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Naming a NASA Mars Rover Can Change Your Life – NASA Mars Exploration

Don't miss the out-of-this-world opportunity to name NASA's next Mars rover: U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade, attending public, private or home schools, have only through Nov. 1 to propose their name for the rover to be launched to Mars in 2020.

Just think about what it means to have something you named conducting history-making science on the Red Planet or, if you are one of nine finalists, getting to meet people who have spent their lives unraveling the mysteries of the specks of light in our night sky.

For Clara Ma, who won the naming contest for Curiosity, the NASA rover currently exploring the Red Planet, the experience rocked her world.

"I was really, really shy as a kid," Ma explained. "I didn't think my voice was important. But after winning the naming contest, there was a lot of attention on me unlike anything I'd ever known. My life would not be the same if I hadn't spoken up to articulate my thoughts."

Meet Clara

In 2008, Ma was a 12-year-old sixth grader in a Kansas City suburb and was just starting to develop an interest in science. She had recently entered her first science fair and watched a movie about a journey from Earth to the far reaches of the universe. As she looked up at the night sky above Lenexa, Kansas, her head practically exploded thinking about the mysteries of the cosmos.

When Ma read a magazine article about NASA's essay contest to name the next Mars rover, she knew precisely which name to propose: "Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives," Ma wrote in her short essay. "We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder."

She won the contest; the rover Curiosity launched in 2011 and is hard at work today looking into whether ancient Mars ever had the right environmental conditions to support life.

"The experience of naming the rover and everything that came with it changed my life," Ma said recently. One key part of the experience was getting to speak with so many NASA scientists and engineers of different backgrounds; several of them became longtime mentors.

"It was so inspiring to meet people who were asking questions about the world and the universe for a living," she said. "It made me realize that was something I could do with my life: I could be a scientist, too."

Where is she now?

Ma graduated earlier this year with a degree in geophysics from Yale University. Her coursework and research focused in particular on how Earth's atmosphere, oceans and climate interact with one another. She is completing a master's degree in science, technology and environmental policy at the University of Cambridge in the U.K.

"Thinking about sending a robot to another planet made me realize how special and fragile life is on Earth," she said. "Space is incredibly vast. There are trillions and trillions of planets out there. And yet we're still the only place that we know of where life exists. I realized that studying the Earth was the most important thing I could do."

Winning the naming contest also gave her the confidence to tackle broad questions and reach beyond the world she knew.

How does the Mars 2020 naming contest work?

If you're a K-12 student and want to propose a name for the rover that launches in 2020, visit:

go.nasa.gov/name2020

Semifinalists will be chosen on Jan. 9, 2020, with finalists chosen on Jan. 20. The nine finalists will be interviewed by an expert panel including Ma. The grand prize winner will be announced on Feb. 18, 2020 exactly one year before the rover will land on Mars.

About the rovers

Every rover on Mars has been named by a student starting with the suitcase-size Sojourner rover that landed in 1997. The soon-to-be-renamed Mars 2020 rover will launch in July or August 2020. Equipped with a new suite of scientific instruments, the rover aims to build upon Curiosity's discoveries about how Mars was habitable in the past. Mars 2020 will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet's climate and geology and collect samples for future return to Earth.

Mars 2020 is also part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plans.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages Mars 2020 rover development and the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which includes Curiosity, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for Mars 2020 launch management.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit:

mars.nasa.gov/mars2020nasa.gov/mars2020

For more about NASA's Curiosity Mars rover mission, visit:

mars.nasa.gov/msl/nasa.gov/msl

For more about NASA's Moon to Mars plans, visit:

nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

News Media Contact

Jia-Rui CookJet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.818-354-0724jccook@jpl.nasa.gov

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Naming a NASA Mars Rover Can Change Your Life - NASA Mars Exploration

Japan Sets Sights on Moon with NASA and India – Space.com

WASHINGTON Japan has its eyes on the moon, with two new partnerships designed to advance the country's lunar goals.

The nation signed on as a partner to NASA's Artemis program, although the details of that partnership have not yet been specified. A representative of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) also spoke yesterday (Oct. 22) at the International Astronautical Congress held here about a potential partnership with India's space agency on another lunar mission.

"It's not easy to succeed in our mission," Ryo Hirasawa of JAXA said during a presentation. "We decided to go together with ISRO," he added, referring to the agency's Indian counterpart. The two space agencies are embarking on a Phase A study of such a mission's feasibility.

Related: Tiny Satellites Launch From Space Station (Photos)

But right now, the pair would aim for a launch around 2023. Japan would provide the rocket and rover, Hirasawa said, while India would provide the lander. The mission would last for about six months and target a constantly sunlit region near the moon's south pole. There, the mission would investigate water, preparing for later missions in which JAXA would like to use ice as rocket fuel.

In particular, the rover would be equipped with a drill that could reach about 5 feet (1.5 meters) into the lunar rock. After drilling, the rover would heat up that material, and by measuring changes in the sample's mass, identify volatiles found in the rock.

Hirasawa also touched on a cubesat lander dubbed OMOTENASHI, which JAXA hopes to launch with NASA's first Artemis mission, according to a full paper submitted to the congress. The cubesat, which would fly in 2020, would be Japan's first lunar lander.

The OMOTENASHI project likely makes up part of the cooperation with NASA that the Japanese prime minister's office announced on Twitter on Oct. 18. "The program aims at maintaining a space station orbiting the moon, manned [sic] exploration of the lunar surface and other undertakings, and Mars and other destinations are also in our sights," the minister's office wrote.

The "space station orbiting the moon" is a reference to NASA's planned Gateway, a maneuverable spacecraft in long-term orbit around the moon that would serve as a way station for science experiments and human explorers. (The artist's depiction accompanying the prime minister's office's tweet also references Gateway.)

NASA has been openly recruiting international partners for the Gateway in particular. Canada signed on to provide a robotically operated arm, Canadarm3, that will be the successor of the International Space Station's robotic arm.

In the paper supporting Hirasawa's presentation, he and his co-authors included a graphic for JAXA's vision of international cooperation at the moon. In that diagram, in which only a handful of components include country labels, JAXA is listed as a provider of human landing services that would ferry astronauts from the Gateway to the surface of the moon.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Japan Sets Sights on Moon with NASA and India - Space.com

NASA Wants to Send a Probe to the Hellish Surface of Venus – WIRED

With all the talk about sending humans to the moon and eventually Mars, it can be easy to forget there are other planets worth exploring. But a team of researchers at NASA has set its sights on Venus, Earths closest neighbor and one of the least understood planets in the solar system.

Since the first (crash) landing on Venus in 1966, by a Soviet probe, spacecraft have only survived a total of a few hours on the planets surface. But NASAs new probe is being designed last up to 60 days on the punishing Venusian surface. Known as the Long-Lived In-situ Solar System Explorer, or LLISSE, each of the probes components is specially engineered to withstand the high temperature, high pressure, and reactive atmosphere that define that infernal planet.

Venus has rightfully earned a reputation as Earths evil twin. Their mass and size are roughly the same, and scientists believe that Venus was once a water-rich paradise that may have hosted elementary life. Today, however, conditions on its surface are downright hellish. Temperatures are high enough to turn a block of lead into a puddle, and the atmospheric pressure is similar to what youd find diving thousands of feet deep into the ocean. If thats not enough, winds whip around the planet at tornado-like speeds, and during the day thick clouds of sulphuric acid blot out the sun. Once night falls, it lasts for over 100 Earth-days.

The going theory is that Venus once had a vast, shallow ocean of liquid water that the sun eventually boiled off. As the ocean evaporated and hydrogen escaped into space, the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere fueled a runaway greenhouse effect and turned the planet into the hellscape we see today. But the planets thick atmosphere limits the amount of information that spacecraft can collect as they orbit or fly by. To learn what happened on Earths neighbor, scientists need to get to the surface.

At the center of NASAs renewed Venus ambitions is Tibor Kremic, chief of the space science project office at Glenn Research Center in Ohio. Unlike the car-sized rovers NASA drops on Mars, LLISSE is small because it will have to hitch a ride with other spacecraft headed to the neighborhood. Its a cube less than 10 inches to a side, and it's packed with instruments to test everything from the Venusian atmosphere to its geology.

Shoring up LLISSE for the extremes of Venus has been an all-consuming task. Because the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere contains trace amounts of sulfur, crystals quickly form on normal electronic components. So Kremic and the LLISSE team designed and built hardened chips out of silicon carbide, a synthetic material found in sandpaper and fake diamonds. Every sensor on the probe also has to be similarly hardened. But LLISSEs size constraints mean it wont carry some instruments you might find on other spacecraftlike cameras. If there's a way for us to put a camera on LLISSE, you bet we'll try, but its a little small for that, says Kremic.

One of the biggest challenges, says Kremic, was figuring out how to power the probe for a full 60 days. Many deep space missions rely on small nuclear reactors to generate power, but LLISSE will use a heat-activated thermal battery similar to the kind found in missiles. Limiting power flow from the battery so it doesnt drain too quickly is an ongoing engineering challenge.

As they build the probes components, Kremic and his team methodically test each one for up to two months inside a chamber that perfectly replicates the conditions on Venus. Kremic and his team want the probe to last that long so it can witness the transition between night and day. If they land late in a Venusian day, which lasts almost four Earth months, they think they can eke out enough battery life to make that happen. We don't have any data on how the conditions change from day to night on Venus, says Kremic. We're trying to capture as much of that as possible.

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NASA Wants to Send a Probe to the Hellish Surface of Venus - WIRED

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin to Partner With 3 Companies on NASA Moon Lander – The New York Times

WASHINGTON The race is on to build the next spacecraft that will land American astronauts on the moon and the richest man in the world wants to come in first.

On Tuesday, three major aerospace companies led by Blue Origin, the rocket company started by Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, announced they would collaborate on a design that they will submit to NASA.

The Trump administration has accelerated the American effort to return to the moon by four years, aiming at 2024 instead of 2028. Private companies are central to this faster timeline, which has driven NASA to turn to nimble start-ups, like Mr. Bezoss Blue Origin. His company, working with other powerhouse corporations, would not only build spacecraft for the agency, but replace NASA in designing them, too, and all at a fixed price.

The hope is that these companies will get the job done faster for less money.

By partnering with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper Laboratory, Blue Origin, founded by a billionaire with grand space dreams, will gain skills and experience it lacks. Such a partnership puts Mr. Bezos company on a footing to take a leading role in American efforts to return astronauts to the moon.

This is the only way to get back to the moon fast, Mr. Bezos said on Tuesday as he accepted an award from the International Aeronautical Federation.

As far back as the Apollo missions 50 years ago, aerospace giants and their lobbyists shaped NASAs human spaceflight programs. But Blue Origins bid shows how the desires of a handful of very wealthy individuals, joining forces with those corporations, are exerting influence on sending Americans to deep space.

Another billionaire-led space company working with NASA, SpaceX, has set its sights on Mars, with its founder, Elon Musk, recently unveiling a giant spacecraft called Starship to go there. But it has also pitched the spacecraft as aiding NASAs moon plans, with Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceXs president and chief operating officer, saying on Tuesday the company hopes to land there by 2022.

The inflow of dollars not just from billionaires, but also venture capitalists and institutional investors has altered the space industry, said Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a space advocacy group. Some of the companies now have the resources to develop and build entire systems, like a lunar lander.

Once you start doing that, then NASA can start leveraging that, Dr. Dittmar said.

While NASA has been working on a big rocket known as the Space Launch System and a capsule called Orion for human missions to deep space, it had not yet started on a lunar lander.

In the past, NASA has led the design process and used what are known as cost-plus contracts. The companies were reimbursed for what they paid to build the spacecraft plus an additional fee for their services. But increasingly, NASA is using a markedly different approach with fixed-price contracts.

In contrast to Apollo, where the giant Saturn 5 rocket carried all of the pieces needed for a moon landing, NASA this time will employ a more complex choreography for the new missions, named Artemis. (In Greek mythology, Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo.)

First, NASA will construct an outpost called Gateway that will orbit the moon. Then the pieces of the landing system will be sent to the Gateway.

The landing system will consist of three pieces a module that moves the astronauts and the other pieces of the lander from the Gateway to an orbit much closer to the moon; a descent module that guides the lander to the lunar surface; and an ascent module that lifts the astronauts back into space after their stay on the moon.

While the first Artemis moon landing will carry only two astronauts, the same as the Apollo missions, they should have more spacious accommodations. With the ascent stage stacked on top of the lander, the spacecraft will be somewhat heavier, somewhat wider and considerably taller than the Apollo landers.

That will allow a longer stay of about a week on the moons surface. During Apollo 11, the first moon landing in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on the moon for less than a day. During Apollo 17, the last time humans landed, Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan stayed for just over three days.

When all of the pieces are in the place, the astronauts are to launch in an Orion capsule atop a Space Launch System rocket to the Gateway where they will board the lander for the moon. They are expected to land near the moons South Pole.

NASA is working on compressed timelines, with submissions for the lander contract due Nov. 1. And some companies realized that they might not have all the pieces to put together a strong proposal.

Blue Origin does not yet have experience with sending people to space. It has so far has only tested a small reusable rocket and capsule to carry tourists to the edge of space. The company has been working for several years on the Blue Moon lander, but it was originally designed for taking heavy cargo, not people, to the moon.

A national priority requires a national team, so we brought what we feel is best in class to the job, said Brent Sherwood, the vice president of advanced development programs for Blue Origin.

At the same time, Lockheed Martin, which is building the Orion capsule, had concentrated on a lunar ascent module. We strongly believe that the best way to safely and quickly accomplish this lunar landing is to leverage existing human-rated technology from Orion, said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager for commercial civil space at Lockheed Martin.

Northrop Grumman the Grumman part of the company built the Apollo lunar lander 50 years ago thought that its Cygnus spacecraft, which carries cargo to the International Space Station, could be adapted to serve as the orbital transfer module.

There will most likely be other proposals, notably from Boeing, the biggest space company not part of the Blue Origin partnership. A Boeing spokesman said in an email statement, We are working on lander systems development under NASA contracts from summer and expect to put in a bid for the lander program.

More than one team will probably advance to the next round of the competition. NASA officials have said that they would like to quickly select three proposals to move forward next year, and that two different landers would be built. One would be for the 2024 landing; the other would go to the moon the following year.

Mr. Sherwood of Blue Origin said the partners had a plan that can meet the 2024 deadline. But because the competition is still open, he declined to give details.

The developments could also be hindered if Congress does not provide the additional $1.6 billion that NASA says is needed to begin work on the landers. Congress has yet to finish work on the budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1 and did not provide financing for a moon mission in the temporary funding that runs through Nov. 21.

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Jeff Bezos Blue Origin to Partner With 3 Companies on NASA Moon Lander - The New York Times

Caterpillar’s autonomous vehicles may be used by NASA to mine the moon and build a lunar base – CNBC

A NASA rendering of building a permanent base on the moon, using autonomous vehicles like those developed by Caterpillar.

NASA

Caterpillar has been synonymous with big, heavy equipment for farming, construction and mining since Holt Manufacturing and C. L. Best Tractor merged in 1925 to form the Peoria, Illinois-based company. Over the years, tons of innovation have been built into the iconic yellow products, too, from the Model 20 Track-Type Tractor introduced in 1927 to the ginormous engines that helped power the Apollo 11 mission to the moon 50 years ago.

Coincidentally, one of Cat's latest breakthroughs is self-driving, or autonomous, and remote-controlled mining equipment, which could very well find itself on the moon when NASA is scheduled to return to the lunar surface in 2024, with plans to build a permanent base near the orb's south pole, part of the Artemis program.

Just as on terrestrial sites, Caterpillar fully or semi-autonomous bulldozers, graders, loaders and dump trucks could be utilized to build roads, housing and other infrastructure. Operator-less drilling and digging machines might mine water, oxygen-rich rocks and moon dust for use in 3-D printing of various materials.

CNBC Evolve will return, this time to Los Angeles, on Nov. 19. Visit cnbcevents.com/evolve to register.

"We've had a longstanding relationship with NASA," said Denise Johnson, group president of Caterpillar's resource industries unit, which produces and markets mining and large construction products and accounted for $10 billion of Cat's total $54.7 billion in sales and revenues in 2018.

Developing autonomous equipment is part of Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby's goal to continuously improve upon Caterpillar's legacy of innovation, as well as to generate new revenues in the face of competition and, more recently, the impact of tariffs in the ongoing U.S.China trade war. Currently the company derives 5%10% of its sales from China. On Wednesday, Caterpillar reported its third-quarter revenues and earnings, which missed estimates.

Most recently, NASA and Cat collaborated on a research project from 2004 to 2013. "The partnership focused on two technology areas: construction and robotic operations," said the space agency's spokesperson Clare Skelly in an email. "There are many synergies between what NASA needs to meet exploration goals and Caterpillar technologies used every day on Earth."

Caterpillar's initial R&D efforts to produce a fleet of autonomous equipment for the Earth-based mining industry date back to 1985. "By the early 1990s, we had two autonomous [hauling] trucks running at a quarry in Texas," said Michael Murphy, chief engineer in the company's surface mining and technology organization. His team has worked on GPS, radar, LIDAR, onboard diagnostics, artificial intelligence and other software and hardware technologies necessary for operating autonomous and remote-controlled vehicles, offered today under Cat's Command and MineStar brands.

While Murphy's team toiled away during the 1990s and early 2000s sometimes in partnership with outside tech companies, university engineers, DARPA and even Cat's mining customers "the industry wasn't ready for autonomy at that time," he said. "They didn't see the value proposition."

There are many synergies between what NASA needs to meet exploration goals and Caterpillar technologies used every day on Earth.

Clare Skelly

NASA spokesperson

Even so, that didn't deter Caterpillar's top brass from sticking to their long-term autonomy strategy, which along with the vehicles included developing technology to operate them within an entire mining operation, with the goal of increasing productivity, efficiency, cost controls and worker safety.

"It's great if you can provide a piece of equipment, but how it works in a system because a mine is a system of equipment that works together, almost like a factory becomes really important," Johnson explained. "Autonomy knits it all together to make those operations more efficient. It's a great example of a shift in our business model."

Caterpillar's strategy is starting to pay off and may give the company a jump on competitors such as Komatsu, Hitachi, Sandvik and Volvo, equipment makers also selling autonomous equipment. "We have more autonomous sites than any other provider," Johnson said.

Autonomy is becoming a key component in the current evolution within the $683 billion global industry, comprising the top 40 mining companies. A report from Zion Market Research estimates that the global mining automation market will nearly double, to $6.18 billion in 2025 from $3.65 billion last year.

"Three or four years ago not many mining companies were thinking about digital and innovation," said Andrew Swart, global leader of Deloitte's mining and metals practice. "Today there's a rapid adoption of technology replacing people with autonomous vehicles, automating mining processes and more digitization in back-office operations. It's an industry in pretty rapid transformation, with some companies challenging existing business models."

Dozens of Caterpillar's autonomous hauling trucks like this one are being used by Rio Tinto at its Pilbara iron ore mine in Australia.

Rio Tinto

Caterpillar is leading the autonomy revolution with both its vehicles and operational software. "We now have seven customers and we're on 11 different sites," Johnson said, "mining oil sands, iron ore, copper and gold and soon coal." Cat has deployed 220 of its own trucks, both brand-new autonomous vehicles costing from $3.5 million to $5 million each and existing ones that have been retrofitted.

"We're also converting competitors' trucks," Johnson said. "Our solution needs to be interoperable. It's a competitive decision we don't take lightly, because we recognize there are other [autonomy] providers."

Caterpillar autonomy customers are reporting at least a 30% improvement in productivity when compared to manned operations, Murphy said. One customer, he added, has announced an 80% improvement in safety incidents since introducing autonomous hauling.

Most of the autonomy activity is occurring at mine sites outside the U.S., although Newmont Goldcorp, headquartered near Denver, has tested two semiautonomous Caterpillar underground loaders at its Leeville gold mines in northern Nevada. The pilot program has since increased to six fully autonomous loaders, according to Northern Nevada Business View.

London-based mining giant Rio Tinto began operating autonomous equipment at an iron-ore mine in western Australia's Pilbara region a decade ago. "We have grown our autonomous fleet to more than 130 trucks, both from Caterpillar and Komatsu, and 26 drills," said Stephen McIntosh, group executive, growth and innovation, at Rio Tinto.

To transport tons of material from the site to port facilities in the region, Rio Tinto has developed AutoHaul, a fully autonomous heavy-haul train. "Each autonomous train comprises two or three locomotives and some 240 ore cars, making them each 2.4 km [1.49 miles] long," McIntosh said. "In essence, these are the world's largest and longest robots."

The world's longest robot: Autohaul, Rio Tinto's autonomous heavy-haul train

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has incorporated nearly complete autonomy into its new Koodaideri iron ore mine in Pilbara, including autonomous trucks, drills and trains, McIntosh said. While there are limited personnel at both the Pilbara sites, the mining operations, as well as AutoHaul, are monitored from Rio Tinto's control center hundreds of miles away in Perth.

The Pilbara mines are located in an isolated, hazardous area, presenting a workforce challenge, which dovetails perfectly with Caterpillar's autonomy strategy. "Customers are finding it difficult to operate in those remote locations, getting personnel in and out in a consistent way, which drives the value proposition" of autonomy, Johnson said. "The application of the technology becomes a necessity to make it work from a value-add perspective."

That same strategy could apply to NASA's Artemis program on the moon, not to mention Mars and asteroids, which are being studied as potential sites for so-called space mining. Yet the notion of extracting platinum, gold and other valuable minerals from heavenly bodies and propelling them back to Earth is more fiction than science. "The economic analysis doesn't make sense," said Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, when you consider the costs to identify, extract, process, refine and transport them. Combined, they're virtually out of this world.

A rendering of an autonomous driller being used to mine water under the lunar surface.

NASA

More realistic, Abbud-Madrid said, is the idea of using a variety of resources to sustain extraterrestrial bases for long periods of time. NASA has been exploring the concept, known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), for its outer-space missions which brings us back to Caterpillar. "ISRU would require infrastructure and a suite of supporting capabilities that can operate with a certain degree of autonomy," said Skelly, though declining to name Cat as a potential partner.

The difficult logistics and the multi-billions it would cost to rocket mining and construction equipment into space still need to be worked out, but in the meantime, Caterpillar continues to prepare for otherworldly opportunities. One example is the company's primary sponsorship of NASA's annual Robotic Mining Competition, a university-level event held at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. More than 45 collegiate teams design and build remote-controlled mining robots to traverse a simulated Martian terrain.

Whether or not Cat's autonomous equipment will someday be operating on Mars and the moon remains to be seen. "I don't know if we've thought that far ahead," Johnson said. More immediate is continuing to develop its autonomy strategy in an increasing competitive marketplace. "We always want to challenge ourselves to think outside the box," she concluded.

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Caterpillar's autonomous vehicles may be used by NASA to mine the moon and build a lunar base - CNBC

NASA Needs to Get With the Times When It Comes to Planetary Protection, Report Finds – Space.com

NASA's current planetary-protection policies reflect a bygone era of space exploration and need to be updated, a new report argues.

Planetary protection refers to the effort to keep the solar system as pristine as possible. The main goals are to minimize the odds that our spacecraft infect other worlds, such as Mars, with Earth microbes (a process known as forward contamination) and to reduce the risk of alien bugs getting loose on our planet after sample-return missions (back contamination).

NASA's planetary-protection guidelines follow those established by an international scientific organization called the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), which began such work way back in 1958. The U.S. space agency's policies have changed some over the decades, but NASA recognized that additional revisions are likely needed now to deal with the fast-changing exploration landscape.

Related: 6 Most Likely Places for Alien Life in the Solar System

Those changes are occurring on multiple fronts. For example, NASA has taken real steps toward sample-return missions. The agency's next Mars rover, which launches next summer, will collect samples for eventual transport to Earth (though when this latter step will occur is unclear at the moment).

In addition, tiny cubesats are now capable of flying interplanetary missions, as NASA's MarCO Mars probes showed last year, potentially allowing a wide range of organizations to launch probes to various cosmic destinations.

Astronauts will set foot on multiple worlds in the not-too-distant future as well, if all goes according to plan. NASA aims to land people on the moon by 2024 and on Mars in the 2030s. And SpaceX is building a giant spaceship called Starship that may get people to the Red Planet even sooner than NASA does.

So, in April, NASA established a Planetary Protection Independent Review Board (PPIRB) to take a look at the agency's policies in this realm. The PPIRB was instructed to start this work in late June and have it all done three months later. The board met this ambitious timeline. PPIRB submitted a report of its findings to NASA last week, and the agency published the report today (Oct. 18).

The PPIRB, which was chaired by planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, came up with nearly 80 findings and recommendations. One of the first findings the team made was a recognition that the exploration landscape will continue to change rapidly in the near future, as scientific knowledge about cosmic bodies improves and more players get into the spaceflight game.

Therefore, "we've recommended that NASA conduct a process like this IRB at least twice per decade going forward, to take into account new findings, new entrants and new technologies, both on the scientific side and on the spaceflight side," Stern, the principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission, said during a teleconference with reporters today.

The PPIRB team also recommended that NASA reconsider how it categorizes missions from a planetary-protection perspective. At the moment, that system appears to be overly broad and antiquated, Stern said.

For example, all missions to the surface of Mars are "Category IV" projects, which are subject to stringent spacecraft-cleaning requirements. But data gathered by multiple Red Planet craft over the years suggest that significant portions of Mars are hostile enough to Earth life that we shouldn't worry too much about contaminating those areas. Such regions could be downgraded to "Category II" destinations, reducing the cleaning burden, and thus the prices, of missions targeting the spots, Stern said.

Related: Could There Be Life on Mars Today?

A similar reassessment should be done of the moon, which is now entirely a "Category II" world. Some parts the ones away from the water-ice-rich poles, for example could be reclassified as "Category I," Stern and the 11 other PPIRB board members wrote.

"The IRB wants to see more exploration to do more science. We want to open up the ways that Mars, the moon and all of these other spectacularly interesting objects across the solar system can be explored," Stern said.

"And so we want to move from this sort of '60s-'70s point of view that all of Mars should be treated precisely one way, and all of each world should be treated one way, to this more nuanced view, where we differentiate between different sites on the surface in order to enable more science to be done," he added.

The review board didn't tell NASA how to reclassify such worlds,which parts of Mars should be "Category IV" and which should be "Category II," for example. Stern and his colleagues just recommended that the space agency should undertake this work, and soon.

The board also recommended that NASA accelerate the development of the facility here on Earth that will receive and house the samples collected by the 2020 Mars rover, to make sure our planet is ready for this epic and unprecedented delivery.

And Stern and his colleagues advised the space agency to start educating the public about the planetary-protection aspects of the first crewed Mars missions soon now, if possible so people are ready for those as well.

"We recognize as an independent review board that there [is] a wide spectrum of opinions in the public, and a wide spectrum of knowledge and viewpoints about issues related to planetary protection," Stern said. "NASA needs to get ahead of that ball and start communicating proactively about both forward- and back-contamination issues."

The space agency can take some guidance in this matter, he added, from its proactive communication efforts surrounding the use of nuclear power aboard spacecraft, another issue about which many nonexperts have expressed strong opinions.

There are many more findings and recommendations,far too many to discuss in this story. You can read the entire 48-page PPIRB report here.

Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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NASA Needs to Get With the Times When It Comes to Planetary Protection, Report Finds - Space.com

India’s Crashed Moon Lander Is Still Missing, And NASA Can’t Find It Anywhere – ScienceAlert

Where oh where has India's moon lander gone? Over a month after Chandrayaan-2's Vikram lander had an unlucky crash landing, somewhere near the unexplored lunar south pole, NASA still can't seem to find any trace of it.

After poring over a new set of images from the space agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), its experts have come up empty-handed for the second time. Comparing images from before and after the crash, they say this region of the Moon appears altogether empty.

A previous fly-by in September gave us no luck either, although at that time the images had been taken at dusk, so there were larger shadows on the terrain.

These might very well have obscured the lander, and yet even in October, when the lighting was supposed to be more favourable, there was nothing to be seen.

"It is possible that Vikram is located in a shadow or outside of the search area," John Keller, the deputy project scientist for the LRO mission, told the Press Trust of India.

"Because of the low latitude, approximately 70 degrees south, the area is never completely free of shadows."

Or maybe we simply aren't looking in the right spot. During it's 'hard' landing, India's space agency lost contact with the lander, and a cold night in this part of the Solar System is a death sentence for human machinery.

A day after the crash, the Indian Space Research Organisation reported it had found the lander in a thermal image of the Moon, so maybe it is hiding in the shroud of a shadow after all.

Earlier this year, another lunar lander called Beresheet from SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries met the same unfortunate fate, but it was eventually found on the surface using the same techniques that experts are using now.

For now, we'll just have to keep looking.

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India's Crashed Moon Lander Is Still Missing, And NASA Can't Find It Anywhere - ScienceAlert

NASA chief says the first human on Mars may be a woman – NBC News

When NASA sends humans to the moon for the first time in more than half a century, one lucky astronaut will go down in history for becoming the first woman on the moon. Then it won't be long before we see the first woman on Mars, and she just might beat the first man there, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

"We could very well see the first person on Mars be a woman," Bridenstine told reporters on Friday (Oct. 18) during a news conference about the first all-woman spacewalk. "I think that could very well be a milestone," he added.

NASA currently has no concrete plans for landing humans on Mars the moon is the agency's first priority but Bridenstine has said that the first crewed Mars landing could happen sometime in the 2030s. Meanwhile, the private spaceflight company SpaceX is working on its Starship Mars-colonizing rocket, which could help NASA send those astronaut pioneers to the Red Planet.

"If my 11-year-old daughter has her way, we'll have a woman on Mars in the not-too-distant future," Bridenstine said, adding that whoever ends up going to Mars is probably too young to have already been selected to join NASA's astronaut corps at this time. However, the soon-to-be first woman on the moon will likely be selected from NASA's current pool of active astronauts.

NASA has not yet announced who will be the first woman on the moon, but whoever she may be, she's scheduled to land in 2024. That moon landing mission is part of NASA's Artemis program, which is the agency's precursor to establishing a permanent human presence on and around the moon something that may help pave the way to Mars.

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NASA chief says the first human on Mars may be a woman - NBC News

Why it took so long for NASA to do the first all-female spacewalk – The Verge

On Friday, NASA celebrated a monumental first in its 61 years of history: a spacewalk performed by two women astronauts without any men suited up alongside them. While it was a much-lauded step for the agency, the milestone also left many wondering why it took so long.

The answer is different depending on who you ask. During the event, one NASA official insinuated that a womans physique makes it difficult to perform spacewalks, which is why more men have traditionally done spacewalks. There are some physical reasons that make it harder sometimes for women to do spacewalks, Ken Bowersox, the acting associate administrator for human exploration at NASA and a former astronaut, said during a press conference on Friday. Its a little bit like playing in the NBA. You know, Im too short to play in the NBA, and sometimes physical characteristics make a difference in certain activities. And spacewalks are one of those areas where just how your body is built in shape, it makes a difference in how well you can work a suit.

Others disagree, arguing that height and size dont matter when youre in space. In a microgravity environment, the right skills involve meticulous movements and the ability to twist oneself in the proper direction, regardless of physique. The one time a persons size really does come into play is if they do not have the right suit to accommodate their body.

Spacesuit design has long been biased toward mens physiques, both due to technological constraints and the fact that NASA preferred male astronauts throughout most of its lifetime. These repairs and tasks can be performed by anyone in the astronaut corps, thats for sure, Dava Newman, the former NASA deputy administrator who is working on a new spacesuit design at MIT, tells The Verge. That is if theyre in the right suit.

The spacesuits that astronauts work in today are masterful feats of engineering. In essence, these ensembles are spaceships made in the shape of a human body, providing a tiny bubble of Earths atmosphere around a person while in space. A spacesuit has to basically have all the functionality of a spacecraft with as little excess volume as possible, so the crew member can operate within the suit, Daniel Burbank, a former astronaut and senior technical fellow at Collins Aerospace, which helped to design the suits on the International Space Station, tells The Verge.

Operating one of these suits is tough. A suit needs to be flexible, so that the person wearing the outfit can move their limbs and do the tasks at hand. But at the same time, a suit must be relatively strong to contain the pressurized gas inside it and protect the wearer from the vacuum of space. Most suits are pressurized to around 4 psi with extra oxygen inside. Its less than one-third the pressure of sea level here on Earth, about 14.7 psi, which would be impossible to move inside a suit.

But even being able to move against gas pressured to 4 psi does require a certain amount of strength. We humans cannot operate on a lower pressure, Pablo de Len, professor of space studies at the University of North Dakota, where he specializes in spacesuit technology, tells The Verge. Its not like you can say, well Ill build a spacesuit where you dont need any physical effort at all and youll be able to operate it. You just cant. However, the strength required to move within a spacesuit is something that every astronaut trains for, regardless of gender. The training is very rigorous so anyone whos selected in the astronaut corps has what it takes to perform spacewalks, says Newman. The physique is not the issue; they have the capabilities in terms of athletic performance.

NASAs Bowersox also suggested on Friday that taller people are somehow more capable of doing spacewalks than others, which is why so few women have done them. Well, there are some things that, you know, if you look at just statistics, women are probably a little bit smaller than men, said Bowersox. Its a very subtle thing, and youll have a larger selection of men with certain amount of strength. Bowersox also noted that taller people have had easier times during spacewalks, such as repairing the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit around Earth, because they have an easier time reaching around things and getting into crevices. If you look at some of the Hubble repair missions and things like that, theres always a tall person or a tall man or two on the crew, he said.

But Newman also disagrees with this assessment, noting there are a wide variety of tasks that need to be accomplished when performing spacewalks, some that are better for smaller people and some that are better for taller ones. There are a lot of tight places in a Hubble repair, so actually a smaller person has some advantages in terms of getting into some tight spaces and some tight repairs, says Newman. Of course, if you need a large arm-length across and that might be, you know, you might want the crew member that has the largest span. So theres a lot of tasks to do, but definitely universally no one is... disadvantage. Newman cites the success of former NASA astronaut Kathryn Thornton, for instance, who was the smallest astronaut to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

Perhaps the fundamental flaw that has hindered womens abilities to perform spacewalks is a lack of suits that fit them. The current spacesuits on board the ISS were designed in the 1970s, and have stayed more or less the same ever since. The nucleus of each suit is an outer shell that fits around a persons torso, which holds an electronic box that controls all of the suits systems. All the other parts like arms, legs, and backpacks attach to this shell. And the size of the shell dictates who can wear it.

When NASA was deciding which size torsos to make, the agency opted against creating smalls and even extra-smalls. Last week, Bowersox argued that creating a suit thats bigger makes it easier to maneuver, however Burbank said that technological limitations of the 70s were more to blame. The original design of the suits control systems were bulky, and werent immediately compatible with a smaller torso. If you shrink the suit smaller and smaller, you eventually get to the point where that display and control module, which cannot be changed in size, eventually expands across the shoulder width for the crew member, says Burbank of Collins Aerospace. So it would have required a fairly significant redesign to accommodate the smallest of the crew members.

Rather than spend the money to redesign the control module and suits, NASA decided to design the suits bigger a decision that was made easier by the fact that most of the astronauts at the time were men and probably taller than the average human. The lack of small-sized suits has had repercussions ever since, precluding some women from participating in spacewalks altogether. Despite last weeks milestone, only 15 women have ever performed spacewalks, compared to more than 200 men.

The astronaut population did look a little bit different back then, Jessica Meir, who participated in the first all-female spacewalk, said in response to a question from The Verge during a press conference. I think that when people try to understand why we have the system we have when you have technology that was developed and hardware that takes a long time to be proven and tested and make its way to spaceflight sometimes the effects of those decisions made back in the 70s carry over for decades to come.

NASA is trying to fix its past blunders. Last week, the space agency unveiled a new spacesuit that its astronauts will wear if they land on the surface of the Moon. And thanks to more modular sizing and adjustable shoulder bearings, the suit can supposedly accommodate a large range of body types, from the first percentile female to the 99th percentile male, according to NASAs spacesuit designer, Amy Ross. Such a suit will be crucial if NASA plans to land the first woman on the Moon within the next five years, as the agency has repeatedly claimed.

These suits are still your standard air-pressurized suits, which Newman describes as engineering marvels, but still really hard to move in. Thats why she has been researching a new type of spacesuit altogether, one that provides the necessary atmospheric pressure not with air, but by pressing down on the persons skin. With the right materials and patterns, the suit would adhere to the wearers body, compressing the skin and allowing the person to function normally. The technologies needed to turn this concept into reality havent been mature up until now, but if Newman can perfect her prototype, she claims she can cut the weight of a spacesuit almost in half, making it easier for many different types of people to wear.

Its a different design approach fundamentally. Rather than shrinking spacecraft around someone, its saying Oh heres what the human does and how do we design a suit around the human capabilities? says Newman.

While these kinds of suits are still many years away from seeing space, Newman makes the argument that its our design choices that matter in the end, as they ultimately influence which people can or cannot do things in space. Blaming a persons physique or gender is the easy way out. Its all an excuse, says Newman. Men are definitely not inherently better. We have evidence its a small numbers because we only have a few females but we have no statistical difference in the performance of astronauts between men and women. We just dont have very many women because we dont have many suits that fit them.

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Why it took so long for NASA to do the first all-female spacewalk - The Verge

Could Chinese Astronauts Beat NASA Back to the Moon? – Motley Fool

NASAwants to return mankind to the moon by 2024. To do so, it'll need help from its "Space Launch System" (or SLS) contractors Boeing and Northrop Grumman, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and especially Lockheed Martin, which is building the Orion space capsule.Blue Origin and SpaceX -- two companies that are sometimes NASA partners, sometimes NASA rivals -- want to put boots on the lunar ground as well.

And now comes a third entrant into this latest space race to get back to the moon:China.

Image source: Getty Images.

As Space.com reported earlier this month, China is actively working to develop its own "next-generation" spacecraft for human spaceflight between worlds.

Following in the footsteps of the Soviet Union (and later Russia) and the United States, China became the third terrestrial nation to put astronauts in space when "taikonaut" Yang Liwei orbited Earth in Shenzou-5 in 2003. Now the state-owned China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) is building an even bigger 30-foot long, 22-ton yet-to-be-named spacecraft capable of carrying anywhere from four to six taikonauts on a voyage to the moon.

As Space.com reports, China plans to launch its new spacecraft on an unmanned test flight sometime in the first half of next year, flying atop a Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket. China says that to get the spacecraft the rest of the way to its destination, it first needs to develop a more powerful rocket -- the super-heavy-lift "Long March 9." For this reason, the country is targeting a crewed mission to the moon only sometime "in the 2030s" (although some Chinese sources have suggested earlier dates).

A successful unmanned test flight next year could theoretically lay the foundation for a manned flight later in the year. So while for now China publicly disclaims an interest in landing taikonauts on the moon in the next decade, there's at least a chance China could accomplish this before NASA can reach the moon with its "Project Artemis" (which is targeting a 2024 date for moon landing).

Whatever China's ultimate target date turns out to be, its race to the moon puts pressure on NASA. The more delays our own Artemis program encounters, the greater the chances that China will get there first. So simply knowing that China is in this race is going to serve as an incentive to NASA to keep running.

What does this mean for investors?

NASA is spending some $35 billion to develop its Space Launch System for Project Artemis. The space agency awarded a $2.7 billion contract to buy three Orion spacecraft for the project just last month. Criticism of the program's cost overruns and development delays, however, have sparked calls for SLS's cancelation in Congress -- especially in light of suggestions that SpaceX's new "Starship" could make the moon trip cheaper.

And yet the Starship hasn't flown an orbital test flight yet, much less a trial run to the moon and back. (Neither has SLS -- it hasn't even been assembled yet!) Although Elon Musk is promising to send the Starship on an orbital test flight as early as the end of this year, so long as NASA is working with two "unknown quantities," and facing a determined rival in China, it's unlikely to cut bait on SLS before at least one of these rocket concepts has proven itself capable of executing the moon mission.

In this scenario, Congress, too, may feel compelled to spend whatever it takes to ensure Project Artemis's success. And that means that for the foreseeable future -- through the end of this year certainly, to 2024 probably, and potentially all the way toward "the 2030s" -- billions of dollars of planned and anticipated spending on a return to the moon will continue to flow out of NASA and into the pockets of investors in companies like Boeing, Northrop, Aerojet, and Lockheed.

Earning robust profit margins ranging from 10% for Boeing and Lockheed, to 11% for Northrop, to nearly 15% for Aerojet (according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence), this is still a great business to be in. And if SpaceX and Blue Origin ever get around to having IPOs, they could become similarly great businesses to own.

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Could Chinese Astronauts Beat NASA Back to the Moon? - Motley Fool

NASA to confront swarm of asteroids with scientists hopeful of discovering origins of life – Express.co.uk

In a mission the first of its kind, NASA is set to explore a mysterious swarm of Trojan asteroids circling the Sun. The mission will see NASA send a robot probe to inspect the Trojan asteroids in an attempt to find out more about the history of the Solar System.

Hal Levison, a principal investigator involved with the Lucy mission, which will oversee the inspection of the asteroids, emphasised the significance of the advancement.

He said: "This is a very exciting time for us, because we are moving beyond the design phase and are really starting to build the spacecraft.

"It is finally becoming real!"

The Trojan asteroids orbit the Sun in two giant clumps along the path of the planet Jupiter.

One group leads the orbit and speeds just ahead of Jupiter, while the other group trails and tries to catch up to the gas giant.

Scientists believe the asteroids could hold the key to finding out more about the history of the Solar System.

As part of the Lucy missions descriptions, NASA officials wrote: "These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system, and perhaps even the origins of life and organic material on Earth.

Lucy is expected to launch two years from now, in October 2021.

JUST IN:Asteroid warning: Why rock twice size of Burj Khalifa could end world

The robot will twice zoom past the Earth in order to build up a reasonable speed, then launch itself out into the void.

It is hoped that Lucy will reach the first group of asteroids by April 2025.

Donaldjohanson, the first rock Lucy will encounter, lies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Following this, Lucy will then fly by four Trojans in the leading swarm, this occurring in August 2027, September 2027, April 2028 and November 2028.

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The spacecrafts orbit will then ping the robot back towards the Sun ready to take on the next swarm of asteroids.

This second round is hoped to make contact in March 2033 - marking the missions grand finale.

No probe has ever before visited so many different destinations in separate and independent orbits, Lucy team members have claimed.

The missions name is an ode to an ancient 3.2million-year-old hominid fossil found in Ethiopia in 1974 by palaeontologists Donald Johanson (whose name features as the main-belt asteroid that the probe will visit) and Tom Gray.

Just as the discovery of the Lucy fossil shed light on humanitys origins, so too will the Lucy spacecraft likely expose unknown truths about humankind.

Yesterday, Express.co.uk reported on a mammoth space rock heading towards Earth that may disturb Christmas festivities.

The asteroid, known as 216258 2006 WH1, is set for its closest approach to Earth on December 20 - just days before Christmas.

The 540 metre space rock is the same size as the World Trade Centre and would cause a significant amount of damage and mass extinction.

The asteroid is currently thought to be hurtling towards the Earth at a speed of 43,200km/h or 26,843mph.

The asteroids course could be further influenced by natural a phenomenon known as the Yarkovksey effect.

The effect occurs when the gentle force of sunlight edges an asteroid either way of its natural course.

Its influence on an asteroid was demonstrated in 2012 with mastoid 1999RQ36, where scientists, using the effect, were able to estimate the most accurate determination of an asteroids orbit to date.

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NASA to confront swarm of asteroids with scientists hopeful of discovering origins of life - Express.co.uk

Every $1 NASA spends drives up to $10 in growth, and that’s great for the space industry, says man behind the UFO ETF – CNBC

Space spending is speeding up.

World Space Week, a massive confab that takes place across over 80 countries, just ended, and it has breathed new life into organizations around the world participating in the space race, says one top industry player.

"People from all over the world are really realizing how important space is not just for any one individual, any one company or any one government. This is a truly global collaborative industry," Andrew Chanin, CEO of ProcureAM and the man behind the Procure Space ETF, ticker UFO, said Monday on CNBC's "ETF Edge."

This year, Chanin spotted a notable change in how institutions are approaching investing in space.

"What we're seeing is ... this transformation away from it being completely reliant upon government agencies like NASA, like Roscosmos, like the [European Space Agency], and it being driven by commercial interests now," the CEO said.

"So, the governments out there are saying, 'Hey, we want to play ball. We want to work with you. Come up with your solutions and we're happy to finance that.' But so much of the spending now is coming from outside the government, so it's a really exciting time for the industry," Chanin said.

Boeing's venture capital arm HorizonX announced in early October that it took a $20 million stake in Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson. Elon Musk of Tesla fame recently said his space company, SpaceX, has spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" building a space capsule for NASA.

"I think one of the things that most people don't give the government or NASA enough credit with is how valuable $1 of spending from NASA is," Chanin said. NASA awarded SpaceX $2.6 billion to build the spacecraft model in 2014.

"It's come out in various reports showing that $1 that NASA spends actually shows $8-10 in growth," he said. "This money being spent by NASA isn't just for, 'OK, we want to be able to say we're great.' We're actually being able to take those technologies where that money's getting spent and turn that into a positive for the overall economy."

NASA spending has contributed to everyday life on this planet more than some may think. Satellites positioned above the earth are used for everything from GPS to weather forecasting to surveillance and intelligence services, Chanin said.

That's why his firm's UFO ETF is chock-full of satellite company stocks. Still relatively small vis-a-vis the rest of the ETF space with just over $12 million in assets, its top 10 holdings include communications satellite operators SES and Intelsat, GPS technology company Garmin and radio broadcasting giant Sirius XM. It's up 3.2% since its Apr. 11 launch.

But as spending on the space race gains momentum, UFO should, too, Chanin said.

"It really is a representation of the global, publicly traded space industry," he said. "This industry will likely change over the years. The index provider is aware of that, so they're already looking for companies that are going to be doing things in the militarization of space, in more space transportation and hospitality as well as infrastructure building."

And as NASA continues to support commercial interests in the space race, like its administrator's call on CNBC that SpaceX and Boeing could fly astronauts into space as soon as early 2020, it will expand the whole industry, Chanin said.

"We're seeing America's place in space starting to change," the CEO said. "We're also seeing tons of interest from around the world. China has aspirations, Russia has aspirations, India, Canada, and so on. So, the ideas, the technologies, where the winners are going to be? It's tough to say. But, certainly, having a contract from NASA saying, 'OK, we want to fund you to get to a certain point' is certainly helpful."

ETF industry experts like Chris Hempstead, a top consultant and Deutsche Bank's former head of ETF sales, said the inherent opportunity in this growing area of the market "struck" him when he was first helping Chanin launch UFO.

"What struck me as a consumer, as someone who's just learning about it for the first time, was that satellite story in and of itself," Hempstead said in the same "ETF Edge" interview.

"There's only a finite amount of satellite space above this planet, and so as these companies that you're looking at that are in this ETF vie for control of where to put those satellites not only amongst themselves in the U.S., but globally with other countries. It's a really interesting story about that, the cost of doing that and the value associated with having a satellite in orbit that can do some of the things that Andrew alluded to," he said.

UFO was down by less than 1% on Friday.

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Every $1 NASA spends drives up to $10 in growth, and that's great for the space industry, says man behind the UFO ETF - CNBC

The 1st Human on Mars May Be a Woman, NASA Chief Says – Space.com

When NASA sends humans to the moon for the first time in more than half a century, one lucky astronaut will go down in history for becoming the first woman on the moon. Then it won't be long before we see the first woman on Mars, and she just might beat the first man there, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

"We could very well see the first person on Mars be a woman," Bridenstine told reporters on Friday (Oct. 18) during a news conference about the first all-woman spacewalk. "I think that could very well be a milestone," he added.

NASA currently has no concrete plans for landing humans on Mars the moon is the agency's first priority but Bridenstine has said that the first crewed Mars landing could happen sometime in the 2030s. Meanwhile, the private spaceflight company SpaceX is working on its Starship Mars-colonizing rocket, which could help NASA send those astronaut pioneers to the Red Planet.

Related: Women in Space: A Gallery of Firsts

"If my 11-year-old daughter has her way, we'll have a woman on Mars in the not-too-distant future," Bridenstine said, adding that whoever ends up going to Mars is probably too young to have already been selected to join NASA's astronaut corps at this time. However, the soon-to-be first woman on the moon will likely be selected from NASA's current pool of active astronauts.

NASA has not yet announced who will be the first woman on the moon, but whoever she may be, she's scheduled to land in 2024. That moon landing mission is part of NASA's Artemis program, which is the agency's precursor to establishing a permanent human presence on and around the moon something that may help pave the way to Mars.

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and onFacebook.

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The 1st Human on Mars May Be a Woman, NASA Chief Says - Space.com

NASA’s Eyes on Extreme Weather – Teachable Moments – NASA/JPL Edu News

In the News

An extreme weather event is something that falls outside the realm of normal weather patterns. It can range from superpowerful hurricanes to torrential downpours to extended hot dry weather and more. Extreme weather events are, themselves, troublesome, but the effects of such extremes, including damaging winds, floods, drought and wildfires, can be devastating.

NASA uses airborne and space-based platforms, in conjunction with those from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, to monitor these events and the ways in which our changing climate is contributing to them. Together, the agencies are collecting more detailed data on weather and climate than ever before, improving society's ability to predict, monitor and respond to extreme events.

NASA makes this data available to the public, and students can use it to understand extreme weather events happening in their regions, learn more about weather and climate in general, and design plans for resilience and mitigation. Read on for a look at the various kinds of extreme weather, how climate change is impacting them, and ways students can use NASA data to explore science for themselves.

Global climate change, or the overall warming of our planet, has had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up and melting earlier in the year, precipitation patterns have changed, plant and animal habitat ranges have shifted, and trees are flowering sooner, exposing fruit blossoms to damaging erratic spring hail and deadly late frost. Effects that scientists had predicted in the past are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise, shifting storm patterns and longer, more intense heat waves.

Some of the most visible and disruptive effects of global climate change are extreme weather and resulting disasters such as wildfires and flooding. These events vary by geographic location, with many regions, such as the Southwest United States and parts of Central and South America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia, experiencing more heat, drought and insect outbreaks that contribute to increased wildfires. Other regions of the world, including coastal areas of the United States and many island nations, are experiencing flooding and salt water intrusion into drinking water wells as a result of sea level rise and storm surges from intense tropical storms. And some areas of the world, such as the Midwestern and Southern United States, have been inundated with rain that has resulted in catastrophic flooding.

This pair of images shows the northeast side of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in May 2018 (left) and in May 2019 (right) after the Caney and Verdigris rivers flooded. Image credit: NASA/USGS | Full image and caption

Temperatures, rainfall, droughts, high-intensity hurricanes and severe flooding events all are increasing and projected to continue as the world's climate warms, according to the National Climate Assessment. Weather is dynamic and various types of weather can interact to produce extreme outcomes. Here's how climate change can play a role in some of these weather extremes.

This color-coded map displays a progression of changing global surface temperature anomalies from 1880 through 2018. Higher-than-normal temperatures are shown in red and lower-than-normal temperatures are shown in blue. The final frame represents the global temperatures five-year averaged from 2014 through 2018. Scale in degrees Celsius. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio. Data provided by Robert B. Schmunk (NASA/GSFC GISS). | Watch on YouTube

Eighteen of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.September 2019 tied as the hottest month on record for the planet. Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). As a result of warming temperatures, global average sea level has risen nearly 7 inches (178 millimeters) over the past 100 years. Data show this warming of the Earth system has been driven in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases created by human activities. And as temperatures continue to rise, we can expect more extreme weather.

The image on the left shows air temperatures during a record-breaking June 2019 heat wave in Alaska. Around the same time, a cluster of lightning-triggered wildfires broke out in the same area. Smoke from the wildfires can be seen in the image on the right. Image credit: NASA | Full image and caption

High temperatures alone can lead to drought. Drought can cause problems for humans, animals and crops dependent on water and can weaken trees, making them more susceptible to disease and insect attacks. High temperatures combined with low humidity, dry vegetation and hot, dry, fast winds typify what is known as "fire weather" or "fire season." During fire season, wildfires are more likely to start, spread rapidly and be difficult to extinguish.

The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of the Walker Fire in Northern California on Sept. 8, 2019. Image credit: NASA/USGS | Full image and caption

In California, where climate change has brought hotter, drier weather, residents are plagued by two fire seasons one lasting from June through September that is primarily caused by high heat, low humidity and dry vegetation, and another lasting from October through April that is generally more volatile, as it is fueled by high winds. This 11-month fire season is longer than in past years. In recent years, California has also seen an increase in destructive wildfires. Weather extremes and climate change are partly to blame, even in relatively wet years. In California, these years mean more plant growth and potentially more fuel for fires when those plants dry out in the fall and the winds arrive. Wildfires have some fairly obvious effects on people and property. In addition to the visible destruction, smoke from wildfires can dramatically decrease air quality, pushing carbon into the air and destroying important carbon-sequestering plants and trees. Large-scale biomass destruction, as is happening in the Amazon rainforest, will have a lasting impact on important Earth processes.

This image, acquired on October 11, 2019, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, on NASA's Aqua satellite, shows Typhoon Hagibis as its outer cloud bands neared Japan. Image credit: NASA | Full image and caption

Since the 1980s, regions of the world prone to hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons have witnessed an increase in intensity, frequency and duration of these destructive storms. All three are intense tropical storms that form over oceans. (The different names refer to where on Earth they occur.) They are all fueled by available heat energy from warm ocean water. Warmer oceans provide more energy to passing storms, meaning hurricanes can form more quickly and reach higher speeds. Typhoon Hagibis, which recently left a trail of destruction in Japan, was described as the worst storm to hit the region in decades. Growing unusually quickly from a tropical storm to a Category 5 storm in less than a day, Hagibis was so intense it was called a super typhoon. In 2018, the second strongest cyclone to hit a U.S. territory and the largest typhoon of the year, Super Typhoon Yutu, caused catastrophic destruction on the Mariana Islands, an archipelago in the North Pacific Ocean. More intense storms and rising sea levels make storm surge ocean water that is pushed toward the shore by strong winds even worse than in the past. Typhoons can wreak havoc on infrastructure and compromise fresh water reserves. It can take months or even years for a hard-hit region to recover.

The MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Terra Satellite captured the low-pressure area near New England that brought heavy snows and thundersnow to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S. in January 2011. Image credit: NASA Goddard/MODIS Rapid Response Team | Full image and caption

Like any other weather event, extreme cold weather events such as blizzards and unusually heavy snowfall can be, but are not always, linked to climate change. Just as warmer ocean water increases the intensity of a warm tropical storm, warmer than average winter ocean temperatures in the Atlantic feed additional energy and moisture into cold storms, influencing the severity of snowfall once the storm comes ashore in the Eastern United States. There is some natural variability, such as the presence of El Nio conditions, that can also lead to severe snowstorms in the region. But natural variability isn't enough to fully explain the increase in major snowstorms in the U.S. In fact, the frequency of extreme snowstorms in the eastern two-thirds of the region has increased dramatically over the last century. Approximately twice as many extreme snowstorms occurred in the U.S. during the latter half of the 20th century as in the first half.

Because of the risk to lives and property, monitoring the increasing number of extreme weather events is more important now than ever before. And a number of NASA satellites and airborne science instruments are doing just that.

This graphic shows NASA's fleet of Earth-science satellites designed to monitor weather and climate across the globe. Image credit: NASA | Full image and caption

A large global constellation of satellites, operated by NASA and NOAA, combined with a small fleet of planes operated by the U.S. Forest Service, help detect and map the extent, spread and impact of forest fires. As technology has advanced, so has the value of remote sensing, the science of scanning Earth from a distance using satellites and high-flying airplanes. Wildfire data from satellites and aircraft provide information that firefighters and command centers can use to call evacuation orders and make decisions about where to deploy crews to best arrest a fire's progress.

The agencies' satellites and airborne instruments also work in conjunction with those from international partners to provide data about hurricanes to decision makers at the National Hurricane Center, where predictions and warnings are issued so evacuations can be coordinated among the public and local authorities. Visible imagery from NASA satellites helps forecasters understand whether a storm is brewing or weakening based on changes to its structure. Other instruments on NASA satellites can measure sea surface characteristics, wind speeds, precipitation, and the height, thickness and inner structure of clouds.

Three images of Hurricane Dorian, as seen by a trio of NASA's Earth-observing satellites in August 2019. The data sent by the spacecraft revealed in-depth views of the storm, including detailed heavy rain, cloud height and wind. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech | Full image and caption

NASA's airborne instruments, such as those aboard the Global Hawk aircraft, provide data from within the storm that cannot be otherwise obtained. Global Hawk can fly above a storm in a back-and-forth pattern and drop instruments called dropsondes through the storm. These instruments measure winds, temperature, pressure and humidity on their way to the surface. This detailed data can be used to characterize a storm, informing scientists of shifting patterns and potential future developments.

NASA missions will continue to study both weather and climate phenomena whether they be droughts, floods, wildfires, hurricanes or other extremes returning data for analysis. New airborne instruments aboard the satellite-simulating ER-2 and cloud-penetrating P-3 aircraft will fly missions starting in 2020 to study Atlantic coast-threatening snowstorms. Data from these flights will be combined with ground-based radar measurements and satellite measurements to better understand storms and their potential impact. Meanwhile, climate science instruments and satellites will continue to collect data that can inform everyone about the many aspects of our changing planet.

Weather and climate data isn't just for meteorologists. Explore the resources and standards-aligned lessons below to get students analyzing local weather patterns, understanding wildfire monitoring and modeling global climate!

Resources for Students

TAGS: Earth, Earth science, climate change, weather, extreme weather, hurricane, wildfire, typhoons, drought, flood, sea level rise

Ota Lutz, STEM Elementary and Secondary Education Specialist, NASA/JPL Edu

Ota Lutz is a STEM elementary and secondary education specialist at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory. When shes not writing new lessons or teaching, shes probably cooking something delicious, volunteering in the community, or dreaming about where she will travel next.

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NASA's Eyes on Extreme Weather - Teachable Moments - NASA/JPL Edu News

News | Mars 2020 Unwrapped and Ready for Testing – Jet Propulsion Laboratory

In this time-lapse video, taken on Oct. 4, 2019, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, bunny-suited engineers remove the inner layer of protective antistatic foil on the Mars 2020 rover after the vehicle was relocated from JPL's Spacecraft Assembly Facility to the Simulator Building for testing.

"The Mars 2020 rover will be collecting samples for future return to Earth, so it must meet extraordinary cleanliness measures to avoid the possibility of contaminating Martian samples with terrestrial contaminants," said Paul Boeder, contamination control lead for Mars 2020 at JPL. "To ensure we maintain cleanliness at all times, we need to keep things clean not only during assembly and testing, but also during the moves between buildings for these activities."

After removing the first layer of antistatic foil (just prior this time-lapse), the teams used 70% isopropyl alcohol to meticulously wipe down the remaining layer, seen here, along with the trailer carrying the rover. Later that day, the rover was moved into the larger main room of the Simulator Building. In the coming weeks, the rover will enter a massive vacuum chamber for surface thermal testing - a weeklong evaluation of how its instruments, systems and subsystems operate in the frigid, near-vacuum environment it will face on Mars.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for NASA. The rover will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July 2020 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.

When the rover lands at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, it will be the first spacecraft in the history of planetary exploration with the ability to accurately retarget its point of touchdown during the landing sequence.

Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plans will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. We will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare to send astronauts to Mars.

Interested K-12 students in U.S. public, private and home schools can enter the Mars 2020 Name the Rover essay contest. One grand prize winner will name the rover.

For more information about the name contest, go to:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/participate/name-the-rover/

For more information about the mission, go to:

News Media Contact

Alana JohnsonNASA Headquarters, Washington202-672-4780alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

2019-209

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News | Mars 2020 Unwrapped and Ready for Testing - Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Success! NASA Confirms the Mole is Working Again. – Universe Today

After months of setbacks, NASA says that the InSight Landers Mole is working again.

InSight landed on Mars on Nov. 26 2018 in Elysium Planitia. Its mission is to study the interior of the planet, to learn about how Mars and other rocky planets formed. InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport) is a NASA mission with other partners, including the DLR (German Aerospace Center.)

The mole still has a way to go, but were all thrilled to see it digging again.

The Mole, or Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3,) was designed and built by the DLR. It penetrates the Martian surface and measures the heat flowing from the planets interior. It works like a hammer drill, pounding and rotating its way into the ground.

InSight only had one chance to deploy the Mole, and it took a good look around before doing it. Mission engineers used the landers cameras to examine its instrument placement area and find a place free of obvious rocks. But they couldnt see under the surface.

After deployment, the Mole got a short way into the ground, then stopped. The InSight team thought it had hit a rock, but they werent certain. They kept working with it, and then the Mole got canted over at about a 15 degree angle.

After working their way through different scenarios on test-beds here on Earth, they came to a conclusion: the Mole relies on friction between itself and the surrounding material to penetrate into the ground, and the surrounding material wasnt filling the hole the way it did when they designed and tested the Mole here on Earth.

Operators removed the Moles housing to get a better look inside the hole. They found a type of soil they call duricrust a few centimeters below the surface, and that duricrust was compacted and wouldnt fill the cavity the Mole created as it penetrated the surface.

The InSight team used the scoop on the end of the landers instrument placement arm to push down on the soil surrounding the Moles hole. But that didnt work. The instrument arm could barely reach that far, and it couldnt apply much force.

NASA and the DLR came up with another solution. This time, they would use the scoop on the instrument arm to apply sideways force on the Mole. They hoped that by pushing the Mole against its hole, there would be enough force and the Mole would make progress again.

On October 15th, NASA said things were looking good, but they couldnt be absolutely certain.

NASA calls the new technique pinning. By pinning the Mole against the side of the hole, theres enough friction for the instrument to keep penetrating. Without that friction, the Mole will just bounce in place as it tries to hammer its way into the ground.

Now, NASA confirms that the pinning technique is working.

Seeing the moles progress seems to indicate that theres no rock blocking our path, said HP3Principal Investigator Tilman Spohn of DLR. Thats great news! Were rooting for our mole to keep going.

Theres still a long way to go. The Mole is nowhere near its desired operating depth of five meters. But theyre making progress.

The mole still has a way to go, but were all thrilled to see it digging again, said Troy Hudson of JPL, an engineer and scientist who has led the mole recovery effort. When we first encountered this problem, it was crushing. But I thought, Maybe theres a chance; lets keep pressing on. And right now, Im feeling giddy.

The Mole is not in the clear yet. Theres no way of knowing if itll get stuck again. If it does get stuck again, at a greater depth, the pinning option wont be available. The InSight team could try to scoop dirt down into the hole, or try to press down on the exposed top of the instrument. But thats risky; the sensitive instrument tether is attached to the top.

But for now, theres progress. The Moles maximum operating depth is five meters, but it can still do science at a shallower depth. Its just not ideal, and will take more work to understand the results.

With luck, and possibly with more advanced problem-solving skills like the team has already used, the Mole will succeed. And Mars will reveal more of its secrets.

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Success! NASA Confirms the Mole is Working Again. - Universe Today

Asteroid terror: NASA spot mammoth space rock to hit Earth’s orbit five days before X-mas – Express.co.uk

The asteroid, known as 216258 2006 WH1, is set for its closest approach to Earth on December 20 - just days before Christmas. The 540 metre space rock is the same size as the World Trade Centre and would cause a significant amount of damage and mass extinction.

The asteroid is currently thought to be hurtling towards the Earth at a speed of 43,200km/h or 26,843mph.

The asteroids course could be further influenced by natural a phenomenon known as the Yarkovksey effect.

The effect occurs when the gentle force of sunlight edges an asteroid either way of its natural course.

Its influence on an asteroid was demonstrated in 2012 with mastoid 1999RQ36.

Scientists, using the Yarkovksey effect, were able to estimate the most accurate determination of an asteroids orbit to date.

Asteroids larger than approximately 35 metres across pose a threat to a town or city, this meaning that 216258 2006 WH1s 540 metre diameter would likely cause havoc across the globe.

The asteroid hasnt yet been measured on the Torio Impact Hazard Scale, but will likely be listed as a serious threat when and if it is added.

A stripped down version of the Torino Scale was presented to the United Nations in 1995.

JUST IN:Asteroid warning: Why rock twice size of Burj Khalifa could end world

Then, a revised version was presented in 1999 at a conference on Near Earth Objects (NEO).

It was at this conference that participants voted to make the revised version the main scale that scientists would use and refer to when labelling the threat asteroids posed to Earth.

The system has an integer scale ranging from 0 to 10 with associated colour coding.

It currently captures the likelihood and consequences of a potential impact event.

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A ten on the scale means a collision is certain, capable of causing global climatic catastrophe that may threaten the future of civilisation as we know it, whether colliding with land or ocean.

Such events occur on average once per 100,000 years, or less often.

A one on the scale corresponds to a routine and "normal" discovery.

This "normal" terminology only came about in 2005, when a one on the scale initially meant events meriting careful monitoring.

This resulted in exaggerated press coverage as scale one asteroids were relatively common, so the terminology had to be changed to normal so as to avoid stirring mass panic and attention.

For these asteroids, the calculations show the chance of collision is extremely unlikely with no cause for public attention or concern.

New telescopic observations very likely will lead to re-assignment of those originally classed as level one to eventually become a Level zero.

Organisations like NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) keep a watchful eye on NEOs passing close to Earth.

NEOs are all comets and asteroids whose orbits approach Earths path around the Sun.

NASA said: An NEO includes any asteroid, meteoroid or comet orbiting the Sun within 18,600,000 miles, 30 million km, of Earth's orbit.

Out of the 829,361 known asteroids and 3,592 known comets in the system, more than 20,000 space rocks are ranked as NEOs.

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Asteroid terror: NASA spot mammoth space rock to hit Earth's orbit five days before X-mas - Express.co.uk

NASA reveals how falling into black hole would be portal to another reality – Express.co.uk

Black holes remain one of the most mysterious entities in the universe, but what is known of them is terrifying. They completely break the laws of physics with their singularity at the centre, which is a one-dimensional point where gravity becomes infinite and space and time become curved. The only other point in nature where a singularity existed is at the Big Bang.

This is why NASA believes black holes could be a portal to another reality where you experience space and time in a completely different way.

NASA said on its website: For black holes, distant observers will only see regions outside the event horizon, but individual observers falling into the black hole would experience quite another reality.

If you got into the event horizon, your perception of space and time would entirely change.

The perception would change because, in the universe, space and time are intertwined, called space-time.

However, gravity stretches space-time and objects with a large mass will be able to stretch space-time to the point where it is unrecognisable, known as time dilation.

The more mass an object has, the more it stretches and slows down time so something as large as Sagittarius A* the gigantic black hole at the centre of the galaxy would be able to stretch time to a point where it almost comes to a complete standstill.

Sagittarius A* has a radius of 22 million kilometres and a mass of more than four million times that of the Sun.

In other words, it is very dense.

READ MORE:Time travel BREAKTHROUGH: Time can be stopped and this is how

And because it is so heavy, it has the ability to completely stretch out space-time to a point where one minute on the edge of Sagittarius A* will see 700 years pass on Earth, Emma Osborne, an astrophysicist at the University of Southampton, said.

However, anyone hoping to get close to a black hole and experiencing this phenomenon is out of luck.

Firstly, there is no chance that one would survive falling into a black hole, so time travelling would be futile.

This is due to a process called spaghettification. The immense gravitational pull is so strong that the force is much stronger at the base than the top.

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For example, if you were travelling feet first into a black hole, the gravity be so strong you would literally be spaghettified, and you would be stretched out to a point where you would just be a stream of atoms heading towards the centre.

Another impossible hurdle to overcome would be getting to a black hole.

The nearest black hole to our planet is located 6,523 light-years away one light-year is 5.88 trillion miles.

The farthest humans have been from Earth is 248,655 miles (400,171 km) in 1970 as part of NASAs Apollo 13 mission when the craft swung around the far side of the moon it took almost three days to get there.

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NASA reveals how falling into black hole would be portal to another reality - Express.co.uk

NASA’s Van Allen probes are no more, and we owe them a lot – MIT Technology Review

The seven-year mission, which ended Friday, was one of the most consequential investigations into how space weather affects the environment just outside our planets atmosphere.

The background: The Van Allen radiation belts are zones of charged particles energized by intense solar winds and cosmic rays, stretching out from 400 to 36,040 miles above the surface. Earths magnetic field, which protects the planet from space radiation, actually ends up mostly trapping the particles into two layers within the magnetosphere.

Satellites and spacecraft in high orbits or on their way into deep space can be damaged by prolonged exposure to this radiation. Humans who spend too long in the Van Allen belts can suffer severe health problems. And the belts play a significant role in modulating space weather that could end up damaging satellites, power grids, and other electronic infrastructure on Earth.

The probes: NASA launched two Van Allen probes in 2012 into an elliptical orbit to directly study the radiation belt. Each satellites used a suite of five instruments to detect particles and study the magnetic fields and plasma waves characteristic of the region of space directly around Earth. Probe B was shut down in July after it ran out of fuel, and NASA ceased probe As operations on Friday. The pair should fall back and burn up in the atmosphere in 15 years.

The legacy: Scientists used the mission to better understand the distribution of charged particles throughout the Van Allen belts, which is helping engineers design spacecraft that can better withstand extreme and extended cosmic radiation. Theres also a clearer understanding of how space weather causes the belts to swell and shrink over time, in what we now know is an 11-year cycle. More exciting was the discovery that additional transient belts can form during bouts of extreme solar activity.

But the biggest impact of the Van Allen probes might be in their engineering. The primary mission was set for only two years, because it was feared that radiation would quickly erode the electronics. Yet the duo unexpectedly lingered on, and might have survived into the 2020s with enough fuel. As we consider long-term missions in space, the probes will be a lesson in how to think about spacecraft design.

Whats next: NASA doesnt actually have any plans for a mission that compares to scope of the Van Allen probes, so we will have a dearth of space weather science for the foreseeable future. ESAs Lagrange mission could be a powerful tool if it launches, and NASAs upcoming TRACERS mission will flesh out how charged particles interact with the magnetic field at the poles.

Neither of these, however, will directly study the Van Allen belts. Meanwhile, NASA and NOAA have several spacecraft that monitor space weather and keep the agencies apprised of any solar events that could wreak havoc on modern-day electronic systems.

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NASA's Van Allen probes are no more, and we owe them a lot - MIT Technology Review


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