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The Best View for the Supermoon May Be on This Plane

Australians will have some of the best views of the “super blood moon” this week, but passengers on a one-time flight departing from Sydney will have an even better one.

The Australian airline Qantas will operate a three-hour flight on Wednesday (Tuesday evening in the United States) for about 100 passengers to see the moon enter the Earth’s shadow and turn a blood red color during a total lunar eclipse.

An astronomer from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national science and research agency, worked with the flight’s pilots to “design the optimal flight path,” a statement from the airline said. The astronomer, Vanessa Moss, will also be aboard the plane to educate passengers on the lunar event.

The flight will climb to a cruising altitude of 43,000 feet, “above any potential cloud cover and atmosphere pollution,” the statement said — the maximum altitude for the plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. “Cosmic cocktails and supermoon cakes” will be served.

sold out in less than half an hour.

The flight will depart from and return to Sydney Airport, beginning with a scenic route over Sydney Harbour. Australia’s travel restrictions have been among the world’s harshest, with the government largely prohibiting international travel into or out of the country, even for its own citizens.

Other “flights to nowhere” have departed throughout the pandemic as airlines scrambled to manage the sharp decline in travel. In October, a Qantas flight flew over Australia’s Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, departing from and landing in Sydney. Tickets for the flight sold out in 10 minutes.

Climate activists have criticized the flights as unnecessary and harmful to the environment. Qantas noted that it would offset carbon emissions for its supermoon flight to a net zero.

For those who won’t be on the supermoon flight, the lunar event will be visible mostly from Australia, East Asia, islands in the Pacific and the Western Americas.

The moon will be closest to Earth at 11:50 a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time, but on the West Coast of the United States, the views will start at 1:47 a.m. Pacific time on Wednesday.

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Going to the Moon via the Cloud

Before the widespread availability of this kind of computing, organizations built expensive prototypes to test their designs. “We actually went and built a full-scale prototype, and ran it to the end of life before we deployed it in the field,” said Brandon Haugh, a core-design engineer, referring to a nuclear reactor he worked on with the U.S. Navy. “That was a 20-year, multibillion dollar test.”

Today, Mr. Haugh is the director of modeling and simulation at the California-based nuclear engineering start-up Kairos Power, where he hones the design for affordable and safe reactors that Kairos hopes will help speed the world’s transition to clean energy.

Nuclear energy has long been regarded as one of the best options for zero-carbon electricity production — except for its prohibitive cost. But Kairos Power’s advanced reactors are being designed to produce power at costs that are competitive with natural gas.

“The democratization of high-performance computing has now come all the way down to the start-up, enabling companies like ours to rapidly iterate and move from concept to field deployment in record time,” Mr. Haugh said.

But high-performance computing in the cloud also has created new challenges.

In the last few years, there has been a proliferation of custom computer chips purposely built for specific types of mathematical problems. Similarly, there are now different types of memory and networking configurations within high-performance computing. And the different cloud providers have different specializations; one may be better at computational fluid dynamics while another is better at structural analysis.

The challenge, then, is picking the right configuration and getting the capacity when you need it — because demand has risen sharply. And while scientists and engineers are experts in their domains, they aren’t necessarily in server configurations, processors and the like.

This has given rise to a new kind of specialization — experts in high-performance cloud computing — and new cross-cloud platforms that act as one-stop shops where companies can pick the right combination of software and hardware. Rescale, which works closely with all the major cloud providers, is the dominant company in this field. It matches computing problems for businesses, like Firefly and Kairos, with the right cloud provider to deliver computing that scientists and engineers can use to solve problems faster or at lowest possible cost.

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In Sweden’s Far North, a Space Complex Takes Shape

KIRUNA, Sweden — The path to the reindeer herder’s spring home took him across four frozen lakes and countless snowy hilltops. Arriving to a light dusting of snow, the herder, Aslak Allas, switched off his snowmobile, and the overwhelming silence of Sweden’s Arctic settled in.

His reindeer, thousands of them, were nowhere to be seen. “They are very scared of noise,” Mr. Allas, explained, pointing to his vehicle.

He then motioned toward the distant hills dotted with birch trees, their buds swelling with the warming spring sun. “Now, the noise coming from there, that will be something else,” Mr. Allas sighed.

SpaceX. He and several competitors are planning to send up to 50,000 such satellites into space in coming years, compared with fewer than 3,000 out there now.

While the United States, China, Russia and several other countries already have spaceports, Sweden’s would be the first orbital launch site for satellites in Europe — capable of launching spacecraft into orbit around Earth or on interplanetary trajectories. Currently, the intergovernmental European Space Agency launches its traditional single-use Ariane rockets from French Guiana.

Several private European companies are designing spaceports in Europe to host a new generation of smaller rockets. Portugal is looking into building one on the Azores Islands, two remote sites have been allocated in Britain and Norway is upgrading its Andoya Space Center.

Esrange Space Center will be a testing ground for Europe’s first reusable vertical rocket in 2022, and it can conduct engine tests as well.

Swedish Space Corporation, which manages the site, is offering launch services to private ventures wishing to send satellites into space.

“We are a bit of a unicorn in the space business,” said Philip Pahlsson, vice president for strategy and innovation of the Swedish Space Corporation, referring to the government ownership of the site. “But we do plan on being the awesomest company in the government’s portfolio.”

being moved, as the city is slowly sinking into the excavated caverns below.

A 50-foot rocket stands at one of the main intersections, a testament to Sweden’s space ambitions. Space is woven into the fabric of the city.

The Swedish Institute of Space Physics is based in Kiruna, as is the Space High School for gifted teenagers. The space engineering program at Lulea University of Technology, also in Kiruna, attracts Ph.D. students from across Europe. An enormous satellite receiver dish, sticking out from the woods in a vast white valley, serves as a geographical landmark.

Esrange has many of the attributes of other space ports — high fences and warning signs, and some used rockets on display. But it also has a church, a visitor center and the Aurora hotel, named for the northern lights that color the winter skies. Snow is everywhere, of course, and reindeer roam the terrain (no one knows how they get past the fences), but astronauts and moon landers are nowhere to be found.

Themis, after an ancient Greek Titaness who was the personification of divine order.

On this day, the main activity consisted of engine testing by two fiercely competitive German space start-ups, Rocket Factory Augsburg and ISAR Aerospace Technologies.

the fastest pod in Elon Musk’s competition for ultra-high-speed transport in hyperloop, or travel in a vacuum tube. That caught the attention of Bulent Altan, a former vice president at Space X, who decided to back Mr. Fleischmann and his friends.

Sami are the last Indigenous people of Europe and live in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia.

In 2019, after an appeal by his district, Mr. Allas managed to block some of the expansion plans for the base, and now his sights are set on the coming noise pollution.

“They might say we need to launch or else we lose our customers, but reindeer herding has been around here long as you can imagine,” Mr. Allas said, adding that a legal battle seemed inevitable. “For us, the Space Corporation is the oldest intruder of our lands, but we have much older rights.”

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China Releases First Photos From Its Mars Lander

Four days after landing a spacecraft on Mars, China’s space agency released its first photographs from the red planet on Wednesday, announcing that the mission was going as planned.

The four-day wait for the images — one in color, one in black and white — had prompted speculation that something might have gone wrong with the landing on Saturday. When China’s space agency issued a statement in response to those concerns on Tuesday, urging patience, the response online was biting.

“Can’t you learn from NASA propaganda?” one user wrote beneath the statement, seeming to chide the agency with a comparison to NASA’s live broadcasts of its latest mission on Mars, which began in February.

very briefly, the Soviet Union. It was the latest in a series of major milestones, including missions to the moon and the start of construction of a new orbiting space station, that have secured China’s status as a space power. (China was expected to launch a second module for the space station later Wednesday or on Thursday.)

Since Saturday, the China National Space Administration had divulged little about the Mars mission’s progress. It said on Wednesday that the components of the lander and the rover, including its solar panels, had “deployed in place normally.”

two brief videos of the lander departing the orbiter that carried the craft to Mars. The agency’s statement said that the orbiter had braked into a new orbit on Monday, from which it could establish a stable communication link. It said that the rover was carrying out preparations to trundle down the ramp and began its exploration.

Zhurong is carrying a number of instruments to study the planet’s topography, geology and atmosphere. One goal is to understand the distribution of ice in the region, which, in theory, could someday help sustain visits by people.

Claire Fu contributed research.

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China’s Ambitious Plans in Space: The Moon, Mars and Beyond

China’s launch in April of the main module for its newest orbiting space station drew more international attention than expected — for the wrong reasons. After reaching orbit, the main rocket booster tumbled ominously back to Earth in what is called an “uncontrolled re-entry.” The debris landed in the Indian Ocean in May, narrowly missing the Maldives and spurring criticism of how China carries out the launches of its heaviest rocket, the Long March 5B.

More launches like it are coming anyway. The mission was the first of 11 needed to build China’s third, and most ambitious, space station by the end of 2022. Two more Long March 5B rockets will carry additional modules, and other variants will launch smaller parts. Four missions, one planned for June, will return Chinese astronauts to space after more than four years.

China’s first two space stations were short-lived prototypes, but this one is intended to function for a decade or longer. Mr. Xi, the Chinese leader, compared it to the “two bombs, one satellite” exhortation of Mao Zedong’s era, which referred to China’s race to develop a nuclear weapon, mount it on an intercontinental ballistic missile and put a satellite in orbit. Like all of China’s accomplishments in space, it is being touted as evidence of the prowess of the Communist Party-run state.

The International Space Station, jointly developed by the United States, Russia and others, is nearing the end of its intended life in 2024. What happens after that is unclear. NASA has proposed keeping the station going for a few more years; Russia has announced that it intends to withdraw by 2025.

If the station is decommissioned, China’s could be the only game in town for some time.

The station — named, like the first two, Tiangong, or “Heavenly Palace” — will be able to house three astronauts for long-term missions and as many as six for shorter periods. China has selected a team of 18 astronauts, some of whom are civilians (only one is a woman). The first three are scheduled to spend three months in space, which would surpass the 33-day record for Chinese astronauts set in 2016.

Hao Chun, the director of China’s Manned Space Agency, told state news media that astronauts from other nations would be allowed to visit, whether aboard Chinese spacecraft or their own, though they would need a docking mechanism “in line with Chinese standards,” which are different from those on the International Space Station. He said some foreign astronauts were already learning Mandarin in preparation.

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What if Space Junk and Climate Change Become the Same Problem?

It’s easy to compare the space junk problem to climate change. Human activities leave too many dead satellites and fragments of machinery discarded in Earth orbit. If left unchecked, space junk could pose significant problems for future generations — rendering access to space increasingly difficult, or at worst, impossible.

Yet the two may come to be linked. Our planet’s atmosphere naturally pulls orbiting debris downward and incinerates it in the thicker lower atmosphere, but increasing carbon dioxide levels are lowering the density of the upper atmosphere, which may diminish this effect. A study presented last month at the European Conference on Space Debris says that the problem has been underestimated, and that the amount of space junk in orbit could, in a worst-case scenario, increase 50 times by 2100.

“The numbers took us by surprise,” said Hugh Lewis, a space debris expert from the University of Southampton in England and a co-author on the paper, which will be submitted for peer review in the coming months. “There is genuine cause for alarm.”

Our atmosphere is a useful ally in clearing up space junk. Collisions with its molecules cause drag, pulling objects back into the atmosphere. Below 300 miles above the surface, most objects will naturally decay into the thicker lower atmosphere and burn up in less than 10 years.

rerelease infrared radiation after absorbing it from the sun, which is then trapped by the thick atmosphere as heat. But above 60 miles where the atmosphere is thinner, the opposite is true. “There’s nothing to recapture that energy,” said Matthew Brown, also from the University of Southampton and the paper’s lead author. “So it gets lost into space.”

21 percent of its density because of rising carbon dioxide levels. By 2100, if carbon dioxide levels double their current levels — in line with the worst-case scenario assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — that number could rise to 80 percent.

For space junk, the implications are stark. More than 2,500 objects larger than four inches in size currently orbit at or below an altitude of 250 miles. In the worst-case scenario, increased orbital lifetimes of up to 40 years would mean fewer items are dragged into the lower atmosphere. Objects at this altitude would proliferate by 50 times to about 125,000.

Even in a best-case scenario, where carbon dioxide levels stabilize or even reverse, the amount of space junk would still be expected to double. Mr. Brown thinks a more probable outcome is somewhere in between, perhaps a 10 or 20 times increase.

major factor in atmospheric density changes.

The findings may also pose challenges for regulators and satellite operators, especially SpaceX, Amazon and other companies seeking to build megaconstellations of thousands of satellites to beam internet service down to the ground from low Earth orbit.

Just last month, for example, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved a request from SpaceX to decrease the orbits of nearly 3,000 satellites in its Starlink constellation, reasoning that atmospheric drag would naturally sweep up dead satellites and debris in a reasonable amount of time.

Debris Assessment Software to predict lifetimes of satellites in low Earth orbit. “We do not know at this time if there are any plans to change that program to address the changes in atmospheric composition predicted in the paper,” he said. “The F.C.C. periodically reviews its rules and regulations and updates them consistent with developments in the marketplace and in scientific knowledge.”

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

Dr. Lewis said that he suspected that some of the modeling, however, relies on outdated data, and that more needed to be done to actively remove satellites and debris from orbit rather than relying on the passive atmospheric effect. “Operators have to make this aspect of the mission a priority,” he said.

Even a moderate increase in lifetimes for large constellations could pose significant problems. “If SpaceX’s spacecraft re-enter passively in 10 or 15 years, would you argue that’s good enough?” Dr. Lewis said. “Given the fact that it’s a large constellation, lots of people would say probably not.”

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China’s Rocket Debris Landed Near Maldives: Here’s What to Know

Debris from a large Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives early Sunday morning, China’s space administration announced.

It said most of the debris had burned up on re-entry. It was not immediately clear whether any of what remained had landed on any of the Maldives’s 1,192 islands.

The possibility, however slight, that debris from the rocket could strike a populated area had led people around the world to track its trajectory for days. The administrator of NASA, Bill Nelson, issued an unusual rebuke after China’s announcement, accusing the country of “failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”

The rocket, a Long March 5B, launched the main module of China’s next space station, Tiangong, on April 29. Usually, the large booster stages of rockets immediately drop back to Earth after they are jettisoned, but the 23-ton core stage of the Long March 5B accompanied the space station segment all the way to orbit.

tracks the comings and goings of objects in space, said on Twitter that an ocean splashdown had always been the most likely outcome, but that the episode raised questions about how China designs its space missions.

“It appears China won its gamble (unless we get news of debris in the Maldives),” he wrote. “But it was still reckless.”

Long March 5B is China’s largest rocket, and one of the largest currently in use by any nation. The country’s space program needed a large, powerful vehicle to carry Tianhe, the main module of Tiangong, the new space station, which is to be operational by 2022 after more pieces are launched and connected in orbit.

routinely fell on rural areas downrange, occasionally causing damage. China has since moved many of its launches, including the Long March 5B’s, to a new site in Wenchang, a city on Hainan, an island off the southeastern coast.

Last year, the first launch of a Long March 5B rocket lifted a prototype of China’s crewed space capsule. The booster from that rocket also made an uncontrolled re-entry, with some debris raining down on a village in Ivory Coast.

an international legal framework based on treaties from the 1960s and ’70s in which a country can demand payment for damage caused by another country’s falling rocket.

That has happened once, after Cosmos 954, a Soviet satellite that was powered by a nuclear reactor, crashed in Canada in 1978. Canada billed the Soviet Union for part of the cost of cleaning up the radioactive debris.

In recent years, China has completed a series of impressive achievements in spaceflight. Months ago, it put a spacecraft — Tianwen-1 — in orbit around Mars, and in December it also collected rocks from the surface of the moon and brought them back to Earth.

In May or June, it hopes to further advance its Mars mission by landing a robotic rover, Zhurong, on the red planet’s surface. So far only the United States has had lasting success during attempts to land on Mars.

As it works to make steady progress on space station construction, China could also launch a crew to orbit next month in a spacecraft called Shenzhou. Once in space, they are to dock with the Tianhe module.

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Space Aged: Bottle of Wine From Space Station Could Sell for $1 Million

It was a cool and dark environment, but not your traditional wine cellar.

Not when it involved orbiting the Earth about 250 miles up at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour aboard the International Space Station, which is where a celebrated bottle of red wine from France’s Bordeaux region spent 14 months, according to Christie’s auction house.

The bottle, a Pétrus from the year 2000, is now being sold by Christie’s, which lists the estimated price of the bottle at $1 million. The company is calling it a “space-aged” wine for discerning connoisseurs, as private-sector monetization of space exploration and research ascends. Sip slowly.

“This bottle of Pétrus 2000 marks a momentous step in the pursuit of developing and gaining a greater understanding of the maturation of wine,” Tim Triptree, the international director of Christie’s wine and spirits department, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Renowned for its complexity and tasting notes of black truffles, black cherries, licorice and mulberry, the 21-year-old Pétrus is regarded as one of the best vintages in the world of wine. A 750-milliliter bottle typically fetches several thousand dollars.

Decanter reported.

Wine Spectator reported.

That same year, a rare bottle of Macallan whisky hand-painted by the Irish artist Michael Dillon sold for 1.2 million pounds (about $1.7 million in current U.S. dollars), Christie’s said. Earlier in 2018, two other rare bottles of whisky each sold for $1 million.

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