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With SpaceX's first astronaut launch, a new era of human spaceflight has dawned – Space.com

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We’ve gotten our hopes up before.

The success of NASA’s Apollo moon missions half a century ago, for example, made Mars seem very much within reach for human explorers. Indeed, the space agency drew up plans to put boots on the Red Planet by the early 1980s, but shifting political and societal winds killed that idea in the cradle.

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush announced the Space Exploration Initiative, which aimed to send astronauts back to the moon by the end of the 1990s and get people to Mars in the 2010s. His son, President George W. Bush, also aimed for a crewed lunar return, with a program called Constellation, whose contours were outlined in 2004. Each program was soon axed by the next administration to come into power.

Full coverage: SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 astronaut launch explained

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch launches two NASA astronauts into orbit on a Crew Dragon spacecraft from Pad 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30, 2020. (Image credit: SpaceX)

So it’s natural for space fans to greet the grand pronouncements occasioned by SpaceX’s first crewed launch on Saturday (May 30) with a bit of skepticism. Yes, the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the first orbital human spaceflight to depart from American soil since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, is a big deal. But does it really show that “the commercial space industry is the future,” as President Donald Trump said shortly after liftoff?

Actually, it very well might. 

Demo-2 is far from a one-off, after all. It’s a test flight designed to fully validate SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket for crewed missions to the ISS. The company holds a $2.6 billion NASA contract to conduct six such operational flights, the first of which is targeted for late August, provided Demo-2 goes well.

SpaceX is a highly ambitious company that has already accomplished a great deal in the final frontier; it’s been flying robotic cargo flights to the ISS for NASA since 2012, for example. So, there’s little reason to doubt SpaceX’s ability to fulfill that contract, and to execute a variety of other missions in Earth orbit as well.

Elon Musk’s company has in fact already inked Crew Dragon deals with other customers. For example, Houston-based company Axiom Space, which aims to build a commercial space station in Earth orbit, has booked a Crew Dragon flight to the ISS, with liftoff targeted in late 2021. And the space tourism outfit Space Adventures plans to use the capsule at around the same time, to carry passengers on a mission to high Earth orbit, far above the ISS. 

Then there’s Boeing. Like SpaceX, Boeing signed a contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to fly six crewed missions to and from the ISS. Boeing will fulfill the deal with a capsule called CST-100 Starliner, which has made one uncrewed trip to orbit to date. 

That flight, which launched this past December, didn’t go as planned; Starliner was supposed to meet up with the ISS but suffered a glitch with its onboard timing system and got trapped in the wrong orbit. But Boeing plans to refly the uncrewed ISS mission later this year and put astronauts on Starliner shortly thereafter, provided everything goes well.

Related: Four new US spaceships may start launching people into space soon

Activity is heating up in the suborbital realm as well. 

For example, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has already flown two piloted missions to suborbital space with its newest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity. The company is in the final phases of its test campaign and looks poised to begin carrying space tourists aboard the six-passenger Unity soon.

And Blue Origin, the spaceflight company run by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, has reached space numerous times with its suborbital vehicle, known as New Shepard. Those test flights have been uncrewed to date, but it probably won’t be long before New Shepard begins carrying customers as well.

The names on this list chip away at the skepticism even more. We aren’t talking about cash-strapped startups here; Bezos is the world’s richest man, and Musk and Branson are both billionaires. And Boeing is an aerospace giant with a long history of achievement in the human spaceflight realm. The company is the prime contractor for the ISS, for example, and it built the first stage of NASA’s huge Saturn V rocket, which launched the Apollo moon missions. 

So there’s real reason to hope that an exciting new era of human spaceflight has dawned — perhaps one that will even see people riding private spaceships to the moon, Mars and other destinations in deep space. 

Musk has long stressed that he founded SpaceX back in 2002 primarily to help humanity colonize the Red Planet, and the company is already building and testing prototypes of Starship, the vehicle designed to make that happen. And Bezos has repeatedly said that his overarching vision for Blue Origin involves helping to get millions of people living and working in space.

This coming private boom isn’t booting NASA off the human-spaceflight block, of course. The space agency has deep space ambitions of its own. Its Artemis program aims to land two astronauts near the moon’s south pole in 2024 and establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon by 2028. 

And the moon will be a stepping stone, if all goes according to NASA’s plan, teaching the agency the skills and techniques required to put boots on Mars.

NASA wants to make that giant leap in the 2030s. We’ll see if the political will and the funding hold long enough for the agency to do it.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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Lunar Eclipse July 2020: Date, Timings, and How to Watch Live Stream – Gadgets 360

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July 4 will mark the third lunar eclipse for 2020. People in certain regions will be able to witness penumbral lunar eclipse, also being referred to as a “buck moon” lunar eclipse. It also coincides with the US Independence Day which is good news for US residents as they are among the people who will get to witness this celestial phenomenon. The first lunar eclipse of 2020 was in January, followed by the second in June, making it the third lunar eclipse for the year. Unfortunately, people in India will not be able directly see the eclipse.

Lunar eclipse July 2020: What is a penumbral lunar eclipse?

A penumbral lunar eclipse (upchaya chandra grahan in Hindi) is when the Earth blocks some of the Sun’s light from directly reaching the Moon and the outer part of the Earth’s shadow, called the ‘penumbra’, covers all or part of the Moon. This type of eclipse is harder to spot as the penumbra is fainter compared to the dark core of the Earth’s shadow called ‘umbra’. Because of this, a penumbral lunar eclipse is sometimes mistaken as a full Moon.

As per NASA, as there will be a full moon at 12:44am EDT on July 5 (10:14am IST on July 5) and will be the first full Moon of summer (US), the Algonquin tribes used to call this full Moon the Buck Moon.

When will the lunar eclipse occur?

As per data by TimeandDate, the lunar eclipse will start at 11:07pm EDT on July 4 (8:37am IST on July 5) and reach its peak at 12:29am EDT on July 5 (9:59am IST on July 5). It will last for 2 hours and 45 minutes after which the lunar eclipse will end at 1:52am EDT on July 5 (11:22 am IST on July 5).

Who will be able to witness the lunar eclipse?

Unfortunately, this lunar eclipse of July 4-5 will not be visible in India. However, people in much of North America, South America, South/West Europe, much of Africa, Indian Ocean, Pacific, Antarctica, and Atlantic will be able to witness it.

How to watch the July 2020 lunar eclipse?

The penumbral lunar eclipse, and other such celestial events are often streamed on popular YouTube channels including Slooh and the website Virtual Telescope. If you live in one of the regions where this lunar eclipse will be visible, you should be able to watch it without any special equipment.


WWDC 2020 had a lot of exciting announcements from Apple, but which are the best iOS 14 features for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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B.C. white throated sparrows become trend setters: 20 year study finds birds change tune – CKPGToday.ca

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Researchers say they still don’t know what made the new song so compelling to the sparrows mentioning that it is well known that some bird species change their songs overtime but that they usually tend to stay in local populations.

“When I first moved to Prince George in British Columbia, they were singing something atypical from what was the classic white-throated sparrow song across all of eastern Canada.”—Ken Otter, UNBC Professor

In the 1960’s white-throated sparrows across the nation whistled their song which at the time ended in a repeated three-note triplet but come the 1990’s the song had already changed in western Canada, according to Otter.

Otter and his team utilized a large network of citizen scientist birders across North America who had uploaded recordings of the white throated sparrow songs online to track the new ending. Their findings showed that the song wasn’t just popular west of the Rocky Mountains but was spreading quickly east.

“Originally, we measured the dialect boundaries in 2004 and it stopped about halfway through Alberta.”—Ken Otter, UNBC Professor

“By 2014, every bird we recorded in Alberta was singing this western dialect, and we started to see it appearing in populations as far away as Ontario, which is 3,000 kilometers from us,” said Otter.

Otter says that they believed perhaps overwintering grounds were the reason for the song change. “We know that birds sing on the wintering grounds, so juvenile males may be able to pick up new song types if they overwinter with birds from other dialect areas. This would allow males to learn new song types in the winter and take them to new locations when they return to breeding grounds, helping explain how the song type could spread,” Otter says.

Further research found that the overwintering grounds did in fact play a part to the change in tune and that the original tune was completely being replaced by the sparrows new tune.

“In white-throated sparrows, we might find a situation in which the females actually like songs that aren’t typical in their environment. If that’s the case, there’s a big advantage to any male who can sing a new song type.”—Ken Otter, UNBC Professor

Otter and his team are curious to find out if the new tune may be preferred by female birds used to the three note ending song. Otter says that now a new song has appeared in another western sparrow population and are excited to see if this tune to takes over the country.

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Huge Black Hole That Is Eating One Sun Everyday Discovered – Sakshi English

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A new study conducted by an international team of astronomers found that the fastest-growing black hole, J2157 known to humans is 34 billion times the mass of our Sun and is extremely hungry. It eats nearly the equivalent of one Sun every day. The study was published in ‘Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society’ and the research was conducted by “The Australian National University.”

Dr. Christopher Onken, one of the researchers said that the mass of the black hole is about 8,000 times larger than the black hole in the centre of the Milky Way. He further added that, “If the black hole of the Milky Way wanted to expand that large, it would have to swallow two-thirds of all the stars in our Galaxy.”

Onken said that that how much a black hole can eat depends on how big they are. In this case, the black hole is so big that is why it can live on the diet of one sun a day. The studies say that the black hole is growing 1% every one million years. J2157 was discovered by the team for the first time in 2018. Dr. Onken asserted that the scientists were looking at it at a time when the universe was just 1.2 billion years old, adding that it has been the biggest black hole that weighed in that early period of the universe.

Onken added that “With such an enormous black hole, we’re also excited to see what we can learn about the galaxy in which it is growing. Is this galaxy one of the behemoths of the early Universe, or did the black hole just swallow up an extraordinary amount of its surroundings? We’ll have to keep digging to figure that out.”

Christian Wolf, who found the black hole, said, “This black hole is expanding so quickly that it shines thousands of times brighter than the entire galaxy, because of all the gasses it absorbs every day that cause a lot of friction and heat.” According to the study, Fuyan Bian of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), who is also part of the team said that they have used the very large telescope of ESO in Chile to collect data on the mass of the black hole. It is located inside the Holm 15A galaxy, which is 700 million light-years away from Earth.

A year ago, NASA stated that “A black hole and its shadow have been captured in an image for the first time, a historic feat by an international network of radio telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT).”

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