Space Exploration

Science • Space
OAC announces plans to start construction of private space station in 2025
OAC announces plans to start construction of private space station in 2025
Credit: Courtesy of YouTube / Gateway Foundation

According to the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC), the construction of the private space station named Voyager is expected to start in 2025.

The current design features a large ring structure that is planned to spin in order to create artificial moon-like gravity.

Planned for 2021-2024 is the construction of multiple tools to construct the space station in orbit.

Science • Space
Researchers: Cyanobacteria could thrive under Martian conditions
Researchers: Cyanobacteria could thrive under Martian conditions
Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA02653 file (Public Domain)

Cyanobacteria could thrive excellently even under the inhospitable conditions on Mars, produce oxygen and thus enable astronauts to survive self-sufficiently in the future. This is the conclusion reached by Humboldt Fellow Cyprien Verseux from the Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) at the University of Bremen. He and his team now present some of their findings in the scientific journal "Frontiers in Microbiology".

Cyanobacteria are known primarily as blue-green algae, which can proliferate in lakes in summer, the scientists explain. On Mars, their full potential comes into play, as they produce oxygen through photosynthesis. This ability is found in almost all plants, but cyanobacteria can also grow on the basis of the nutrients that are present on Mars

Science • Space
NASA rover "Perseverance" has successfully landed on Mars
NASA rover "Perseverance" has successfully landed on Mars
Credit: Courtesy of Youtube / NASA

NASA's Perseverance rover successfully touched down on Mars Thursday afternoon, as part of one of the agency's most ambitious deep-space missions to search for signs of ancient life on the red planet.

Science • Space
Nasa rover "Perseverance" to land on Mars - First helicopter flight on another planet
This illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover casting off its spacecraft’s cruise stage
This illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover casting off its spacecraft’s cruise stage Credit: NASA (Public Domain)

More than a century after the first motorized flight on Earth, such a maneuver is soon to take place on another planet for the first time. As part of the "Mars 2020" mission, the U.S. space agency Nasa plans to bring its Mars rover "Perseverance" together with the ultra-light helicopter "Ingenuity" to the Red Planet on Thursday (Feb. 18). There, "Ingenuity" is to fly through the Martian atmosphere. This is a particular challenge because the Martian atmosphere is only one percent as dense as the Earth's atmosphere.

"Ingenuity" is actually more like a drone. Nasa engineers had to make the mini-helicopter as light as possible so that it could take off in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere. It weighs just 1.8 kilograms and consists of four feet, a missile, and two propellers. The propellers rotate 2400 times per minute, about five times faster than a normal helicopter.

"Ingenuity" is expected to complete up to five flights over the surface of Mars. The aircraft can ascend up to five meters and fly up to 300 meters. However, the first test will cover a much shorter distance. Each flight can last up to one and a half minutes.

Since it takes about 20 minutes to transmit data from Mars to Earth, "Ingenuity" is not remotely controlled, but flies independently. Nasa issues only basic commands after which "Ingenuity" orients itself with a series of sensors. The results of the flights will not be available until some time later.

Science • Space
Private spaceflight specialist Axiom Space raises $130 million, becoming the latest space unicorn
Axiom Space logo
Axiom Space logo Credit: Axiom Space

Axiom has begun bringing in revenue for its space stations already, with NASA awarding the company a contract to connect one habitable module to the ISS as early as 2024. The seven-year contract has a maximum award value of $140 million, which Suffredini said goes beyond development to include launching and operating the module once connected to the space station. Suffredini said that Axiom has procured the parts of its modules that take the longest to arrive from supplies, with "contracts in place with major providers" and "early design work" completed.

Science • Space
China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered Mars orbit
Artist’s impression of the Tianwen-1 rover surveying on mars surface.
Artist’s impression of the Tianwen-1 rover surveying on mars surface. Credit: China National Space Administration, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Mars is getting crowded! After being on the space-road for seven months, China's Tianwen-1 probe has successfully entered Mars orbit on Wednesday, just one day after UAE's Hope orbiter and eights days before NASA's Perseverance rover.

"Tianwen-1 is going to orbit, land and release a rover all on the very first try, and coordinate observations with an orbiter," mission managers wrote before launch in the journal Nature Astronomy. "No planetary missions have ever been implemented in this way. If successful, it would signify a major technical breakthrough."

Science • Space
Mars Rover Perseverance to Land on Mars on Feb 18
Mars Rover Perseverance to Land on Mars on Feb 18
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Perseverance is in its home stretch. NASA's Mars rover is scheduled to land on Mars on February 18, almost six months after it started its journey to the red planet.

"I am thrilled to be here today as our countdown to Mars winds down from months to just weeks. Perseverance is closing in on the Red Planet, and our team is preparing for her to touch down in Jezero Crater.," Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said.

After landing, Perseverance will search for ancient life on Mars on the floor of Jezero.

Science • Space
The first entirely private space crew will visit the International Space Station
Ax-1 mission crew
Ax-1 mission crew Credit: Axiom Space (Twitter Reproduction)

The proposed Ax-1 mission will use a SpaceX rocket to put three paying customers - American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe - into low-Earth orbit on the space station. Stibbe plans to do experiments for Israeli researchers, working with the Ramon Foundation and Israel's space agency. The crew will be led by former NASA astronaut and space station commander Michael López-Alegría.

Axiom hopes to arrange up to two trips per year, and the company also wants to build its own privately funded space station.

Science • Space
To cut space junk, Japan is developing LignoSat, a wooden satellite
To cut space junk, Japan is developing LignoSat, a wooden satellite

The Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry and the Kyoto University have joined forces to develop what they hope will be the world's first satellites made out of wood by 2023.

As space junk becomes an increasing problem, wooden satellites would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth.

Science • Space
ARTEMIS: NASA Has Picked Astronauts for new Moon Mission
ARTEMIS: NASA Has Picked Astronauts for new Moon Mission
Credit: NASA

We're going back to the Moon! 18 astronauts, nine of them women, are training for NASA's upcoming Artemis missions to travel to the Moon and, eventually, to Mars. The group includes the first woman who will walk on the lunar surface in 2024.

Science • Space
Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully lands capsule with asteroid samples
Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully lands capsule with asteroid samples
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter / Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

According to the project manager for the asteroid mission, Dr Yuichi Tsuda, the capsule with asteroid samples has been successfully landed in Australia, and "the capsule collection was perfectly done". The samples will now be analyzed for research purposes in order to gather further information about our solar system.

Science • Space
SpaceX-NASA to launch Crew-1 mission
SpaceX-NASA to launch Crew-1 mission
Credit: NASA / Joel Kowsky (Public Domain)

The Crew Dragon capsule, placed atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is expected to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday at 19:49(ET). Three NASA astronauts — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker — will be joined by Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan's space agency, JAXA, on the trip.

The flight of four astronauts to the International Space Station in a Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket follows the success of the Demo-2 mission and its historic splashdown. It will also set a few key spaceflight milestones.

Science • Space
Microbes could mine valuable elements from rocks on the moon or Mars
Sphingomonas desiccabilis, the bacterium capable of “biomining” rare-earth elements from basalt rock.
Sphingomonas desiccabilis, the bacterium capable of “biomining” rare-earth elements from basalt rock. Credit: Rosa Santomartino

Recent experiments aboard the International Space Station have shown that some microbes can harvest valuable rare-earth elements from rocks, even when exposed to microgravity conditions. Microorganisms are already used on Earth to mine economically important elements from rocks, including rare earth elements, used in mobile phones and electronics.

It's unlikely to be economically viable to mine these elements in space and bring them back to Earth, according to Charles Cockell, a professor of astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the project.

Science • Space
NASA has managed to contact Voyager 2 after repairs and upgrades to radio antenna
NASA has managed to contact Voyager 2 after repairs and upgrades to radio antenna
Credit: CSIRO / via Wikimedia Commons

NASA has successfully contacted the Voyager 2 spacecraft for the first time since March. The Deep Space Station 43 in Canberra, Australia, is the only radio antenna that is able to contact and command the Voyager 2, which is now 43 years old, and has been under maintenance to receive repairs and upgrades since March. Now it has successfully re-contacted the spacecraft and Voyager 2 has confirmed the signal and executed the commands that had been sent.

Work on the radio antenna is expected to wrap up in February.

Science • Space
Water on Moon's surface may be more abundant than once thought, could sustain a lunar base
Water on Moon's surface may be more abundant than once thought, could sustain a lunar base
Credit: William Andrus (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Unlike previous detections of water in permanently shadowed parts of lunar craters, scientists have now detected the molecule in sunlit regions of the Moon's surface.

Speaking during a virtual teleconference, co-author Casey Honniball, a postdoctoral fellow at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said: "The amount of water is roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water in a cubic metre of lunar soil." Her Nasa colleague Jacob Bleacher, from the agency's human exploration directorate, said researchers still needed to understand the nature of the watery deposits.

Regional News • Americas • United States
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins votes from space in the US election using the 'ISS voting booth'
Astronaut Kate Rubins
Astronaut Kate Rubins Credit: Nasa (Twitter Reproduction)

"It's critical to participate in our democracy," Rubins told AP. "We consider it an honor to be able to vote from space." A 1997 law allows astronauts to cast their vote when in "spaceflight," which is forwarded from Mission control to the space station to the county clerk.

Science • Space
Nokia will establish mobile network on moon by 2022
Nokia will establish mobile network on moon by 2022
Credit: unsplash.com / NASA

The Finnish company Nokia has announced that they have been awarded a contract by Nasa to build a mobile network on the moon. Initially it will be based on the 4G/LTE technology and later upgraded to 5G.

The network will serve as a foundation for astronauts to make phone calls and send data. Ground stations on Earth will also be able to control devices and vehicles remotely.

Science • Space
Latest Soyuz mission established a new record for flights to the ISS
Soyuz approaching the ISS
Soyuz approaching the ISS Credit: NASA (Public Domain)

The Soyuz mission, launched from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 05:45 UTC Wednesday, became the fastest ever journey from Earth to the ISS, with a total travel time of three hours and three minutes. Similar launches, since 2013, take around six hours.

Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos and NASA's Kathleen Rubins were onboard the Soyuz.

Roscosmos stated that "a new record for flights to the International Space Station was set – the total time from launch to docking of the Soyuz MS-17 was three hours and three minutes."

Previously, only an uncrewed Progress cargo space ship has used this profile which requires just two orbits before docking with the ISS.

Science • Space
NASA's Artemis Accords to guide moon exploration signed by eight nations
NASA's Artemis Accords to guide moon exploration signed by eight nations
Credit: NASA

Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have signed on as founding member nations to NASA's Artemis Accords, an international agreement that "will help to avoid conflict in space and on Earth by strengthening mutual understanding and reducing misperceptions."

"Artemis will be the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration program in history, and the Artemis Accords are the vehicle that will establish this singular global coalition," so NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "With today's signing, we are uniting with our partners to explore the Moon and are establishing vital principles that will create a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space for all of humanity to enjoy."

Science • Space
NASA delays first Space X's Crew Dragon operational mission
NASA delays first Space X's Crew Dragon operational mission
Credit: NASA (Public Domain)

The launch of NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station was delayed and is now targeted for no sooner than early-to-mid November. The delay allows SpaceX to complete testing an off-nominal behaviour of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators.

"We have a strong working relationship with our SpaceX partner," said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "With the high cadence of missions SpaceX performs, it really gives us incredible insight into this commercial system and helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions. The teams are actively working this finding on the engines, and we should be a lot smarter within the coming week."