Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
Mar 23, 2019, 01:34 AM
Pages: 1 ... 128 129 [130]   Go Down
Print
Author Topic: NEWS ON SPACE AND OUR PLANETARY SYSTEM  (Read 513006 times)
0 Members and 3 Guests are viewing this topic.
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1935 on: Mar 07, 2019, 04:59 AM »

NASA puts InSight experiment on hold because one stubborn rock is blocking their instruments

A key instrument on NASA’s Mars InSight rover has run into a problem — ground control suspects a stone.

The rover’s heat probe has struck an obstacle just below the red planet’s surface over the weekend and hasn’t been able to make progress since.

The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package Problem

    “The team has therefore decided to pause the hammering for about two weeks to allow the situation to be analyzed more closely and jointly come up with strategies for overcoming the obstacle,” Tilman Spohn, the principal investigator for the heat probe, wrote Tuesday in the mission logbook.

The instrument, known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP³, was designed to hammer itself 16 feet (roughly 5 meters) into Mars’ underground and measure how much heat its interior leaks. This data would help researchers estimate the planet’s composition and history.

However, trouble is brewing underneath InSight — this probe (nicknamed the “mole”) encountered some kind of resistance underground over the weekend and hasn’t been able to make any progress since. Ground control (at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, California) first tried to power it up last week. This first attempt failed to reach all the way to the Mars Odyssey orbiter, however, which was supposed to pass it on to InSight.

The mole was deployed last Thursday, after the team established a stable connection to the rover. It pushed its way in the red soil and made quick progress. For about five minutes. The next four hours of hammering failed to push the mole much deeper and eventually forced the device to one side — the mole is now lodged in the underground, leaning at about 15 degrees of vertical.

Current estimates place the mole at a depth of around one foot (0.3 meters). This means that the probe — measuring some 16 inches (0.4 meters) in height — is partially sticking out of the ground. Despite this, the probe likely still is burrowed “deeper than any other scoop, drill or probe on Mars before,” which was its intended purpose.

Spohn writes that the team is a bit worried but that they “tend to be optimistic.” They’re currently working on the assumption that the holdup is a buried boulder or some gravel.

This particular spot was picked for InSight to land on as it appeared to be mostly sandy and soft. However, the team was aware that such a holdup was possible. Tests carried out at JPL suggested that the probe should be able to dig its way around small rocks or layers of pebbles. Since the second attempt to hammer away at the probe didn’t do that, the team decided to put the mole on hold. They’re currently waiting to receive more data from InSight, including pictures, so they can “better assess the situation.”

But not all is lost. The probe is still intact — that’s a really good thing — so it can actually start collecting data. The team has already put it to the task. HP³ will measure how quickly a generated pulse of heat spreads through the soil. Later this week, as (Mars’ moon) Phobos passes overhead and eclipse the sun over InSight the probe will also track how the event changes surface temperatures. While not its intended role, these readings should help the team make better sense of heat flow values in Mars’ soil if and when the probe is deployed as planned.


* Capture.JPG (30.7 KB, 680x380 - viewed 21 times.)

* 556px-PIA17358-MarsInSightLander-20140326-2.jpg (75.59 KB, 556x600 - viewed 21 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1936 on: Mar 08, 2019, 05:32 AM »

New Universe map unearths 300,000 more galaxies

Agence France-Presse
3/8/2019

The known Universe just got a lot bigger.

A new map of the night sky published Tuesday charts hundreds of thousands of previously unknown galaxies discovered using a telescope that can detect light sources optical instruments cannot see.

The international team behind the unprecedented space survey said their discovery literally shed new light on some of the Universe’s deepest secrets, including the physics of black holes and how clusters of galaxies evolve.

“This is a new window on the universe,” Cyril Tasse, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory who was involved in the project, told AFP.

“When we saw the first images we were like: ‘What is this?!’ It didn’t look anything at all like what we are used to seeing.”

More than 200 astronomers from 18 countries were involved in the study, which used radio astronomy to look at a segment of sky over the northern hemisphere, and found 300,000 previously unseen light sources thought to be distant galaxies.

Radio astronomy allows scientists to detect radiation produced when massive celestial objects interact.

The team used the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope in the Netherlands to pick up traces — or “jets” — of ancient radiation produced when galaxies merge. These jets, previously undetected, can extend over millions of light years.

“With radio observations we can detect radiation from the tenuous medium that exists between galaxies,” said Amanda Wilber, of the University of Hamburg.

“LOFAR allows us to detect many more of these sources and understand what is powering them.”

The discovery of the new light sources may also help scientists better understand the behaviour of one of space’s most enigmatic phenomena.

Black holes — which have a gravitational pull so strong that no matter can escape them — emit radiation when they engulf other high-mass objects such as stars and gas clouds.

Tasse said the new observation technique would allow astronomers to compare black holes over time to see how they form and develop.

“If you look at an active black hole, the jets (of radiation) disappear after millions of years, and you won’t see them at a higher frequency (of light),” he said.

“But at a lower frequency they continue to emit these jets for hundreds of millions of years, so we can see far older electrons.”

– ‘Universe’s oldest objects’ –

The Hubble telescope has produced images that lead scientists to believe there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the Universe, although many are too old and distant to be observed using traditional detection techniques.

The map created by the LOFAR observations, part of which was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, contains data equivalent to ten million DVDs yet charts just two percent of the sky.

The LOFAR telescope is made up of a Europe-wide network of radio antenna across seven countries, forming the equivalent of a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) diameter satellite dish.

The team plans to create high-resolution images of the entire northern sky, which they say will reveal as many as 15 million as-yet undetected radio sources.

“The oldest objects in the Universe are around 11-12 billion light years old,” said Tasse. “So we are going to see lots more of these objects.”
Don't let Silicon Valley control what you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.


* digital_universe_24.jpg (141.15 KB, 1600x1200 - viewed 15 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1937 on: Mar 09, 2019, 06:30 AM »

If we don’t hurry, the life we find on Mars might be from Earth

ZME
3/9/2019

“There is a ticking clock now,” Princeton astrobiologist Chris Chyba said at last week’s Breakthrough Discuss conference, conducted at Stanford University. The race isn’t to find life on Mars — it’s to find it in time before we contaminate the Red Planet with our Earthly microbial fauna.

We don’t know if there is life on Mars or not. The Red Planet seems like a good candidate, and we’ve found significant evidence that it might have held vast quantities of liquid water on its surface at once point in its geological past — a prerequisite for life as we know it. There’s also a good case to be made against this, with its lack of active tectonics and atmosphere. If Martian life exists, it’s bound to live beneath the surface where it’s shielded from the devastating radiation, and almost certainly microbial. Either way, it’s an exciting area of active research, but we might be on a clock.

With every mission we send to Mars, every lander, and especially with the planned manned missions to Mars, we risk contamination with microbial creatures from Earth. These alien microorganisms (technically, they’re Earth microorganisms, but to Mars, they’d be aliens) could overpower and destroy potentially existing native fauna.

For instance, Elon Musk’s highly anticipated mission to Mars aims to bring people to Mars within the decade, and Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has announced similar plans. For the Martian life, the effects would be unforeseeable — hence Chyba’s remarks. But people weren’t necessarily fond of his idea. Longtime space entrepreneur Jeff Greason, who serves as chairman of the board for the Tau Zero Foundation, poked fun at Chyba:

    “If all you want to do with the solar system is look at it, the rest of us would like to borrow it for a while. … There are things to do with these bodies other than science.”

Others have claimed that there’s no reason to believe Earth’s microbes would take over the Martian natives.

    “You could terraform Mars, and the microbes on Mars would survive,” said Robert Zubrin, founder and president of the nonprofit Mars Society.

But Chyba makes a very valid point. If we don’t really know what could happen, isn’t it better to take extra precautions? He advocates a precautionary approach, what he calls the Smokey the Bear argument: “Until we know more, let’s be careful.”

To me, this sounds like a sound idea. There are many unknowns when it comes to Mars and its habitability, but we can take measures to limit the potential damage, for instance by ensuring that no microorganisms escape through astronauts’ space suits. If we send people to Mars, microbes are bound to come along for the ride, and the effects can truly be unforeseeable. We shouldn’t just concede that we’re gonna contaminate Mars no matter what.


* Capture.JPG (24.3 KB, 504x218 - viewed 15 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1938 on: Mar 11, 2019, 04:34 AM »

Building blocks of life can spontaneously form in outer space

Space may be the final frontier, but it may have also been the first.

ZME
3/11/2019

Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center found new evidence in support of the view that asteroids carried the basic ingredients of life to Earth. In a new study, they report that such compounds can spontaneously form in the conditions of outer space with substances commonlt found the interstellar medium.

From whence we came. Maybe

We actually don’t know that much about how life started on Earth. In fact, we don’t even know if life started on Earth — at least, not its constituent parts. Two main theories compete in this regard. One holds that life emerged in hot springs or deep-sea thermal vents because such areas are rich in the right ingredients. The other states that those ingredients formed up there (way up there) and then crash-landed on the planet on the back of meteorites or comets.

The Ames Research Group team found evidence supporting the latter. They found that one of the fundamental building blocks of life — sugars — can and will spontaneously form in outer space. Sugars are important both from a nutritional value (they pack a lot of energy) as well as a biochemical one: 2-deoxyribose, for example, is a fundamental component of DNA (and also a sugar).

In a lab setting mirroring conditions in outer space, the team managed to spontaneously create 2-deoxyribose. The team cooled a sample of aluminum substrate in a freezer and cooled it down to nearly absolute zero. Afterward, they placed the sample in a vacuum chamber; all in all, this rig was a close simulation of conditions in deep space, they report.

Next, the researchers pumped small quantities of a water and methanol gas mixture similar to that found in the interstellar medium (to simulate its chemical makeup) and blasted the whole thing with UV light (to simulate radiation levels in outer space).

Initially, the test seemed to be a dud — only water ice formed on the sample. After a while, however, the strong UVs melted it down, and subsequent chemical analysis revealed that a small quantity of  2-deoxyribose had formed along with some other sugars. Fresh on the scent, the team then analyzed samples from several carbonaceous meteorites. They found traces of alcohols and deoxysugar acids on these space rocks which.

Although that’s not exactly 2-deoxyribose, the team notes their samples were drawn from a small number of meteorites. It’s quite possible, they add, that others would carry traces of these substances.

The findings add more weight to the to the theory that life got jump-started by space-stuff. However, that isn’t to say it’s definitive proof, or that the two scenarios didn’t take place at the same time, or in tandem. It is, however, a good indicator that the chemical building blocks of life are out there and, given the right environment, they can lead to life.

The paper “Deoxyribose and deoxysugar derivatives from photoprocessed astrophysical ice analogues and comparison to meteorites” has been published in the journal Nature Communications.


* Capture.JPG (17.23 KB, 656x386 - viewed 14 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1939 on: Mar 12, 2019, 04:15 AM »


Uranus was slammed by an object twice the size of Earth

Guardian
3/12/2019

It’s been a big year for Uranus. We’ve learned quite a bit about the planet thanks to new research efforts aimed at explaining why it behaves dramatically different when compared to the other planets in our system.

Back in July we learned that the planet’s bizarre rotation — it spins at a nearly 90-degree angle to our Solar System’s other worlds — was likely caused by some kind of incredible impact a long time ago. Now, a new study out of the UK is supporting the collision theory and provides a video of just how such a crash might have looked.

Anyone who took high school physics class knows that affecting an object the size of Uranus would take an incredible amount of energy. Using computer simulations, researcher Jacob Kegerreis of Durham University in North East England estimates that the object that struck the planet would have been at least twice the size of Earth.
   
The collision likely happened very early on in Uranus’s development, even before the planet’s moons had taken shape. This could explain why the lopsided planet’s moons also have a habit of spinning at an angle unlike the rest of planets in our system.

What’s particularly interesting about this new work is the timeline over which the collision has been plotted. Such a crash would have been cataclysmic for Uranus and, if Kegerreis and his computer models are correct, the dramatic crash took place over the course of mere hours.

Additionally, the simulations leave open the possibility that whatever object struck Uranus wasn’t completely destroyed in the process. It’s still possible, scientists believe, that the planet-sized impactor survived the ordeal, and some even believe the object may be the still-unseen “Planet Nine” that is thought to be lurking at the edges of our Solar System.

Watch: https://imgur.com/sxt7wli


* Capture.JPG (17.04 KB, 500x422 - viewed 14 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1940 on: Mar 13, 2019, 04:09 AM »


The first all-female spacewalk is about to take place on the International Space Station

Mike Wehner
BGR
3/13/2019

When it comes to gender equality, NASA’s long history definitely has a few blemishes. Some incredibly influential women who made NASA what it is today waited a long time to get the recognition they deserved from the start, but things are quite a bit different today. NASA celebrates the accomplishments of the many highly qualified women who fill its ranks, and a couple of them are about to perform a truly history spacewalk.

NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will be conducting the first all-female spacewalk later this month. McClain is currently aboard the ISS, while Koch is scheduled to arrive later this month.

As CNN reports, Kristen Facciol will be providing radio support for the walk, and she was the one that first revealed that the all-female spacewalk was in the works.

    I just found out that I’ll be on console providing support for the FIRST ALL FEMALE SPACEWALK with @AstroAnnimal and @Astro_Christina and I can not contain my excitement!!!! #WomenInSTEM #WomenInEngineering #WomenInSpace

    — Kristen Facciol (@kfacciol) March 1, 2019

“As currently scheduled, the March 29 spacewalk will be the first with only women,” NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz told CNN. “It is the second in a series of three planned spacewalks. Anne also will join Nick Hague for the March 22 spacewalk. And, of course, assignments and schedules could always change.”

Schierholz also noted that an all-female spacewalk wasn’t something the organization was specifically planning for, it just happened to work out this way.

During spacewalks, astronauts spend an extended period of time on the exterior of the International Space Station. While in space, the crew members perform any number of different tasks, from repairing or installing instruments to conducting scientific experiments. The upcoming spacewalk is expected to last around seven hours, but that can change depending on how things unfold once the astronauts are out in space.

The all-female makeup of the team conducting the spacewalk obviously won’t have any impact on the work being done, as all NASA astronauts are held to the exact same standards and are equally qualified to handle any scenario whether they’re men or women. It will, however, be a historic moment for women in science and especially in space.


* Capture.JPG (86.66 KB, 797x646 - viewed 12 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1941 on: Mar 14, 2019, 04:22 AM »


There’s a new theory about the strange asteroid Oumuamua, and aliens aren’t involved

BGR
3/14/2019

One of the strangest astronomy stories of the past few years is the sudden appearance of what scientists believe is the first interstellar object ever to be detected in our solar system. The cigar-shaped space rock known as Oumuamua puzzled scientists who attempted to explain what it was and where it may have originated, and there are still more questions than answers.

At first, researchers couldn’t decide whether or not it was an asteroid or a comet, and then debate raged over why Oumuamua appeared to actually speed up after it swung around the Sun and headed back into space. That last point is still the subject of ongoing research, and a new theory to explain its acceleration is set to appear in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Some fringe astronomers have proposed that the object was actually some kind of extraterrestrial ship, or perhaps just part of one, and that its odd behavior can be explained by the fact that it is equipped with some kind of propulsion technology. This new paper doesn’t venture into that highly theoretical territory, but instead seeks to explain Oumuamua’s strange acceleration by painting out own Sun as the culprit.

In the paper, graduate students from Yale and Caltech propose that Oumuamua sped up due to the effects of the sun’s rays on its exposed side. The object was observed tumbling through space, and the researchers think it’s possible that the light on its Sun-facing side may have been enough to cause a jet of water vapor to develop on its surface. As the object tumbled, the sides facing our star may have continued to spew water vapor whenever the sunlight struck it, continuing to push it to higher and higher speeds.

At this point it’s impossible to say whether this or any other theory about the bizarre asteroid holds water. It appeared out of nowhere and left just as quickly, giving scientists very little time to look for clues that could explain its behavior. Still, it’s an interesting theory that would explain Oumuamua’s change in speed, and seemed at least a bit more plausible than aliens.


* Capture.JPG (39.5 KB, 712x427 - viewed 8 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1942 on: Mar 15, 2019, 04:24 AM »

China is going to Mars with a new rover next year

Mike Wehner
BGR
3/15/2019

China got a very, very late start in its efforts to explore space. The U.S., Russia, and other countries forged new paths to the Moon and beyond before China even got started, but it’s making up for lost time in a big way. Following successful Moon missions, including landing on the far side of the rock for the first time ever, China is now looking to the Red Planet for its next big space mission.

As CNN reports, China’s space division is planning a rover mission to Mars that could launch as early as next year. Wu Weiren of China’s lunar exploration program talked about the plans at an event held in Beijing.

“Over the past 60 years, we’ve made a lot of achievements, but there is still a large distance from the world space powers. We must speed up our pace,” Wu said during a speech. “Next year, we will launch a Mars probe, which will orbit around the Mars, land on it and probe it.”

China has had its eye on Mars for some time, and is even working on simulating Martian settlements which could one day serve as a model for actual human colonies on the Red Planet.

Details of China’s 2020 Mars line up pretty well with previous missions carried out by other countries. The orbiter will be equipped with high-resolution cameras and various instruments like radar, while the rover will carry a number of cameras as well as a magnetic field detector and instruments to test samples of the surface.

China plans to launch its hardware into space sometime around July of next year, with the spacecraft arriving at Mars in early 2021 before eventually landing on the surface a few months later.


* Capture.JPG (69.37 KB, 692x446 - viewed 2 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1943 on: Mar 16, 2019, 05:03 AM »

One of the earliest exoplanet discoveries was just confirmed after a decade

BGR
3/16/2019

When it comes to searching for objects outside of our own solar system, sometimes things aren’t always as they first appear. NASA’s Kepler space telescope spent its almost-decade in space searching for distant worlds never before seen by mankind. It found plenty, but some discoveries were easier to verify than others, and the very first exoplanet ever detected by Kepler has only just been confirmed.

When scientists first notice evidence of an exoplanet in data from Kepler or any other telescope, that data has to be studied closely to see if it is indeed what it appears to be. Anomalies in the data can result in false positives, and confirmation can take a long, long time.

In a new blog post, NASA reveals the final confirmation of the planet now known as Kepler-1658b, and it turned out to be even more interesting than scientists had initially thought.

While it was in service, Kepler detected exoplanets by spotting the slight dimming in their host star that would occur whenever the planet (or planets) passed between the star and the Earth. That movement is called a transit, and it’s one of the easiest ways for scientists to detect an exoplanet without actually seeing the planet itself.

By estimating the size of the star and then calculating how much the star dimmed when the planet passed in front, researchers can estimate the size of the planet itself, and Kepler-1658b is now believed to be much, much larger than initially thought.

“Our new analysis, which uses stellar sound waves observed in the Kepler data to characterize the star, demonstrated that the star is in fact three times larger than previously thought,” Ashley Chontos of the University of Hawaii said in a statement. “This in turn means that the planet is three times larger, revealing that Kepler-1658b is actually a hot Jupiter.”

Hot Jupiter planets are massive balls of gas that are much closer to their star than our own Jupiter is to the Sun. as such, they’re thought to be incredibly hostile to life as we know it. You wouldn’t want to visit Kepler-1658b, but it’s nice to know it’s there.


* Capture.JPG (40.32 KB, 778x451 - viewed 3 times.)
« Last Edit: Mar 18, 2019, 04:25 AM by Darja » Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1944 on: Mar 18, 2019, 04:26 AM »

Steam Power Might Help in Space Exploration

BGR
3/18/2019

A vast array of gas fuels have been used in the launching and transportation of spacecraft with liquid hydrogen and oxygen among them. Other spacecraft rely heavily on solar power to sustain their functionality once they have entered outer space. But now steam-powered vessels are being developed, and they are working efficiently as well.

People have been experimenting with this sort of technology since 1698, some decades before the American Revolution. Steam power has allowed humanity to run various modes of transportation such as steam locomotives and steamboats which were perfected and propagated in the early 1800s. In the century prior to the car and the plane, steam power revolutionized the way people traveled.

Now, in the 21st century, it is revolutionizing the way in which man, via probing instruments, explores the cosmos. The private company Honeybee Robotics, responsible for robotics being employed in fields including medical and militaristic, has developed WINE (World Is Not Enough). The project has received funding from NASA under its Small Business Technology Transfer program.

The spacecraft is intended to be capable of drilling into an asteroid’s surface, collecting water, and using it to generate steam to propel it toward its next destination. Late in 2018, WINE’s abilities were put to the test in a vacuum tank filled with simulated asteroid soil. The prototype mined water from the soil and used it to generate steam to propel it. Its drilling capabilities have also been proven in an artificial environment. To heat the water, WINE would use solar panels or a small radioisotopic decay unit.

    “We could potentially use this technology to hop on the moon, Ceres, Europa, Titan, Pluto, the poles of Mercury, asteroids — anywhere there is water and sufficiently low gravity,” The University of Central Florida’s planetary researcher Phil Metzger stated.

Without having to carry a large amount of fuel and assumably having unlimited resources for acquiring its energy, WINE and its future successors might be able to continue their missions indefinitely. Similar technology might even be employed in transporting human space travelers.


* Capture.JPG (51.54 KB, 663x463 - viewed 3 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1945 on: Mar 19, 2019, 04:42 AM »

Space Is Very Big. Some of Its New Explorers Will Be Tiny

The success of NASA’s MarCO mission means that so-called cubesats likely will travel to distant reaches of our solar system.

By Shannon Stirone
NY Times
March 19, 2019

Last year, two satellites the size of cereal boxes sped toward Mars as though they were on an invisible track in space. Officially called MarCO A and MarCO B, they were nicknamed Wall-E and EVE, after the animated robots from the Pixar movie, by engineers at NASA.

They were just as endearing and vulnerable as their namesakes. The satellites, known as cubesats, were sent to watch over NASA’s larger InSight spacecraft as it attempted a perilous landing on the surface of Mars at the end of November.

Constellations of small satellites like the MarCOs now orbit Earth, used by scientists, private companies, high school students and even governments seeking low-budget eyes in the skies. But never before had a cubesat traveled 90 million miles into space.

On Nov. 26, as the InSight lander touched down, its status was swiftly relayed back to Earth by the two trailing cubesats. The operation was a success, and the performance of the MarCO satellites may change the way missions operate, enabling cubesats to become deep space travelers in their own right.

NASA engineers weren’t sure what to expect when the MarCO mission launched last May. “I think it’s opened up so many doors and kind of shattered expectations,” said Anne Marinan, a systems engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The fact that we actually got as far as we did with both satellites working was huge.”

About a month after dropping InSight onto Mars, NASA lost contact with the MarCOs. The agency may attempt to wake them up someday, but for now Wall-E and EVE are silently roaming the solar system, proof of a new space exploration technology that almost never got to the launchpad.

Uncanceling the cubesat program

The MarCO mission was canceled repeatedly. After all, the primary goal of NASA’s InSight mission was to land a stationary spacecraft on Mars and listen for marsquakes, giving scientists an improved picture of the red planet’s internal makeup.

And multiple spacecraft orbiting Mars already relay information from its surface back to Earth. The cubesats wouldn’t play a direct role in InSight’s success or failure, so it was a challenge to persuade NASA to support a nonessential program using unproven technology.

The MarCO team fought hard, prevailing at last with the argument that at a cost of only $18 million, the idea was worth taking a chance on. If these two tiny satellites worked well, it would not only mean that similar spacecraft could support big planetary missions in the future, but also that cubesats might carry instruments of their own.

Proving the technology’s reach could stretch NASA’s funding, the engineers said, while creating opportunities for wider exploration of the solar system.

As InSight safely touched down on Mars, the MarCOs were zipping past the planet, collecting readings from the landing and relaying them home more swiftly than the satellites currently orbiting Mars could.

“We had some astonishing statistics,” said John Baker, manager of the SmallSat program at J.P.L. “We ended up getting 97 percent of all the InSight data back. And that’s because we had two small spacecraft at exactly the right position over the planet to receive the signals.”

Having custom cubesats overhead meant that NASA did not need to use other Martian satellites or worry about their alignment at the time of landing. If future missions tow along their own MarCOs, teams back on Earth may always know how their spacecraft are doing.

The creativity of their design contributed to the cubesats’ success. Before they began constructing the MarCOs, the team made 3D models and used yarn to plan how best to run the guts and wiring inside. The MacGyver-like improvisation resulted in part from the program’s low budget.

The cubesats run on solar power, and their propellant is fire extinguisher fluid. Lining the front of both spacecraft are eight pen-width nozzles that spray cold gas. The cameras onboard are off-the-shelf, and the radio is similar to that in an iPhone.

But it wasn’t all easy. On their six-month journey to Mars, both cubesats occasionally lost contact with Earth. A couple of months after launch, MarCO B sprang a fuel leak and started spinning out of control. The team thought they’d lost it.

“Management is slowly encroaching upon the room,” said Andrew Klesh, MarCO’s chief engineer, describing the scene. “We started to look at all the data. We broke apart the problem, and within about 24 hours we had MarCO B back under control.”

Just a day before landing, MarCO B stopped communicating with Earth again. The cubesat came back online just in time. The InSight probe moved into the Martian landing phase that NASA officials know as “seven minutes of terror,” and both spacecraft spoke to Earth the entire time.

While inexpensive cubesats like the MarCOs may serve as real-time communication relays for future deep-space missions, NASA has more adventurous goals in mind, some of which were hinted at in last week’s budget proposals by the Trump administration.

“When we have big spacecraft, you don’t want to necessarily take it into a very risky situation,” said Mr. Baker. “But you can take an inexpensive probe and send it down to search or to get up close to something and examine it.”

Mr. Baker and others at J.P.L. are currently working on planetary cubesat missions. One proposal, nicknamed Cupid’s Arrow, envisions using the spacecraft to study the opaque atmosphere of Venus.

In other proposals, the next iteration of interplanetary cubesats would be scouts deployed by larger spacecraft studying worlds that could be hospitable to life. They could be sent into the plumes of Enceladus, Saturn’s icy moon, which ejects water vapor into space. Or cubesats could descend toward the surface of Europa, the ocean moon of Jupiter.

“These spacecraft will allow us to act as the Star Trek probes to go down to the surface of challenging worlds where we might not be able to take the risk of a much larger mission,” said Dr. Klesh.

When NASA’s next-generation rocket, the Space Launch System, heads for its first practice orbit around the moon (a launch which is facing delays), it will carry 13 cubesats, some as tests of technology and others as science experiments.

One cubesat, for example, will be tasked with mapping sources of water on the moon for future human exploration. Another, called NEA Scout, is being designed by Dr. Marinan to monitor nearby asteroids that could pose potential hazards to our planet.

Private companies are working on shrinking scientific instruments to be placed aboard the next generation of Earth-orbiting satellites. And as instruments become smaller, the options for singular scientific missions in deep space become greater, as does the potential for whole fleets of MarCO-like satellites.

But much work remains before more cubesats can travel beyond the moon. The challenges that come with operating full-size planetary missions apply to small satellites, too.

If you want to go to the Jovian system, you need heavy radiation shielding. If you want to go to Saturn, you need more efficient solar panels and ways to keep the tiny spacecraft warm.

“We think we can actually send a small spacecraft all the way to Jupiter,” said Dr. Baker. “The problem is, I have to come up with a way of automating the onboard spacecraft so that it can fly itself to Jupiter or you only have to talk to it once a month. Or we create a way for it to only radio home when it needs help.”

These are the kinds of engineering challenges the MarCO team worked to overcome with the journey to Mars.

“It’s really opened a door of possibilities now that we have shown that this has actually worked,” said Dr. Marinan. “It’s not an impossible concept anymore”

The engineers even managed to get around one of the tricker issues with how to collect data and talk to the cubesats. Typically, when a spacecraft calls home, it will spend several hours using NASA’s Deep Space Network, the very expensive phone system for calls beyond the moon.

But these long-distance conversations weren’t an option for the MarCOs. So the team at J.P.L. created new ways of monitoring the spacecraft that allowed them to collect in a one-hour period the data that would usually take eight hours.

“MarCO is a herald of new things to come,” said Dr. Klesh. “Not necessarily better things, but different, and a new way of space exploration that will complement all the larger missions that we do.”

As it passed Mars, MarCO B returned the first photo ever taken of Mars from a cubesat. It revealed the copper-colored entirety of the planet in the dark of space, and a small section of the spacecraft’s antenna.

The angle of the photo was intentional — not only to show where we’ve been, but a hint at where these tiny wanderers could go next.


* Capture.JPG (103.49 KB, 928x796 - viewed 2 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1946 on: Mar 20, 2019, 04:45 AM »


This is the last gorgeous Mars panorama that Opportunity captured before it died

Mike Wehne
BGR
3/20/2019

NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover is dead, having been swallowed up and spat out by a colossal dust storm on the planet last year. We’ve said our goodbyes to the trusty rover and dealt with the anguish of losing it, but NASA is back to remind us of the remarkable work that the trusty robot performed while on its mission.

In a new post, NASA reveals what it says is the final “parting shot” that Opportunity captured before the dust storm killed it. It’s a panorama of Mars’ Perseverance Valley, where Opportunity spent plenty of time and ultimately perished.

“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement describing the image.

“To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close. And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.”

NASA also provided an annotated version of the image pointing out the various features that Opportunity captured in the shot. It’s best viewed in full resolution since the image is very wide, so check it out here.

There was little NASA could do to save the Opportunity rover once the dust storm on Mars swallowed nearly the entire planet. The solar-powered rover was cut off from its only source of energy and ultimately its aging batteries couldn’t handle the extended down time. When the light finally returned to the surface after the dust had settled, Opportunity was still silent and would remain that way for months, despite repeated attempts to wake it back up.

The rover may be gone, but its legacy will live on thanks to the wealth of data and observations it made during decade-plus time exploring the Red Planet.


* Capture.JPG (91.92 KB, 823x448 - viewed 2 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1947 on: Mar 21, 2019, 04:17 AM »

Toyota partners with Japanese space agency on new moon rover design

ZME
3/21/2019

After having conquered the automobile on Earth, Toyota has decided to try their luck off the planet. Together with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), they will study the feasibility of a pressurized lunar rover. The project could launch in 2029.

    “Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface,” JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said. “Through our joint studies going forward, we would like to put to use Toyota’s excellent technological abilities related to mobility, and we look forward to the acceleration of our technological studies for the realization of a manned, pressurized rover.”

The vehicle will be powered by fuel cells with a maximum range of 6,213 miles and will typically be crewed by two astronauts, but can carry four in an emergency. It would also have deployable solar panels to provide an additional energy source. The current design wouldn’t exactly be street legal, measuring 20 feet (6 meters) long, 17 feet (5.2 meters) wide and 12.4 feet (3.8 meters) high. It will roam on six wheels and have about 140 square feet of living space.

By comparison, the original moon buggy (which was partially designed by car manufacturer General Motors) could seat two astronauts in space suits, had four wheels and were 10.1 feet long (3.1 meters), 7.5 feet wide (2.3 meters) with a maximum height of 3.7 feet (1.14 meters).

    “Fuel cells, which use clean power-generation methods, emit only water, and, because of their high energy density, they can provide a lot of energy, making them especially suited for the project being discussed with JAXA,” said Shigeki Terashi, executive vice president for Toyota.

    “As an engineer, there is no greater joy than being able to participate in such a lunar project by way of Toyota’s car-making and, furthermore, by way of our technologies related to electrified vehicles, such as fuel cell batteries, and our technologies related to automated driving. I am filled with great excitement.”

The plan is to primarily power the rover with fuel cells, with a rullup solar panel array supplying additional power. Credit: JAXA.

The plan is to primarily power the rover with fuel cells, with a rullup solar panel array supplying additional power. Credit: JAXA.

With gravity one-sixth of Earth’s pull, the new rover will have a lot of challenges in front of it, including a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. However, Toyota President Akio Toyoda says that the most important part of the rover would be its ability to keep the occupants safe. “I think that coming back alive is exactly what is needed in this project.”

There is no word yet on when a scaled-down version would be available to the public.


* Capture.JPG (38.17 KB, 604x361 - viewed 2 times.)
Logged
Darja
Admin
Most Active Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6165


« Reply #1948 on: Mar 22, 2019, 04:14 AM »

Neptune’s Moon Triton Is Destination of Proposed NASA Mission

Scientists at a conference in Houston presented the concept for a flyby mission to study a mysterious moon that may contain an ocean.

By David W. Brown
Guardian
March 22, 2019

HOUSTON — Is it time to go back to Neptune?

Scientists representing NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory proposed a spacecraft and mission on Tuesday at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas that would explore Triton, Neptune’s largest moon.

The unusual satellite is believed to be an object — similar in many ways to Pluto — from the solar system’s icy Kuiper belt that was captured billions of years ago by the giant planet’s gravity. And Triton is thought to harbor an ocean, hinting at the possibility that a world quite distant from the sun may contain the ingredients for life.

Unlike multibillion dollar proposals for spacecraft that the agency has usually sent to the outer solar system, this spacecraft, named Trident, aims to be far less expensive, the mission’s scientists and engineers said, or the price of a small mission to the moon.

“The time is now to do this mission,” said Louise Prockter, director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston and the principal investigator of the proposed mission. “The time is now to do it at a low cost. And we will investigate whether it is a habitable world, which is of huge importance.”

Visits to the outer solar system are usually conducted as NASA flagship missions that cost billions of dollars, like the recently concluded Cassini mission to Saturn or the Europa Clipper spacecraft set for launch in the 2020s.

While these projects have produced significant achievements, smaller, less pricey missions also might advance planetary science. On Mars, for instance, no single spacecraft did everything, but in aggregate and over time, the robots sent there revealed the planet’s watery past and set the stage for future astronauts.

That’s why the scientists behind Trident proposal, which will be formally presented to NASA later this month, are seeking support under the agency’s highly competitive Discovery program, for missions that are supposed to cost less than $500 million.

NASA aims to launch these missions every two years. The most recent Discovery program was the InSight lander, which reached Mars in November. The next is expected to be the Lucy mission, which will explore asteroids that share Jupiter’s orbit around the sun.

Trident will be up against proposals for more extensive surveys of the moon, a visit to Jupiter’s moon Io and a return to Venus. Trident proponents hope that the possibility of exploring the solar system’s most distant known planet without spending billions of dollars usually required for such a mission will persuade the agency to support it.

Neptune and its moons were last visited in 1989 during a brief flyby of the Voyager 2 spacecraft, which took Earth’s first and only close images of the solar system’s eighth planet.

Voyager 2 also recorded data showing possible plumes of water being blasted from Triton’s interior. Since that time, many planetary scientists have wanted to return to Triton. It was recently declared a top priority for exploration in NASA’s Roadmap for Ocean Worlds.

“Triton shows tantalizing hints at being active and having an ocean,” said Dr. Amanda Hendrix of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., who was a leader of the Roadmap study. “It is a three-for-one target, because you can visit the Neptune system, visit this interesting ocean world, and also visit a Kuiper belt object without having to go all the way out there.”

Studying such places, she said, could bring new insights into how ocean worlds originate, how they vary and how they maintain liquid water. For instance, water in Triton’s ocean could be much colder than the usual freezing point, but the presence of ammonia could preserve it in a liquid state. Such clues will help in the search for life beyond Earth.

Neptune is thirty times farther from the sun than Earth. Over the last couple of decades, the notion of where life could arise in the solar system has greatly expanded.

Scientists once thought the habitable zone ended at Mars, because places farther out would not be warmed enough by the sun. But then an ocean was discovered beneath Europa, one of Jupiter’s big moons, and then farther out, another beneath Saturn’s Enceladus, a moon of Saturn.

We’ll bring you stories that capture the wonders of the human body, nature and the cosmos.

If Trident confirms an ocean exists on Triton, it would mean that an even broader expanse of the solar system may be capable of sustaining life.

To get to Triton, the spacecraft would fly in a fast, straight trajectory after an orbital assist from Jupiter, similar to the flyby that was used by the New Horizons spacecraft to visit Pluto in 2015. It would rely on a payload of scientific instruments to conduct ocean detection and atmospheric and ionospheric science. The spacecraft would photograph the entirety of Triton, which is the largest object in the solar system that has not yet been fully imaged.

“We are comparing with the Voyager encounter in 1989, which was built on early 1970s technology, essentially a television camera attached to a fax machine,” said Karl Mitchell, the proposed mission’s project scientist, of the Voyager imager. “It was remarkable for its day, but it doesn’t have anything like the efficiency of a modern digital imaging system.”

Timing is also critical because of the moon’s changing seasons as Neptune makes its orbit around the sun.

“In order to view the plumes that Voyager saw in 1989, we have to encounter Triton before 2040,” said Dr. Mitchell. Otherwise, because of the positions of the objects in their orbits, Triton will not be illuminated again for over eighty years.


* Capture.JPG (23.24 KB, 719x481 - viewed 2 times.)

* Capture1.JPG (55.55 KB, 817x560 - viewed 2 times.)
Logged
Pages: 1 ... 128 129 [130]   Go Up
Print
Jump to:  

Video