Archive for January, 2022

Credit: Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU)

Throughout last year there has been an upsurge of peculiar sightings reported thanks to individuals armed with an iphone or other video gear that spot and record strange glimmerings in the sky.

Could they be a SpaceX parade of orbiting Starlink satellites, airplane-deployed flares, falling space junk, maybe floating specialty balloons or purposely-faked UFO incursions by people with too much time on their hands?

Then there’s the prospect of Earth being on the receiving end of aliens on holiday excursions speeding in from Alpha Centauri that find themselves want of brake fluid and crash into New Mexico.

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

Many of these are ultimately flagged as what they are.

Nonetheless, is 2022 the year of the revelatory “disclosure” that we Earthlings are not only alone but there’s immediate need to start cogitating just how crowded it is out there with intelligent starfolk, busily scooting through our skies?

Go to my new Space.com story:

“2022 could be a turning point in the study of UFOs – Interest in UFOs continues to grow, both among scientists and government officials,” at:

https://www.space.com/2022-turning-point-study-ufos-uap

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3362, January 20, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3363 duties.

It is a “sedimentologist’s delight,” reports Lauren Edgar, a planetary geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 3362, January 20, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 3362, January 20, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After a few sols of challenges that prevented researchers from getting close-up Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) imaging of a dark outcrop in front of the robot, scientists were finally able to plan the contact science that they were hoping for, Edgar explains.

Kick that rock

Recently, there was a small rock under the right rear rover wheel, so controllers had to kick that rock to the curb to get into a stable position for using the rover arm.

A downlink of data confirmed that Curiosity had cleared the rock and scientists “are good to go with a fantastic set of contact science activities,” Edgar adds. “As a sedimentologist, I am drooling over some of these beautiful structures throughout this area.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3362, January 20, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Sedimentary structures

A slated two-sol plan (Sols 3362-3363) is focused on contact science on the first sol and a drive on the second sol.

“The plan starts with several Mastcam mosaics to document sedimentary structures and their spatial relationships, as well as the processes responsible for carving this landscape,” Edgar points out.

On the schedule is obtaining a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy observation on “Kako” to investigate the chemistry of nearby nodular bedrock, followed by a long-distance Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaic to investigate the stratigraphy exposed in the “Mirador” butte.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3361, January 19, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Dog’s eye” mosaic

“After that, we’ll put the arm to work,” Edgar notes. “We’ll acquire a MAHLI ‘dog’s eye’ mosaic of the target ‘Caroni’ in which the camera will get an edge-on perspective of the exposed laminae, and a set of images that coincide with the [Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer] (APXS) targets ‘Coati’ and ‘Morok.’”

“All of these contact science targets are intended to understand the grain size, sedimentary structures, and composition of the dark outcrop in front of us,” Edgar explains.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3361, January 19, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Dust and dust devils

Previously, Curiosity has acquired remote sensing observations of this outcrop, and Mars researchers are excited to get new, detailed information from MAHLI and APXS.

“After the evening APXS integrations, the rover will go to sleep, and wake up the next morning for more science,” Edgar reports.

Also on tap, a suite of observations to characterize atmospheric dust and search for dust devils.

“Then Curiosity will drive back along this dark outcrop to another interesting location to setup for more contact science in the weekend plan,” Edgar concludes. “Looking forward to a great set of data from this location!”

Credit: Ding L., et al.

Data and images collected by China’s Yutu-2 rover indicate it has experienced varying degrees of mild slip and skid. The lunar terrain trod by the six-wheeled, off-road robot, is relatively flat at large scales but scattered with local gentle slopes.

“Cloddy soil sticking on its wheels implies a greater cohesion of the lunar soil than encountered at other lunar landing sites,” reports Ding Liang with the Harbin Institute of Technology.

The Moon machinery uses four steering motors on the corner wheels with a meshed surface.

Credit: Ding L., et al.

Cloddy soil, gel-like rocks

Researchers from Harbin Institute of Technology and Beijing Aerospace Control Center analyzed the locomotive data and images collected by Yutu-2, presenting their findings in the peer-reviewed journal, Science Robotics.

China’s Chang’E-4 mission successfully targeted the Moon’s farside and deployed the teleoperated Yutu-2 rover to investigate inside the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. The robot has encountered cloddy soil, gel-like rocks, and fresh small craters inside the Von Karman crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Credit: Ding L., et al.

 

Rolling past designed lifetime

The Moon mission – a lander and the rover – touched down on January 3, 2019. The rover has operated for three years, rolling past its initial three-month designed lifetime.

 

Researchers used the rover wheel as a trenching device to approximate the properties of the lunar soil.

Cover photo credit: Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC)

Ding Liang, the paper’s first author, State Key Laboratory of Robotics and System, Harbin Institute of Technology, said that the findings are helping shape in-depth studies for China’s subsequent lunar missions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To read the study – “A 2-year locomotive exploration and scientific investigation of the lunar farside by the Yutu-2 rover” – go to:

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/scirobotics.abj6660

The International Space Station, home-away-from-home and a social, cultural study site. ISS mosaic created with imagery from Expedition 66.
Credit: NASA

A worldwide group of researchers is engaged in a unique, archaeological study of crew culture within the International Space station, focused on the orbiting habitat as a “microsociety in a miniworld.”

This global inside look at the ISS is called The International Space Station Archaeological Project (ISSAP) and is expected to supply new insights regarding human life in space and issues of habitation design.

Watch this space! Archaeological research is underway.
Credit: NASA

Findings of the ISSAP could prove useful to other mini working cultures here on Earth, be they Antarctic research stations, long-deployment nuclear submarines, and on a more outer space-oriented note, future Mars expeditions.  

Go to my new Space.com story – “’Space archaeology’ research on the ISS will help design better space habitats – The new project could aid NASA’s crewed push to Mars” – at:

https://www.space.com/space-archaeology-iss-crew-culture-project

Future human missions to the Red Planet and the voyage back to Earth are expected to take two to three years.

During those lengthy sojourns, significant amounts of waste will be generated.

A crowdsourcing competition is seeking innovative approaches to repurpose, recycle, and reprocess the waste generated onboard to enable mission sustainability.

HeroX is a platform and open marketplace for crowdsourced solutions and had launched the competition: “Waste to Base Materials Challenge: Sustainable Reprocessing in Space”

The challenge

NASA’s Waste to Base Challenge asks the larger community to provide inventive approaches to waste management and conversion in four specific categories:

  • Trash
  • Fecal waste
  • Foam packaging material
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) processing

“Since the logistics of supply ships to support a Mars mission are very difficult, the spacecraft needs to be as efficient and self-sufficient as possible,” explains a HeroX statement.

Any humans to Mars expedition will require spacecraft as efficient and self-sufficient as possible.
Credit: Bob Sauls – XP4D/Explore Mars, Inc. (used with permission)

“This challenge is all about finding ways to convert waste into base materials and other useful things, like propellant or feedstock for 3D printing. The challenge is looking for your ideas for how to convert different waste streams into propellant and into useful materials that can then be made into needed things and cycled through multiple times,” the HeroX statement continues.

Although a perfectly efficient cycle is unlikely, ideally, competitive solutions will result in little to no waste.

NASA could eventually integrate all the different processes into a robust ecosystem that allows a spacecraft to launch from Earth with the lowest possible mass.

Prize money

Multiple winners in each category will each be awarded a prize of $1,000. Additionally, judges will recognize four ideas as “best in class,” each with a prize of $1,000. A total prize purse of $24,000 will be awarded.

The prize is open to anyone aged 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (some restrictions apply).

For more information, and to accept the challenge, visit:

https://www.herox.com/WasteToBase

 

Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3359. Distance driven 16.78 miles/27.01 kilometers
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3361 tasks.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3361, January 19, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We continue to document rocks similar to what we saw at ‘The Prow,’ a dark appearing rock outcrop with amazing sedimentary structures and details,” reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, Planetary Geologist at University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3359, January 17, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“To do this, we need to get as close as possible to an outcrop surface but that has called for some short multi-plan drives, as we maneuver to a new feature called ‘Panari’ – a length of roughly [65-feet] 20 meters away from The Prow.”

In the last plan, the robot edged towards the inclined rock in the front right corner of the image, ending on some flatter rock a safe distance back.
This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera on Sol 3356, January 14, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Flatter rock

In the last plan, the robot edged towards an inclined rock, ending on some flatter rock a safe distance back.

“This end of drive,” O’Connell-Cooper adds, “allows the rover planners to vet the inclined rock, finding the optimal location to place us for up close contact science after a short ‘bump’ or drive (less than [10-feet] 3 meters in total) on the third sol of this plan [Sols 3357-3360].”

Curiosity Mast Camera (Mastcam) Left photo acquired on Sol 3359, January 17, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera (Mastcam) Left photo acquired on Sol 3359, January 17, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera (Mastcam) Left photo acquired on Sol 3359, January 17, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

First however is documenting the flatlying rock underneath the rover. The target “Chimata” in front of the rover will be brushed to clear the dust and then analyzed by both the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mastcam.

Tonal differences

“This material is a somewhat paler color than The Prow and the inclined rocks at Panari, so we are investigating to see if the tonal differences are reflected in the composition,” O’Connell-Cooper notes.

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will use the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument to target two smaller targets (“Mataui” and “Kamarang”) and the Mastcam targets “Auyan” and “Uei” look at sand movement overlying fractures and along the side of flatlying bedrock.

“Chimata” in front of the rover is brushed to clear the dust. Curiosity Mast Camera (Mastcam) Right image taken on Sol 3359, January 17, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

 

Changing dust levels

ChemCam will also target the inclined block with LIBS (“Apparam”) and its imaging tool, the Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) (target “Karwai”), whilst Mastcam will image a similar block “Quino” a bit further in the distance, O’Connell-Cooper says.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3359, January 17, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

There are also multiple monitoring activities, looking at changing dust levels in the atmosphere, and a full day of Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) only activities of the last day of a recent, but crammed, four sol plan, O’Connell-Cooper concludes.

On the prowl at Vera Rubin ridge Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Research carried out by NASA’s Curiosity rover at Gale Crater point to the possible ultraviolet degradation of biologically produced methane.

The robot has permitted scientists to analyze carbon isotopes in sediment samples taken from half a dozen exposed locations, including an exposed cliff.

According to a just-published paper led by Christopher House, professor of geosciences at the Pennsylvania State University, researchers single out three plausible explanations for the carbon’s origin: cosmic dust, ultraviolet degradation of carbon dioxide, or ultraviolet degradation of biologically produced methane.

The researchers note in a new issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that: “All three of these scenarios are unconventional, unlike processes common on Earth.”

That third possible method of producing carbon-13 depleted samples has a biological basis.

Credit: NASA

Unusual carbon cycle

According to a Penn State research story, here on Earth, a strongly carbon-13 depleted signature from a paleosurface would indicate past microbes consumed microbially produced methane.

“Ancient Mars may have had large plumes of methane being released from the subsurface where methane production would have been energetically favorable. Then, the released methane would either be consumed by surface microbes or react with ultraviolet light and be deposited directly on the surface,” the research statement explains.

“However, according to the researchers, there is currently no sedimentary evidence of surface microbes on the past Mars landscape, and so the biological explanation highlighted in the paper relies on ultraviolet light to place the carbon-13 signal onto the ground,” the statement continues.

The image shows the Highfield drill hole on Vera Rubin Ridge. Drill powder from this hole showed carbon isotope values indicating a carbon cycle that includes either subsurface life, intense UV radiation penetrating the atmosphere, or Interstellar dust. The image was taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager on sol 2247. Credit: NASA/Caltech-JPL/MSSS via Penn State.

“All three possibilities point to an unusual carbon cycle unlike anything on Earth today,” said House. “But we need more data to figure out which of these is the correct explanation. It would be nice if the rover would detect a large methane plume and measure the carbon isotopes from that, but while there are methane plumes, most are small, and no rover has sampled one large enough for the isotopes to be measured.”

House says that finding the remains of microbial mats or evidence of glacial deposits could also help clear things up. “We are being cautious with our interpretation, which is the best course when studying another world.”

To read the full research statement from Penn State, written by the university’s A’ndrea Elyse Messer, go to:

https://www.psu.edu/news/research/story/newly-discovered-carbon-may-yield-clues-ancient-mars

Also, go to Paul Voosen’s Science magazine article — “Mars rover detects carbon signature that hints at past life source Dramatically “light” carbon could also be explained by atmospheric reactions or cosmic dust” at:

https://www.science.org/content/article/mars-rover-detects-carbon-signature-hints-past-life-source?

Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television(CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Chang’e-4 probe was launched on December 8, 2018, making the first-ever soft landing within the Von Kármán Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the Moon’s far side on January 3, 2019.

Von Kármán crater (186 kilometer diameter), a treasure house of geologic landforms. Image taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LROC Wide Angle Camera.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The Chang’e-4 lander deployed the Yutu-2 rover that has now wheeled over 1,000 meters of lunar landscape. The lander and rover have so far operated for three years since its landing at the far side of the Moon – much longer than its designed service life of three months, according to a China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast.

Chang’e-4 farside mission – lander and Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

Surpassed expectations

As for why the lunar mission has surpassed expectations, Fu Qiang, chief designer of the Chang’e-4 ground application system, told CCTV:

Fu Qiang, chief designer of the Chang’e-4 ground application system.
Credit: CNSA/CMG/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“As early as the beginning of the design, we had required high reliability in selecting each component…therefore there was a guarantee of a long service life and high reliability.”

Since the lunar surface temperature is between 160 degrees Celsius and minus 180 degrees Celsius, a difference of more than 300 degrees Celsius, the designers created two rest modes for Chang’e-4—sleep mode and hibernation mode—so that it could better adapt to the harsh climate.

Credit: CNSA/CMG/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“After 38 lunar days of testing, the program and procedure of our design work have proven to be very reasonable,” said Fu.

Radiation resistance

A lunar day is equal to 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is the same length.

Credit: CNSA/CMG/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Because the Moon has no protective layer, lunar hardware can be affected by various space particles.

Radiation resistance was enhanced for Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2. These protections not only extend the service life of the spacecrafts but also guarantee the accuracy of the collected data.

The Chang’e-4 lander and the Yutu-2 rover are in good working condition, with the rover travelling northwest to a basalt region.

Credit: CNSA/CMG/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Mystery hut

Recently, imagery taken by Yutu-2 caused a stir, with a “mystery” object spotted on the Moon.

Credit: CNSA/CMG/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The object, shaped like a hut, was imaged by the robot.  It was seen over 260-feet (80-meters) away from the rover’s location.

Close-up imagery of the feature show the “mystery hut” to be a rock situated on the edge of a crater.

 

 

 

 

Go to this video detailing the Chang’e-4 mission at:

https://youtu.be/_UszIz56L_k

Credit: Blue Origin/Dylan Taylor

Dylan Taylor is a “space angel,” an investor in NewSpace and last December he reached a new career high, quite literally. He flew onboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocketship on its NS-19 mission.

Credit: Blue Origin/Dylan Taylor

Blue Origin successfully completed its third human spaceflight on Saturday, December 11, 2021 the first with six passengers to make the trek.

Go to my exclusive Space.com interview with Taylor at:

Launching with Blue Origin: Q&A with spaceflight veteran Dylan Taylor

“Looking out the window, I think I said, ‘Oh my god … oh my god!’ It literally took my breath away.”

https://www.space.com/dylan-taylor-blue-origin-spaceflight-interview

Credit: CNSA/CLEP

China’s Yutu-2 far side lunar rover has taken over 1,000 photos since it landed on the Moon three years ago.

The robot is exploring the Von Kármán crater, a large lunar impact feature that is located in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Yutu-2 was deployed from the Chang’e-4 lander that touched down on the far side of the Moon on January 3, 2019.

Chang’e-4 lander taken by Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

According to a China Central Television (CCTV) report, the Yutu-2 has wheeled itself over 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) as of January 6, 2021.

“From the high-resolution photos taken by Yutu-2, we can see many typical landforms, such as some fresh craters, (the diameter of which) range from tens of meters to tens of centimeters. We also see many rocks of different sizes,” Ren Xin, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-4 ground application system, told CCTV.

Ren Xin, deputy chief designer, Chang’e-4 ground application system.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Scientific data

The rover is equipped with six scientific payloads, including the panoramic camera and the infrared imaging spectrometer, aiming to explore the lunar topography and the composition of the lunar soil. It has already collected 3,800GB of scientific data.

The Yutu-2 would often take considerable time to survey the craters it encounters. Ren said it once spent nearly three lunar days to measure the details of one crater.

Ren Xin details Yutu-2 imagery to CCTV reporter.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The Yutu-2 has now completed tasks for its 38th lunar day and is currently hibernating for the lunar night. A lunar day is equal to about 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is of the same length. The solar-powered probe switches to dormant mode during the lunar night.

Next, Yutu-2 will travel northwest away from the landing point.

“Right now, [the rover] is heading northwest to a basalt region with no ejecta, around one kilometer away from the current position, which may take a longer time to reach,” Ren said.

Credit: CNSA/CLEP

Yutu-2 rover moves toward crater inspection.
Credit: CGTV/CNSA/CLEP