Archive for the ‘Space News’ Category

Credit: GLOBALink/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The new arrivals at China’s space station construction site are busy at work at the start of their projected six-month stay.

The Shenzhou-13 crew has opened the hatch of the Tianzhou-3 cargo craft, transferring hardware and life-staining supplies. The space trio of Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and space rookie, Ye Guangfu, will also open the hatch of the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft.

On the near-term agenda is conducting two to three extra-vehicular activities and scientific research. Wang Yaping, the only female astronaut of the crew, will carry out a spacewalk, as well as perform science education work. It will be the second time for her to broadcast a live lecture in space. During her Shenzhou-10 flight in 2013, she reached an audience of over 60 million schoolchildren.

“Apart from experiments, we also hope to do more space science education, to let the public have closer contact with space. We hope the public can know our space, our life, as well as the miraculous feeling in space. These are the things we hope to do,” said Wang told China Central Television (CCTV) prior to the Shenzhou-13 launch.

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

Priority work

Following liftoff of the Shenzhou-13 spaceship atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket early Saturday morning, the taikonauts completed a fast automated rendezvous and docking with the Tianhe core module, forming a complex together with the already docked Tianzhou-2 and Tianzhou-3 supply ships.

Current configuration of China’s space facility.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The three Chinese astronauts aboard Shenzhou-13 spaceship still have more adjusting and setting work to do after entering China’s space station.

In an interview with CCTV, Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut, said the priority work of the astronauts after entering the core module is to make adjustments and settings related to their living. Yang is also the deputy chief designer of China’s manned space program.

Yang said the astronauts have been well prepared for long-time work in space. They also brought to space some leisure products to enrich their life.

“During the on-ground training in the previous period, the astronauts completed a lot of training in both physical and mental reserve, including the psychological compatibility among the three of them,” Yang said. “In addition to professional and physical preparation, they also brought with them some spare-time products to space, including their favorite music, books and videos. Therefore, the astronauts’ leisure time will be enriched during the half-year stay, and their working status will be better adjusted as well.”

Credit: GLOBALink/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Next steps

Yang also said the Shenzhou-13 mission is a milestone flight in China’s space station activities.

“After the entire space station is completed next year, it will be operational for more than ten years, which is our current plan. From long-term perspective of manned spaceflight, we will enter deeper far-reaching space,” Yang said. “For example, we are doing demonstration work for our plan of [a] manned Moon landing. I think after the project is approved in the near future, we will see our astronauts go further in the far-reaching space exploration.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s evolving Tiangong space station construction plans have been outlined.

Next year, China will conduct six flight missions and dock two experimental modules with the space station’s core module, according to Huang Zhen, deputy chief designer at the China Academy of Space Technology.

“After the completion of the mission by the Shenzhou-13 crew, it will mean that we have finished all of the work for the key technology verification phase and have entered the construction phase of the space station,” Huang told CCTV. “In this phase, we are going to first launch Tianzhou-4 and Shenzhou-14. While the astronauts are still in the core module, we will successively launch Wentian and Mengtian, two large experimental cabins weighing over 20 tons and dock them with the core module to form a ‘T’ structure,” said Huang.

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

Little “T” and big “T”

The Wentian and Mengtian modules will dock with the core module from the front port. Through the space station’s “position changing mechanism,” one of them will switch to the left side and the other to the right side. The two modules will form a “T” configuration with the core cabin.

“This is why the current ‘T’ is called the little ‘T’, while the ‘T’ composed of the two experimental cabins and the core cabin – three spacecrafts weighing more than 20 tons – is the big ‘T’,” Huang continued.

With the crew of the Shenzhou-14 mission still onboard the space station, China will launch Tianzhou-5 and Shenzhou-15. “It will be the first time our astronauts switch shifts during orbit,” Huang added.

Rolling base

According to Zhang Yan, director of Division No.11 at the China Astronaut Research and Training Center, “our mission is conducted on a rolling base. So is the training of our astronauts. For the Shenzhou-14 and Shenzhou-15 missions and the third batch of astronauts, we have basically put in place simulators of the core module and two experimental modules and equipment for underwater training, extra-vehicular activity training, and virtual training. We now have the conditions for simulating the missions of Shenzhou-14 and Shenzhou-15 and training astronauts.”

Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)/China Manned Space Agency (CMSA)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Also on tap is the launch of a Chinese space survey telescope. It will co-orbit with the space station for a long-term independent flight. The telescope is designed to conduct space survey observations and stop at the space station for short-term replenishment and maintenance upgrades.

To watch a newly issued set of videos on the Shenzhou-13 mission and future space station construction plans, go to:

https://youtu.be/7qQEmImXJFI

https://youtu.be/8-kdW7rYVnk

https://youtu.be/zVeu2Vumos0

 

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

China’s newest space crew has docked with and then entered the Tiangong space station on Saturday morning, embarking on a six-month stint inside the core module of their “Heavenly Palace.”

Projected to become the longest spaceflight for a Takionaut team, the three-member crew – Shenzhou-13 mission commander Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu — floated into the module, named Tianhe, or “Harmony of Heavens” around three hours after the automated docking of their spacecraft with the space station complex.

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

Shenzhou-13 was launched by a Long March-2F carrier rocket, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert at 00:23 local time on Saturday (16:23 GMT on Friday).

Following a 6.5 hour post-launch journey, the crewed spaceship docked with the radial port of the space station core module Tianhe, thereby forming a complex together with the previously docked Tianzhou-2 and Tianzhou-3 cargo crafts.

Wide range of tasks

The Shenzhou-13 crew is tasked with a wide range of tasks, including: performing two to three spacewalks to install a small robotic arm onto a larger one and verifying key procedures and technologies like manual control of the robotic arms and robotic arm-assisted movement of station modules.

Also, the new crew will check the performance and capability of devices inside the station, and test support instruments for astronauts’ life and work in long-term flights, said Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), at a news conference on Thursday at the Jiuquan center.

Life saving preparations

Viewed as one of China’s most challenging and sophisticated space endeavors, the Tiangong space station will eventually comprise three main components; the Tianhe core module and two large space labs.

Circling Earth, the complex will then have a combined weight of nearly 70 metric tons. The entire station is set to operate for about 15 years in a low-Earth orbit about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above our planet.

Credit: CGTN/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The mission has also prepared for emergency life saving actions. A Shenzhou-14/ Long March-2F carrier rocket can be launched in quick order to dock with the space station and bring the Taikonaut team back in a timely manner.

While docked, the Shenzhou-13 spaceship will be powered off, but some other systems will keep powering on, ready at all times for an emergency return to the ground.

Credit: CCTV

Radial direction

Rendezvous and docking between the Shenzhou-13 piloted spaceship and the port of the space station core module Tianhe in the radial direction was termed as intricate.

“The difficult point in the rendezvous and docking process in the radial direction mainly lies in control actually,” Jia Shijin, chief designer for the manned spacecraft system of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) told China Central Television (CCTV).

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“The process in the horizontal direction happens only when the spacecraft and the space station are at the same orbital altitude,” Jia said.

The spacecraft should stay upwards if it docks with the space station in the radial direction. “If the spacecraft stays upwards, first, the control scheme of the spacecraft is different from that when it flies in the horizontal direction. So, we have to adjust it. Second, the direction of antenna for measurement and control is also different from that when it flies in the horizontal direction,” Jia added.

Credit: GLOBALink/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Supply craft

China’s uncrewed Tianzhou-3 carried supplies for the Shenzhou-13 crewed mission, and was launched and docked at the rear docking port of Tianhe on September 20.

That supply craft was stuffed with nearly six-tons of goods and materials, including living supplies for the astronauts, one extravehicular spacesuit for back-up, supplies for extravehicular activities, space station platform materials, payloads and propellants.

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

The Shenzhou-13 trio is the second crew to work on the evolving Chinese space station. Wang Yaping is the first woman astronaut on board the station. She is also slated to perform a spacewalk during the projected six-month cruise.

With additional modules and follow-on crews to come, China anticipates the fully outfitted station to be operational by the end of 2022.

To view newly-released videos focused on the Shenzhou-13 crew and mission, go to:

https://youtu.be/7qQEmImXJFI

https://youtu.be/EArOVg4C2OA

https://youtu.be/GzSpT0KXLXA

https://youtu.be/cmVTrx2Hbz0

https://youtu.be/P3MrJV_xySY

 

William Shatner looks out of the New Shepard windows on NS-18.
Credit: Blue Origin

Blue Origin successfully completed the second human spaceflight on their New Shepard suborbital rocket on October 13, 2021.

That four-person crew included Star Trek icon, William Shatner, who clearly had his own close-encounter with the “Overview Effect,” a phenomenon coined by author Frank White.

That iconic term, White explains, describes the cognitive shift that results from the experience of viewing the Earth from space and in space, from orbit or on a lunar mission.

The crew of NS-18 at apogee.
Credit: Blue Origin

Profound experience

Following his excursion, Shatner told Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos: “What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” he said. “I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. I just, it’s extraordinary, extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”

It was unbelievable, Shatner said. “The little things – the weightless – but to see the blue color [of the sky] whip by you and now you’re staring into blackness. … And then it’s gone. It was so moving. This experience did something unbelievable…everybody in the world needs to do this,” Shatner told Bezos.

An emotional Shatner after spaceship touchdown.
Credit: Blue Origin webcast/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

Beyond words

Contacted by Inside Outer Space, Frank White reacts to Shatner’s comments:

“William Shatner clearly experienced a powerful version of the Overview Effect and was still processing it when he landed. It is rare that we get to see and hear from an astronaut so soon after they return to Earth.”

White recalls that astronaut Edgar Mitchell told the author that being open to the experience was critical in terms of its impact.

Credit: Amazon books

 

“I believe Shatner was uniquely open, and that is why he felt it so strongly,” White explains. “He also absorbed the primary Overview Effect message and tried to communicate how beautiful and essential to life our home planet really is. I hope people will come to understand that space exploration is not about escaping Earth but is about coming to appreciate her more fully. As Shatner said, the experience is beyond words, but almost everyone who has it wants to share it as best they can, because the Overview Effect message is critical to our future.”

For more information on the Overview Effect, go to this new edition of Frank White’s seminal book at:

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, Fourth Edition, now available for purchase on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0932GSDM3

Also, go to this replay of New Shepard mission and comments from Shatner starting at 2:44:35 by going to:

https://youtu.be/uEhdlIor-do

This reprocessed colour view of Jupiter’s moon Europa was made from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s.

NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images and spectra have revealed that water vapor is present in the atmosphere of the icy moon Europa – one of Jupiter’s 79 moons.

Research scientists suspect that Europa harbors a vast ocean underneath its icy surface, perhaps hosting extraterrestrial life.

For the first time, an astronomer has discovered evidence for persistent water vapor in the atmosphere of Europa. Despite the presence of water vapor on Europa’s trailing hemisphere there is no indication of H2O on the leading hemisphere of Europa.

Hubble spectrograph

To make this discovery, Lorenz Roth of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, dove into archival Hubble datasets, selecting ultraviolet observations of Europa from 1999, 2012, 2014 and 2015 while the moon was at various orbital positions.

Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS).
Credit: Ball Aerospace

These observations were all taken with one of Hubble’s most versatile instruments — the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). These ultraviolet STIS observations allowed Roth to determine the abundance of oxygen — one of the constituents of water — in Europa’s atmosphere, and by interpreting the strength of emission at different wavelengths he was able to infer the presence of water vapor.

Icefin is a small robotic oceanographer that allows researchers to study ice and water around and beneath ice shelves – and develop the technology to explore other oceans in our solar system.
Courtesy: Cornell University

Icefin: robotic oceanographer

Meanwhile, research focused on Europa, is taking place in Antarctica.

Icefin is a small robotic oceanographer that allows researchers to study ice and water around and beneath ice shelves – and develop the technology to explore other oceans in our solar system.

The Icefin underwater vehicle has sonar, chemical and biological sensors that help researchers characterize sub-ice environments.
Courtesy: Cornell University

 

Icefin – shaped like a torpedo, 13 feet long and 10 inches wide – carries cameras, sonar equipment, speed sensors, water column measuring tools and other devices. The team slips it into open water through a hole drilled in thick ice on the surface.

Hardest environment

“My team and I focus on how ice and oceans work across the solar system, including Earth. Particularly, we focus on Europa, the innermost icy moon of Jupiter,” says Cornell’s Britney Schmidt.

Britney Schmidt, associate professor of astronomy and of earth and atmospheric sciences, and her team set up their field site in Antarctica in 2018. They’re currently in Antarctica through February 2022.
Courtesy: Cornell University

“We’re trying to explore underwater, under ice, the hardest environment you can imagine – the most like Europa,” Schmidt said in a Cornell statement. “If we want to explore Europa with an underwater probe someday, we’ve got to do it here first.”

Field work for this project is being conducted in McMurdo Station in Antarctica and in the nearby seas, and receives funding from NASA and support from Antarctica New Zealand and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Go to this video describing the Icefin research, at:

https://youtu.be/iIr-HKzGEpc

Credit: CCTV

 

China’s 3-person Shenzhou-13 mission has been announced, a Taikonaut team that will stay in space for roughly 6 months, performing new construction tasks on the country’s space station.

The three astronauts are: Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu. This will be the longest ever space mission for Chinese astronauts.

Launch schedule

Shenzhou-13 will be commanded by Zhai Zhigang, who became the first Chinese astronaut to carry out a spacewalk back in 2008.

Credit: GLOBALink/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Wang Yaping became China’s second ever female astronaut as part of the Shenzhou-10 mission in 2013 and will be the first woman to work on the station’s Tianhe core module.

Ye Guangfu is set to make his first spaceflight.

The Shenzhou-13 crewed spaceship will be launched at 12:23 a.m. Saturday (Beijing Time) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

After entering orbit, the spaceship will conduct a fast automated rendezvous and docking with the radial port of the in-orbit space station core module Tianhe, forming a complex with the core module and the cargo crafts Tianzhou-2 and Tianzhou-3.

Spacewalks

The upcoming Shenzhou-13 crewed space mission will include two or three extravehicular activities, installation of important devices for mechanical arms as well as various sci-tech experiments and application, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) on Thursday.

The Shenzhou-13 mission is part of a fast-paced series of launches to complete the building of China’s space station Tiangong by the end of 2022.

Credit: CMSA

Credit: GLOBALink/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Shenzhou-12 recap

Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) recapped during a press briefing the previous Shenzhou-12 mission. Its crew carried out a series of space science and technology experiments, and tested key technologies for the construction and operation of the space station, before returning to Earth safely on September 17.

“Shenzhou-12 mission achieved many firsts: the first time that Chinese astronauts stationed into Chinese space station; the first time that astronauts stayed on orbit for three months; the first autonomous rendezvous and docking which shortened the duration from two days to 6.5 hours; the first time that the astronauts conducted extravehicular activities supported by the robotic arm; the first time that an orbit regenerative life support technology has been demonstrated systematically and comprehensively,” said Lin.

“The other firsts achieved include the first dynamic on-orbit supplies management; the first flight of a combination of three spacecraft; the first onsite emergency rescue standby for human spacecraft and human launch vehicle, which demonstrated the strategy of backup enroll; the first astronauts search and recovery mission at Dongfeng landing site; the first realization of centralized plus distributed flight control support mode for longer term flight missions by six supporter centers including operation and planning center, crew support center and spacecraft on orbit support center,” Lin said.

Credit: GLOBALink/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Decisive, final battle

“The Shenzhou-13 mission is a decisive and final battle for the verification of key technologies of the space station,” Lin said, “as well as a critical threshold to the next phase of construction. The function and performance of each system to perform the space station mission, as well as the compatibility and coordination among the systems, will be assessed more comprehensively during the Shenzhou-13 mission.”

Lin added that the Shenzhou-13 astronauts will stay in orbit for six months for the first time, which will be the normal duration period of the astronauts during the operation of the space station. Furthermore, astronaut Wang Yaping will be the first female astronaut of China to conduct extravehicular activities.

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

Pre-launch preparations

The Shenzhou-13 launch will be carried out with a Long March-2F carrier rocket, and all pre-launch preparations are basically completed, said Lin.

“At present, the Tianhe core module, Tianzhou-2 and Tianzhou-3 cargo ship assembly is in good working status with all equipment functioning well, ready for the rendezvous and docking as well as for the astronauts to move in,” Lin said. “All systems conducting the Shenzhou-13 mission has undergone tests and comprehensive rehearsal. The flight crew is in good condition and all pre-launch preparations are in order.”

Go to these newly issued videos detailing the mission and training activities:

https://youtu.be/M2sg7U0kIPI

https://youtu.be/iXvooAElMrI

https://youtu.be/gVvavKmZbhc

https://youtu.be/aTJ7VtAHBTw

https://youtu.be/ar7oB6LY0eo

The Sun sets at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in this image, taken at the observatory on Cerro Paranal in the dry Atacama Desert of Chile. Credit: Iztok Bončina/ESO

Never before has such a large group of asteroids been imaged so sharply.

That’s the word from The European Southern Observatory using its Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Forty-two of the largest objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter have been imaged. Taken in the whole, the observations reveal a wide range of peculiar shapes, from spherical to dog-bone. That imagery can help astronomers trace the origins of the asteroids in our Solar System.

High level of detail

“Only three large main belt asteroids, Ceres, Vesta and Lutetia, have been imaged with a high level of detail so far, as they were visited by the space missions Dawn and Rosetta of NASA and the European Space Agency, respectively,” explains Pierre Vernazza, from the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille in France, who led the asteroid study published recently in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

This image depicts 42 of the largest objects in the asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter.
Credit: P. Vernazza, et al.

The four least dense asteroids studied, including Lamberta and Sylvia, have densities of about 1.3 grams per cubic centimeter, around the density of coal. The highest, Psyche and Kalliope, have densities of 3.9 and 4.4 grams per cubic centimeter, respectively, which is higher than the density of diamond (3.5 grams per cubic centimeter).

Object shapes

ESO’s VLT in Chile has made possible the reconstruction of the objects’ shapes. The team realized that the observed asteroids are mainly divided into two families. Some are almost perfectly spherical, such as Hygiea and Ceres, while others have a more peculiar, “elongated” shape, their undisputed queen being the “dog-bone” asteroid Kleopatra, explains an ESO statement.

“Our observations provide strong support for substantial migration of these bodies since their formation. In short, such tremendous variety in their composition can only be understood if the bodies originated across distinct regions in the Solar System,” explains Josef Hanuš of the Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, one of the authors of the study. In particular, the results support the theory that the least dense asteroids formed in the remote regions beyond the orbit of Neptune and migrated to their current location.

This poster shows 42 of the largest objects in the asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter (orbits not to scale). The images in the outermost circle of this infographic have been captured with the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The asteroid sample features 39 objects larger than 100 kilometers in diameter, including 20 larger than 200 kilometers. The poster highlights a few of the objects, including Ceres (the largest asteroid in the belt), Urania (the smallest one imaged), Kalliope (the densest imaged) and Lutetia, which was visited by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.
Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/Vernazza et al./MISTRAL algorithm (ONERA/CNRS)

 

 

 

SPHERE sensitivity

These findings were made possible due to the sensitivity of the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument mounted on ESO’s VLT.

“With the improved capabilities of SPHERE, along with the fact that little was known regarding the shape of the largest main belt asteroids, we were able to make substantial progress in this field,” says co-author Laurent Jorda, also of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To access the paper – “VLT/SPHERE imaging survey of the largest main-belt asteroids: Final results and synthesis,” go to:

https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/full_html/2021/10/aa41781-21/aa41781-21.html

Starlink satellites visible in a mosaic of an astronomical image.
Courtesy of NSF’s
National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/NSF/AURA/CTIO/DELVE)

An international open Letter on kinetic anti-satellite (ASAT) testing has been sent to the United Nations General Assembly, urging that body to take up a treaty that would prohibit debris-generating anti-satellite weapon tests.

Coordinated by the Outer Space Institute (OSI) in Canada, the letter underscores the need for such a treaty, driven by the rapid escalation of satellites in orbit.

UN General Assembly.
Credit: UN

 

OSI, based at the University of British Columbia, is a transdisciplinary network of global space experts that addresses challenges facing the continued use and exploration of space.

Credit: OneWeb

 

Mega-constellations

“The number of active and defunct satellites in orbit has grown from 3300 to over 7600 in the last decade,” the letter explains, “with the potential addition of as many as 100,000 active satellites within the next ten years.”

Spotlighting the near-future orbital environment, the letter points to at least four planned ‘mega-constellations’ from different countries:

  • SpaceX’s Starlink (U.S.) with 42,000 satellites
  • Amazon’s Kuiper (U.S.) with 3,236 satellites
  • OneWeb (United Kingdom) with 7,000 satellites
  • Guo Wang’s (China) StarNet with 12,992 satellites

“This rapid growth is raising concerns about collisions and the proliferation of space debris, endangering all forms of space use, from crewed missions, to communications, to Earth observations and environmental monitoring, to space-based astronomy,” the OSI open letter adds.

Consequences of a low-altitude kinetic ASAT test in a mega-constellation environment.
Credit: OSI – Data from USSPACECOM and FCC/ITU Filings

Wanted: major step

New practices are needed for the safe and sustainable use of space. To this end, a major step would be a kinetic ASAT test ban treaty, the letter explains. “Kinetic ASAT weapons, whether ground-based or space-based, employ high velocity physical strikes through the use of a ‘kill vehicle’ or shrapnel to destroy or disable objects in orbit.”

Due to the high impact energies involved, fragments from a kinetic ASAT test often ends up on highly eccentric orbits that cross multiple satellite “orbital shells” twice per revolution.

“If just one piece of debris from such a test collides with a satellite and causes a major fragmentation event,” the letter continues, “this could lead to additional events affecting all States, which could include further fragmentations, satellite failures, or service disruptions.”

Early signatories

As proposed, a kinetic ASAT test ban treaty would prohibit the use of any high velocity physical strikes during testing. “Fly by” tests would still be permitted, the letter adds.

For these reasons, the letter includes signatures from a who’s who of space authorities urging the United Nations General Assembly to take up consideration of a kinetic ASAT test ban treaty.

An appended list of early signatories is led by Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, University of British Columbia and co-director of the Outer Space Institute.

To access the “International Open Letter on Kinetic Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Testing,” go to:

http://www.outerspaceinstitute.ca/docs/OSI_International_Open_Letter_ASATs_PUBLIC.pdf

Should you wish to add your name to the list, go to:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfqleWmvwV0RpCBQUrPfN4oeEYJlZEGjxAdGsOI1rZvu1xeSg/viewform

Credit: Andøya Space

Norway’s Andøya Space has received go-ahead funding to establish a launch base for small satellites on Andøya.

The decision places Norway as one of the few countries that will be able to launch satellites from its own territory. The maiden satellite launch from Andøya is planned for third quarter 2022.

Andøya Space, as an orbital service provider, explains that the spaceport will serve launch vehicles designed to deliver payloads of up to 1.5 metric tons, primarily using liquid fuel.

Credit: RFA

Launch companies

Earlier, Andøya Space signed agreements with German satellite launch companies, Isar Aerospace and Rocket Factory Augsbur (RFA).

As a launch site operator, Andøya Space will supply the technical infrastructure, the launch pads and the buildings, while launch service providers bring their launch vehicles to the spaceport.

Credit: Google

Andøya is the northernmost island in the Vesterålen archipelago, situated about 190 miles (300 kilometers) inside the Arctic circle. Andøya is located in Andøy Municipality in Nordland county, Norway.

Flight path

Andøya Space intends to offer launch inclinations ranging from 87.4 to 108 degrees – favorable for both sun-synchronous and polar orbits.

Artist’s representation of new launch complex.
Credit: Andøya Space

The flight path of launchers ensures a trajectory whose ground track does not cross populated areas. The large impact and dispersion area in the Norwegian Sea enables safe disposal of spent rocket stages.

Commercial investment 

The first request for funding for a satellite launch base on Andøya was received by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (NFD) in February 2019. Over the past 2.5 years, there has been a close dialogue between Andøya Space, NFD and NFD’s advisers on the project. The purpose has been to clarify whether the launch base can be realized as a commercial investment for the state.

Credit: Andøya Space

 

“The launch site on Andøya is an investment with great opportunities, but it also involves great risk,” says Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø. “From the government’s perspective, it’s been an absolute requirement to document that the equity invested is on terms a commercial investor would accept.”

For more information on Andøya Space, go to:

https://www.andoyaspace.no/

China’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission lobbed back to Earth samples of the Moon.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

 

Results from China’s Moon sample effort and Mars lander mission are being presented in scientific journals, showcasing new findings.

China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample return spacecraft landed on December 1, 2020, touching down in the Northern Oceanus Procellarum region of the Moon. The mission collected close to a total of 2 kilograms lunar collectibles, rocketing them back to Earth on December 16, 2020.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects Chang’e-5 lunar sample return capsule.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Young rocks

The Chang’e-5 lunar specimens have been identified as the youngest rocks ever found on the Moon, a billion years younger than lunar rocks previously gathered.

“Age and composition of young basalts on the Moon, measured from samples returned by Chang’e-5” has been published in Science magazine. Lead author of the work is Xiaochao Che of the Beijing Sensitive High Resolution Ion Micro Probe (SHRIMP) Center, at the Institute of Geology of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing.

Age and composition of young basalts on the Moon, measured from samples returned by China’s Chang’e-5 mission.
Credit: Xiaochao Che, et al.

Orbital data indicate that the youngest volcanic units on the Moon are basalt lavas in Oceanus Procellarum, a region with high levels of the heat-producing elements potassium, thorium, and uranium.

Impact chronology

The Chang’e-5 mission collected samples of these young lunar basalts and returned them to Earth for laboratory analysis, the paper explains. The age of lunar lava, along with chemical and mineralogical examination of the specimens constrains the lunar impact chronology of the inner Solar System and the thermal evolution of the Moon.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“There is no evidence for high concentrations of heat-producing elements in the deep mantle of the Moon that generated these lavas, so alternate explanations are required for the longevity of lunar magmatism,” the paper points out.

Alexander Nemchin from the Space Science and Technology Center of Australia’s Curtin University is also an author of the research paper.

Nemchin said that researchers have determined the age of the lunar rock samples during remote sessions with the Beijing laboratory using large mass spectrometers.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Further questions

Another co-author of the research paper is Gretchen Benedix, also from Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Center.

The new results would provide researchers with more calibration points for cratering chronology, Benedix told the Xinhua news agency, enabling them to derive more accurate and higher resolution ages across many planetary surfaces.

“These results confirm what experts had long predicted based on remotely obtained images of the Moon and raise further questions as to why these young basalts exist,” Benedix said.

Xinhua reports that the task will now focus on finding a mechanism that will explain how this relatively recent heating of the Moon may have supported the formation of basaltic magmas with temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees Celsius, and ultimately help researchers improve age dating of the entire Solar System.

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

Mars lander

Meanwhile, in a new paper published in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters journal, China’s Mars landing mission has also provided some intriguing new findings.

The lead author of the paper – “Geomorphologic exploration targets at the Zhurong landing site in the southern Utopia Planitia of Mars” – is Binlong Ye of the Department of Earth Sciences and Laboratory for Space Research at the University of Hong Kong.

Credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The Zhurong rover has been wheeling about within the southern Utopia Planitia since May 2021. According to the newly released paper, the landing site exhibits volatile-driven periglacial landforms and pitted cones. The landing site itself is located near a key geomorphological boundary between landforms. Zhurong’s ground penetrating radar will provide critical ice detection and resource characterization.

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

Mud volcanism

“The Zhurong landing site contains a wide range of geomorphic exploration targets including troughs, raised ridges, pitted cones, mesas, sand dunes and crater ejecta,” the paper explains.

Aspects of all of these features, the paper continues, “suggest formation through interactions between volatiles, sediments, and magma. Pitted cones are invaluable windows into the subsurface and intriguing astrobiology targets for Martian life considering that they potentially formed from diapiric upwelling of fine-grained sediments (i.e. mud volcanism), a process that on Earth is often associated with methane release.”

China’s Zhurong Rover.
Credit: CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The ground-penetrating radar onboard Zhurong is intended to “provide fundamentally new perspectives on the presence, distribution, and abundance of subsurface water-ice, a strategic natural resource for future crewed Mars exploration,” the paper notes.

To access “Age and composition of young basalts on the Moon, measured from samples returned by Chang’e-5,” go to:

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abl7957

Also, go to this video detailing the research and experiments on the Chang’e-5 lunar soil samples now underway in China at:

https://youtu.be/cHhtjgdf-f0

To access “Geomorphologic exploration targets at the Zhurong landing site in the southern Utopia Planitia of Mars,” go to:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0012821X21004544

On the scene. NASA’s new robotic Mars explorer, the Perseverance rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has solved a big unknown after landing within Jezero crater – the crater was definitely a lake.

Two of Perseverance’s cameras, Mastcam-Z and the SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI), have relayed images of their surroundings, including long-distance photos of the outcrop’s edge and a formation known as Kodiak butte.

High resolution looks at the imagery has researchers observing distinct beds of sediment along Kodiak butte.

The rover also relayed to Earth similar photos of tilted sediment beds along the main outcrop. That imagery, together with those of Kodiak, confirm that the fan-shaped formation was indeed an ancient delta and that this delta fed into an ancient Martian lake.

Inferred paleolake level inside Jezero crater at the time of Kodiak sediment deposition.
Credit: Nicolas Mangold, et al.

New analysis

The new analysis, published this week in the journal Science, bolsters the chance of detecting fossils and sampling for signs of life at Jezero Crater. This rover search site offers “high potential to preserve organic matter or potential biosignatures,” the Science paper notes.

The new research paper, written by over 30 scientists, was led by Nicolas Mangold of the Laboratoire Planétologie et Géodynamique in France.

“Kodiak” butte as viewed from Perseverance rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The most surprising thing that’s come out of these images is the potential opportunity to catch the time when this crater transitioned from an Earth-like habitable environment, to this desolate landscape wasteland we see now,” says Benjamin Weiss, professor of planetary sciences in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and a member of the analysis team. “These boulder beds may be records of this transition, and we haven’t seen this in other places on Mars,” he stated in an MIT press statement.

To access the research paper — “Perseverance rover reveals an ancient delta-lake system and flood deposits at Jezero crater, Mars” – go to:

https://www.science.org/doi/epdf/10.1126/science.abl4051