Archive for the ‘Space News’ Category

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Shenzhou-14 crew continues to set up the newly lofted Wentian lab module, a key element of the country’s in-construction space station.

Commander Chen Dong and co-astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe are assembling the regenerative life support system and preparing for extravehicular activities.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The taikonaut trio on Friday spent five and a half hours to sort out materials and supplies and tested the batteries of the extra-vehicular activity suits, reports China Central Television (CCTV). In the next three days, they will mainly work on the setting and test of the environmental control and regenerative life support system of the Wentian lab module.

Tests and adjustments

“The regenerative life support system is very complicated. It involves extensive plumbing operations, so there will be a lot of work to do. This week, they will do tests and adjustments in addition to installing the instruments,” said Wang Chunhui, deputy chief designer of the astronaut system of the China Astronaut Research and Training Center.

Credit: GLOBALink/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The Shenzhou-14 crew will carry out extravehicular activities from Wentian’s airlock module. In preparation for the mission, the astronauts recently conducted in-orbit tests of the functions of the small mechanical arm outside Wentian with the support of the ground team, CCTV notes.

Mechanical arm test

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“We’ve tested the overall function of the small mechanical arm of the Wentian lab module, including crawling on the Wentian lab module and inspecting the loading platform,” said Shang Shuai, chief designer of the space station flight and control team with the China Academy of Space Technology.

“The five-day test shows that the small robotic arm is functioning normally, which meets our anticipation,” Shang told CCTV.

The Wentian lab module was launched on July 24 and docked with the space station code module Tianhe on July 25.

Go to this newly issued video showing current work activities by the Shenzhou-14 crew:

https://youtu.be/uNytOXVs1Yk

Possible design of China’s space plane.
Source: Homem do Espaco/Twitter

 

That Chinese space plane launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on the night of August 4-5 by a Long March 2F rocket is being assessed by satellite watchers.

Marco Langbroek in the Netherlands has posted some interesting details via his SatTrackCam Leiden (b)log.

Credit: Marco Langbroek

“The re-usable experimental spacecraft was launched into a 346 x 593 km, 50-degree inclined orbit. The orbital inclination is similar to the September 2020 test launch: the orbital altitude is however different this time,” Langbroek reports. “The 2020 test flight was in a 331 x 347 km orbit: the current flight is in a more eccentric orbit with higher apogee altitude (at almost 600 km, or 250 km higher than in 2020).”

Langbroek adds that eight objects have been catalogued associated with the space plane’s launch: the craft itself, the rocket’s upper stage, four chunks of debris, and perhaps secondary payloads. “They could perhaps be test targets to retrieve, or ‘inspector’ satellites to check the outside of the spacecraft. We’ll see what happens.”

Credit: Marco Langbroek

Lop Nor landing strip

How long the orbiter will stay in space on this flight is unknown and whether or not the vehicle will maneuver this time; the previous flight of the vehicle did not.

“When it lands, we expect that to be at the same landing site as in 2020, a remote landing strip near Lop Nor,” Langbroek notes.

In a related story, activity at a remote Chinese airstrip has been viewed by satellite before the space plane’s launch. Go to the story by Joseph Trevithick at The War Zone at:

Go to: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/activity-at-remote-chinese-airstrip-seen-before-spaceplane-launch

Also, go to Langbroek’s video showing a flyover of the space plane at:

https://vimeo.com/736997998?embedded=true&source=vimeo_logo&owner=17330566

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity rover has been on the prowl at Gale Crater since landing on Mars in August of 2012, touching down on the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT).

Ten (Earth) years later, the Mars machinery continues its mission of exploration, notes Scott VanBommel, a planetary scientist at Washington University.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“As we the science and engineering teams have aged this last decade, so has Curiosity,” VanBommel adds. The toll of ten years and nearly 18 miles (28.5 kilometers) of Mars driving shows with every Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) wheel imaging activity, with less energy available for a plan, and with aging mechanisms.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This is the life of a Mars rover. Spirit and Opportunity were no different, yet they persisted and paved the way scientifically and technologically for the rovers of today. Curiosity has made numerous scientific discoveries during these ten years, emphasized by the over 500 science team publications, with many more ahead as we continue our ascent and exploration of Gale crater and Mount Sharp,” VanBommel reports. “I look forward to the next ten years.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

SAM: top 5 discoveries

Science writer, Nick Oakes of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, took at look at Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.

SAM’s top 5 discoveries aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover at Mars:

Detection of Organic Compounds on Mars; Methane Variability; Rock Formation and Exposure Age in Gale Crater; Honing in on the History of Water on Mars; and Biologically Useful Nitrogen

“No finding from SAM or Curiosity’s other instruments can offer proof-positive for past life on Mars – but importantly, these discoveries don’t rule it out, Oakes writes. “Earlier this year, NASA extended Curiosity’s mission at least into 2025, allowing the rover and its mobile SAM chemistry lab to stay focused on the tantalizing matter of Mars’ habitability.”

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3551. Distance driven to that Sol: 17.66 miles/28.42 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3553 duties.

“Curiosity is making its way through the stunning ‘Paraitepuy Pass,’ the little canyon that runs between the ‘Deepdale’ and ‘Bolivar’ buttes to our east and west, respectively,” reports Elena Amador-French, Science Operations Coordinator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3552, August 3, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The canyon floor is filled with aeolian bedforms, or sand ripples, as wind is likely funneled through the pass, mobilizing sand grains,” Amador-French adds, “a lovely modern process, active on Mars today!”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3552, August 3, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dog’s eye mosaic

Recent rover contact science included taking a Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) “dog’s eye” mosaic of the bedrock target “Karisparo.”

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity took 31 images in Gale Crater using its mast-mounted Right Navigation Camera (Navcam) to create this mosaic.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“In a dog’s eye mosaic, the rover planners attempt to get the MAHLI camera as parallel to a vertical face of an exposure as possible. This provides a nice view of how any rock layers are oriented relative to each other, as well as getting a fine-scale view of the grain sizes,” Amador-French notes. “The science team then uses these observations to interpret how the grains were deposited and may have been subsequently perturbed.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3552, August 3, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Also on tap is use of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to take a Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) observation of some local bedrock and long-distance Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photography of the Deepdale butte.

Distant layering

“The RMIs provide an excellent “spy glass” view of distant layering that otherwise can’t be resolved with the other cameras. Mastcam will take mosaics of both the Bolivar and Deepdale buttes from this new vantage point,” Amador-French reports.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 3551, August 2, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A drive recently planned by the rover controllers will navigate about 98 feet (30 meters) forward through Paraitepuy Pass. “They are working through challenging terrain with higher than normal tilts and pointy blocks that have eroded off the surrounding buttes,” Amador-French explains. “A fun drive for Curiosity!”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3551, August 2, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

From the new location after the drive, rover operators were to use ChemCam’s autonomous target selection software to pick an interesting science target for a LIBS observation and document that spot with Mastcam. “We also have our continued environmental monitoring observations including a dust devil and sky survey,” Amador-French concludes.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3551, August 2, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

High slip on steep terrain

In an earlier report by Ashley Stroupe, Mission Operations Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory noted that a recent drive by the robot stopped early due to high slip on the steep terrain, and Curiosity’s parking place was not a safe spot to unstow and use the arm.

“This terrain is particularly beautiful, so the opportunity to take more imaging is both scientifically interesting and visually stunning,” Stroupe adds.

“The drive itself was very challenging, given that we had already stopped short due to the difficult terrain. We are attempting to reach a high point…so we can look down into the valley to see if there is a way out on the other side and to help plan our path forward. High tilts, sand, and large and small rocks clutter the terrain, requiring the Rover Planners to pick their way around while making sure they stay clear of the hazards,” Stroupe explains.

 

Credit: GLOBALink/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s on-going space station construction includes use of a small robotic arm attached to the recently lofted Wentian lab module.

The China Manned Space Agency (CMS) said on Wednesday that arm has completed a series of in-orbit tests.

A new video released shows the tests, with the small robotic arm disengaging from its base, crawling on the surface of the space station, and docking with one of the adapters on the surface of the space station.

According to China Central Television (CCTV), the small robotic arm, measuring about 20-feet (six meters) can operate within the area of a circle with a radius of 16-feet (five meters) and carry payloads of up to three tons.

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

Multi-module stage

The small arm can operate alone, or work together with the existing large robotic arm of Tianhe core module.

The small robotic arm, CCTV reports, will be responsible for six missions, including supporting the astronauts’ extravehicular activities, delivering goods, and maintaining and repairing the exterior of the space station.

Credit: Lee Brandon-Cremer (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Wentian lab module was launched from southern China’s Hainan Province on July 24 and docked with the Tianhe core module of the China Space Station in the early hours of July 25.

China has entered the “multi-module” stage in the construction of its space station. The space station has evolved from a single-module structure into a national space laboratory with three modules, the core module Tianhe, and two lab modules Wentian and Mengtian, the last of which is set to be launched in October, CCTV notes.

Go to this video showing the small robotic arm testing at:

https://youtu.be/ieRPEPMfs0A

Also, go to this informative China Global Television Network (CGTN) video — Tech Breakdown: A closer look into China’s new space robotic arm – at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK_MOzIEwC8

Credit: ILC Dover

Since Frank White’s seminal book on “the overview effect” found its way into the hands, minds, and consciousness of readers in 1987, that term has increasingly become iconic for explaining a very human condition attached to the space travel experience.

Following the publishing of that influential work — The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution — White has added to his collection of space traveler accounts, work that shoulder’s his original perception of an individual’s inner cognitive shift in awareness that can radiate by seeing the Earth from outer space.

Interviewing NASA astronaut Don Pettit.
Courtesy: Frank White

It is clear that there’s an undertow to the overview effect. Seemingly, it’s a subsurface feeling that stands ready to condition humans for not only booting our way back to the Moon, but onward to Mars and then to far more distant destinations.

I caught up with the space philosopher to chat about the origin, present-day, and future implications of the overview effect, and his view that the “Human Space Program” is a central project that will engage all of us in the process of becoming “Citizens of the Universe.”

Go to my new Space.com story – “Space philosopher Frank White on ‘The Overview Effect’ and humanity’s connection with Earth. White’s ‘overview effect’ has increasingly become iconic for explaining a very human condition attached to the space travel experience” at:

https://www.space.com/frank-white-overview-effect

Credit: Photo from Suara Kalbar/Borneo Post Online

Those suspected remnants of China’s Long March-5B Y3 core rocket stage that crash landed in Sarawak have been found to emit no radiation.

Daily Express Online – an Independent National Newspaper of East Malaysia, reports that the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti) the non-radioactive status of the hunks of junk made the determination.

Four officers of the Bintulu District Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) together with the Hazardous Material Team (Hazmat) of the Fire and Rescue Department and the Bintulu District Police have conducted an investigation at the first location in Kampung Nyalau.

Credit: The Ekiptika Institute

Initial investigation

Mosti said in a statement that, based on the measurements and the results of the initial investigation, it was found that the first suspected object of around 13 centimeters in size did not emit any radiation and no radioactive elements were detected on the object.

“Meanwhile, the measurements and results of the preliminary investigation on the second object in Niah, Miri also showed similar results,” the Mosti statement adds.

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

Mosti through the Malaysian Space Agency (MYSA) in collaboration with the Department of Chemistry will carry out a detailed investigation on the two objects to confirm whether the objects are related to the re-entry incident of debris from China’s Long March 5B rocket or no, reports Daily Express Online.


Credit: Instagram posting/Desa Pengadang, Kec. Sekayam/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The results of the investigation and analysis will be notified and appropriate action will be considered in accordance with Act 834 (Malaysian Space Board Act 2022) and international treaties related to space under the management of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), said Mosti.

China’s Long March-5B Y3 rocket boosted the Wentian lab module for China’s space station under construction.

Video from The Star: Two families from Pekan Sepupok Lama in Batu Niah, Sarawak have been told to vacate their houses due to concerns of radioactivity after alien objects were found nearby. The objects were believed to be debris from China’s Long March 5B rocket.

Go to video at: https://youtu.be/ZiISj1IiYko

Credit: Photo from Suara Kalbar/Borneo Post Online

 

Indonesian police and villagers are taking a close look at what could be leftovers of that Chinese rocket body that recently re-entered. The object discovered at Pengadang, a village in Sekayam District of the Sanggau Regency in West Kalimantan measures around 16 feet (5 meters) long and roughly 7 feet (2 meters) wide.

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

Another Indonesian news portal, Suara Kalbar, reports that there were the numbers ‘84, 31, 75 and 5W’ visible on the object.

As of now, whether the object is part of the Chinese rocket body remains unknown. However, on Saturday night at 23.09pm (12.09am Malaysian time), some residents in Pengadang did hear a “loud roar from the sky.”

For more details, go to this Borneo Post Online story at:

https://www.theborneopost.com/2022/08/01/metal-object-said-to-be-from-rocket-debris-found-near-sarawak-west-kalimantan-border/

Video of the object has been posted by Tribun Pontianak at:

https://youtu.be/pt2LIpwNHY0

https://youtu.be/B1Gn-m28i1Q

Credit: Google Maps

Credit: The Ekiptika Institute

Credit: The Ekiptika Institute

 

 

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

 

Lunar caves would provide a temperate, stable, and safe thermal environment for long term exploration and habitation of the Moon.

Indeed, people could potentially live and work in lunar pits and caves with steady temperatures in the 60s. 

 

That’s the bottom line from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Tyler Horvath, a UCLA doctoral student in planetary science, led the new research recently published in the American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters. The research team also included UCLA professor of planetary science David Paige and Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado Boulder.

Credit: NASA

Desirable habitat

“For long term colonization and exploration of the Moon, pits may provide a desirable habitat: they are largely free from the constant threats of harmful radiation, impacts, and extreme temperatures,” states the paper. “Thus, pits and caves may offer greater mission safety than other potential base station locales, providing a valuable stepping stone for sustaining human life beyond Earth.”

Since the discovery of pits on the Moon by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) SELENE spacecraft in 2009, there has been interest in whether they provide access to caves that could be explored by rovers and astronauts.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
Credit: NASA/GSFC

Prominent pit

Using data from the Diviner instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been continuously measuring the temperature of the lunar surface for over 11 years, the researchers methodically characterized the environment of one prominent pit located in Mare Tranquillitatis.


The Mare Tranquillitatis pit and (b) the Mare Ingenii pit.
Credit: Tyler Horvath, Paul O. Hayne, David A. Paige

The pit’s thermal environment is more hospitable compared to anywhere else on the Moon, with temperatures varying minimally around a comfortable 17°C (or 63° F) wherever the Sun does not shine directly, explains the research paper.

“Humans evolved living in caves, and to caves we might return when we live on the Moon,” said Paige in a UCLA press statement. Paige leads the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment.

Horvath and Paige are science team members for a new lunar-bound thermal camera led by Paul Hayne named the Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS) which will head to the lunar south pole in late 2023 to get the first ground-based thermal images.

To read the full paper – “Thermal and Illumination Environments of Lunar Pits and Caves: Models and Observations From the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment” – go to:

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2022GL099710

Tech. Sgt. Ronald Dunn, 729th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, guides a Mongolian driver who is backing the truck toward an Air Force Reserve C-17 Globemaster III in Mongolia, Aug. 26. Dunn was part of a crew from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., who were assigned to a mission to retrieve space debris that fell to earth last summer. The parts were identified as expended rocket parts from an Air Force missile launched into space nearly a decade ago. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Linda Welz)

 

Increasing attention is being paid to the repercussion of rocket launches and space debris reentries on Earth’s fragile atmosphere, coupled to impacts on global climate and stratospheric ozone.

Exacerbating the situation is the rise of worldwide launch rates and the hurling of mega-constellations of satellites into Earth orbit. Then there’s the associated clutter of deceased spacecraft, discarded booster stages, and countless pieces of human-made refuse, from solid rocket motor effluents to stray nuts and bolts, tiny paint chips and droplets bubbling out of spacecraft coolant systems.

Space debris impact on functioning satellite.
Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

In short, it’s a heavenly mess – with long-term consequences.

The state of affairs has already been characterized by orbital debris experts as a “tragedy of the commons.”

For detailed information, go to my new Scientific American story with Lee Billings – “Don’t Fear China’s Falling Rocket—Fear the Future It Foretells: Long considered trivial, the effects of rocket launches and reentering space debris on global warming and ozone loss could soon become too large to ignore” – at:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/don-rsquo-t-fear-china-rsquo-s-falling-rocket-mdash-fear-the-future-it-foretells/

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation