Friday, October 4, 2019

🚀 Starship Mk1 Test Very Soon, Lunar Lander Designs, Cotton Grew on Mars, InSight Hears Marsquakes, and more...



Starship Development is Accelerating

Last week I encouraged you to watch an upcoming presentation from Elon Musk about the status of the SpaceX Starship. And as promised, Musk stood in front of the Mk1 prototype in Boca Chica to talk about the status of their next-generation fully reusable stainless steel rocket.

According to Musk, this new prototype will blast off in the next month or so, hopping to an altitude of about 20 kilometers and then returning to the launch site. If this works, orbital flights will happen in the next 6 months with humans going to space sometime a year after that.

But keep in mind these are Elon Musk timelines, which are always overly... ambitious. If you didn't watch the presentation, we made you a video. :-)

Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Feed a million Martians

What Will It Take To Feed A Million People On Mars?

In 2017, Elon Musk laid out his grand sweeping plans for the future of SpaceX, the company that would take humanity to Mars. Over decades, tens of thousands of Starship flights would carry a million human beings to the surface of the Red Planet, the minimum Musk expects it'll take to create a self-sustaining civilization.

The number of details in an effort like this is mind-boggling. What about the reduced gravity, radiation exposure, and space madness? What about return flights? Replacement parts? Building materials?

What's everyone going to eat?

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Supermassive black holes

Astronomers Have Found a Place With Three Supermassive Black Holes Orbiting Around Each Other

Astronomers know that galaxies collide with each other from time to time, and most galaxies have supermassive black holes at their cores. And new images from the Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered a place where there are three of these monsters orbiting one another. Three massive objects orbiting each other would cause untold mayhem in the region, so it's a good thing they're a billion light-years away from us.

Baby mice

Mice That Spent a Month in Space Were Able to Reproduce Once They Got Back to Earth

We're still learning what impact spaceflight has on the human body because of the higher radiation, microgravity and other changes. But what about fertility? Good news, if you're a mouse. A team of moustronauts went to space and then were able to successfully impregnate females when they came back to Earth. 

Black hole

New Technique for Estimating the Mass of a Black Hole

Everyone knows its rude to ask a black hole how heavy it is, so astronomers have developed a new technique that allows them to accurately guess at the mass of a black hole, even though it's millions of light-years away. It all comes down to the relativistic jets that a black hole blasts out of its poles. These have a direct connection to the mass of the object.


NASA is now Taking Proposals for Lander Designs that will Carry Humans to the Surface of the Moon

With NASA's Artemis program targeting to return humans to the Moon by 2024, there are some big pieces of technology that still need to be developed. Like, uh, the landers that will actually carry astronauts down to the surface of the Moon. This week NASA let their contractors know they're looking for proposals for Artemis lunar landers.


The Moon

India's Crashed Lander is In This Picture, Somewhere

Want to do some detective work? The Indian lander that recently lithobraked onto the surface of the Moon is somewhere inside this photograph. It's an image of the lunar highlands captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, but it'll get better lighting during its flybys in October, so stay tuned.



China's Lander Successfully Grew Some Cotton Plants on the Moon. Fruit Flies and Potatoes Didn't Fare So Well

One of the most fascinating experiments onboard China's Chang'e-4 spacecraft was a tiny greenhouse with 6 different lifeforms: cotton, potato, rapeseed, yeast, fruitflies, and thale cress.  Of all the lifeforms, only the cotton seeds were able to actually sprout during the 14 days of lunar sunlight. Then, during the lunar night, temperatures dropped to -190 Celsius, and everything died.


Juno is Afraid to Death of Jupiter's Shadow. So it Fired its Thruster for Over 10 Hours to Avoid It

NASA's Juno spacecraft was on track to spend 12 hours passing through Jupiter's shadow, losing the valuable sunlight that powers its heaters and other electronics. So mission control fired up the spacecraft's thrusters for a 10.5-hour burn that shifted its trajectory enough that it'll jump the shadow on November 3rd, and continue on with its mission.


InSight Has Already Detected 21 Marsquakes

NASA's Mars InSight spacecraft has been sitting on the surface of the Red Planet, quietly listening to its interior. And so far, scientists have confirmed that the seismometer has already detected 21 Marsquakes, revealing details about its interior. It turns out these quakes can reverberate on Mars for over a minute, while they'd be gone in seconds here on Earth.


Here's NASA's New Plan to Get InSight's Temperature Probe Into Mars

And speaking of InSight, you might also recall that its plan to detect the internal temperature of Mars was stalled because of some kind of obstruction blocking the deployment of its heat probe into the regolith. NASA has a new plan to try and help hammer the probe down deeper, using the scoop on its robotic arm to brace the probe against the side of the hole. If it's just because the probe isn't getting friction in the Martian regolith, this might do the trick.


Hot Jupiter Exoplanet Orbits its Star Every 18 Hours. The Quickest Ever Found

The discovery of hot jupiter planets - giant planets which orbit their star much closer than Mercury - was a shock to astronomers when they were first found decades ago. But Nature has shown us that things are more interesting than we thought. And now, astronomers have found a hot jupiter that only takes 18 hours to go around its star. Incredible! 

Planet 9

It Is Unlikely That Planet Nine Is A Black Hole, But Not Impossible

Have you heard the news that Planet 9 might actually be a primordial black hole leftover from the Big Bang? That would explain why it's been so hard to detect since a black hole with the mass of Neptune would be pretty much invisible to us, but still have the same gravitational influence. But it's also highly unlikely.



Elon Musk Shows us What's Inside the Starship

Just after his presentation, Musk released a series of photographs and videos to his Twitter account showing us what it looks like inside the Starship Mk1 prototype. It's mostly empty, but you can see the internal structure, fuel tanks, and Raptor engines. Hopefully, this'll be enough to get this prototype off the ground and up to its targeted altitude.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

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4 October 2019

Astronomers using ALMA have obtained an extremely high-resolution image showing two disks in which young stars are growing, fed by a complex pretzel-shaped network of filaments of gas and dust. Observing this remarkable phenomenon sheds new light on the earliest phases of the lives of stars and helps astronomers determine the conditions in which binary stars are born.

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4 October 2019

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