Archive for June, 2021

Credit: CNSA

China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission is a precursor to the country attempting a sample return effort at the Red Planet around 2030.

In addition, China also plans to launch a probe to collect samples from a near-Earth asteroid and explore a comet in one mission around 2025 and investigate the more faraway Jovian system after 2030.

Further study of the Moon by China’s Chang’e-6 and Chang’e-7 lunar probes in the coming five years are designed to survey the lunar environment and resources, as well as collect samples from the polar region of the Moon.

An ambitious space agenda was detailed Saturday at a press conference held by China National Space Administration in Beijing.

Credit: CNSA

Mars rover update

After some 30 Martian days on Mars, the Zhurong rover had moved over 260 feet (80 meters) from its landing site by Friday. The rover is slated to head south.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Liu Jianjun, chief designer of the ground application system of the Tianwen-1 probe, told the China Global Television Network (CGTN): “We selected this particular direction for several reasons. The altitude picks up that way, from the ancient martian ocean to land. And that’s also where we’ll come across some of the most interesting things we care about, like mud volcanoes and sub-surface ice.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Weathering the weather

Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the Tianwen-1 probe, said the probe is in “better condition than expected”, and said part of that state comes from a stretch of good weather. “We are lucky in having such good weather, which contributes to the mission’s state.”

Credit: CGTN/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Zezhou told CGTN that the rover will likely run into extreme weather conditions like sandstorms. “But we are all prepared for that.” In case of extreme weather conditions like heavy sandstorms, Zhurong could go into the sleep mode and restart later when conditions become bearable again.

Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of the Tianwen-1 Mars mission, told China Central Television (CCTV) that Zhurong has taken its first 360-degree panorama.

Go to these newly issued videos from China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA) and GLOBALink/New China TV:

https://youtu.be/6TBmysN34_U

https://youtu.be/-PlZHWFUVN8

 

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

A projected next week blast off is expected to kick-start China’s space station construction effort in Earth orbit.

This week’s rollout of the three-person Shenzhou-12 spacecraft atop a Long March-2F launch vehicle signals all is go at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The China Manned Space Engineering Office said four groups of 16 astronauts are now training for four upcoming piloted space missions over the coming two years.

The imminent Shenzhou-12 takeoff marks China’s first crewed space mission in half a decade.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Space walks

According to China Central Television (CCTV) interviews with key space officials, building the space station will involve a large number of space walks, which can last for hours. On the ground, training equipment is helping the astronauts to prepare for the mission.

“A standard space walk will last for six to seven hours. To complete the task, efficiency is very important. Of course safety is also very important. We have made new improvements to the space suit to meet the needs of the space station, which will allow astronauts to work more efficiently,” said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program.

Credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

Foreign astronauts

As noted in a CCTV interview, China is also working with global space agencies, including the United Nations’ Outer Space Division. An initial grouping of nine projects from 17 countries have been selected to be onboard the Chinese space station.

Furthermore, joint crewed missions with other nations are also under discussion.

“In the future, there will definitely be foreign astronauts participating in Chinese space flights, while working and living on China’s space station. Foreign astronauts are already learning Chinese, and preparing to participate in Chinese flights,” said Hao Chun, Director of the China Manned Space Agency.

Robotic arm helps on space station construction.
Credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Fast-pace construction

The space station Tiangong will be completed in less than two years. By the end of 2022, it is expected that Chinese astronauts will work and live in the space station for a period of six months per mission.

As stated by the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), all facilities at the launch site for the takeoff of the trio of crewmen onboard Shenzhou-12 are reportedly in good condition.

Now underway is a functional check of the spacecraft and booster to test the matching between the two. After that, the Shenzhou-12 astronauts will make on-site confirmation and then participate in the full-system launch drill, said Deng Xiaojun, No. 0 commander of the Shenzhou-12 manned mission.

Key elements

China sent into space the Tianhe station core module on April 29, starting a series of key launch missions that aim to complete the construction of the space station by the end of 2022.

The country launched the Tianzhou-2 on May 29, which successfully docked with Tianhe in about eight hours to deliver supplies, equipment and propellant.

Credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

In a recently posted Xinhua news story, both the core module and cargo craft are equipped with independent power supply systems. After docking, the two systems form a connected grid and achieve mutual transmission of electric power.

“The two independent systems work like two smartphones,” said Yu Lei, an engineer in charge of power supply to the Tianzhou-2 project. “They can undergo both separate and mutual charging.”

Power demand

When docking with the space station, Xinhua adds, the Tianzhou-2 supply craft is in sleep mode and has relatively lower power demand. Its solar panels can provide abundant power most of the time, and the surplus is stored to be used for astronaut activities and scientific research that requires higher energy consumption.

“Its solar panels not only fulfill the power demand of Tianzhou-2 directly, but also charge its batteries,” said Wang Zhenxu, a designer of the power supply system of the Tianzhou-2 project.

Three sets of lithium ion batteries power the entire cargo craft when the combination enters the shadow areas. The solar panels work again after it moves into the sunlight, and continue supplying power and charging.

China’s space station is projected to be completed in late 2022.
Credit: CAST

In-orbit life

The core module Tianhe, notes Xinhua, is powered by third-generation flexible GaAs (gallium arsenide) solar panels, which provide high power output, are light, small when folded, have long in-orbit life, and can be repeatedly folded and unfolded.

The thickness of a solar panel is less than one millimeter, only half of the weight per unit area of the traditional solar arrays.

The power area of Tianhe’s solar panels covers 80 square meters, which can provide 20 kilowatts of power to the core module, said Yu Hui, designer of the solar panels. The design life of the solar panels is up to 15 years, and they can work effectively for the space station project, Yu told Xinhua.

For informative videos on China’s station project from CCTV and the China National Space Administration (CNSA), go to:

https://youtu.be/Srw-aqmbDa4

https://youtu.be/pJIZD6slTTQ

Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona

Caught on camera! NASA’s super-powerful Hi-RISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has imaged China’s Tianwen-1 lander the Zhurong rover in Southern Utopia Planitia.

HiRISE acquired the image on June 6.

Artwork depicts lander/rover at landing site.
Credit: CAST

“Clearly visible are what we interpret as the lander surrounded by a blast pattern, and the rover itself a bit to the south after it descended from the lander,” according to the HiRISE website at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “The lander’s parachute & backshell as well as its heat shield are also visible.”

This image shows the surrounding terrain to be very typical of southern Utopia Planitia, with a smooth and mostly boulder-free region. The bright curving features are aeolian (windblown) landforms.

China’s Tianwen-1 lander/rover successfully landed on May 14, 2021.

Credit: Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies     

Over the past few years, there have been scores of bizarre sightings by U.S. Navy pilots tangling with and tailgated by anomalous objects. Videos and eyewitness accounts of oddball Unidentified Aerial Phenoneman (UAPs) have been outed for public view. So too has Navy radar imagery showing a swarm of UAPs nearby the ocean-going USS Omaha in July 2019.

Credit: DOD/U.S. Navy/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The U.S. Department of Defense is expected to release this month findings from an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. It was set up to understand and gain insight into the nature and origins of purported aerial objects. The mission of the task force is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.

Scientific examination

More important than the Pentagon report is the need to gather solid data that is shared with the scientific community, says Robert Powell, executive board member of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies. The group promotes and encourages the rigorous scientific examination of Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena, commonly known as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs).

Powell says the organization has publicly called for the release of all unclassified data associated with UAP held by the federal government without compromising national security sources and/or methods. “In addition, we called for the publication of data and research results from various federal agencies in the public domain in order to promote the scientific research and analysis of UAP. We maintain this position and look forward to the release of additional data by the federal government,” he says.

Credit: Orbitz

 

A nothingburger?

So, cut to the chase of UFOs, UAPs. Will this soon-to-be-issued task force report be a “nothingburger,” as some suggest, or big doings on high temp?

For a variety of views on UAPs/UFOs, take a read of my new Scientific American article “Experts Weigh In on Pentagon UFO Report – The vast majority of examined incidents were not caused by U.S. advanced technology programs, the forthcoming report concludes. So what’s going on?” at:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-weigh-in-on-pentagon-ufo-report/

Credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter has imaged the touchdown locale of the mission’s lander and Zhurong rover.

In the image, taken by a high-resolution camera installed on the orbiter of at 6 pm on June 2 (Beijing Time), two bright spots are visible in the upper right corner. The larger one is the landing platform, and the smaller one is the Zhurong Mars rover.

The lander carrying the rover touched down in the southern part of Utopia Planitia, a vast plain in the northern hemisphere of Mars, on May 15.

Artwork depicts lander/rover at landing site.
Credit: CAST

The bright spots in the center of the image are the back cover of the entry capsule and the parachute jettisoned during the landing. Another bright spot in the lower left of the image is the heat shield of the entry capsule.

As of June 6, the rover Zhurong has been working on the surface of Mars for 23 Martian days to detect the environment, move around the surface, and carry out scientific exploration.

Rover data

According to China’s Xhinua news agency, “all scientific equipment aboard the rover is turned on to collect data. The orbiter operates in a relay orbit with a cycle of 8.2 hours, providing relay communication for the scientific exploration of the Mars rover.”

Credit: CNSA

With an expected lifespan of at least 90 Martian days (about three months on Earth), the Xhinhua report notes, Zhurong will record the Martian landscape with high-resolution three-dimensional images and analyze the material composition of the planet’s surface. It will also detect its sub-surface structure and magnetic field, search for traces of ice and observe the surrounding meteorological environment.

Go to this just issued video fromChina Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA) at:

https://youtu.be/YsDBEJ57swU

Credit: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill/ESA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

A detailed concept for a lunar habitat, created by one of the world’s leading architectural firms with European Space Agency (ESA) technical support, is currently on show at the Biennale in Venice.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, originator of many of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, worked with ESA on a semi-inflatable habitat design which could be part of a long-term vision for an international Moon settlement.

The chosen site of this four-storey semi-inflatable habitat:  the rim of Shackleton crater beside the lunar South Pole. Thanks to this proposed location, the settlement will receive near continuous daylight throughout the lunar year, enabling it to achieve self-sufficiency by harnessing sunlight for energy.

Multidisciplinary initiative

Shackleton Crater, the floor of which is permanently shadowed from the Sun, appears to be home to deposits of water ice.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

“Life Beyond Earth”, a powerful new installation that brings to life Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and the European Space Agency’s concept of a Moon Village, launched last week at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

The Moon Village project is the result of a multidisciplinary initiative launched by ESA and was developed in collaboration with MIT AeroAstro Professor and former NASA astronaut , Jeffrey Hoffman.

Go to this engaging  video detailing a Moon village at:

https://youtu.be/HgFxiv7nzTs

To help celebrate the highly anticipated UFO government report expected to be released later this month, the pop culture is also abuzz about the task force findings.

OREO is sending a sign of peace and unity to any extraterrestrials out there with a playful offering of Earth’s number 1 cookie…even building  a site on a farm in the heart of the country as part of the flying saucer fanfare.

The OREO Offering” is designd to bring all lifeforms together. Throughout the day, OREO crowdsourced preferences from fans on Twitter to determine cookie flavor, milk type and more to include in the offering.

To roll out the welcome mat for visitors from afar, OREO created a friendly offering on a private farm enabling extraterrestrials to land safely and enjoy a fully stocked site complete with OREO cookies and milk!

A video has been released revealing how it all came together with a playfully mysterious twist (an intricate 3-acre wide design encircling the site of the OREO Offering appears, implying that the brand’s efforts to bring all life forms together may have been successful).

Check out this video at: https://youtu.be/ic1uBV7S6Jc

For a limited time only, OREO is inviting Earthlings everywhere to make their own offerings at home with the release of specially designed packs of cookies.

Lifeforms

“Whether you are a UFO believer or not, it is undeniable that a special connection forms over Earth’s number one cookie and a glass of milk!” said Olympia Portale, senior brand manager of OREO Equity. “With The OREO Offering, we are ready to greet any lifeforms that might be out there. We’ve also created specially designed packs of OREO cookies so our Earthling fans can extend the olive branch to extraterrestrials at home too.”

OREO is also inviting we planet dwellers to make their own offerings at home with the release of specially designed packs of cookies. Fans have a chance to snag the OREO Offering cookies that are available for a limited time starting today, by visiting OREO.com/TheOREOOffering

Simply position a cookie in the center of the specially designed pack and place it within clear view of the night sky to share a sign of peace and unity to any extraterrestrials out there. 

Show @OREO your own offerings on social media using #OREOOffering and be sure to say you got them for free from OREO.

OREO Offering packs are only available while supplies last, on a first-come, first-serve basis, with fans just covering the cost of shipping to receive their complimentary pack.

On the other hand, given past governmental studies of UFOs, who knows what this new report will say. I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Onward to Venus!

NASA has selected two spacecraft missions to purge knowledge out of Earth’s sister world:

DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging)

DAVINCI+ Credit: NASA GSFC visualization by CI Labs Michael Lentz and others

 

VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy)

Both missions are expected to launch between 2028 and 2030.

The selection announced yesterday beat out two other candidates, an Io Volcano Observer and TRIDENT that would have explored Triton.

VERITAS Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Life on Venus?

James Garvin, senior fellow & chief Scientist is the DAVINCI+ principal investigator at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He tells Inside Outer Space: “Mars is cool but Venus is way hotter.”

You might find my Scientific American story of last year of interest regarding these missions and Venus exploration:

“Is There Life on Venus? These Missions Could Find It – Following a tantalizing discovery, these spacecraft could be headed to Earth’s twisted twin in search of the truth” at:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-life-on-venus-these-missions-could-find-it/