Space News and Discussions

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Space News and Discussions

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Space News and Discussions

This thread covers general news and developments in astronomy, space exploration both crewed and uncrewed, Earth observation, rockets and propulsion technologies, exoplanets, astrobiology, space junk, and so on.

More specific and indepth coverage of particular subjects will be found in other threads (e.g. exoplanets, SpaceX).


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China Mars Rover Zhu Rong Has Successfully Landed
May 15, 2021 by Brian Wang
China has become the third country in the world to safely land a rover on Mars. The United States and the former Soviet Union were the first two countries to land rovers and Mars mission.

“The scientific research team confirmed via the telemetry signal sent by the Zhu Rong Mars rover that on May 15, the Tianwen-1 Lander successfully landed in the pre-selected landing area in the Utopia Plain of southern Mars,” CNSA said.
https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2021/05/c ... anded.html
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Dating the stars
May 18, 2021

Scientists have succeeded in dating some of the oldest stars in our galaxy with unprecedented precision by combining data from the stars' oscillations with information about their chemical composition.

The team led by researchers at the University of Birmingham, surveyed around a hundred red giant stars, and were able to determine that some of these were originally part of a satellite galaxy called Gaia-Enceladus, which collided with the Milky Way early in its history.

The results, published in Nature Astronomy, revealed that the group of stars surveyed all have similar ages, or are slightly younger than the majority of the stars known to have started their lives within the Milky Way. This corroborates existing theories suggesting the Milky Way had already started forming a significant fraction of its stars when the merger with the Gaia-Enceladus (also known as the Gaia Sausage) occurred.
https://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Dati ... s_999.html
“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.” - Steven Moffat
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SpaceX Rocket Flies 10 Times as Reusability Gets Surprisingly Routine
Industry pioneer SpaceX has hit a significant milestone after one of its Falcon 9 rockets completed its 10th mission. The ability to reuse its launch vehicles has been at the heart of the company’s recent successes, and it seems others are starting to take note.

For decades, space rockets have been a single-use technology left to burn up on re-entry to the atmosphere once their mission is done. While a single-use approach might make sense for packaging material, in retrospect it seems like a crazy proposition for a highly engineered multi-million-dollar piece of equipment.

Trying to change that has been a core plank of SpaceX’s mission to slash the cost of spaceflight since its earliest days. And after a few dramatic failures, the company finally managed to land one of its rockets in 2015, followed by the first reuse in 2017.

Since then, the landing and reuse of the Falcon 9 has become standard practice for the company, and in 2018 founder Elon Musk set a goal of flying each rocket 10 times before having to carry out serious maintenance. On May 9th SpaceX hit that target for the first time when its B1051 booster landed safely after completing its 10th flight.

That’s an impressive milestone that means the only vehicles that have made more spaceflights than this rocket are the NASA space shuttles Discovery, Atlantis, Columbia, and Endeavor. But it’s not just the number of launches that’s impressive, it’s also the speed with which it has achieved them.

While Discovery still has an impressive lead with a total of 39 missions, it built that up over 27 years. SpaceX’s booster hit 10 missions in just 26 months, and in that period it was only one launch shy of the total number of missions flown by all rockets from its main competitor, United Launch Alliance.

And this isn’t the only Falcon 9 racking up missions.
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Deep water on Neptune and Uranus may be magnesium-rich
May 18, 2021

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While scientists have amassed considerable knowledge of the rocky planets in our solar system, like Earth and Mars, much less is known about the icy water-rich planets, Neptune and Uranus.

In a new study recently published in Nature Astronomy, a team of scientists recreated the temperature and pressure of the interiors of Neptune and Uranus in the lab, and in so doing have gained a greater understanding of the chemistry of these planets' deep water layers. Their findings also provide clues to the composition of oceans on water-rich exoplanets outside our solar system.

Neptune and Uranus are conventionally thought to have distinct separate layers, consisting of an atmosphere, ice or fluid, a rocky mantle and a metallic core. For this study, the research team was particularly interested in possible reaction between water and rock in the deep interiors.
https://phys.org/news/2021-05-deep-nept ... -rich.html
“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.” - Steven Moffat
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First images from China's Zhurong rover:


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And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future
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Salts could be important piece of Martian organic puzzle, scientists find
A NASA team has found that organic salts are likely present on Mars. Like shards of ancient pottery, these salts are the chemical remnants of organic compounds, such as those previously detected by NASA's Curiosity rover. Organic compounds and salts on Mars could have formed by geologic processes or be remnants of ancient microbial life.

Besides adding more evidence to the idea that there once was organic matter on Mars, directly detecting organic salts would also support modern-day Martian habitability, given that on Earth, some organisms can use organic salts, such as oxalates and acetates, for energy.

"If we determine that there are organic salts concentrated anywhere on Mars, we'll want to investigate those regions further, and ideally drill deeper below the surface where organic matter could be better preserved," said James M. T. Lewis, an organic geochemist who led the research, published on March 30 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. Lewis is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Lewis's lab experiments and analysis of data from the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM), a portable chemistry lab inside Curiosity's belly, indirectly point to the presence of organic salts. But directly identifying them on Mars is hard to do with instruments like SAM, which heats Martian soil and rocks to release gases that reveal the composition of these samples. The challenge is that heating organic salts produces only simple gases that could be released by other ingredients in Martian soil.
https://phys.org/news/2021-05-salts-imp ... uzzle.html
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Salty Lakes Found Beneath Mars' Surface
New research adds fresh evidence for salty lakes below the red planet's south pole.
By Mark ZastrowSep 28, 2020 11:00 AM
https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sc ... ditqxtIIDE
Two years ago, planetary scientists were abuzz with the potential discovery of a subsurface lake on Mars — buried deep beneath layers of ice and dust at the planet's south pole.

Now, new research adds more weight to that possibility, suggesting there is not just one but several briney lakes.

These aquifers would represent the first known martian bodies of liquid water — albeit extremely salty water. Taken with other recent discoveries — such as lakes beneath the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres — it is part of a growing picture that liquid water is more widespread in the solar system than previously thought.
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Hubble tracks down fast radio bursts to galaxies' spiral arms
May 20, 2021

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have traced the locations of five brief, powerful radio blasts to the spiral arms of five distant galaxies.

Called fast radio bursts (FRBs), these extraordinary events generate as much energy in a thousandth of a second as the Sun does in a year. Because these transient radio pulses disappear in much less than the blink of an eye, researchers have had a hard time tracking down where they come from, much less determining what kind of object or objects is causing them. Therefore, most of the time, astronomers don't know exactly where to look.

Locating where these blasts are coming from, and in particular, what galaxies they originate from, is important in determining what kinds of astronomical events trigger such intense flashes of energy. The new Hubble survey of eight FRBs helps researchers narrow the list of possible FRB sources.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 133946.htm
“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.” - Steven Moffat
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