Archive for October, 2021

Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The successful 14th flight of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took place shortly after 1:18 a.m. PDT on October 24 within Jezero Crater.

According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

As planned, the helicopter executed its first 2,700 rpm flight, proving that Ingenuity is capable of flying in the weeks and months ahead on Mars, during which seasonal changes on the surface will result in decreases in air density.

The short 23-second flight included a peak altitude of 16 feet (5 meters) above ground level, with a small sideways translation of 7 feet (2 meters) to avoid a nearby sand ripple.

 

 

This most recent flight was also the first time Ingenuity recorded black-and-white navigation camera images at the high-rate of about seven frames a second.

 

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter acquired this sequence of images using its navigation camera. This camera is mounted in the helicopter’s fuselage and pointed directly downward to track the ground during flight.
These images were acquired on October 24, 2021 (Sol 241 of the Perseverance rover mission) at the local mean solar time of 12:34:15.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Credit: Hookie Co.

It is billed as the world’s first Moon concept motorcycle.

Introducing the “Tardigrade,” designed to explore the lunar surface and beyond.

A rider on the Moon vehicle can carry different types of equipment and with a speed limit of 9 mph (15km/h) it has a battery range for over 65 miles (110 kilometers).

Tardigrade is a combination of ultra lightweight materials and changeable airless tire pieces that allows Moon expeditionary crews to tackle any obstacle on its mission.

“It was a vision with hurdles. But we proofed it,” explains Hookie Co. – a moto design company for motorcycle refinement and accessories, based in Dresden, Germany.

Credit: Hookie Co.

Adventure and departure

According to Hookie, this off-world motorcycle was visualized by Russian senior designer, Andrew Fabishevskiy back in 2020. That sparked an exploration vision that Nico Mueller (CEO, Hookie Co.) and his crew pursued.

“The Tardigrade represents an atmosphere of adventure and departure,” the firm explains on their website. “Daring to question the status quo, our small but highly motivated team has created something truly unique. Everyone is proud of that, for a reason.”

Credit: Hookie Co.

Through the imagination of Hookie “we are much closer to a cosmic driving experience between lunar craters and space stations.”

True survivors

Why adopt the name Tardigrade?

“They have been found everywhere in Earth’s biosphere. From mountaintops to the deep sea and mud volcanoes, and from tropical rainforests to the Antarctic. Tardigrades are among the most resilient animals known, with individual species able to survive extreme conditions of any kind. Tardigrades are true survivors who have also endured the rigors of outer space,” the company explains.

Credit: Andrew Fabishevskiy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a video of the concept motorcycle, go to:

https://youtu.be/Ad6cd4eJSu8

Also, go to the Hookie company here at:

https://hookie.co/

BTW: The world premiere of Hookie’s Tardigrade will take place mid-this month as part of the ADV:Overland exhibition in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California.

Go to: https://www.petersen.org/

Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3279. Since landing in August 2012, the rover’s distance driven is 16.45 miles/26.47 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3280 duties.

A pre-drive contact science target is “Rhue,” a bright white vein – one of the largest seen, reports Ashley Stroupe, a mission operations engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

On tap is taking short Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) integrations as well as Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) imaging of the vein.

Terrain continues to be challenging, with large boulders, sharp rocks that are wheel hazards, and sand ripples.
Image taken by Left Navigation Camera on Sol 3279, October 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Unlike the really tiny veins that we normally see, this is one is so large enough that we should be able to target it well and accurately,” Stroupe adds.

With and without veins

After robotic arm activities, Mars researchers have a series of targeted science observations.

They are looking at the target “Bludgers Revelation,” a typical bedrock target, with both the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) and the robot’s Mastcam.

“We are also taking multispectral mosaics of some nearby features, including a regolith fracture, a laminated rock, and additional bedrock targets (both with and without veins). We are also taking a Navcam suprahorizon movie, looking off to the south,” Stroupe explains.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 3280, October 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Strategic route

Curiosity’s drive is taking scientists back toward the planned strategic route, and gets them closer to the area they are targeting for the next drill campaign.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3280, October 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This drive should leave us with bedrock in the workspace for additional contact science on the weekend. This terrain continues to be very challenging, with large boulders, sharp rocks that are wheel hazards, and sand ripples, Stroupe adds. “These drives take a while to plan to make sure we are avoiding all the hazards while getting to where science wants to go. Our paths end up looking a little ‘drunk’ as we weave our way around obstacles.”

Parts of Rafael Navarro Mountain can be seen to the left, while more local hills that will be blocking Curiosity’s view of Rafael Navarro Mountain in the near future are visible on the right. Curiosity Left Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3278.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

On the second sol of the plan (Sol 3281), another methane experiment with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite is planned.

“This is part of our periodic campaign to monitor atmospheric methane and understand seasonal variations. We don’t have anything else on this sol of the plan to preserve power for the weekend plan.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3280, October 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Southward drive

Reports Mark Salvatore, a planetary geologist at the University of Michigan, it is “so long, Rafael Navarro Mountain.”

“Since the early part of 2021, Curiosity has been continuing her drive up Mt. Sharp with the roughly 460 foot (140 meters) tall Rafael Navarro Mountain as a familiar reference point,” Salvatore explains.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3280, October 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Now that we have ascended a significant portion of Mt. Sharp and have started a southward drive to approach the Greenheugh Pediment, we are about to lose sight of parts of Rafael Navarro Mountain behind some other hills for the foreseeable future,” Salvatore adds. “Before we lose this view, however, Curiosity is prioritizing some long-distance imaging of Rafael Navarro Mountain to make sure that we don’t miss out on any interesting and valuable observations.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3280, October 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Heavily fractured

Curiosity operations include science operations with some arm activities, including MAHLI imaging and APXS chemistry measurements of the “Ashlar” target, which is a finely laminated sedimentary rock that is heavily fractured with veins and potential nodules.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3280, October 28, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Following arm activities, Curiosity was set to conduct a handful of remote sensing activities, including acquiring a multispectral image of the “Denburn” float rock target, a ChemCam Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) measurement of the Ashlar bedrock target, and several Mastcam mosaics of targets including near-field layering, the Greenheugh Pediment, and Siccar Point.

Fleeting vantage point

Lastly, ChemCam will be used to acquire a high-resolution imaging mosaic of Rafael Navarro Mountain from the robot’s fleeting vantage point.

After another drive to the south, Salvatore concludes, Curiosity was scheduled to acquire a standard suite of post-drive imaging before standing down for the evening and recharging before the next sol’s science activities.

Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3278, Distance driven to date is 16.43 miles/26.44 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

 

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 3279 duties.

A few new images from the robot show its surroundings:

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 3279, October 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3279, October 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3279, October 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3279, October 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3279, October 27, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s Location as of Sol 3277. Distance driven since landing, 16.41 miles/26.42 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now carrying out Sol 3278 tasks.

Looking at the rocks currently near the rover’s workspace, they look like “piles of tortilla chips,” notes Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Black and white image of large surfaced rocks embedded in smooth sand. There are smaller rocks present as well. The surface of these rocks is rough with lots of cracks.
This image taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard Curiosity on Sol 3277. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

From a geological perspective, however, the “incredibly thin and fragile layers indicate that the rocks were laid down in a sedimentary environment,” reports Guzewich. Those “tortilla chip-like” fins indicate later water flowed through fractures in the rocks.

“Both the thin layers and fins can be seen along the bottom edge of the nearby Siccar Point, and it’s likely that the dark overlying material that’s still present on Siccar Point was eroded away at the location we’re parked, leaving the “tortilla chip terrain” (my term, not an official MSL feature term) exposed on the surface,” Guzewich adds.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo taken on Sol 3278, October 26, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

Workplace science

The rover recently was scheduled to carry out a standard touch-and-go plan, with contact science on a large block (tortilla chip pile) in the workspace termed “Wardie.”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 3278, October 26, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Also on tap was using the Chemistry and Camera Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) device on another such block off to the rover’s right and take a series of Mastcam images of the various surface textures around the rover.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3278, October 26, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

 

“Farther afield, we’ll take a large Mastcam mosaic of Rafael Navarro mountain and search for dust devils with Navcam,” Guzewich concludes.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3278, October 26, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Photo credit: Firefly Aerospace, Inc.

 

Firefly Aerospace, Inc., headquartered in Cedar Park, Texas, has announced it reached a major milestone with the successful completion of the Critical Design Review of their Blue Ghost lunar lander, paving the way for construction of the lander, scheduled to touch down in the Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises) lunar basin in September of 2023.

Blue Ghost is slated to carry ten NASA payloads as part of the $93.3-million Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract secured by Firefly earlier this year.

Yearly outings

The robotic lunar lander will also take several commercial payloads to the Moon’s surface. The lander is the first of what is expected to be yearly lunar surface jaunts for Firefly.

Firefly team, ready to go the lunar distance.
Photo credit: Firefly Aerospace, Inc.

Blue Ghost will operate a variety of payloads through lunar transit and orbit, as well as from the lunar surface. These payloads will explore the region’s regolith properties, geophysical characteristics, and interaction of the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field.

There are also several key technology demonstrations related to navigation and sample collection.

The lander is to be equipped with a camera that will provide never before seen views relayed from the Moon back to Earth, including video.

Lunar economy

In a Firefly press statement, Tom Markusic, Firefly’s CEO, said: “This mission is a forerunner of what we see as a growing cadence of recurring data and payload service missions in cis-lunar space that will kick-start a lunar economy.”


Credit: International Observe the Moon Night

Blue Ghost’s targeting of Mare Crisium has been the area of exploration of previous lunar missions including the former Soviet Union’s Moon landers, Luna 15 (failure), Luna 23, and Luna 24.

In 2012, the NASA Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) project — a dual-spacecraft mission that involved placing two identical spacecraft in orbit around the Moon — used high-quality gravitational field mapping to determine its internal structure. The GRAIL mission confirmed and mapped a mass-concentration at the center of the Crisium basin.

For more information on Firefly, go to: https://firefly.com/

China presses forward on its space station work. Orbital facility is to be fully built by end of 2022.
Credit: CMSE

 

China is forging ahead on making use of its still-in-construction space station to carry out a range of experiments, both in-country investigations and though international partnerships.

Last week, retrieved space experimental samples gathered by China’s Shenzhou-12 crew were transferred to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A handover ceremony was held in Beijing on Friday while the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization delivered the experimental materials to relevant research institutions, including the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics Chinese Academy of Sciences (SICCAS).

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Retrieved samples

Researchers will now carry out dissection, analysis and study of the retrieved samples for more scientific results.

China’s space application department has established two major research facilities, the container-free laboratory cabinet and high microgravity laboratory cabinet on the station’s core module. Those in-orbit facilities have finished basic function test and acquired in-orbit test and application data.

Shenzhou-12 crew members prepare to depart core module.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

According to China Central Television (CCTV), samples retrieved include container-free materials gleaned by the Shenzhou-12 astronauts, which will be used for further scientific research and analysis on the ground, according to the expert.

China’s Shenzhou-12 mission returned to Earth on September 17. That trio of taikonauts, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo, completed a three-month stay on the Tianhe core module.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Container-free materials

“We are the second in the world to have facilities for researches of container-free materials, following the International Space Station. The samples retrieved include two kinds which are metal zirconium and non-metal zirconium oxide of nine sets,” Zhong Hongen, the deputy chief engineer of space application system of China’s Manned Space Flight Project, told CCTV.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Yu Jianding, a researcher with SICCAS, also told CCTV that the retrieval of the samples exemplified the sound and comprehensive functions of our space facilities.

“In the future, we will carry out in-depth research on more valuable materials, like some glassy alloy and vitreous oxide with high refraction, and apply them in the photology field,” Yu said. Photology is a branch of physics that deals with the properties and phenomena of light.

Multi-nation opportunities

Looking out into the future, the first round of China space station opportunity opened in 2018.

China space station awardees have been picked under the United Nations/China Cooperation on the Utilization of the China Space Station program – jointly implemented by UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and the China Manned Space Agency. It provided scientists from around the world with an opportunity to conduct their own experiments onboard China’s space station.

As a final outcome from the application and selection process, nine experiment projects were selected for entering the preparation and implementation process.

Courtesy: UNOOSA/Perihelion

Projects selected

Those nine projects involve 23 institutions from 17 Member States of the United Nations in Asian-pacific, European, African, North American and South American regions, including governmental organizations, private sectors, and international associations.

The projects selected are:

  • “POLAR-2: Gamma-Ray Burst Polarimetry on the China Space Station” was applied and will be implemented by four institutions from four countries, which are: The University of Geneva from Switzerland, the National Center for Nuclear Research of Poland, the Max Plank Institute for Extra-terrestrial Physics of Germany, and the Institute of High Energy Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
  • “Spectroscopic Investigations of Nebular Gas (SING)” was applied and will be implemented by two institutions from two countries, which are: The Indian Institute of Astrophysics, and the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • “Behavior of Partially Miscible Fluid in Microgravity” was applied and will be implemented by two organizations from two countries, namely the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) and the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Belgium.
  • “Flame Instabilities Affected by Vortices and Acoustic Waves (FIAVAW)” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by two institutions from two countries, which are: Tsinghua University from China and the University of Tokyo from Japan.
  • “Tumors in Space” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by four institutions from four countries, namely the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, International Space University, Vrije University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and the Belgium Nuclear Research Center.
  • “Effect of Microgravity on the Growth and Biofilm Production of Disease-Causing Bacteria” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by the Mars Society – Peru Chapter, and the Mars Society – Spain Chapter.
  • “Mid-infrared platform for Earth observations” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by two organizations from one country, which are: the National Institute of Astrophysics Optics and Electronics (INAOE), and Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) from Mexico.
  • “Development of Multi-Junction GaAs Solar Cells for Space Applications” was jointly applied and will be jointly implemented by two institutions from one country, which are: the National Center for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) from Saudi Arabia.
  • “BARIDI SANA – High-Performance Micro 2-Phase Cooling System for Space Applications” was applied and will be implemented by three institutions from two countries, which are: the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy, In Quattro s.r.l. in Italy, and the Machakos University in Kenya.

For a video on the Shenzhou-12 handover of samples, go to:

https://youtu.be/HjE_hFmqNds

To view a video on the tumors in space experiment, go to:

https://vimeo.com/389231913

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 3276 duties exploring Gale Crater.

Here are several just-released images showing the robot’s current surroundings:

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3276, October 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo acquired on Sol 3276, October 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3276, October 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3276, October 24, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3274. Distance driven to date – 16.40 miles/26.40 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Lander and Zhurong Mars rover.
Credit: CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

Following Earth-Mars solar conjunction, China’s Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter has resumed communications, ready to re-start remote sensing of the Red Planet in early November,

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) said Friday that the orbiter was in normal condition during the solar conjunction, successfully surviving the conjunction.

CNSA stated that the orbiter will enter a remote-sensing orbit of Mars in early November to carry out global detection and obtain scientific data. The Tianwen-1 orbiter will scope out morphology and geological structure, surface material composition and soil type distribution on Mars, and also gauge the atmospheric ionosphere, and space environment of the planet.

Tianwen-1.
Credit: CNSA

Rover duties

Furthermore, the Mars-circling craft is ready to relay communication between the Zhurong rover and Earth for extended mission duties, according to Zhang Rongqiao, the Tianwen-1 mission’s chief designer.

Mission controllers have reestablished their tracking, communication and control of the orbiter and rover, which had been in normal condition during the recent “Sun outage” period that started in mid-September.

China’s Zhurong rover.
Credit: Liang Ding, et al.

China’s Zhurong rover is slated to continue its travels south toward an ancient coastal area within its exploration zone of Utopia Planitia. Prior to the suspension of its rolling over the Red Planet, Zhurong had traveled nearly 3,609 feet (1,100 meters) on the Martian surface and was in good condition with sufficient energy, Zhang said.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space Screengrab

Safe mode

Due to solar conjunction, the wheeled rover and orbiter were put into “safe mode,” pausing their tasks and autonomously carried out health assessments, self-monitoring and troubleshooting.

Tianwen-1 was launched on July 23, 2020 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, entering Martian orbit on February 10, 2021. Zhurong touched down on the planet on May 15, driving off its landing platform the following week.

Once in operation, Zhurong joins two NASA rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance, as well as the NASA InSight lander, to continue their respective Mars exploration agendas.

Artistic rendering illustrates large asteroids penetrating Earth’s oxygen-poor atmosphere.
Credit: SwRI/Dan Durda, Simone Marchi

 

It is a messy business – asteroid bombardment of the Earth.

The Earth was a “full stop” planet to a substantial number of large impacts throughout the late Archean era. Around 2.4 billion years ago, during the tail end of this bombardment, the Earth went through a major shift in surface chemistry triggered by the rise of atmospheric oxygen, dubbed the Great Oxidation Event (GOE).

A team led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has updated its asteroid bombardment model of the Earth with the latest geologic evidence of ancient, large collisions.

These new findings correspond to the geological record, which shows that oxygen levels in the atmosphere varied but stayed relatively low in the early Archean eon.

SwRI-led study updated bombardment models based on small glassy particles, known as impact spherules, that populate multiple thin, discrete layers in the Earth’s crust, ranging in age from about 2.4 to 3.5 billion years old. Spherule layers — such as the one shown in this 5-centimeter, 2.6-billion-year-old sample from Australia — are markers of ancient collisions.
Credit: UCLA/Scott Hassler and Oberlin/Bruce Simonson

Oxygen scarcity

Impacts by bodies larger than six miles (10 kilometers) in diameter may have contributed to its scarcity, as limited oxygen present in the atmosphere of early Earth would have been chemically consumed by impact vapors, further reducing its abundance in the atmosphere, according to a SwRI statement.

“Impact vapors caused episodic low oxygen levels for large spans of time preceding the GOE,” said SwRI’s Simone Marchi, lead author of a paper about this research in Nature Geoscience. “As time went on, collisions become progressively less frequent and too small to be able to significantly alter post-GOE oxygen levels. The Earth was on its course to become the current planet.”

Droplets of molten rocks

When large asteroids or comets struck early Earth, the energy released melted and vaporized rocky materials in the Earth’s crust.

Small droplets of molten rock in the impact plume would condense, solidify and fall back to Earth, creating round, globally distributed sand-size particles.

Known as impact spherules, these glassy particles populated multiple thin, discrete layers in the Earth’s crust, ranging in age from about 2.4 to 3.5 billion years old. These Archean spherule layers are markers of ancient collisions.

Credit: NASA

 

Free oxygen

Nadja Drabon, a Harvard assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences, was part of a team that analyzed remnants of ancient asteroids and modeled the effects of their collisions to show that the strikes took place more often than previously thought and may have delayed when oxygen started accumulating on the planet.

The new models can help scientists understand more precisely when the planet started its path toward becoming the Earth we know today.

“Free oxygen in the atmosphere is critical for any living being that uses respiration to produce energy,” Drabon said in a Harvard statement. “Without the accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere we would probably not exist.”

To access the new paper – “Delayed and variable late Archaean atmospheric oxidation due to high collision rates on Earth,” go to:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-021-00835-9

Also, go to this SwRI press release —

“SwRI-led team produces a new Earth bombardment model – New model applied to understand how oxygen levels in Earth’s atmosphere evolved,” at:

https://www.swri.org/press-release/swri-led-team-produces-new-earth-bombardment-model