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Watch as SpaceX’s newest spacecraft attempts to escape a fake rocket emergency – The Verge

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On Sunday, SpaceX is launching one of its last big flight tests for NASA, one that could ultimately pave the way for the company to fly people to space later this year. For this flight, SpaceX will test out the emergency escape system on its new passenger spacecraft — and will probably destroy a Falcon 9 rocket in the process.

The vehicle that SpaceX is testing is its new Crew Dragon capsule, a passenger spacecraft the company has been developing for NASA as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew program. Before NASA will let its astronauts fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the agency wants to know that the vehicle can keep people safe in the unlikely event of an emergency. That’s what this weekend’s test, known as an in-flight abort test, is all about. SpaceX plans to mimic a failed rocket launch and show that its Crew Dragon can survive and protect its precious inhabitants inside. “We want to practice, practice, practice,” Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, said during a press conference on Frida. “We test like we fly, and we want to practice like we fly.”

Embedded in the hull of the Crew Dragon are eight SuperDraco engines, designed to fire if the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the capsule starts to suffer some major failure. The SuperDracos can propel the spacecraft up and away from the decaying rocket. Once the Crew Dragon is at a safe distance, the capsule would then deploy its parachutes and lower itself gently into the Atlantic Ocean. A recovery boat would then meet up with the capsule and rescue the crew inside.

SpaceX has tested out this escape system before, but only when the Crew Dragon was on the ground. The company and NASA want to see this process in action while the capsule is zooming into the sky on top of a rocket. That’s when the system will be needed most if a worst-case scenario happens in the future. So this weekend, SpaceX will launch one of its used Falcon 9 rockets — which has been to space and back three times before — with a Crew Dragon on top. At 84 seconds after launch, when the rocket and capsule are feeling the most stress during flight, the SuperDracos will fire and the rocket’s main engines will cut off. The Crew Dragon will then go through the entire escape routine.

SpaceX definitely expects to lose its Falcon 9 rocket during this test. The vehicle should break apart on the way back down to Earth thanks to the speed it’s going and the weather conditions. As for how it will be destroyed, that’s unclear. But the rocket will be fully fueled, which means some of that propellant might light up. “We expect there to be some sort of ignition and probably a fireball of some kind,” said Reed.

No people will be on board this flight, though SpaceX will have two smart dummies inside the Crew Dragon to gather data about how the maneuver would affect future crew members. Both the dummies and vehicle will be recovered by boat after the test.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is scheduled to take off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida on Sunday, during a six-hour launch window between 8AM and 2PM ET. SpaceX will wait to launch until they see good weather at both the launch site and the place in the Atlantic Ocean the Crew Dragon is expected to fall. Having those weather conditions line up may take some time. “Y’all may be waiting for a while, while we’re trying to find the perfect time for us to be able to conduct this test,” Kathy Lueders, the program manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said during the press conference. SpaceX was originally supposed to launch on Saturday but had to stand down due to bad weather at both locations.

If this test goes well, then the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board. The date for that highly anticipated trip is still very much an open question. The Crew Dragon that will be used for that test is slated to arrive in Florida by the end of this month, according to SpaceX. And after the in-flight abort, SpaceX and NASA will need to review all the data and do additional paperwork, and SpaceX still has to do some more tests of its parachutes, which it upgraded last year. “We are really human certifying these Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9,” said Lueders, adding that “making sure we’ve dotted all the “I”s and crossed the “T”s before our crewed demonstration mission is very important.”

SpaceX’s coverage will begin 20 minutes prior to takeoff, while NASA’s coverage is set to begin 15 minutes beforehand. Since liftoff time could change a lot, be sure to check both SpaceX and NASA’s twitter feed for updates.

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46000-year-old Ice Age bird has been found in Siberian permafrost – The Weather Network

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Researchers are remarking at the newly discovered remains of an Ice Age bird that has been identified as a horned lark and is estimated to be 46,000-years-old.

A recently published study says that the bird was buried and frozen within the permafrost in near the village of Belaya Gora that is located in northeastern Siberia. The bird still had many of its feathers and the researchers state that it is “exceptionally well-preserved.”

Experts from the Swedish Museum of Natural History tested the bird’s feathers and say that there is a chance it could be an ancestor to two subspecies of lark that are alive today.

“This finding implies that the climatic changes that took place at the end of the last Ice Age led to the formation of new subspecies,” said Dr. Love Dalén during an interview with CNN.

frozen bird big
The bird carcass that was found in Siberian permafrost. Credit: Love Dalén

The study says that it is a significant finding for this body of research because it is a rare opportunity to learn more about past ecosystems and what the climatic conditions at that period of time were like. The researchers state that learning about this species habitat and their response to the changing climate will enable a better understanding of how species, populations, and communities could respond to present-day climate change.

Interestingly, the bird was found at the same site as an 18,000-year-old frozen puppy called “Dogor,” which researchers are still trying to determine if the specimen is a wolf or dog. The dog was found in nearly perfect condition within the permafrost and some scientists think that this could be the oldest dog ever found.

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New NASA Photos From Antarctica Reveal Shocking Levels of Ice Melt – ScienceAlert

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Antarctica is supposed to be an extremely cold place. The annual mean temperature of the snow-laden continent’s central area is -57 degrees Celsius (−70.6°F); even the coast averages around -10°C (14°F).

But on February 6, the weather station at Esperanza Base on the Antarctic Peninsula – the northernmost tip of the content – logged the hottest temperature ever recorded on the mainland, at 18.3°C (64.9°F).

It beat out the former record of 17.5°C, from 24 March 2015.

This latest heatwave lasted for about a week, and images of Eagle Island, taken by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8, have now captured a pretty depressing picture of its impact.

The tiny Eagle Island is located just off the coast of Graham Land in the Antarctic Peninsula. The record-high temperatures have resulted in a large amount of Eagle Island’s ice cap melting into the sea, while areas towards the middle of the island saw melt ponds form astonishingly quickly.

“I haven’t seen melt ponds develop this quickly in Antarctica,” says Mauri Pelto, a glaciologist at Nichols College.

“You see these kinds of melt events in Alaska and Greenland, but not usually in Antarctica.”

Pelto also notes that the source of this melt event – persistent high temperatures significantly above freezing – is not typical of Antarctic weather patterns. Nevertheless, these have become more common recently.  

In total, snow pack on Eagle Island had over 10 centimetres (4 inches) of melt in the span of just a few days – between February 6 and February 11.  

Air temperatures on February 9. (GEOS-5/NASA)

This isn’t even the first heatwave this season, but represents the third major melt event of the 2019-2020 Southern Hemisphere summer, with both November and January also suffering from exceptionally warm weather.

“If you think about this one event in February, it isn’t that significant,” said Pelto.

“It’s more significant that these events are coming more frequently.”

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Here's NASA's new idea to get its stubborn Martian drill to work – Mashable

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The InSight lander’s robotic arm.
Image: nasa jpl

Well over a year after NASA’s InSight lander parachuted down to the Martian surface, the space agency still hasn’t been able to drill too far into the red soil. 

NASA has tried a few different techniques to get the drill, known as the “mole,” deeper into the ground to measure the desert planet’s inner temperature —  with the greater goal of understanding geologic activity on Mars. 

On Friday, NASA announced a new idea. From tens of millions of miles away, the space agency will direct the InSight lander to take its robotic arm (which has a black shovel on the end), to “push” on top of the drill. 

“The InSight team hopes that pushing on this location will help the mole it bury itself and enable the heat probe to take Mars’ temperature,” NASA said.  

Eventually, NASA hopes the mole will drill down 16 feet. So far, however, the agency hasn’t gone much more than a foot.

The new extraterrestrial operation is expected to take a few weeks, if it works at all. 

“We’re cautiously optimistic that one day we’ll get the mole working again,” Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, the lead InSight arm engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said five months ago, when attempting another drilling scheme.  

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