Space News

We are the Borg.
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Witness
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Russia turns away from NASA, says it will work with China on a Moon base

China wants a long-term presence on the Moon in the 2030s.

The heads of the Chinese and Russian space agencies signed an agreement on Tuesday to work together to build a "scientific" station on the Moon.

Under terms of a memorandum of understanding, the two countries will cooperate on creation of an "International Lunar Science Station" and plan to invite other countries to participate. The agreement was signed by Zhang Kejian, director of the China National Space Administration, and Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of Russia's space corporation, Roscosmos. The agreement was announced by Roscosmos.

Details about the project were fairly sparse, specifying only that the countries would work together to create research facilities on the surface and/or in orbit around the Moon. The goal was both to establish long-term, uncrewed facilities on the Moon and build up the capabilities for a human presence there.

China has previously disclosed its ambitions to build an international lunar station at the South Pole of the Moon, beginning with robotic missions and followed by short-term human missions in the early 2030s. The country plans to establish a long-term human presence at the South Pole—which is believed to contain vast reserves of water ice—during the period of 2036 to 2045. These plans were initially discussed at a meeting of the Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space last year and were reported by Space News.

Previously, the European Space Agency has also expressed interest in partnering with China on future missions to the Moon.
https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/03 ... r-station/ for the rest.
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Anaxagoras
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Apparently astronauts are suiting up to do a space walk right now. Doing some kind of maintenance work outside the station.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
William Shakespeare (probably Socrates originally)
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Witness
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Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin lands a Pentagon contract to design nuclear-powered spacecraft
  • The Pentagon has awarded Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' aerospace company, a $2.5 million contract.
  • Blue Origin will design concepts for a nuclear-powered spacecraft.
  • It won a contract for the craft alongside Lockheed Martin and General Atomics.
https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-be ... ?r=US&IR=T

Cool. We'll not only get showered with flying car wrecks but also radioactive scrap. The future is radiant!
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Rob Lister
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$2.5 million is not a contract, it's an exploration. $2.5 might fund ten salaries for a year.

As a proposal developer, I used to compete for $2.5 billion contracts (and win!), at the height of my Personal Peter Principle; which I rose to expertly (I think). No, I'm sure.
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Witness
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World's first wooden satellite slated for launch – UPM partners with Finnish space companies Arctic Astronautics and Huld

UPM Plywood, Arctic Astronautics and Huld announce today a joint mission to launch the first ever wooden satellite, WISA WOODSATTM, into Earth’s orbit by the end of 2021.

WISA Woodsat will go where no wood has gone before. With a mission to gather data on the behavior and durability of plywood over an extended period in the harsh temperatures, vacuum and radiation of space in order to assess the use of wood materials in space structures.

WISA Woodsat is a nanosatellite designed and built by Arctic Astronautics, and it is based on the Kitsat educational satellite. The satellite measures roughly 10 x 10 x 10 cm and weighs one kilogram. A suite of on-board sensors, including two cameras will be used to monitor the specially coated WISA®-Birch plywood. One of these cameras is situated on a deployable boom for exterior imaging. The space materials laboratory of the European Space Agency will also provide a novel sensor suite for the mission. And all of this will be powered by nine small solar cells.

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https://www.wisaplywood.com/news-and-st ... -and-huld/

I vaguely seem to remember that balsa has already been used for something… :notsure:
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NASA solar probe becomes fastest object ever built as it 'touches the sun'

The Parker Solar Probe was clocked at over 330,000 miles per hour as it zipped through the sun's outer atmosphere.

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Nothing built by human hands has ever traveled faster than NASA's Parker Solar Probe, a diminutive, scorch-proof spacecraft about the size of a small car that is practically "touching the sun." In late April, it smashed two wild space records, dethroning the previous champion -- which also happened to be NASA's Parker Solar Probe -- and its journey is really just beginning.

The probe, which launched in August 2018 on a mission to study the sun, has been flying ever closer to our solar system's furnace, using the planet Venus as a slingshot. On April 29, during its closest approach to the sun (known as "perihelion"), Parker was traveling at an almost unfathomable speed -- fast enough to circle the Earth 13 times in a single hour.

Parker set two records back in February 2020:
  • Fastest human-made object: 244,255 mph (393,044 km/h).
  • Closest spacecraft to the sun: 11.6 million miles (18.6 million kilometers).
But those records have now been surpassed. The latest:
  • Fastest human-made object: 330,000 mph (532,000 km/h).
  • Closest spacecraft to the sun: 6.5 million miles (10.4 million kilometers).
https://www.cnet.com/news/nasa-solar-pr ... s-the-sun/
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China says its first Mars landing — of both a lander and a rover — is happening as early as Saturday
  • China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft could land on Mars as early as Saturday.
  • The country's space agency said the expected landing time is between May 15 and May 19 local time.
  • This is China's first attempt at a Mars landing.
https://www.businessinsider.com/china-m ... ?r=US&IR=T


We'll soon need traffic lights on Mars. :x
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They did it:
China’s Zhurong Mars rover lands safely in Utopia Planitia

Chinese Mars rover makes it down to surface after months of preparation in orbit.

China succeeded with its first planetary landing attempt Friday, safely setting down the solar powered Zhurong rover on the surface of Mars.

The 240-kilogram Zhurong rover touched down on the dunes of southern Utopia Planitia just after 7:00 p.m. Eastern May 14 after three months of preparations in orbit and around 9 minutes after entry into the Martian atmosphere.

The critical entry, descent and landing sequences were carried out successfully, with a final hazard avoidance hover phase allowing selection of a safe final landing spot.

Teams back on Earth will now prepare the rover, named after an ancient fire god, to complete a panoramic image of the landing area, perform systems checks and then descend from its landing platform and onto the Martian soil.

The rover will then begin an initial 90-day mission to explore and analyze the local area, climate, magnetic field and subsurface.

The achievement marks complete success for China’s Tianwen-1 mission, the country’s first independent interplanetary expedition which launched in July 2020 and entered Mars orbit Feb. 10.

China had previously landed on the near and far sides of the moon, in 2013 and 2019 respectively, before completing a complex lunar sample return late last year.

Zhurong is equipped with six science payloads, including a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument for analysing surface elements and minerals, panoramic and multispectral imagers, a climate station, magnetometer and a ground-penetrating radar.

It aims to return data on potential water-ice deposits, weather, topography and geology, complementing science carried out by missions from other space agencies.
https://spacenews.com/chinas-zhurong-ma ... itia/?s=09
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China on Mars: Zhurong rover returns first pictures

Image

Image
(artist's impression)
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57172346
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Anaxagoras
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Will it finally launch this year? And more importantly, will it work as hoped for?

If it does, we should get some amazing pictures.
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
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Space Debris Has Hit And Damaged The International Space Station

The inevitable has occurred. A piece of space debris too small to be tracked has hit and damaged part of the International Space Station - namely, the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The instrument is still operational, but the object punctured the thermal blanket and damaged the boom beneath. It's a sobering reminder that the low-Earth orbit's space junk problem is a ticking time bomb.

Obviously space agencies around the world are aware of the space debris problem. Over 23,000 pieces are being tracked in low-Earth orbit to help satellites and the ISS avoid collisions - but they're all about the size of a softball or larger.

Anything below that size is too small to track, but travelling at orbital velocities can still do some significant damage, including punching right through metal plates.

Canadarm2 - formally known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), designed by the Canadian Space Agency - has been a fixture on the space station for 20 years. It's a multi-jointed titanium robotic arm that can assist with maneuvering objects outside the ISS, including cargo shuttles, and performing station maintenance.
...
Ever since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, space debris has been accumulating. According to a report from the European Space Agency, an estimated 130 million fragments of anthropogenic material smaller than a millimeter are orbiting Earth right now. That estimate does not include natural space dust.
https://www.sciencealert.com/space-debr ... ce-station

Chinese spacecraft docks with new space station

The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft is delivering supplies and equipment to the country's under-construction space station.

China's cargo spacecraft has docked with the country's new space station, carrying fuel and supplies for its future crew, the Xinhua state news agency reported on Sunday.

Tianzhou-2 or "Heavenly Vessel" blasted off via a Long March-7 Y3 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on the southern Chinese island of Hainan on Saturday. Its journey to the Tianhe station took approximately eight hours.
...
The spacecraft is the second of 11 cargo missions needed to complete China's first self-developed space station, due to completed in 2022, and follows the launch of the key module Tianhe in late April.

In order to complete the Chinese space station, two laboratory modules, each weighing a good 20 tons each will need to be brought into space.

https://www.dw.com/en/chinese-spacecraf ... a-57712449
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NASA Selects 2 Missions to Study ‘Lost Habitable’ World of Venus

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NASA has selected two new missions to Venus, Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor. Part of NASA’s Discovery Program, the missions aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world when it has so many other characteristics similar to ours – and may have been the first habitable world in the solar system, complete with an ocean and Earth-like climate.

These investigations are the final selections from four mission concepts NASA picked in February 2020 as part of the agency’s Discovery 2019 competition. Following a competitive, peer-review process, the two missions were chosen based on their potential scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans. The project teams will now work to finalize their requirements, designs, and development plans.

NASA is awarding approximately $500 million per mission for development. Each is expected to launch in the 2028-2030 timeframe.

The selected missions are:

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

DAVINCI+ will measure the composition of Venus’ atmosphere to understand how it formed and evolved, as well as determine whether the planet ever had an ocean. The mission consists of a descent sphere that will plunge through the planet’s thick atmosphere, making precise measurements of noble gases and other elements to understand why Venus’ atmosphere is a runaway hothouse compared the Earth’s.

In addition, DAVINCI+ will return the first high resolution pictures of the unique geological features on Venus known as “tesserae,” which may be comparable to Earth’s continents, suggesting that Venus has plate tectonics. This would be the first U.S.-led mission to Venus’ atmosphere since 1978, and the results from DAVINCI+ could reshape our understanding of terrestrial planet formation in our solar system and beyond. James Garvin of Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the principal investigator. Goddard provides project management.

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

VERITAS will map Venus’ surface to determine the planet’s geologic history and understand why it developed so differently than Earth. Orbiting Venus with a synthetic aperture radar, VERITAS will chart surface elevations over nearly the entire planet to create 3D reconstructions of topography and confirm whether processes such as plate tectonics and volcanism are still active on Venus.

VERITAS also will map infrared emissions from Venus’ surface to map its rock type, which is largely unknown, and determine whether active volcanoes are releasing water vapor into the atmosphere. Suzanne Smrekar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, is the principal investigator. JPL provides project management. The German Aerospace Center will provide the infrared mapper with the Italian Space Agency and France’s Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales contributing to the radar and other parts of the mission.
https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa ... d-of-venus
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SLS: First view of Nasa's assembled 'megarocket'

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Nasa has assembled the first of its powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rockets, which will carry humans to the Moon this decade.

On Friday, engineers at Florida's Kennedy Space Center finished lowering the 65m (212ft) -tall core stage in-between two smaller booster rockets.

It's the first time all three key elements of the rocket have been together in their launch configuration.

Nasa plans to launch the SLS on its maiden flight later this year.

During this mission, known as Artemis-1, the SLS will carry Orion - America's next-generation crew vehicle - towards the Moon. However, no astronauts will be aboard; engineers want to put both the rocket and the spaceship through their paces before humans are allowed on in 2023.
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57446686 details & more pics.