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Space cookies: First food baked in space by astronauts

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Chocolate chip cookies have become the first food to be baked in space in a first-of-its-kind experiment.

Astronauts baked the cookies in a special zero-gravity oven at the International Space Station (ISS) last month.

Sealed in individual baking pouches, three of the cookies returned to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on 7 January.

The aim of the experiment was to study cooking options for long-haul trips.

The results of the experiment, carried out by astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch, were revealed this week.

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Astronauts, complete 4-spacewalk marathon to fix space station's $2 billion antimatter detector

It took four entire spacewalks to fix.

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It took four years of planning, 20 new tools shipped by spacecraft and an unprecedented four-part repair job, but a $2 billion experiment on the International Space Station is all patched up after a spacewalk by astronauts Saturday (Jan. 25).

NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano spent 6 hours, 16 minutes working outside the station to finish repairs on the ailing Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a 9-year-old cosmic ray detector designed to seek out dark matter and antimatter. The instrument, launched in 2011, had lost two of four critical coolant pumps, which the spacewalkers restored. NASA aims to run a series of tests in upcoming days to make sure the repair worked.  

It wasn't an easy job to perform. Parmitano and Morgan were on the fourth of four spacewalks to fix AMS, completing work that began on the instrument in November. The astronauts were using tools to fix an instrument that was initially, never even designed for spacewalking repairs. On this spacewalk, which was broadcast live on NASA Television, leak drama dominated the early hours of the work.

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Two satellites set for a close shave over US city of Pittsburgh

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Two satellites hurtling across the sky at nearly 33,000 mph (53,000 km/h) are predicted to pass dangerously close to one another over Pennsylvania.

A group tracking the satellites said it predicted a 1 in 20 chance of a collision, calling it "alarming".

The satellites are not in operation, but it is feared a collision could create pieces of debris that would damage other objects in orbit.

The last time a major satellite collision occurred was in 2009.

The satellites may pass within 40ft (12m) of each other, some 550 miles (900km) above Pittsburgh at around 18:30 local time.

LeoLabs, a group that tracks space debris, reported that "it is still unlikely that these objects will collide", but that due to the size of the satellites, the chance of collision had gone up from prior calculations.

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(More LeoLabs Tweets)

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Mega-constellation firms meet European astronomers

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Leading satellite mega-constellations companies SpaceX and OneWeb have met with astronomers in Europe to discuss the impact their operations could have on observations of the Universe.

There's concern that the size and brightness of the firms' planned fleets could interfere with the work of professional telescopes.

The parties discussed the issues in a private meeting at the Royal Astronomical Society in London, UK.

The talks were described "as positive".

Present for OneWeb was Dr Timothy Maclay, the start-up's director of mission systems engineering; and for SpaceX, the participant was Patricia Cooper, the California company's vice president of satellite government affairs.

OneWeb and SpaceX are in the process of launching big networks of spacecraft to deliver broadband internet to every corner of the globe.

The numbers of platforms involved are unprecedented in the history of spaceflight.

The RAS gathering was intended as an opening move in what is hoped will become a continuing dialogue. Media were excluded to allow the delegates to have a frank discussion, RAS deputy executive director and press officer, Robert Massey, told BBC News.

It's understood two new, soon-to-be-published research studies were presented.

One, from the University of Southampton, has investigated the reflectivity of SpaceX's Starlink satellites and what's driving their brightness in the sky.

The second, from the European Southern Observatory organisation, has attempted to model how much observing time might be lost by the world's major telescope facilities if the mega-constellations' interference is as bad as some fear it could become.

Image captionOneWeb will be launching 34 satellites at once in the coming week

Already, astronomers have talked of passing Starlink satellites producing streaks and "ghosting" in telescope images; and of detectors becoming saturated in the glare from the satellites.

SpaceX has so far launched 240 satellites in what it says will be an initial constellation of 12,000.

OneWeb only has six spacecraft up at the moment but will begin a big roll-out next week. This will see 34 satellites being lofted every month or so until 650 platforms are circling the globe.

SpaceX is already in discussions with the American Astronomical Society. It's the wide-field survey telescopes that could suffer most. These will scan large portions of the sky every night looking for opportunity targets such as passing asteroids and exploded stars, but these searches could become compromised if astronomers also have to account for large numbers of confounding artificial light sources.

Dr Massey told BBC News: "We appreciated the openness of the two companies; we appreciated the fact that they came to see us and to talk to us. We know that they're not the only operators out there and we need to be having discussions with those people as well. But I think we started to understand some of the genuine quantitative impacts on optical and radio telescopes."

The absence of an internationally agreed framework to guide the satellite industry on the brightness of its satellites, giving it some standards to work to, was one of the issues raised at the meeting, Dr Massey added.

He contrasted this with the best-practice measures designed to mitigate space debris.

Operators are urged to pull defunct spacecraft out of orbit within 25 years to reduce the chances of a collision with active platforms.

SpaceX has modified one of its satellites to have a different coating which may help reduce its reflectivity. However, the suspicion is that much of the brightness comes from light bouncing off the long singular solar array incorporated into the Starlink design.

The RAS meeting also included representatives from the UK and European space agencies, and from the Square Kilometre Array.

Earlier in January, the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting held a special session on the impacts of mega-constellations.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51334423

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Greenlight for UK commercial telecoms Moon mission

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UK satellite company SSTL has got the go-ahead to produce a telecommunications spacecraft for the Moon.

The platform, which should be ready for launch in late 2022, will be used by other lunar missions to relay their data and telemetry to Earth.

Satellites already do this at Mars, linking surface rovers with engineers and scientists back home.

The Lunar Pathfinder venture will do the same at the Moon.

SSTL is financing the build of the satellite itself but will sell its telecoms services under a commercial contract with the European Space Agency (Esa).

It's hoped other governmental organisations and private actors will purchase capacity as well.

The Moon is set to become the go-to destination this decade with the Americans intent on putting humans on the surface again, 50 years after Apollo.

Nasa's Project Artemis has identified 2024 as the date when the "first woman and the next man" will touchdown, close to the lunar south pole.

The plan is to put the UK satellite into a highly elliptical orbit so that it can have long periods of visibility over this location.

Pathfinder is expected to be particularly useful for any sorties - human or robotic - to the Moon's far side, which is beyond the reach of direct radio transmission with Earth.

The UK satellite's presence would make connections possible and this could be the enabler for some smaller, low-cost lunar projects that would otherwise have to procure their own separate relay system.

But anywhere at the Moon, above it or on the surface - all missions should benefit from the boost in data rates that comes from a local, dedicated telecoms platform.b.thumb.png.979df02456b647b43c5e72120b67d01c.png

SSTL says Lunar Pathfinder should be just under 300kg at launch. Its radio payloads will work in S-band and UHF frequencies to talk to nearby spacecraft, and in the X-band to make the back-and-forth connection with Earth.

Goonhilly teleport in Cornwall, with its big radio dishes, is anticipated to act as the uplink/downlink station.

The Guildford firm is getting this opportunity thanks to the money invested by the UK government in Esa at its recent Ministerial Council in Seville, Spain.

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) delegation committed €14m (£12m) to Europe's lunar exploration budget. British representatives also put down €18m (£15m) to be part of efforts to develop an international space station at the Moon called Gateway. Again, the UK is hopeful it can play a role in this station's communications.

"This would be to talk from Gateway to surface missions," said Sue Horne, the head of the space exploration at UKSA.

"This should be compatible with Lunar Pathfinder. So, you can see our strategy: We'd like to take a lead in deep space communications with Goonhilly, Lunar Pathfinder and Gateway. We're carving out an area for the UK," she told BBC News.

Separately, SSTL is working on a feasibility study for Esa looking at how a constellation of spacecraft could be flown around the Moon to provide not just telecoms but also satellite-navigation services for the lunar market (SSTL has been part of the consortium that's built all the spacecraft for Europe's Galileo sat-nav system). Good positioning on the Moon will be relevant as more and more missions visit the surface.

"Lunar Pathfinder is a 'pathfinder' - it will prove the technology but also test the viability of a commercial market for telecoms services at the Moon. When the future constellation is launched, Pathfinder will become a node within that network," explained Nelly Offord Harlé, the business manager for exploration at SSTL.

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SSTL says Lunar Pathfinder should be just under 300kg at launch. Its radio payloads will work in S-band and UHF frequencies to talk to nearby spacecraft, and in the X-band to make the back-and-forth connection with Earth.

Goonhilly teleport in Cornwall, with its big radio dishes, is anticipated to act as the uplink/downlink station.

The Guildford firm is getting this opportunity thanks to the money invested by the UK government in Esa at its recent Ministerial Council in Seville, Spain.

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) delegation committed €14m (£12m) to Europe's lunar exploration budget. British representatives also put down €18m (£15m) to be part of efforts to develop an international space station at the Moon called Gateway. Again, the UK is hopeful it can play a role in this station's communications.

"This would be to talk from Gateway to surface missions," said Sue Horne, the head of the space exploration at UKSA.

"This should be compatible with Lunar Pathfinder. So, you can see our strategy: We'd like to take a lead in deep space communications with Goonhilly, Lunar Pathfinder and Gateway. We're carving out an area for the UK," she told BBC News.

Separately, SSTL is working on a feasibility study for Esa looking at how a constellation of spacecraft could be flown around the Moon to provide not just telecoms but also satellite-navigation services for the lunar market (SSTL has been part of thee consortium that's built all the spacecraft for Europe's Galileo sat-nav system). Good positioning on the Moon will be relevant as more and more missions visit the surface.

"Lunar Pathfinder is a 'pathfinder' - it will prove the technology but also test the viability of a commercial market for telecoms services at the Moon. When the future constellation is launched, Pathfinder will become a node within that network," explained Nelly Offord Harlé, the business manager for exploration at SSTL.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51378320

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OneWeb: London start-up launches the first big batch of satellites

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The UK-based OneWeb company has sent 34 satellites into orbit on a single Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

The start-up is building a mega-constellation in the sky to deliver broadband internet to all corners of the globe.

Six spacecraft were lofted in 2019 to prove the technology, but this year will see big batches of platforms going up on a near-monthly basis.

The aim is to have the full network in operation by the end of 2021.

OneWeb is in a race with a number of other companies that want to provide the same kind of service.

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What is Solar Orbiter and what's it going to do?

Many scientists are calling it the UK's most important mission for a generation.

 

 

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New Horizons spacecraft 'alters theory of planet formation'

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Scientists say they have "decisively" overturned the prevailing theory of how planets in our Solar System formed.

The established view is that material violently crashed together to form ever-larger clumps until they became worlds.

New results suggest the process was less catastrophic - with matter gently clumping together instead.

The study appears in Science journal and has been presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle.

The study's lead researcher, Dr Alan Stern said that the discovery was of "stupendous magnitude".

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1 minute ago, nudge said:

"But as it is a US federal agency, the first requirement to join Nasa is American citizenship."

Get one of your pals to falsify documents, someone like @Bluewolf  :ph34r:

  • Haha 1

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Just now, CaaC (John) said:

Get one of your pals to falsify documents, someone like @Bluewolf  :ph34r:

I have NASA slippers, maybe they'll make an exception for me based on that :4_joy:

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6 minutes ago, nudge said:

"But as it is a US federal agency, the first requirement to join Nasa is American citizenship."

:(

This, to me, is silly. If you're not able to get enough astronauts in your own country you should hunt elsewhere. I am sure there are so many people who would fit the bill and could be vetted properly. I'd say apply and tell them the only way you will come, when you pass, is if they send you the application with an oak cask aged Whiskey.

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17 minutes ago, CaaC (John) said:

Get one of your pals to falsify documents, someone like @Bluewolf  :ph34r:

As you mention it... got some blank ones knocking about, just need a few details and we are good to go... 

See the source image

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1 minute ago, Bluewolf said:

As you mention it... got some blank ones knocking about, just need a few details and we are good to go... 

See the source image

Ah so those people signing up to the forum and offering fake papers to buy were always just part of your business??? Should have let me know, wouldn't have marked that as spam if you offered me a cut :ph34r:

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42 minutes ago, nudge said:

Ah so those people signing up to the forum and offering fake papers to buy were always just part of your business??? Should have let me know, wouldn't have marked that as spam if you offered me a cut :ph34r:

Never mix business with pleasure Nudge.... B|

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Astronomers want public funds for intelligent life search

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The head of one of the US's national observatories says the search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe needs to be taken more seriously.

Dr Anthony Beasley told the BBC that there should be greater government support for a field that has been shunned by government research funders for decades.

His backing for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Seti) marks a sea change in attitudes to a field regarded until recently as fringe science.

Dr Beasley made his comments at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle.

The director of the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville in Virginia said that it was now "time for Seti to come in from the cold and be properly integrated to all other areas of astronomy".

Dr Beasley's comments come as one of the private sector funders of Seti research announced that the Very Large Array (VLA) observatory in New Mexico would be joining the effort to detect signs of intelligent life on other worlds.

The VLA is a multi-antenna observatory and home to what is regarded as one of the best-equipped telescopes in the world.

According to Dr Andrew Siemion, leader of the Breakthrough Listen science team at the University of California, Berkeley's Seti Research Centre, the incorporation of the VLA would increase the chances of finding intelligent life by "10- or even 100-fold".

"We are now set for the most comprehensive all-sky survey [for extra-terrestrial intelligence] that has ever been accomplished," he told the BBC.

Equally important, according to Dr Siemion, is the credibility that the VLA's involvement brings to the field.

"We would like to see Seti transformed from a small cabal of scientists and engineers in California, isolated from academia to one that is as much an integral part of astronomy and astrophysics as any other field of inquiry."

Breakthrough Listen is a privately funded project to search for intelligent extraterrestrial communications throughout the universe. The 10-year project began in 2016, funded by the billionaire Yuri Milner to the tune of $100m (£77m).

You might also be interested in:

The UK's Astronomer Royal, Professor Lord Rees, is the chair of the organisation's international advisory group. He told the BBC that, given that the multi-billion pound Large Hadron Collider had not yet achieved its aim of finding sub-atomic particles beyond the current theory of physics, governments should consider modest funding of a few million pounds for Seti.

"I'd feel far more confident arguing the case for Seti than for a particle accelerator," he said.

"Seti searches are surely worthwhile, despite the heavy odds against success, because the stakes are so high".

Nasa once funded the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence to the tune of $10m a year. But the funding was scrapped in 1993 following the introduction of legislation by Senator Richard Bryan, who believed it to be a waste of money.

"This hopefully will be the end to the Martian hunting season at the taxpayer's expense," he said at the time.

There has been no significant public funding for Seti in the US or anywhere else in the world since, although so-called astrobiology searches for evidence of simple organisms from the chemical signatures in the atmosphere's of other worlds receives increasing backing.

At the time, the first few planets orbiting distant stars were discovered, but it was not known if this was the norm. We now know that it is - nearly 4,000 have been discovered to date.

It is this development, according to Dr Siemion, that has persuaded many respected scientists that the search for intelligent life on other worlds should be taken more seriously.

"Ever since human beings have looked up at the night sky and wondered 'is there anyone out there?' We now have the capacity to answer that question, and perhaps to make a discovery that would rank as the most profound scientific discoveries in the history of humanity".

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51223704

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R.I.P. Heather, you are amongst the stars at night now.

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Heather Couper: Broadcaster and astronomer dies at 70

Dr Couper appeared on the BBC's Blue Peter and The Sky At Night programmes, as well as presenting and producing acclaimed science documentaries.

She also hosted radio series including the BBC World Service's long-running Seeing Stars and BBC Radio 4's Cosmic Quest and Starwatch.

Her best friend and business partner, Nigel Henbest, said she had died on Wednesday after a short illness.

She had been a "charismatic... and passionate communicator of science", he said.

"She got people really excited about the Universe and about space - that was her love, her passion in life."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-51562165

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