space exploration (7)

High Flight...

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In this illustration, NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Red Planet's surface as NASA's Perseverance rover (partially visible on the left) rolls away.Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Topics: Mars, NASA, Planetary Science, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

"High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Ingenuity, a technology experiment, is preparing to attempt the first powered, controlled flight on the Red Planet.

When NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, it will be carrying a small but mighty passenger: Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter.

The helicopter, which weighs about 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) on Earth and has a fuselage about the size of a tissue box, started out six years ago as an implausible prospect. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California knew it was theoretically possible to fly in Mars’ thin atmosphere, but no one was sure whether they could build a vehicle powerful enough to fly, communicate, and survive autonomously with the extreme restrictions on its mass.

Then the team had to prove in Earthbound tests that it could fly in a Mars-like environment. Now that they’ve checked off those objectives, the team is preparing to test Ingenuity in the actual environment of Mars.

“Our Mars Helicopter team has been doing things that have never been done before – that no one at the outset could be sure could even be done,” said MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity project manager at JPL “We faced many challenges along the way that could have stopped us in our tracks. We are thrilled that we are now so close to demonstrating – on Mars – what Ingenuity can really do.”

Ingenuity survived the intense vibrations of launch on July 30, 2020, and has passed its health checks as it waits to plunge with Perseverance through the Martian atmosphere. But the helicopter won’t attempt its first flight for more than a month after landing: Engineers for the rover and helicopter need time to make sure both robots are ready.

6 Things to Know About NASA’s Mars Helicopter on Its Way to Mars

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Lattice Confinement Fusion...

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Illustration of the main elements of the lattice confinement fusion process observed. In Part (A), a lattice of erbium is loaded with deuterium atoms (i.e., erbium deuteride), which exist here as deuterons. Upon irradiation with a photon beam, a deuteron dissociates, and the neutron and proton are ejected. The ejected neutron collides with another deuteron, accelerating it as an energetic “d*” as seen in (B) and (D). The “d*” induces either screened fusion (C) or screened Oppenheimer-Phillips (O-P) stripping reactions (E). In (C), the energetic “d*” collides with a static deuteron “d” in the lattice, and they fuse together. This fusion reaction releases either a neutron and helium-3 (shown) or a proton and tritium. These fusion products may also react in subsequent nuclear reactions, releasing more energy. In (E), a proton is stripped from an energetic “d*” and is captured by an erbium (Er) atom, which is then converted to a different element, thulium (Tm). If the neutron instead is captured by Er, a new isotope of Er is formed (not shown).

Topics: Astrophysics, NASA, Nuclear Fusion, Propulsion, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

A team of NASA researchers seeking a new energy source for deep-space exploration missions recently revealed a method for triggering nuclear fusion in the space between the atoms of a metal solid.

Their research was published in two peer-reviewed papers in the top journal in the field, Physical Review C, Volume 101 (April 2020): “Nuclear fusion reactions in deuterated metals” and “Novel nuclear reactions observed in bremsstrahlung-irradiated deuterated metals.”

Nuclear fusion is a process that produces energy when two nuclei join to form a heavier nucleus. “Scientists are interested in fusion because it could generate enormous amounts of energy without creating long-lasting radioactive byproducts,” said Theresa Benyo, Ph.D., of NASA’s Glenn Research Center. “However, conventional fusion reactions are difficult to achieve and sustain because they rely on temperatures so extreme to overcome the strong electrostatic repulsion between positively charged nuclei that the process has been impractical.

Called Lattice Confinement Fusion, the method NASA revealed accomplishes fusion reactions with the fuel (deuterium, a widely available non-radioactive hydrogen isotope composed of a proton, neutron, and electron, and denoted “D”) confined in the space between the atoms of a metal solid. In previous fusion research such as inertial confinement fusion, fuel (such as deuterium/tritium) is compressed to extremely high levels but for only a short, nano-second period of time, when fusion can occur. In magnetic confinement fusion, the fuel is heated in a plasma to temperatures much higher than those at the center of the Sun. In the new method, conditions sufficient for fusion are created in the confines of the metal lattice that is held at ambient temperature. While the metal lattice, loaded with deuterium fuel, may initially appear to be at room temperature, the new method creates an energetic environment inside the lattice where individual atoms achieve equivalent fusion-level kinetic energies.

NASA Detects Lattice Confinement Fusion

 

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TNOs...

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Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Comets, Space Exploration

 

Invisible structures generated by gravitational interactions in the Solar System have created a "space superhighway" network, astronomers have discovered.

 

These channels enable the fast travel of objects through space and could be harnessed for our own space exploration purposes, as well as the study of comets and asteroids.

 

By applying analyses to both observational and simulation data, a team of researchers led by Nataša Todorović of Belgrade Astronomical Observatory in Serbia observed that these superhighways consist of a series of connected arches inside these invisible structures, called space manifolds - and each planet generates its own manifolds, together creating what the researchers have called "a true celestial autobahn."

 

This network can transport objects from Jupiter to Neptune in a matter of decades, rather than the much longer timescales, on the order of hundreds of thousands to millions of years, normally found in the Solar System.

 

Finding hidden structures in space isn't always easy, but looking at the way things move around can provide helpful clues. In particular, comets and asteroids.

 

There are several groups of rocky bodies at different distances from the Sun. There's the Jupiter-family comets (JFCs), those with orbits of less than 20 years, that don't go farther than Jupiter's orbital paths.

 

Centaurs are icy chunks of rocks that hang out between Jupiter and Neptune. And the trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) are those in the far reaches of the Solar System, with orbits larger than that of Neptune.

 

Astronomers Just Found Cosmic 'Superhighways' For Fast Travel Through The Solar System, Michelle Starr (no kidding), Science Alert

 

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Crew-1...

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Image Source: NASA

Topics: Astronautics, International Space Station, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Happy Veteran's Day.

Expedition 1 and Crew-1. These historic International Space Station missions lifting off 20 years apart share the same goals: advancing humanity by using the space station to learn how to explore farther than ever before, while also conducting research and technology demonstrations benefiting life back on Earth.

Crew-1 made up of NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, continues the legacy of two decades of living and working in low-Earth orbit by becoming space scientists for the next six months.

Not only will the Crew-1 astronauts and fellow Expedition 64 NASA astronaut Kate Rubins conduct hundreds of microgravity studies during their mission, but they also deliver new science hardware and experiments carried to space with them inside Crew Dragon.

Check out some of the research flying to the space station alongside Crew-1, and scientific investigations the astronauts will work on during their stay aboard the orbiting laboratory.

  • Food Physiology: A better diet for better health
  • Genes in Space-7: A look at astronauts’ brains
  • Plant Habitat-02: Growing radishes in space
  • BioAsteroid: Microscopic microgravity miners
  • Tissue Chips: Using space to study organs
  • Cardinal Heart: An experiment with heart
  • SERFE: Testing a cool spacesuit

Crew-1 Heads to Space Station to Conduct Microgravity Science, Erin Winick, International Space Station Program Research Office, Johnson Space Center

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One Small Step...

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Topics: Moonbase, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight, Star Trek

Cultural references: Neil Armstrong's quote: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," and the title of a Star Trek Voyager episode, season 6, episode 8.

On August 4, 1972, the sun unleashed an incandescent whip of energy from its surface and flung it toward the planets. It was accompanied by a seething cloud of plasma called a coronal mass ejection, which traversed the nearly 150 million kilometers between sun and Earth in just more than half a day—still the fastest-known arrival time for such outbursts—to briefly bathe our planet in a cosmic fire.

Earth’s shielding magnetosphere crumpled and shrunk by two thirds, sending powerful geomagnetic currents rippling through the planet. Dazzling displays of “northern lights” stretched down to Spain, and overloaded power lines strained as far south as Texas. Off the southern coast of Haiphong, North Vietnam, the seas churned as the celestial disturbance prematurely detonated some two dozen U.S. Navy sea mines. The geomagnetic storm is one of the most violent solar events in recorded history, certainly the most violent of the space age.

The astronauts of Apollo 16 had been home about three months from their lunar foray, and those of Apollo 17 were still preparing for their December launch. The fact that the solar outburst happened between the penultimate and final crewed moon missions was simply a matter of chance. If the members of either crew had been in space during the solar storm, especially if they had been traversing the portion of the “cislunar” region between Earth and the moon that lies outside the magnetosphere, they would have been exposed to a potentially deadly dose of radiation.

We got lucky in 1972. And in terms of space-based hazards, that luck has largely held throughout humanity’s off-world excursions. To date, the only humans to actually die in space were the three cosmonauts of Soyuz 11, who asphyxiated because of faulty hardware as their spacecraft began its descent to Earth. Yet despite what most estimates would seem to consider a near-sterling safety record, today the prospect of venturing back beyond low-Earth orbit somehow seems more daunting—more dangerous—than it did when the Apollo program ended. Equipped with more knowledge than ever about the environs beyond our home, we now seem more reluctant to leave it. Maybe we know too much.

Can a Moon Base be Safe for Astronauts? Rebecca Boyle, Scientific American

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4G on the Moon...

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Topics: Cellular Service, Moonbase, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Telecom equipment supplier Nokia will use a $14.1 million grant to build the moon's first wireless network as part of NASA's plans to establish a human presence there.

NASA is investing the money in Nokia-owned American research company Bell Labs, which will build the 4G-LTE network, it said on Wednesday, October 14.

The improved data transmission will help astronauts control lunar rovers, navigate lunar geography in real-time, and stream videos.

The mission ultimately will help show whether it's possible to have "human habitation on the moon," Bell Labs said.

NASA gave Nokia $14.1 million to build a 4G network on the moon, Grace Dean, Business Insider

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SABRE...

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Courtesy: Reaction Engines

 

Topics: Aerodynamics, ESA, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

 

The pursuit, exploration, and utilization of the space environment can be misinterpreted as a luxury. History portrays space as an exclusive domain for global powers looking to demonstrate their prowess through technological marvels, or the stage for far-off exploration and scientific endeavor with little impact on daily life. However, the benefits of space are already woven into our everyday routines and provide utilities and resources on which society has grown dependent. If these were suddenly to disappear and the world was to experience just “a day without space”, the consequences would be evident to all.

 

The utilization of space is set to become more important still. A new vision for the future is starting to emerge that will feature even more innovative uses of space, ranging from space-based manufacturing and energy production to global Internet connectivity. Space-debris management is also receiving greater focus alongside lunar and Martian exploration, and even space tourism.

 

While some of these new innovations may sound like they are confined to the realm of science fiction, there are already companies furthering the technology to turn them into reality.

 

Conventional rocket vehicles are propelled by a fuel (liquid hydrogen, kerosene, or methane) and an oxidizer (liquid oxygen) carried within the vehicle body. When the fuel and oxidizer combust, mass is projected out of the back of the rocket, creating thrust. However, this approach – and especially the use of heavy onboard liquid oxygen – is constrained by Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation. It basically tells us that everything carried onboard a vehicle has a penalty in the form of the additional propellant, and structural mass of the vehicle needed to get it off the ground. In other words, this approach hampers mission performance, mission payload, and mission time.

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A concept image of the Reaction Engine’s Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE).

 

SABRE, on the other hand, is a hybrid air-breathing rocket engine. During the atmospheric segment of its ascent, it will use oxygen from the atmosphere instead of carrying it inside the vehicle, before switching to onboard oxygen upon leaving the atmosphere. A SABRE-powered launch vehicle will therefore have a lower mass for a given payload than a conventional rocket vehicle. This mass benefit can be traded for systems that will enable reusability and aircraft-like traits, such as wings, undercarriage, and thermal-protection systems – all the features needed to fly the same vehicle over and over again, achieving hundreds of launches.

 

Air-breathing rocket engines: the future of space flight, Oliver Nailard, Physics World

 

 

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