What’s Next for China’s Lunar Exploration Plans?

China is starting to become a force in space exploration. Its main focal point of lunar exploration has started bearing fruit, with several successes, including a sample return mission and the first-ever craft to land on the far side. So what’s next for the Lunar Exploration Program? Establishing a research base may be on the cards, but the country doesn’t just plan to stop at the Moon – they are looking far beyond.

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Astronomers Spotted a Tiny Asteroid A Few Hours Before it Impacted the Earth, and Predicted Exactly Where and When it Would Crash

Humanity is getting better a planetary defense. At least from external threats from outer space. As long as they’re just dumb rocks that follow the laws of physics. And a group of extraordinary humans proved it last week when the planetary defense community jumped into action to accurately track and predict exactly where a relatively small meteor would fall on November 19th.

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Many Clouds on Mars are Driven by Dust, not Water

One of the benefits of having a cluster of satellites orbiting another planet is that scientists can then analyze that planet’s weather. Sometimes in that process, they find patterns that are strikingly similar to those found on our home planet. That was the case recently when a group of scientists from ESA used data from Mars Express to analyze cloud formation on Mars. To no one’s surprise, dust seemed to be at the core of that formation. But the resultant clouds looked very much like those found here on Earth – in the tropics. 

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Based on the JWST Controversy, NASA is re-Evaluating the way it Names Spacecraft

Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

In 2015, the naming of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) became the subject of controversy when it was revealed that the namesake (NASA’s administrator between 1961 and 1968) was involved in the infamous “Lavender Scare.” This refers to the period in the late 1940s and early 50s when the U.S. State Department purged thousands of individuals from their positions due to allegations of homosexuality. In 2021, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson requested a formal and public report and tasked NASA’s Chief Historian Brian C. Odom with investigating the matter.

In their final report, titled “NASA Historical Investigation into James E. Webb’s Relationship to the Lavender Scare” (aka. the NASA James Webb Historical Report). In it, NASA claimed that their investigation found no direct evidence that Webb was a “leader of or a proponent” of the policy; therefore, they would not be renaming the JWST. In a surprise twist, it appears that NASA may reexamine its naming policy and recommend changes. According to a statement released by the American Astronomical Society (AAS), Administrator Nelson agreed that the policy needs to be reevaluated.

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Air-Breathing ion Engines can Continuously Boost Spacecraft Anywhere There’s an Atmosphere

Staying in orbit can be challenging, at least for lower orbits that are more affected by Earth’s atmosphere. But, such orbits also come with advantages, such as better vantage points for new commercial operations such as Earth Observation and telecommunications connections. So there is an incentive for anyone who can figure out how to functionally keep a satellite in orbit at those lower altitudes for long periods. One of the best paths toward that goal seems to be an ion engine that takes in atmospheric particles and uses them for thrust. Now, a recently released paper explores potential use cases for such an engine and suggests a path toward their commercialization.

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Subaru Telescope can now Analyze 2,400 Galaxies Simultaneously

First light is an exciting time for astronomers and engineers who help bring new telescopes up to speed. One of the most recent and significant first light milestones recently occurred at the Subaru Telescope in Hawai’i. Though it has been in operation since 2005, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan’s (NAOJ) main telescope recently received an upgrade that will allow it to simultaneously observe 2400 astronomical objects at once over a patch of sky the size of several moons.

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Why ‘Contact’ still resonates after 25 years

Credit: Fuawas; permission to share under the under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

25 years ago, the film Contact made its theatrical debut starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey and told the story of Dr. Eleanor Arroway (Jodie Foster) who picked up a radio signal from the star Vega and how this discovery impacted not just herself, but humanity as a whole. Over time, she discovers the signal has embedded instructions sent by the aliens to build a device capable of sending one person into outer space, presumably to meet the Vegans.

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The First SLS Launch Caused Damage to the Launch Pad. How bad was it?

When you test launch the most powerful rocket ever successfully flown, there’s bound to be some collateral damage. With 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) packs a mighty punch (the Saturn V, which carried astronauts to the moon in 1969, produced 7.5 million pounds). After November 16’s test flight of SLS, dubbed Artemis I, the pad was a little worse for wear, but not outside of expected parameters, NASA officials say.

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What Happened to those CubeSats that were Launched with Artemis I?

A portion of the far side of the Moon looms large just beyond the Orion spacecraft in this image taken on the sixth day of the Artemis I mission by a camera on the tip of one of Orion s solar arrays. Credit: NASA.

NASA made history on November 16th when the Artemis I mission took off from Launch Complex 39B at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its way to the Moon. This uncrewed mission is testing the capabilities of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft in preparation for the long-awaited return to the Moon in 2025 (the Artemis III mission). Rather than astronauts, this mission carries a group of mannequins with sensors and has a primary payload consisting of the Callisto technology demonstrator (a human-machine video interface system).

As a secondary payload, Artemis I also brought ten 6U CubeSats beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), three of which were NASA missions designed to perform experiments. The rest were built by partner space agencies, commercial space entities, research institutes, and universities to carry out a variety of unique deep-space science experiments. While all these satellites managed to deploy successfully, six have not made contact with controllers on the ground or since experienced problems, and their whereabouts remain unknown.

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