stars, keeping the telescope locked steadily on its observing target. But the Moon is so close and bright that it fills the guide camera’s entire field of view. With no stars visible, it was unclear if the telescope could reliably track the Moon. To determine this, in August 2018, the operators decided to try a test observation.

“It was, in fact, the first time SOFIA has looked at the Moon, and we weren’t even completely sure if we would get reliable data, but questions about the Moon’s water compelled us to try,” said Naseem Rangwala, SOFIA’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “It’s incredible that this discovery came out of what was essentially a test, and now that we know we can do this, we’re planning more flights to do more observations.”

SOFIA’s follow-up flights will look for water in additional sunlit locations and during different lunar phases to learn more about how the water is produced, stored, and moved across the Moon. The data will add to the work of future Moon missions, such as NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), to create the first water resource maps of the Moon for future human space exploration.

In the same issue of Nature Astronomy, scientists have published a paper using theoretical models and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data, pointing out that water could be trapped in small shadows, where temperatures stay below freezing, across more of the Moon than currently expected. The results can be found here.

“Farside Wakeup” –One of Largest Impacts in Solar System Rang the Moon to ‘Life’

“Water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “If we can use the resources at the Moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries.”

Image at top of page: a multi-temporal illumination map of the lunar south pole, Shackleton crater (19 km diameter) is in the center, the south pole is located approximately at 9 o’clock on its rim. The map was created from images from the camera aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The South Pole is also a good target for a future human landing because robotically, it’s the most thoroughly investigated region on the Moon. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University).

“We know the South Pole region contain water ice and may be rich in other resources based on our observations from orbit, but, otherwise, it’s a completely unexplored world,” said Steven Clarke, deputy associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The South Pole is far from the Apollo landing sites clustered around the equator, so it will offer us a new challenge and a new environment to explore as we build our capabilities to travel farther into space.”

The Daily Galaxy, Jake Burba, via Nature Astronomy and NASA 

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