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      NASA decides not to launch two already-built asteroid probes

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 12 July, 2023 - 00:21 · 1 minute

    An artist's illustration of NASA's two Janus spacecraft as they would have appeared in space.

    Enlarge / An artist's illustration of NASA's two Janus spacecraft as they would have appeared in space. (credit: Lockheed Martin )

    Two small spacecraft should have now been cruising through the Solar System on the way to study unexplored asteroids, but after several years of development and nearly $50 million in expenditures, NASA announced Tuesday the probes will remain locked inside a Lockheed Martin factory in Colorado.

    That’s because the mission, called Janus, was supposed to launch last year as a piggyback payload on the same rocket with NASA’s much larger Psyche spacecraft , which will fly to a 140-mile-wide (225-kilometer) metal-rich asteroid—also named Psyche—for more than two years of close-up observations. Problems with software testing on the Psyche spacecraft prompted NASA managers to delay the launch by more than a year.

    An independent review board set up to analyze the reasons for the Psyche launch delay identified issues with the spacecraft’s software and weaknesses in the plan to test the software before Psyche’s launch. Digging deeper, the review panel determined that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the Psyche mission, was encumbered by staffing and workforce problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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      Testing antibacterial surfaces on the International Space Station

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 8 June, 2023 - 17:51

    An astronaut stands in front of a complicated rack of equipment.

    Enlarge / Because particles that astronauts breathe out can drift for a while before settling, most surfaces in the International Space Station eventually get microbial contamination. (credit: NASA )

    On June 5, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off to the International Space Station with new supplies, including equipment for scientific research. Among the new scientific gear that has arrived at the ISS are four tablets covered with extremely thin films that could play a crucial role in the development of materials for future human space flights.

    Testing these innovative films, which were developed by the French commission for atomic and renewable energy (CEA), is part of an ongoing project aimed at developing antibacterial materials for space habitats.

    “MATISS (Microbial Aerosol Tethering on Innovative Surfaces in the International Space Station) consists of exposing these tablets in the ISS environments for a long time in order to collect the bacteria that gets deposited on them. These tablets are then returned to our laboratories for measuring the level of biocontamination,” says project manager Sebastien Rouquette of the French space agency CNES.

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      How NASA plans to melt the Moon—and build on Mars

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 24 May, 2023 - 14:17 · 1 minute

    Mars Dune Alpha is the first structure built for NASA by the Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technology team.

    Enlarge / Mars Dune Alpha is the first structure built for NASA by the Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technology team. (credit: ICON)

    In June a four-person crew will enter a hangar at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and spend one year inside a 3D-printed building. Made of a slurry that—before it dried—looked like neatly laid lines of soft-serve ice cream, Mars Dune Alpha has crew quarters, shared living space, and dedicated areas for administering medical care and growing food. The 1,700-square-foot space, which is the color of Martian soil, was designed by architecture firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group and 3D printed by Icon Technology.

    Experiments inside the structure will focus on the physical and behavioral health challenges people will encounter during long-term residencies in space. But it’s also the first structure built for a NASA mission by the Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technology (MMPACT) team, which is preparing now for the first construction projects on a planetary body beyond Earth.

    When humanity returns to the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program , astronauts will first live in places like an orbiting space station, on a lunar lander, or in inflatable surface habitats. But the MMPACT team is preparing for the construction of sustainable, long-lasting structures. To avoid the high cost of shipping material from Earth, which would require massive rockets and fuel expenditures, that means using the regolith that’s already there, turning it into a paste that can be 3D printed into thin layers or different shapes.

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      Space archaeologists are charting humanity’s furthest frontier

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Sunday, 2 April, 2023 - 10:15

    Astronaut Kayla Barron snaps photos inside an ISS module.

    Enlarge / Astronaut Kayla Barron snaps photos inside an ISS module. (credit: NASA)

    Archaeologists have probed the cultures of people all over the Earth—so why not study a unique community that’s out of this world? One team is creating a first-of-its-kind archaeological record of life aboard the International Space Station .

    The new project, called the Sampling Quadrangle Assemblages Research Experiment, or SQuARE, involves hundreds of photos taken by astronauts throughout the living and work spaces of the ISS. People have continuously occupied the space station for decades, and the launch of its initial modules in the late 1990s coincided with the rise of digital photography. That meant that astronauts were no longer limited by film canisters when documenting life in space, and that space archaeologists —yes, that’s a thing—no longer had to merely speculate about it from afar.

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      NASA delays flight of Boeing’s Starliner again, this time for parachutes

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 29 March, 2023 - 21:39

    Starliner touches down in December 2019 for the first time.

    Enlarge / Starliner touches down in December 2019 for the first time. (credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

    NASA and Boeing announced Wednesday that the first crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft will now take place no earlier than July 21. This moves the vehicle's flight, carrying NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore, from the previously announced timeframe of April.

    The manager of NASA's Commercial Crew program, Steve Stich, said the delay was attributable to the extra time needed to close out the pre-flight review process of Starliner and also due to traffic from other vehicles visiting the space station in June and the first half of July.

    "When we look at all the different pieces, most of the work will be complete in April for the flight," Stich said during a teleconference with reporters. "But there's one area that's extending out into the May time frame, and this really has to do with the certification products for the parachute system."

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      New VLT data reveals more about aftermath of DART vs. asteroid collision

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 21 March, 2023 - 19:41 · 1 minute

    Artist’s illustration shows the ejection of a cloud of debris after NASA’s DART spacecraft collided with the asteroid Dimorphos.

    Enlarge / Artist’s illustration shows the ejection of a cloud of debris after NASA’s DART spacecraft collided with the asteroid Dimorphos. (credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

    Last September, the Double Asteroid Redirect Test, or DART, smashed a spacecraft into a small binary asteroid called Dimorphos, successfully altering its orbit around a larger companion. We're now learning more about the aftermath of that collision, thanks to two new papers reporting on data collected by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope . The first, published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, examined the debris from the collision to learn more about the asteroid's composition. The second, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, reported on how the impact changed the asteroid's surface.

    As we've reported previously , Dimorphos is less than 200 meters across and cannot be resolved from Earth. Instead, the binary asteroid looks like a single object from here, with most of the light reflecting off the far larger Didymos. What we can see, however, is that the Didymos system sporadically darkens. Most of the time, the two asteroids are arranged so that Earth receives light reflected off both. But Dimorphos' orbit sporadically takes it behind Didymos from Earth's perspective, meaning that we only receive light reflected off one of the two bodies—this causes the darkening. By measuring the darkening's time periods, we can work out how long it takes Dimorphos to orbit and thus how far apart the two asteroids are.

    Before DART, Dimorphos' orbit took 11 hours and 55 minutes; post-impact, it's down to 11 hours and 23 minutes. For those averse to math, that's 32 minutes shorter (about 4 percent). NASA estimates that the orbit is now "tens of meters" closer to Didymos. This orbital shift was confirmed by radar imaging. Earlier this month , Nature published five papers that collectively reconstructed the impact and its aftermath to explain how DART's collision had an outsize effect. Those results indicated that impactors like DART could be a viable means of protecting the planet from small asteroids.

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      NASA studying unexpected performance of Orion’s heat shield ahead of crew mission

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 8 March, 2023 - 14:33

    NASA's Orion spacecraft descends toward the Pacific Ocean after a successful mission in December.

    Enlarge / NASA's Orion spacecraft descends toward the Pacific Ocean after a successful mission in December. (credit: NASA)

    About three months have passed since NASA's Orion spacecraft splashed down into the Pacific Ocean after a flight beyond the Moon and back. At the time, the space agency said the Artemis I mission had successfully met its goals and paved the way for humans to follow suit.

    This week, after carefully reviewing data from that Artemis I mission since splashdown, space agency officials reiterated that although there were a few minor issues with the flight, overall it bolstered confidence. As a result NASA's chief of human exploration for deep space, Jim Free, said the agency is targeting "late November" of 2024 for the Artemis II mission.

    During this flight, four astronauts—likely including a Canadian—will spend a little more than a week in deep space. After checking out the performance of Orion in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft will fly into what is known as a "free return trajectory" around the Moon, which will bring them as close as 7,500 km to the surface of the Moon before swinging back.

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      Putting together the Webb telescope’s mid-infrared eyes

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 10 August, 2022 - 16:56

    Image of an oval-shaped galaxy.

    Enlarge / The dust in this galaxy, shaded red, required the MIRI instrument to resolve. (credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI )

    There is more than one reason why the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on board the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is considered to be pioneering. Of the four instruments on JWST, it's the only one that observes in the mid-infrared range, from 5 to 28 microns; the other three are near-infrared devices with a wavelength range of 0.6 to 5 microns. To reach these wavelengths, MIRI had to be kept the coldest of any instrument on JWST, meaning it essentially set the requirements for the telescope’s cooling system.

    The stunning images taken by MIRI are a testimony to the remarkable engineering feats that went into it, feats that were achieved by overcoming formidable challenges through meticulous transatlantic teamwork and coordination.

    Making MIRI

    “I remember being told in the early days that the instrument will never be built. Some people at NASA looked at the block diagram of our management structure and said it will never work,” Professor George Rieke, who leads the science team of MIRI, recalled.

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      This software aims to make your flight smoother—and help the planet

      WIRED · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 2 October, 2021 - 11:40

    So many airplanes are in line on the runway waiting for take off. These Air Force planes are part of Operation stop service to transport in Covid-19 situation.

    Enlarge / So many airplanes are in line on the runway waiting for take off. These Air Force planes are part of Operation stop service to transport in Covid-19 situation. (credit: Naruecha Jenthaisong | Getty Images)

    Fastening the seat belt buckle and knowing your flight is on its way to its destination: Nice. Getting stuck in a tarmac traffic jam and waiting for your flight to take off: Not so nice. Turns out the wait is also not nice for the planet.

    Flying in an airplane is already one of the most emissions-intensive things you can do. Globally, aviation produced over 1 billion tons of carbon emissions in 2019 , more than 2 percent of all human-generated emissions—more than either shipping or rail. Aircraft engines also emit nitrogen oxides, soot particles, and water vapor, which also contribute to warming the planet.

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