Tag: The Moon

China’s New Crew Capsule Just Landed, Along With Parts of Their New Rocket

Article by Matt Williams                             May 15, 2020                             (universetoday.com)

• Two milestones have brought China closer to becoming a full-fledged superpower in space. One was the successful return on May 8th of a next-generation crewed spacecraft that launched into low earth orbit on May 5th and spent 67 hours in space. The other was the launch of China’s new Long March 5B (CZ-5B) heavy-lift rocket carrying a target payload for the first time. The heavy-lift rocket took the new spacecraft into orbit, although the spacecraft was unmanned for this test mission.

• The purpose of the spacecraft mission was to test its deep space capabilities since it will be carrying Chinese astronauts, or “taikonauts”, to the Moon and beyond in the coming years. The spacecraft reached a maximum distance of 4,970 miles from earth. The spacecraft deployed its three parachutes to slow down during its descent back to earth and airbags were deployed to cushion the landing. The previous Shenzhou spacecraft relied on only one parachute and had no airbags. Once it returns to Earth, crews will refurbish the new spacecraft by replacing the ‘foldable’ heat shield and removing any additional scoring from the hull.

• The purpose of the heavy-lift rocket mission was to test its payload ability, as it will be used to bring materiel to build a space station orbiting the Moon. The Chinese wanted to make sure that the heavy-lift rocket could handle a 22 US ton payload because they intend to eventually carry into orbit the components needed to construct the Tiangong-3 Modular Space Station. The uncrewed spacecraft and 22,000 lbs of fuel propellant brought its launch mass to 23.8 US tons.

• The rocket and spacecraft were launched from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center – located on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. Upon reaching orbit, the booster and spacecraft separated. The spacecraft brought along a composite materials 3D printing system, a time-triggered Ethernet system, and a range of seeds intended to test the effects of microgravity and radiation from the Van Allen belts on the growth of plants, which is essential to any plan to build space stations and habitats in orbit. On its return, the spacecraft touched down at the Dongfeng landing area in China’s northeastern Jilin province.

• On May 11th, a spent rocket stage of the Long March 5B re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean. The booster landed safely in the ocean off the west coast of Africa. Some pieces of the rocket landed on an African village, however. If it had re-entered earth’s atmosphere fifteen minutes earlier, the debris would have landed on New York City. No injuries were reported.

• This latest mission has sent a clear message to the global astronomical community that China will be expanding its presence in ‘low earth orbit’ in the coming years. In this decade, China will have the capability to send taikonauts to the Moon, followed by the creation of a permanent lunar base in the next decade, and maybe crewed missions to Mars.

 

China’s next-generation crewed spacecraft, which will replace the venerable Shenzou spacecraft in the coming years, recently returned to Earth after spending almost three days in space. The purpose of this mission was to test the deep space capabilities of the spacecraft that will be sending Chinese astronauts (taikonauts) to orbit, to the Moon, and beyond in the coming years.

                  Chinese ‘taikonauts’

In addition, this mission also saw China’s new Long March 5B (CZ-5B) heavy-lift rocket launch a payload to space for the first time. This rocket is the latest installment in the Long March family and will be vital to the creation of the third and largest Chinese space station. These two milestones have brought China a step closer to becoming a full-fledged superpower in space.

The uncrewed spacecraft and Long March 5B launched on their maiden voyage together in the early morning hours of Tuesday, May 5th, from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center – located on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. Once they reached orbit, the booster and spacecraft separated, and the second part of the mission commenced (i.e. the validation of the crewed spacecraft prototype).

Over the course of the next 67 hours, the spacecraft performed seven orbit-raising maneuvers and reached a maximum distance (apogee) of around 8,000 km (4,970 mi) from Earth’s surface. This is similar to what was done during Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) with the Orion spacecraft back in 2014 – though that mission lasted only 4 hours and completed 2 orbits.

By Friday, May 8th, at 01:21 AM EST (10:21 PM, May 7th, PST) the spacecraft completed its deorbit burn, which was followed by the separation of the service and crew modules about twelve minutes later. The new spacecraft deployed its three parachutes to slow down during descent and airbags were deployed from the underside to cushion the landing.

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US to Agree to PACT on Space Mining, ‘Safety Zones’ on Moon, Sidelining Russia

May 6, 2020                          (rt.com)

• The Trump administration is ironing out details of a plan that would legitimize the regulation of mining on the Moon and establishing “safety zones” around off-planet bases. According to Reuters, Trump plans to ask allies such as Canada, Japan, the UAE, and European nations, to sign such an agreement, but not Russia.

• The agreement could pave the way for private companies to claim ownership over the resources they extract, some of which hope to mine the Moon for water, which can then be converted into rocket fuel. The proposed pact also provides for “safety zones” around bases which could soon be established on the Moon.

• Washington has long eyed the vast resources that space has to offer. In 2015, Congress passed a law allowing American companies and individuals to tap into Moon and asteroid resources. Last month, Trump signed an executive order (see Executive Order, Public Law 114-90 here) declaring that the US does not view space as “a global commons” and arguing that “Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space.”

• The 1967 Outer Space Treaty bans nations from staking territorial claims over any part of a celestial body beyond Earth. The Trump administration will argue that the agreement is aimed at boosting coordination between nations, and therefore only reinforces the 1967 treaty.

• The US will begin negotiating the pact with its allies “in the coming weeks.” However, early talks will not include Moscow, which has repeatedly blasted Washington for its continuous push to make space the legal equivalent of the Wild West, including plans to militarize the outer realms and seize territory on other planets.

[Editor’s Note]  The pact agreement could also pave the way for private companies to claim ownership over the resources they have already extracted through mining activities in the asteroid belt and other celestial bodies throughout the solar system, and ‘safety zones’ around existing off-planet bases.

 

The US has been working on a draft deal that would regulate mining on the Moon as well as establishing “safety zones” around would-be extraterrestrial bases. However, the proposal reportedly excludes Russia, a major space power.

The Trump administration is ironing out details of a plan that would give its potential mining activities on the Moon a semblance of legality – even if not all the space-faring nations, including major ones such as Russia, are on board – a source told Reuters on Tuesday.

Citing US officials, the outlet reported that Washington will ask some of its allies, such as Canada, Japan, the UAE, and European nations, to sign an agreement that would regulate mining on the lunar surface in preparation for greater human activity on the Moon.

The agreement could pave the way for private companies to claim ownership over the resources they extract, some of which hope to mine the Moon for water, which can be converted into rocket fuel.

The proposed pact also provides for the establishment of “safety zones” around bases which, according to Washington’s vision, could soon pop up on the Moon. The zones would vary in size depending on the “operation,” the source told Reuters.

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“The Search for Techno-Artifacts” From an Earlier Civilization in the Solar System

May 2, 2020                             (dailygalaxy.com)

• In his 2016 study, ‘Prior Indigenous Technological Species’, Penn State’s Jason Wright discussed possible origins and locations for “technosignatures” of a technological species’ civilization that could have existed in the solar system prior to humanity’s rise on Earth, or on nearby planets Venus and Mars. “From a purely scientific standpoint, it’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask whether life may have existed elsewhere in the Solar System, or does today,” said Wright, who is also a member of the ‘Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds’ at Penn State.

• What could have ended a prior technologically advanced civilization within our solar system? “The most obvious answer is a cataclysm, whether a natural event, such as an extinction-level asteroid impact or self-inflicted, such as a global climate catastrophe,” says Wright. “[S]uch an event would only permanently extinguish the species if there were many cataclysms across the solar system closely spaced in time, (such as) a swarm of comets or interplanetary warfare, …an unexpected nearby gamma ray burst or supernova…”

• In the case of Venus, its global greenhouse and resurfacing might have erased all evidence of a prior civilization’s existence on the Venusian surface. In the case of Earth, erosion and plate tectonics may have erased most of such evidence if the species lived a billion years ago. Remaining indigenous technosignatures would be extremely old, limiting the places they might still be found to beneath the surfaces of Mars and the Moon, or in the outer solar system.

• In a 2019 study co-written by Manasvi Lingam (at Florida Tech) and Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb entitled, “The Moon as a Fishing Net for Extraterrestrial Life”, Loeb suggested that Earth’s Moon might yield traces of technological equipment that crashed on the lunar surface a billion years ago. “The absence of a lunar atmosphere,” wrote Loeb, “guarantees that these messengers would reach the lunar surface without burning up. In addition, the geological inactivity of the Moon implies that the record deposited on its surface will be preserved and not mixed with the deep lunar interior. Serving as a natural mailbox, the lunar surface collected all impacting objects during the past few billions of years. Most of this “mail” comes from within the solar system.”

 

         Jason Wright

One of the primary open questions of astrobiology is whether there is extant or extinct life elsewhere the Solar System. Astrophysicists Avi Loeb at Harvard and Penn State’s Jason Wright have both explored the question, with Loeb suggesting that ancient technological artifacts from beyond the Solar System may exist on Earth’s Moon amounting to a letter from an alien civilization saying, “We exist.”

Wright, a member of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, has considered the possibility that a technological

             Avi Loeb

species could have existed in the Solar System prior to humanity’s rise on Earth in his study, Prior Indigenous Technological Species.

In 2016, Wright authored a paper that discussed possible origins and locations for “technosignatures” of such a civilization while other astronomers have suggested looking for lights on Kuiper Belt Objects that “may serve as a lamppost which signals the existence of extraterrestrial technologies and thus civilizations.”

The origins and possible locations for technosignatures of such a prior indigenous technological species might have arisen on ancient Earth or another body, such as a pre-greenhouse Venus or a wet Mars. In the case of Venus, the arrival of its global greenhouse and potential resurfacing might have erased all evidence of its existence on the Venusian surface. In the case of Earth, erosion and, ultimately, plate tectonics may have erased most such evidence if the species lived a billion years ago. Remaining indigenous technosignatures, observes Wright, might be expected to be extremely old, limiting the places they might still be found to beneath the surfaces of Mars and the Moon, or in the outer Solar System.

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