2021 Space Discoveries: Secret Of The Shadows Of The Moon, Encounter With Venus & More): The New Russian module knocks the International Space Station out of position! Do you remember the story of the Russian module Nauka, which was pulled out after years of neglect and launched towards the space station on July 21?
Well, after a few mishaps he finally reached his destination, but at the time of docking, he created a big problem. Following its launch, it reportedly encountered some propulsion problems that Russian controllers were able to resolve prior to its planned docking with the ISS.
Then came a successful docking, and everything seemed fine until the unexpected thruster firing. The thrust was not of great magnitude, but lasted about an hour and resulted in a loss of attitude of the space station, which rotated 454° (practically a turn and a half on itself) before regaining control.
The first to notice the problem was the ISS’s gyroscopes, which maintain attitude during normal operation and which activate in an attempt to maintain orientation. The Zvezda module‘s thrusters were then automatically activated to try to maintain attitude.
In response to the sudden and unexpected rotation, the orientation of the solar panels and radiators was also changed to prevent them from losing too much effectiveness as a result of the different orientations.
In addition, the solar panels surrounding the module have been shifted to avoid being hit by the thruster jets. In the press conference held the next day, NASA said that the station’s approach was stalled for a total of 47 minutes.
During the operation, many difficulties were encountered. First, the difficulties in communicating with the ferry module were compounded by the fact that during the emergency the ISS was in that part of the orbit that was not protected by Russian control centers.
In addition, it has been confirmed that contact has been lost with the crew at least twice.
Despite this, NASA has been very clear in saying that the situation was never really dangerous for the astronauts on board, although as a precaution the Dragon Endeavor capsule has been instructed to prepare for a possible safety separation.
It is still unclear whether the problem of ferry thrusters activation has been solved by stopping, or if they are automatically turned off.
In fact, it has been confirmed that the propellant was completely consumed. It seems that the origin of the problem has been traced, and it resides in a problem with the yacht software.
The module, in fact, seems to have been “still reassured” in docking mode and then in the approach phase to the ISS. Both the astronauts and the cosmonauts on board were immediately instructed to visually check the station for any structural damage.
For now, they have been found. Parts of Venus are expected to prepare for a double close encounter with Venus in the coming hours: BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter will fly over the planet at a very short distance from each other.
The probes Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo are only scheduled to fly over Venus every 33 hours. These are two maneuvers employed in missions to two spacecraft that take advantage of the planet’s gravity to help them reach their destinations (Sun, for Solar Orbiter, and Mercury, for BepiColombo).
The double close pass, called a “flyby” or “gravitational assist” in technical terms, also provides an unprecedented opportunity to simultaneously study Venus’s environment from different points of view.
Solar Orbiter, a probe born out of a collaboration between ESA and NASA, will pass around Venus on August 9 at 04:42 UT, with a maximum distance of 7,995 kilometers from its surface.
During its mission, Solar Orbiter has determined repeated overflights of Venus, which on the one hand will serve to bring it closer and closer to the Sun and on the other hand change the orbital inclination and push it out of the plane of the ecliptic. (ie outside the plane in which the planets move) and get the best and first view of the Sun’s poles.
BepiColombo, a joint mission between ESA and JAXA (the Japanese space agency), is actually composed of two probes (the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter) traveling on the same platform during the transfer trip).
It will pass close to Venus on August 10 at 13:48 UT at an altitude of just 550 km. BepiColombo is heading towards Mercury, the innermost planet in the Solar System.
It would need to “skim” Earth and return to Venus several times to counteract the Sun’s enormous gravitational pull, which would prevent it from entering orbit around Mercury, which is its destination.
Unfortunately, the scientific cameras on both missions will not be able to obtain high-resolution images of Venus: Solar Orbiter, in fact, must always face the Sun, while the main camera on BepiColombo is shielded by the Transfer Module.
However, two of BepiColombo’s three surveillance cameras (i.e. control cameras) will take pictures during the approach and in the days after, when the planet disappears from view.
Collecting, coordinating, and analyzing the flyby measurements in a meaningful way will take several months, but they will be crucial for future NASA and ESA missions that will depart for the planet in the next decade.
Then, on the night of October 1 to 2, BepiColombo will see its destination for the first time, performing the first of six flyovers of Mercury just 200 kilometers above the surface.
On 27 November, however, Solar Orbiter will make a final overflight of Earth at a distance of 460 km, but will continue to make regular overflights of Venus to gradually increase the inclination of its orbit and better observe the still lesser-known polar regions. Our Sun.
Bad News. Those underground lakes on Mars are probably frozen soil. Well, if you were planning an ice-fishing trip to Mars’ south pole and its sub-surface lakes, please, just be patient for a moment. Keep it
Research published in Geophysical Research Letters earlier this month suggests that the lakes on Mars may be nothing more than smectites.
If the findings of the paper, titled “A Concrete Explanation of Bright Radar Reflectors Beneath Mars South Polar Ice,” turn out to be a significant blow to those hoping to find life on the Red Planet.
So why were these alleged lakes so important to the search for life on Mars? How were they discovered in the first place? Why have our dreams of Martian ice-fishing turned to dust (or, more correctly, mud)? In short, this is the story.
In 2018, the European Space Agency announced that the Mars Express orbiter had discovered evidence of lakes of liquid water beneath the surface of Mars’ south pole.
Apparently, the discovery bolstered hopes of finding extremophiles living in icy waters, similar to bacteria living under 4 kilometers of ice in Lake Vostok, Antarctica. Like Mars, Antarctica had a hot and wet past.
As geological and tectonic processes moved the great continent towards the South Pole, it went through extreme glaciation. Microbes adapted to the radical climate change and eventually gave rise to the ecosystem that thrives there today.
With a really important difference… While Antarctica’s glaciers were driven by the tectonic action of continental drift, climate change on Mars was global and was probably due to the loss of the atmosphere by erosion by the solar wind.
Therefore, it is not unreasonable to imagine microbes adapting to this extreme climate change and clinging stubbornly to life in the subsurface lakes at the poles of Mars.
The European probe used the Mars Advanced Radar instrument to reveal reflectance data for the surface and down to a depth of 1.5 kilometers.
An extraordinarily bright region, about 20 kilometers wide, was in line with the expectation that a large body of fluid was present. The paper’s authors dispute the validity of Martian lakes claims, raising some questions that cannot be answered by radar reflectance alone.
They claim that the required amount of salt and heat required to maintain the said lake is not appreciable. Mars is very cold, and while salt is present on the planet, there is no known mechanism that can concentrate it to the level of salinity required for liquid water to remain.
They also estimate that the local geothermal flow (would a Mars-thermal flow be a more appropriate term?) is a sixth that is also necessary to maintain the liquid.
In science, especially when the stakes are as high as identifying potential biomes for extraterrestrial life, it is important to seek the simplest explanation for the observation.
The authors believe that rather than a portion of the South Pole displaying highly heterogeneous salinity and heat levels, a particularly reflective soil called smectite is abundant on Mars, by Mars Express The more likely culprit is the radar results seen. rest assured.
These are all hypotheses that only human presence on the Red Planet within the next decade will be confirmed or refuted. you have to wait.
Shadows on the Moon can hide water, even during the day “If water on the Moon were available as frost in areas with sunlight, future explorers would find it as a resource for fuel and drinking water. But first, we need to understand how the exosphere and the lunar surface interact.”
This is what scientists Bjorn Davidson and Sona Hosseini from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a new study published in the British journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
As is known, the presence of water on the Moon has already been detected by the American space probe Clementine in 1994 and detected with ultraviolet and infrared radiation.
Therefore the lunar surface may have regions that keep water in a solid-state during the lunar night so was now established and appropriate. But when the presence of ice on the sun’s hot surface was also proved in 2018, the question became puzzling.
How can water resist in areas where the temperature reaches 120°C?
Given that the tilt of the lunar axis, although minimal, produces shadows even when the Sun is at its zenith, recent studies on lunar temperature have suggested that the shadows produced by scattered rocks and craters on our satellite’s surface are accurate. can generate. Environment for the maintenance of ice.
Davidson and Hosseini, in this new study, explain how the Moon’s exosphere (formed by a chain of gases that act as a thin atmosphere) may have a relevant role: during the lunar day, the Sun rocks Evaporates the collected water molecules. , bringing them into the exosphere; Then they freeze again and get deposited in the shade as frost.
To test this theory, Hosseini is leading a research team to develop an ultra-miniature sensor that measures faint signals of water ice. This study can later be tested to understand the presence of water and gas molecules on the rings of Mars and Saturn as well.
According to the scientist research also requires a race against time. “The current lunar exploration carried out by private companies will result in significant changes to the lunar surface.
If this trend continues, we will lose the opportunity to understand the Moon’s natural environment, particularly the water flowing from the ancient exosphere.
Advanced development of ultra-compact, high-sensitivity instruments, therefore, is of critical importance and urgency.” NASA chose Falcon Heavy over SLS to launch Europa Clipper, saving nearly $2 billion from government-controlled bureaucratic space exploration It is slowly disappearing, at least in America.
A series of delays, escalating costs, and imposed requirements have finally begun to take their toll on the next generation of NASA rocket systems, the Space Launch System (SLS). Now, the space agency has finally accepted a point for the commercial launch industry.
It has chosen to use SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy to launch one of its upcoming major missions – Europa Clipper. The decision was made despite enormous pressure from SLS contractors to try to keep the mission on board.
In fact, Congress originally did not allow NASA to open Europa Clipper’s contract to other bidders. Pressure came from constituents of the various districts of the Congress in which the SLS has been formed. But the disadvantages of using the delayed system over and over again turned out to be too big to ignore.
One downside was the cost – and not just that of the rocket. Overall the Falcon Heavy, which is reusable unlike the SLS, is expected to save $2 billion when it launches Clipper on its way to Jupiter.
About half of that savings will come from avoiding costly redesigns. That redesign had to do with the vibration load of the SLS system at launch. Known in jargon as “torsional load,” the current iteration of Clipper can’t withstand those forces, according to a NASA investigation.
Redesigning the entire Clipper to make it compatible with the launch forces of the SLS alone would cost approximately $1 billion. Adding a single-use, expensive rocket to the mix adds another $1 billion in launch costs.
Another nail in the coffin was the timeline – the SLS has been repeatedly delayed and is now more than two years ahead of schedule, although it has yet to complete its first launch, which is expected in November.
The Falcon Heavy, on the other hand, began development after SLS and has already proven flight-worthy, with three successful flights so far and several ongoing launch contracts.
The SLS is primarily designed to support Artemis, NASA’s effort to return to the Moon. It was unclear, given the commitment of the SLS program to Artemis and its repeated delays, whether the system would be ready to support the launch of Clipper in 2024, and also questioned its usefulness for other science missions. has called. .
Even with the $2 billion of savings on the table, as well as the risk of missing the entire original launch window, Congress is still clinging to the SLS. Until earlier this year, at least, when it passed a budget amendment that would allow NASA to pursue other contractors for the mission’s launch.
When the agency announced that SpaceX had signed the new contract, it didn’t surprise veteran launch watchers. But it added another feather to the commercial launch industry’s cap — and saved the American taxpayer nearly $2 billion.
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