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'Still a good day for Canada' despite delay of Artemis moon rocket launch: minister –



Despite the test launch of NASA’s new moon rocket being postponed on Monday morning, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said it was “still a good day for Canada.”

Champagne, who was in Florida for a two-day trip that included meetings with Canadian astronauts and NASA officials, got up at 1:30 a.m. to head to the launch pad in Cape Canaveral only to see the mission delayed.

“Obviously we all wanted to be there to witness history,” he told Canadian reporters in a teleconference from Orlando.

But Canada’s representation in the broader mission is more important, Champagne said. “If you look at the big picture, what really matters for Canadians and certainly young Canadians is that this time, we’re not watching it, we’re part of it.”

It’s been more than half a century since humans last visited the moon, and days or weeks of waiting for this Artemis test launch to proceed won’t make that big of a difference in the long term, he said. When the mission does continue, Canada will be “front and centre.”

Canada is contributing a new robotic arm, the Canadarm 3, to the Gateway space station that NASA eventually plans to put in orbit around the moon. 

A Canadian astronaut is also expected to be on the first manned crew of the rocket, Artemis 2, expected to fly around the moon and back as soon as 2024.

The 98-metre-long rocket’s debut flight was scheduled to go ahead Monday morning with three test dummies aboard, but a last-minute cascade of problems culminated in unexplained engine trouble.

As precious minutes ticked away Monday morning, NASA repeatedly stopped and started the fuelling of the Space Launch System rocket because of a leak of highly explosive hydrogen, eventually succeeding in reducing the seepage to acceptable levels. The leak happened in the same place there was seepage during a dress rehearsal in the spring.

The fuelling was already running nearly an hour late because of thunderstorms off Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

Then, NASA ran into new trouble when it was unable to properly chill one of the rocket’s four main engines, officials said. Engineers continued working to pinpoint the source of the problem after the launch postponement was announced.

“This is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system, and all those things have to work, and you don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Referring to launch delays, he said: “It’s just part of the space business and it’s part of, particularly, a test flight.”

Canadian astronaut David St-Jacques was watching. 

“The little boy in me is disappointed. I wanted to see the excitement of a rocket launch, this great new rocket, the beginning of a new era of exploration,” he said. “But the sober engineer in me goes, ‘phew, glad that someone found that problem and saved us from a bigger problem.'”

St-Jacques said the Artemis program will reintroduce humans to the lunar environment but also ultimately prepare us for missions to Mars. It will create a higher level of confidence for more space exploration. Canada’s involvement is “huge for our nation,” he said.

He noted that past space exploration has produced widely-used technologies such as GPS, and Canada’s current research on space exploration, focused on health and food, will have other applications — for example, with remote medicine or in growing food in harsh Canadian environments.

The next launch attempt will not take place until Friday at the earliest and could be delayed until mid-September or later. 

Champagne’s office said that it’s unlikely he’ll be able to attend for the next launch window.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 29, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press and a file from Pierre Saint-Arnaud.

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Jupiter will be its brightest in 59 years Monday. Here's how to see it for yourself – CBC News



You may have noticed a bright “star” in the eastern sky after sunset, but that’s no star: it’s the mighty planet Jupiter, and it’s almost at its peak brightness.

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is reaching opposition, an event that occurs when a celestial object rises in the east as the sun sets in the west, putting both the sun and the object on opposite sides of Earth.

But what also makes this special is that the planet will be the closest it has been to Earth in 59 years, meaning it will also be brighter than usual.

The reason planets vary in their distance from Earth is because their orbits aren’t perfectly circular, but rather slightly elliptical.

This image of Jupiter and its moons Io (lower left) and Ganymede (upper right) was acquired by amateur astronomer Damian Peach on Sept. 12, 2010, when Jupiter was close to opposition. South is up and the ‘Great Red Spot’ is visible in the image. (NASA/Damian Peach)

While Jupiter’s opposition happens roughly every 13 months, it’s not common for it to coincide with its closest approach, making this a particularly special treat.

How to see it

At its farthest, Jupiter can be as far as 966 million kilometres away, but on Monday, it will be about 591 million kilometres from Earth. The last time it was this close was in October 1963. And it won’t be this close again until 2129.

You can find the planet in the east after sunset. It’s hard to miss, even from a light-polluted city, as it is the brightest object in the sky. 

As the night progresses, it rises higher into the sky, eventually appearing in the southeast around 11 p.m. ET. on Monday.

You don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see it, but if you do have a pair of binoculars or a telescope, you can have some fun over the coming days. 

One of the special things about Jupiter is its four brightest moons: Callisto, Io, Ganymede and Europa. They orbit Jupiter in a timescale visible from Earth night after night, and even hour after hour — if you’re patient. 

This sky map shows the positions of four of Jupiter’s moons the following night of the opposition, on Sept. 27 at roughly 10:30 p.m. ET. (Stellarium)
This sky chart shows the positions of four of Jupiter’s 80 moons at 10:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26. (Stellarium)

If you do have a telescope, you can view the moons — and the amazing cloud bands of the gaseous planet, which make for a stunning sight. Also, according to Sky & Telescope magazine, the Great Red Spot will begin its transit — or its crossing — at 8:44 p.m. ET Monday. You can find local times using the publication’s online app or find its app and others like it for your cellphone or tablet. 

Saturn will also be visible in the sky. It currently lies in the south around 10 p.m. ET, but it’s more difficult to spot as it’s not as bright as Jupiter.

You can find several free apps available for download on Android phones and iPhones — such as Stellarium, Star Walk and Sky View — that will help you identify what you see in the night sky, including planets and where to find them.

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NASA Will Crash A Spacecraft Into An Asteroid For Science! – Forbes



NASA will intentionally crash a spacecraft into an orbiting asteroid at high speed in the coming hours. The DART mission will attempt to prove that an unmanned space probe can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it. The technique, called kinetic impact, could be used to re-direct an asteroids that may pose a threat to Earth, should one ever be discovered.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test – a first-of-its-kind experiment – will try to alter the orbit of one of two gravitationally bound asteroids in orbit around the Sun. This binary asteroid system is known as Didymos, and the smaller “moonlet” of the pair, Dimorphos, will be the first asteroid in the Solar System to be the target of a humanmade “kinetic impactor”.

The 1,2 x 1,3 x 1,3-meter space probe will intercept the Didymos system at 7:14 p.m. on Monday, with DART slamming into the 160-meters wide Dimorphos at roughly 6,6 kilometers per second a few hours later if everything goes as planned.

The target asteroid Dimorphos, orbiting the larger Didymos, poses no threat to Earth, and even a successful impact will alter its orbit by just 0,4 millimeters. Any changes in the orbital parameters will be precisely measured using telescopes on Earth. The experiment results will be used to validate and improve computer models for kinetic impacts.

In the last few hours of DART’s life, it will send a constant stream of images to Earth.

“This is an amazing moment for our space program,” so Elena Adams, the mission systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

“For the first time, we will move a celestial body intentionally in space, beyond Earth orbit! This test goes beyond international borders, and really shows what we can accomplish if we all work together as one team and as one Earth.”

Material provided by the European Space Agency and NASA.

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Squirrels, volcanoes, and ancient DNA – – Town and Country TODAY



ATHABASCA — What does the research into ground squirrels dating back 50,000 years have to do with ancient DNA or volcanoes? 

Those are some of the fascinating details Scott Cocker, a paleoecologist and PhD student at the University of Alberta (U of A), will be discussing in a Zoom presentation hosted by Science Outreach – Athabasca Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. 

“I’m interested in the ground squirrels themselves because we jokingly refer to them as furry botanists,” Cocker said in a Sept. 15 interview. “They were grabbing plants; they were grabbing whatever they could grab before they went into hibernation. So, they would store all this stuff in their nest and then the nest is what we find 40,000 years later or whatever have you … frozen in the permafrost with all those seeds or with bones of other animals. They are basically like little archives of the Ice Age and Yukon.” 

Cocker realized while everyone was distracted by larger creatures like woolly mammoths and woolly rhinos, they didn’t offer as much information on life at the time as ground squirrel nests could. 

“The ecosystem and the environment, we call that the mammoth steppe and for a long time that’s what everyone referred to; the mammoth steppe this, the mammoth steppe that, and it’s just because the mammoths are big and charismatic,” he said. “But my whole thesis is that if you really want to understand the mammoth steppe and the environment that they were living in, you actually have to look to things like the ground squirrels because they tell us way more about the environment than the mammoths do.” 

Throw in some new sequencing of DNA which allows scientists to accurately identify a species from just small pieces of DNA. 

“In the last 20 years, it’s something that’s been developed,” he said. “We can work with modern DNA really easily because stranded DNA are in the count of millions … but once that organism dies and sits around for a while, then the DNA starts to degrade, and it breaks down over time and so we end up with these really short little pieces of DNA.” 

Then mix in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption in southern Alaska 25,000 years ago which covered the area with up to a metre of ash and it changes how all fauna lived and you have the basics of Cocker’s presentation. 

“How did that impact the animals and plants at the time of the eruption? Because it definitely was one of the largest in the last million years in this part of the world,” Cocker said. “It completely covered the plants. Think about (the) ground squirrels or the voles and mice and stuff that … rely on foraging and you’re half the size of the ash fall, you’re gonna struggle.” 

The link to the presentation can be found on the Science Outreach – Athabasca website and social media and will start at 7 p.m. Sept. 27. 

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