Friday, August 23, 2019

🚀 Orbital Refueling, Elon Musk Wants to Nuke Mars? Europa Clipper's Next Phase, Inflatable Space Habitat Unveiled, and More...



We Did It! Bennu Has Been Completely Mapped

Hi, Vasiliy.

I recently mentioned that NASA has selected four potential landing sites for OSIRIS-REx to nab a sample from the surface of Bennu. 

A big part of this is all thanks to the hard work by the volunteers on the Cosmoquest Bennu Mappers project, who scoured images of the surface of Bennu, mapping out all the rocks. Over the course of 91 days when the images started to roll in, volunteers put in 1409 days of effort cataloging 4509 separate images (15 times each for redundancy).

Are you interested in getting directly involved in science, contributing to real missions going on out in space? Then you should join up with Cosmoquest. Now that Bennu Mappers is wrapped up, we're getting the next project lined up.

We've mapped Mercury, Mars, the Moon and an asteroid. What's next?

Join up, and you'll be notified when it's time to do science.

And to everyone who put in hours and hours and days and days of time... thank you!


Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Why Build Big Rockets at All? It's Time for Orbital Refueling


On Tuesday, July 30th, NASA announced 19 different partnerships with 13 different companies to use their expertise to help them develop space technologies, from advanced communications systems to new methods of entry, descent and landing.

Instead of contracting out specific projects, NASA will make its employees, facilities, hardware and software available to these companies, for free.

One of the most notable of these partnerships will be with SpaceX and NASA's Glenn and Marshall Centers to help advance the technology of transferring propellant in orbit.

In other words, NASA is going to help SpaceX figure out how to refuel a spacecraft while it's in space. And if they can figure this out, it could completely change the way missions are launched and flown.

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Moon gamma rays

When it Comes to Gamma Radiation, the Moon is Actually Brighter Than the Sun

The Sun is brighter than the Moon, in almost every way. But it turns out, when you scan the skies with a gamma ray telescope, the Moon is actually brighter. How can that be possible? Since the Moon is still just reflecting radiation from the Sun? It turns out the Moon is also being hit by cosmic rays, which then release gamma rays. A reminder that space is a very dangerous place.

Nuke Mars

Elon Musk Wants to Nuke Mars. Is This a Good Idea? (No)

Oh Elon Musk, you scamp. Recently the SpaceX CEO mentioned on Twitter that we should detonate nuclear bombs on Mars, to melt its polar ice caps and make the planet more habitable. Is this a good idea? Is it feasible? It turns out you would need an insane number of nuclear weapons to get this job done, and the radioactive fallout would make Mars uninhabitable for a very long time.

Europa Clipper


Exploring The Icy Moons of Jupiter. NASA's Europa Clipper and ESA's JUICE

This week NASA announced that their Europa Clipper mission has been approved to move to the next stage of its development: the final design stage. In this article I provide a background on the Europa Clipper mission, as well as ESA's JUICE mission, which will also be heading off to the icy moons of Jupiter.

Europa Clipper

AI Could Help the Europa Clipper Mission Make All Kinds of Discoveries!

Speaking of the Europa Clipper, we had a chance to talk with some of the engineers behind the mission who provided details on some of the new developments in artificial intelligence it'll take to make discoveries at Europa when round-trip communication times are so long. Europa Clipper is going to need to make a lot of decisions all on its own.


Black hole neutron star

Has LIGO Detected its First Smash-up of a Black hole and Neutron Star?

Thanks to its new upgrade, LIGO has been detecting nearly a black hole collision every week through their gravitational waves. But now astronomers working with the observatory think they might have detected an even more elusive target: a black hole consuming a neutron star. It's preliminary, but could give valuable insights into both extreme objects.


Exoplanet Earth

Earth is an Exoplanet to Aliens. This is What They'd See

When astronomers start to directly image planets orbiting other stars, they're not going to see much, just a few pixels at best. But through long observations, they should be able to tease out a few interesting details. Exoplanet researchers took Earth and imagined what we might be able to see about our planet if we were looking at it from many light-years away. 


Hopping Robot MASCOT Gave us this View from the Surface of Ryugu

JAXA's Hayabusa2 spacecraft has been exploring asteroid Ryugu for the last few months, shooting the surface with an antitank weapon, dropping various landers onto its surface, and retrieving a sample from its interior. In a recent article in the Journal Science, engineers with the mission shared images of the surface of Ryugu taken by its MASCOT hopper.


Astronomers Image the Atmosphere of a Red Dwarf Planet for the First Time. Spoiler Alert, it's a Terrible Place to Live

Astronomers used the Spitzer Space Telescope to image the surface of a planet orbiting a red dwarf star. It's an amazing technical accomplishment, ushering in a new era of direct observation of exoplanets. Of course, it's a terrible place to live, orbiting its parent star every 11 hours, with its star-facing side hitting temperatures of 770 degrees Celsius. But... it's a good start.


Upgraded ISS now has a 600 Megabit per Second Internet Connection

NASA recently gave the International Space Station a huge upgrade to its internet connection, doubling the rate at which it can communicate with the ground - 600 Mbps. It's not all great, though, the station has to communicate with a ring of satellites in a higher orbit before the signals reach Earth, and the round trip times take about a second. I'm saying, astronauts on board the station playing Fortnite are getting crushed.

Chandrayaan 2

Chandrayaan 2 Enters Lunar Orbit

India's Chandrayaan 2 mission has been steadily making its way to higher and higher orbits and this week it finally reached the orbit of the Moon, performing a delicate orbital insertion maneuver. If everything continues to go well, the spacecraft will deploy a rover to the Moon's southern pole on September 7, becoming the fourth nation to land on the Moon.

Vulcan rocket

Astrobotic is going to use a Vulcan Rocket for its Lunar Lander in 2021

Astroboltic announced this week that they've selected United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket to carry their lunar lander to the surface of the Moon in 2021. Astrobotic was chosen by NASA to deliver 14 payloads to the surface of the Moon on its Peregrine lander, and it will also carry other commercial partners on this mission. Vulcan is ULA's response to the reusability of SpaceX's Falcon-9 and Falcon Heavy.



One Could Fly to Mars in this Spacious Habitat and not go Crazy

This week Sierra Nevada Corporation showed off their new space-based habitat. This inflatable habitat measures 8 meters long with a diameter 8 meters and has roughly one third the living space of the International Space Station. This habitat could be attached to the Lunar Gateway or serve as a living space for astronauts making the journey to Mars.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

Atlas V launch

Michael Erard (@mikerard) is an photographer living in Florida, which means he gets to take photographs of rocket launches from time to time. This is an image of a recent Atlas V rocket taking off from Cape Canaveral.

We have featured over 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 183,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.

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