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UAE sends Hope probe to Mars in first major project – ZME Science

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) doesn’t mess around when it comes to their space program — they’re taking big strides in their mission to launch a shuttle to Mars.

The Hope satellite is scheduled to launch just six years after the creation of the UAE Space Agency (Image Source: UAE Space Agency)

In July 2014, president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced their plans to send a satellite to Mars by July 2020. This month, the Hope Mars Mission — also called the Emirates Mars Mission — is set to launch to the Red Planet this month for a February 2021 rendezvous. That year would also be the 50th anniversary of the country.

The launch comes just six years after not only the announcement of Hope but the creation of the UAE’s space program itself. That’s right, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, where the satellite was built, wasn’t created until the year after the announcement — and until then, the UAE had virtually no space program to speak of. America hasn’t seen that sort of haul-ass rush since the Apollo program.

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The Hope mission will be the first major project spearheaded by the small Middle Eastern country. It’s actually the first planetary science mission to be led by an Arab-Islamic country, period. The satellite is set to launch from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan aboard an H-IIA rocket.

“The UAE is on the verge of making history, after turning its dream of becoming the first Arabic and Islamic country to send a spacecraft to Mars into reality,” said Ahmad Belhoul al Falasi, chairman of the United Arab Emirates Space Agency in a 2019 statement. “This monumental endeavor is the culmination of the efforts of a skilled and experienced team of young Emiratis, who, with the support of the nation and its visionary leadership, will secure the UAE’s position at the forefront of space exploration and the international space sector.” 

The mini-cooper-sized probe was built in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder, University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State University. Its main mission will be to study Mars’ weather and climate. In particular, Hope has three main objectives:

  • Understand climate dynamics and the global weather map through characterizing the lower atmosphere of Mars.
  • Explain how the weather changes the escape of hydrogen and oxygen through correlating the lower atmosphere conditions with the upper atmosphere.
  • Understand the structure and variability of hydrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere, as well as identifying why Mars is losing them into space.
Image Source: New York Times / Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center

The current status

The Emirates Mars Mission has a total mass (including fuel) of 1500 kg. It is a hexagonal prism, 7.78 feet (2.37 meters) wide by 9.5 feet (2.90 meters) tall. It consists of honeycomb aluminum panels containing composite face sheets, with three solar panel wings affixed to the top platform. The solar panels provide 600 watts at Mars, charging batteries to run the spacecraft. The spacecraft requirement is 477 watts. The shuttle’s high-gain directional antenna allows communication rates of 1.6 Mbps at the minimum Earth-Mars distance to 250 kbps at its furthest point. There are also three low-gain antennas.

Propulsion is provided by four to six 120-N thrusters mounted on the bottom of the spacecraft, using monopropellant hydrazine and a GHe pressurant tank, with maneuvering and attitude control via 8 to 12 5-N reaction control system thrusters and a set of reaction wheels. Positional and orientation knowledge is provided by star trackers and coarse Sun sensors.

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The satellite will carry three scientific instruments mounted on one side of the spacecraft. The Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI) is a high resolution multiband (visible and UV) camera, the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS), a far-UV imaging spectrograph, and the Emirates Mars InfraRed Spectrometer (EMIRS), and FTIR scanning spectrometer.

The plan

Once the Hope Probe separates from the upper stage, an automated sequence will begin to wake up the probe. The central computer will boot up and turn on the heaters to prevent the fuel from freezing. It will then deploy the solar array panels and use the sun sensors to find the sun so that the solar arrays begin to charge the onboard battery. With the power switched on, Hope will begin transmitting data back home to the NASA Deep Space Network ground station in Madrid, Spain.

After the communications system is checked out, the control system will ensure that the spacecraft is pointed in the right direction. The propulsion system onboard will ensure detailed maneuvers to refine the Hope Probe’s trajectory towards Mars.

Once it completes the seven-month journey and arrives at its objective, Hope begins the Mars Orbit Insertion phase. Nearly half of the fuel will be spent to slow the probe down enough to capture Mars’ orbit. The fuel burn (firing the Delta V thrusters) will last approximately 30 minutes and will reduce the speed of the spacecraft from over 75,186 mph (121,000 kmh) to around 11,184 mph (18,000 kmh).

Hope is now ready to start its mission, collecting two years worth of data, with an optional two-year extension which would take the mission into 2025.

“This is the Arab world’s version of President John F. Kennedy’s moonshot — it’s a vision for the future that can engage and excite a new generation of Emirati and Arab youth,” said Yousef al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, during the UAE Embassy’s National Day celebration in 2015, according to The National

But the UAE doesn’t plan on stopping there. By 2117, they hope to build a habitable settlement, a project that no one who starts on will ever see completed in their lifetime.

“We chose the epic challenge of reaching Mars because epic challenges inspire and motivate us,” Mohammed bin Rashid said 2014 when the Hope project was announced. “The moment we stop taking on such challenges is the moment we stop moving forward.”

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Alberta family searches for answers in teen's sudden death after COVID exposure, negative tests – CBC.ca

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A southern Alberta mother and father are grappling with the sudden, unexplained death of their 17-year-old daughter, and with few answers, they’re left wondering if she could be the province’s youngest victim of COVID-19.

Sarah Strate — a healthy, active Grade 12 student at Magrath High School who loved singing, dancing and being outdoors — died on Monday, less than a week after being notified she’d been exposed to COVID-19.

While two tests came back negative, her parents say other signs point to the coronavirus, and they’re waiting for more answers. 

“It was so fast. It’s all still such a shock,” said Sarah’s mother, Kristine Strate. “She never even coughed. She had a sore throat and her ears were sore for a while, and [she had] swollen neck glands.”

Kristine said Sarah developed mild symptoms shortly after her older sister — who later tested positive for COVID-19 —  visited from Lethbridge, one of Alberta’s current hot spots for the virus.

The family went into isolation at their home in Magrath on Tuesday, April 20. They were swabbed the next day and the results were negative.

‘Everything went south, super-fast’

By Friday night, Sarah had developed fever and chills. On Saturday, she started vomiting and Kristine, a public health nurse, tried to keep her hydrated.

“She woke up feeling a bit more off on Monday morning,” Kristine said. “And everything went south, super-fast.”

Sarah had grown very weak and her parents decided to call 911 when she appeared to become delirious.

“She had her blanket on and I was talking to her and, in an instant, she was unresponsive,” said Kristine, who immediately started performing CPR on her daughter.

When paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, they were able to restore a heartbeat and rushed Sarah to hospital in Lethbridge, where she died.

“I thought there was hope once we got her heart rate back. I really did,” recalled Sarah’s father, Ron.

“He was praying for a miracle, and sometimes miracles don’t come,” said Kristine.

Strate’s parents say her health deteriorated quickly after being exposed to COVID-19. She died at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge on Monday. (Ron Strate)

Searching for answers

At the hospital, the family was told Sarah’s lungs were severely infected and that she may have ended up with blood clots in both her heart and lungs, a condition that can be a complication of COVID-19.

But a second test at the hospital came back negative for COVID-19.

“There really is no other answer,” Ron said. “When a healthy 17-year-old girl, who was sitting up in her bed and was able to talk, and within 10 minutes is unconscious on our floor — there was no reason [for it].”

The province currently has no record of any Albertans under the age of 20 who have died of COVID-19.

According to the Strate family, the medical examiner is running additional blood and tissue tests, in an effort to uncover the cause of Sarah’s death.

‘Unusual but not impossible’

University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger, who was not involved in Sarah’s treatment, says it is conceivable that further testing could uncover evidence of a COVID-19 infection, despite two negative test results.

However, she hasn’t seen a similar case in Alberta.

“It would be unusual but not impossible because no test is perfect. We have had cases where an initial test is negative and then if you keep on thinking it’s COVID and you re-test, you then can find COVID,” she said.

According to Saxinger, the rate of false negatives is believed to be very low. But it can happen if there are problems with the testing or specimen collection.

She says people are more likely to test positive after symptoms develop. 

“The best sensitivity of the test is around day four or five of having symptoms,” she said. “So you can miss things if you test very, very early. And with new development of symptoms, it’s always a good time to re-test because then the likelihood of getting a positive test is a little higher. But again, no test is perfect.” 

Sarah deteriorated so quickly — dying five days after she first developed symptoms — she didn’t live long enough to make it to her follow-up COVID-19 test. Instead, it was done at the hospital.

‘An amazing kid’

The Strate family now faces an agonizing wait for answers — one that will likely take months — about what caused Sarah’s death.

But Ron, who teaches at the school where Sarah attended Grade 12, wants his daughter to be remembered for the life she lived, not her death.

Strate, pictured here at three years old, had plans to become a massage therapist. She attended Grade 12 at Magrath High School and was an active, healthy teenager who was involved in sports, music and the school’s suicide prevention group. (Ron Strate)

Sarah was one of five children. Ron says she was strong, active and vibrant and had plans to become a massage therapist after graduating from high school.

She played several sports and loved to sing and dance as part of a show choir. She was a leader in the school’s suicide prevention group and would stand up for other students who were facing bullying.

“She’s one of the leaders in our Hope Squad … which goes out and helps kids to not be scared,” he father said.

“She’s an amazing kid.”

Sarah would often spend hours helping struggling classmates, and her parents hope her kindness is not forgotten.

“She’d done so many good things. Honestly, I’ve got so many messages from parents saying, ‘You have no idea how much your daughter helped our kid,'” said Ron.

“This 17-year-old girl probably lived more of a life in 17 years than most adults will live in their whole lives. She was so special. I love her so much.”

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China launches key module of space station planned for 2022

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BEIJING (Reuters) -China launched an unmanned module on Thursday containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported.

The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.

Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States.

“(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in the building of a powerful nation in both technology and in space,” state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.

Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.

The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).

In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.

Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.

Both helped China test the programme’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.

China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has ramped up its space programme with visits to the moon, the launch of an uncrewed probe to Mars and the construction of its own space station.

In contrast, the fate of the ageing ISS – in orbit for more than two decades – remains uncertain.

The project is set to expire in 2024, barring funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would quit the project from 2025.

Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise.

Moscow has slammed the U.S.-led Artemis moon exploration programme and instead chosen to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research outpost in the coming years.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Liangping Gao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Simon Cameron-Moore and Lincoln Feast.)

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NASA Pays Rich Homage To Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins – Gadgets 360

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NASA on Thursday paid a rich tribute to Michael Collins, the American astronaut who was the command module pilot for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Collins, 90, passed away on Wednesday after battling cancer, his family said. Sharing a photograph on Instagram, NASA said the picture was clicked by Collins, who spent seven years of his career as an astronaut with them. The photograph shows the lunar module, “Eagle,” returning to the command module, “Columbia,” after landing on the Moon. The Earth can be seen in the background of the picture. NASA said the picture had all of the humanity in it, save for Collins who captured it.

Collins kept the command module flying while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. “We remember Michael Collins, @NASA astronaut and crew member of Apollo 11, who passed away on April 28, 2021,” NASA said.

In the post, NASA also quoted what Collins had said during a transmission to Mission Control on the trip back to Earth from the Moon on July 21, 1969. “This trip of ours to the Moon may have looked, to you, simple or easy… All you see is the three of us, but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others, and to all those I would like to say, thank you very much.”

NASA further shared what the mission control stated during Apollo 11. “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during the 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia. While he waits for his comrades to soar with Eagle from Tranquility Base and rejoin him for the trip back to Earth, Collins, with the help of Flight Controllers here in Mission Control Center has kept the Command Module’s system going.”

Besides, the space agency also released a statement, saying the nation had lost a “true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration” in Collins. NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said that as the pilot of Apollo 11 some referred to him as the “loneliest man in history”.

“While his colleagues walked on the Moon for the first time, he helped our nation achieve a defining milestone. He also distinguished himself in the Gemini Program and as an Air Force pilot,” he said.

Jurczyk shared that Collins would say, “Exploration is not a choice, really, it’s an imperative,” adding “What would be worth recording is what kind of civilisation we Earthlings created and whether or not we ventured out into other parts of the galaxy.”

Jurczyk added that Collins’ own signature accomplishments, his writings about his experiences, and his leadership of the National Air and Space Museum helped gain wide exposure for the work of all the men and women who have helped our nation push itself to greatness in aviation and space. “There is no doubt he inspired a new generation of scientists, engineers, test pilots, and astronauts.”


We dive into all things Apple — iPad Pro, iMac, Apple TV 4K, and AirTag — this week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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