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Space station crew use tea leaves to find elusive air leak - South China Morning Post
Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin released some tea leaves to float inside the station, then saw them cluster around a "scratch" in the wall.
The International Space Station has been leaking an unusual amount of air since September 2019. At first, crew members held off on troubleshooting the issue, since the leak wasn't major. But in August, the leak rate increased, prompting astronauts and cosmonauts on board the orbiting laboratory to start trying to locate its source in earnest. Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, announced on Thursday that crew members had finally pinpointed the leak's location after devising an unusual test: They let tea leaves guide their search. Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin released a few leaves from a tea bag in the transfer chamber of the Zvezda Service Module – the section of the station's Russian segment that houses a kitchen, sleeping quarters, and bathroom. Then the crew sealed the chamber off by closing its hatches, and monitored the tea leaves on video cameras as they floated in microgravity. The leaves slowly floated toward a scratch in the wall near the module's communication equipment – evidence that it was a crack through which air was escaping. The crew has since patched the leak using Kapton tape, Roscosmos reported on Monday. A year-long air leak on the space station Expedition 63 crew members from left: Chris Cassidy, Anatoly Ivanishin, and Ivan Vagner. NASA The International Space Station always leaks a little air. Normally, resupply missions carry highly pressurized containers full of a mix of oxygen and nitrogen to replace the air the ISS loses. The mix is designed to mimic Earth's breathable air. But in September 2019, the standard leak rate increased slightly. That wasn't considered any major risk, but in August 2020, that already elevated rate increased fivefold, from 0.6 to 3.1 pounds of air per day, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti. So over the last two months, crew members hunted for the leak by isolating sections of the station and monitoring their pressure changes. At first, crew members hunkered down in the Zvezda module while they tested the ship's other sections; when they couldn't find evidence of leaks in those sections, they determined the leak was likely in Zvezda itself. Eventually, the astronauts and cosmonauts narrowed the source to Zvezda's transfer chamber. But they still couldn't find the leak's exact location. Astronaut Jeffrey Ashby moves into the International Space Station's Zvezda Service Module with a video camera on May 25, 2011. NASA Then came the tea-leaf trick. "We believe that we have really identified the probable leakage area," Ivanishin said, according to Russian news agency TASS. The tape the crew put over the crack can remain stable and sticky across a wide range of temperatures, including the near-absolute zero of space. But the members don't think the tape is likely to hold for long; they hope to replace it with a more reliable patch soon. "Perhaps we should try hard patches our partners have? We can talk with them. This is because the current patch is not so efficient," one crew member said, according to TASS. Roscosmos did not respond to Business Insider's questions in time for publication, but the agency noted in a tweet that it is "working out a program of operations to permanently seal the leak location." NASA spokesperson Daniel Huot told Business Insider that the leak "continues to pose no immediate danger to the crew at the current leak rate." Not the first problem on the space station's Russian side The leak is one of several recent issues on the space station, which is starting to show its age after outlasting its 15-year life expectancy by five years. The station's Russian segment houses some of the station's oldest modules. In the last few months, it has seen a toilet go bust and temperatures mysteriously increase. Then on Wednesday, the segment's oxygen supply system broke down. Crew members fixed the system by Saturday, according to Roscosmos. But in aggregate, the failures are indications that the Russian side of the ISS is probably in need of upgrades. "All modules of the Russian segment are exhausted," cosmonaut Gennady Padalka told Ria Novosti. This latest leak also wasn't the first on the Russian side. In August 2018, crew members discovered a 2-millimeter drill hole in part of a Russian Soyuz spaceship that was docked to the station. Left: A hole that appears drilled into part of a Soyuz spacecraft at the International Space Station. Right: A patch made by the crew using epoxy. NASA via Chris Bergin/Twitter The hole seemed to stem from a manufacturing defect; someone on Earth had apparently plugged it with paint, hoping nobody would notice. The paint, it appeared, later broke off. Cosmonauts eventually patched that hole with epoxy sealant. Katya Ionova contributed translation assistance for this story.
We Just Got More Evidence Your Blood Type May Change COVID-19 Risk And Severity - ScienceAlert
Research is coalescing around the idea that one blood type — type O — is linked to a lower risk of coronavirus infection and less severe cases.
Research is coalescing around the idea that people with Type O blood may have a slight advantage during this pandemic. Twostudies published this week suggest that people with Type O have a lower risk of getting the coronavirus, as well as a reduced likelihood of getting severely sick if they do get infected. One of the new studies specifically found that COVID-19 patients with Type O or B blood spent less time in an intensive-care unit than their counterparts with Type A or AB. They were also less likely to require ventilation and less likely to experience kidney failure. These new findings echo similar findings about Type O blood seen in previous research, creating a clearer picture of one particular coronavirus risk factor. Patients with Type O or B blood had less severe COVID-19 Bags containing B positive blood. Reuters/Chor Sokunthea Both new studies came out Wednesday in the journal Blood Advances. One looked at 95 critically ill COVID-19 patients at hospitals in Vancouver, Canada, between February and April. They found that patients with Type O or B blood spent, on average, 4.5 fewer days in the intensive-care unit than those with Type A or AB blood. The latter group stayed, on average, 13.5 days in the ICU. The researchers did not see any link between blood type and the length of each patient's total hospital stay, however. They did, however, find that only 61% of the patients with Type O or B blood required a ventilator, compared to 84% of patients with Type A or AB. An ICU nurse takes care of a COVID-19 patient in the intensive-care unit at the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, April 23, 2020. Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters Patients with Type A or AB, meanwhile, were also more likely to need dialysis, a procedure that helps the kidneys filter toxins from the blood. "Patients in these two blood groups may have an increased risk of organ dysfunction or failure due to COVID-19 than people with blood types O or B," the study authors concluded. A June study found a similar link: Patients in Italy and Spain with Type O blood had a 50% reduced risk of severe coronavirus infection (meaning they needed intubation or supplemental oxygen) compared to patients with other blood types. People with Type O blood had 'reduced susceptibility' to infection The second new study found that people with Type O blood may be at a lower risk of getting he coronavirus in the first place relative to people with other blood types. A coronavirus patient on a ventilator in Paris, France, April 1, 2020. Benoit Tessier/Reuters The team examined nearly half a million people in the Netherlands who were tested for COVID-19 between late February and late July. Of the roughly 4,600 people who tested positive and reported their blood type, 38.4% had Type O blood. That's lower than the prevalence of Type O in a population of 2.2 million Danish people, 41.7%, so the researchers determined that people with Type O blood had disproportionately avoided infection. "Blood group O is significantly associated with reduced susceptibility," the authors wrote. Other studies found a similar link between blood type and COVID-19 risk In general, your blood type depends on the presence or absence of proteins called A and B antigens on the surface of red blood cells — a genetic trait inherited from your parents. People with O blood have neither antigen. It's the most common blood type: About 48% of Americans have Type O blood, according to the Oklahoma Blood Institute. The new studies about blood type and coronavirus risk align with prior research on the topic. A study published in July found that people with Type O were less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than those with other blood types. An April study, too, (though it has yet to be peer-reviewed) found that among 1,559 coronavirus patients in New York City, a lower proportion than would be expected had Type O blood. And in March, a study of more than 2,100 coronavirus patients in the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Shenzhen also found that people with Type O blood had a lower risk of infection. Vials of blood. Phil Noble/Reuters Past research has also suggested that people with Type O blood were less susceptible to SARS, which shares 80% of its genetic code with the new coronavirus. A 2005 study in Hong Kong found that most individuals infected with SARS had non-O blood types. Despite this growing body of evidence, however, Mypinder Sekhon, a co-author of the Vancouver study, said the link is still tenuous. "I don't think this supersedes other risk factors of severity like age and comorbidities and so forth," he told CNN, adding, "if one is blood group A, you don't need to start panicking. And if you're blood group O, you're not free to go to the pubs and bars." Loading Something is loading.
‘Very high risk’ dead Soviet satellite, Chinese rocket body will collide - South China Morning Post
If they collide, the satellites would explode into a cloud of dangerous, high-speed debris — augmenting a space-junk problem that's getting worse.
A dead Soviet satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket body are speeding toward each other in space and could crash catastrophically on Thursday. LeoLabs, a company that uses radar to track satellites and debris in space, said on Tuesday night that it was monitoring a "very high-risk" conjunction — an intersection in the two objects' orbits around Earth. A series of observations since Friday have shown that the two large pieces of space junk could miss each other by just 12 meters (39 feet). LeoLabs' software shows the possible movement of each object, with the potential collision area highlighted in red. LeoLabs That proximity led LeoLabs to calculate a 10% chance that the objects will collide at 8:56 p.m. ET on Thursday. If they do, the explosion would send bits of debris rocketing in all directions. A 10% chance may seem low, but NASA routinely moves the International Space Station when the orbiting laboratory faces just a 0.001% (1-in-100,000) chance or greater of colliding with an object. A projectile strikes a mock-up of a spacecraft in a NASA-Air Force test meant to simulate space-debris collisions. Arnold Engineering Development Complex/Air Force Since the Soviet satellite and Chinese rocket body are both defunct, nobody can move them out of each other's way. The odds of a crash will likely change as they approach each other, though LeoLabs expects the risk to stay high. A collision would probably not pose a danger to anybody on Earth, since the satellites are 991 kilometers (616 miles) above the ground and are set to cross paths above Antarctica's Weddell Sea. But the debris the crash would create could cause major problems in space. "If this turns into a collision, it's probably thousands to tens of thousands of new pieces of debris that is going to cause a headache for any satellite that's going out into upper low-Earth orbit, or even beyond," Dan Ceperley, the CEO of LeoLabs, told Business Insider. "It's maybe a much bigger problem than a lot of people realize." The trajectories of south-bound Soviet satellite Kosmos-2004 (red) and north-bound Chinese rocket body CZ-4C-Y4 (purple). Jonathan McDowell Experts at The Aerospace Corporation ran their own numbers for the two objects on Wednesday and calculated a much lower chance of collision: just 1 in 250,000 million. "I don't mean to throw any shade whatsoever on [LeoLabs'] process or their sensors or anything else," Ted Muelhaupt, who oversees The Aerospace Corporation's space-debris analysis, told Business Insider. "But the sensors, the data we have access to says we're pretty confident [the satellites] are not going to hit." Roger Thompson, a senior engineering specialist at the corporation, added: "My guess is probably by the end of today or tomorrow morning, our numbers and their numbers will be much closer." Space collisions make clouds of dangerous high-speed debris Nearly 130 million bits of space junk currently surround Earth, from abandoned satellites, spacecraft that broke apart, and other missions. That debris travels at roughly 10 times the speed of a bullet, which is fast enough to inflict disastrous damage to vital equipment, no matter how small the pieces. Such a hit could kill astronauts on a spacecraft. A space-debris hit to Space Shuttle Endeavour's radiator found after a mission. The entry hole is about 0.25 inches wide, and the exit hole is twice as large. NASA Collisions between pieces of space junk make the problem worse since they fragment objects into smaller pieces. "Each time there's a big collision, it's a big change in the LEO [low-Earth orbit] environment," Ceperley previously told Business Insider. Two events in 2007 and 2009 increased the amount of large debris in low-Earth orbit by about 70%. The first was a Chinese test of an anti-satellite missile, in which China blew up one of its own weather satellites. Then two years later, an American spacecraft accidentally collided with a Russian one. "Because of that, now there's sort of a debris belt," Ceperley said. A simulation of space debris created by India's "Mission Shakti" anti-satellite missile test on March 27, 2019. Analytical Graphics Inc. Combined, the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body have a mass of nearly three metric tons (2,800 kilograms). Given their large sizes, Thursday's conjunction has the potential to create a significant cloud of dangerous debris. High-risk satellite conjunctions are becoming more common This isn't the first time LeoLabs has alerted the world to the possibility of a high-risk satellite conjunction. In January, the company calculated a possible collision between a dead space telescope and an old US Air Force satellite. The objects did not crash, but Ceperley said that because both satellites "were decommissioned, basically nobody was keeping a close eye on them." The US Air Force, which tracks satellites for the government, did not notify NASA about that potential collision, the space agency told Business Insider at the time. A simulation shows the satellites IRAS and GSSE-4 approaching each other. Analytical Graphics Inc. Experts' warnings about space junk have only grown more urgent since that near miss. "We are seeing recently a decided uptick in the number of conjunctions," Dan Oltrogge, an astrodynamicist who researches orbital debris at Analytical Graphics, Inc, told Business Insider. Oltrogge uses a software system that has been collecting and assessing conjunction data for the last 15 years. The recent uptick in orbital encounters, he added, "looks to be very well aligned with the new large-constellation spacecraft that have been launched." The large constellations he's referring to are fleets of internet satellites that companies like SpaceX, Amazon, and OneWeb are planning to launch. In total, the companies plan to launch more than 100,000 satellites by the end of the decade. SpaceX has already rocketed nearly 800 new satellites into Earth's orbit since May 2019. A debris disaster could cut off our access to space If the space-junk problem were to get extreme, a chain of collisions could spiral out of control and surround Earth in an impassable field of debris. This possibility is known as a Kessler event, after Donald J. Kessler, who worked for NASA's Johnson Space Center and calculated in a 1978 paper that it could take hundreds of years for such debris to clear up enough to make spaceflight safe again. "It is a long-term effect that takes place over decades and centuries," Muelhaupt told Business Insider in January. "Anything that makes a lot of debris is going to increase that risk." The sheer number of objects in Earth's orbit may already be having a Kessler-like effect — a risk that Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck described last week. "This has a massive impact on the launch side," he told CNN Business, adding that rockets "have to try and weave their way up in between these [satellite] constellations." This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will vote from space in November election - Business Insider - Business Insider
"It's really important for everybody to vote, and if we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground too," Kate Rubins told AP.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins plans to vote from space during the upcoming general election. Rubins told The Associated Press on Friday that astronauts cast votes from the orbit because they "feel that it's very important." "It's critical to participate in our democracy," she said. "We consider it an honor to be able to vote from space, and so we fill out a form and we vote via absentee ballot, and I plan on doing that in November." Rubins is in Star City, Russia, the AP reported, where she is getting ready for a mid-October launch to the International Space Station. She will spend six months there. Most American astronauts live in Houston, Texas, the AP said. The state's law permits them to use a secure electronic ballot to cast a vote, which Mission Control sends to the county clerk, once it's completed. "I think it's really important for everybody to vote, and if we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground too," Rubins said. Rubins and her fellow astronaut Shane Kimbrough voted from space during the 2016 presidential election, per AP.
Europe sees new coronavirus peaks, countries set all-time case records - Business Insider - Business Insider
European countries are seeing cases surge and, in some cases, the highest number of new cases since the outbreak first began.
France and the UK recorded their highest daily COVID-19 cases since the global outbreak began, and the EU warned that some of its countries now have worse outbreaks than they had in March. Stella Kyriakides, the EU's health commissioner, warned on Thursday that in "some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March." Taken together, the developments point to the feared second wave of the pandemic having arrived in Europe. There are differences from the first wave in spring. While infections have increased, the number of deaths has not risen so sharply. Also, the ability of officials to test and keep track of the number of infections has increased, meaning that the daily figures are now a better reflection of how the virus is spreading. In the first wave, testing systems were only able to capture a small portion of those infected. People on the London Underground on September 25, 2020. Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images This is the picture across European countries as of Friday:
- France reported 16,096 new cases on Thursday. The cases are far higher than during its first peak in March, when a record of 7,578 cases was set.
- The UK reported 6,634 on Thursday, beating its previous record of 6,201 on May 1.
- Denmark reported a record 589 cases on September 19, compared to its April peak of 390.
- Belgium reported 2028 cases on September 18, second only to its April 15 high of 2,454.
- Poland reported a single-day record on September 14, with 1,136 cases.
- Greece reported its highest-ever number of new cases on September 21, with 453 cases.
- Spain, where a record 11,289 cases were recorded on September 23.
- Malta, where it set a record of 106 cases on September 16.
- Romania, which avoided a large peak earlier this year but is now seeing its highest-ever cases, at over 1,600.
- Bulgaria, where cases are now back close to their July record of more than 300.
- Croatia, where cases peaked in early September at 369 but have slightly fallen since.
- Hungary, which had almost no cases until September but saw a record 1070 cases on September 20.
- Czech Republic, which had also avoided a large outbreak but saw a record 3,123 cases on September 17.
Facebook's 'Project Aria' photographs the world with camera glasses - Business Insider - Business Insider
Facebook is giving employees camera glasses and sending them into the world to research privacy for a future where everyone has smartglasses.
Facebook is years deep into a project that aims to replace smartphones with augmented reality glasses. Its first step toward that goal, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a broadcast on Wednesday, is creating a set of smartglasses — standard eyeglasses, but with "smart" functionality like cameras and wireless internet connectivity. Those glasses are expected next year as part of a partnership with Luxottica Group, the parent company of several major glasses brands, like Ray-Ban, Oakley, Sunglass Hut, and LensCrafters. But before these smartglasses launch, Facebook is sending employees into the wild with their own sets of research glasses equipped with an array of cameras — similar to the mapping car Google might use for Google Street View, but with human beings. Participants in the initiative, known as "Project Aria," will be deployed on Facebook campuses and into public spaces where their glasses will capture the world around them. "Like a mapping car, all participants will be easily identifiable by their clothing," Facebook Reality Labs head Andrew Bosworth said on Wednesday. One example participant, seen above, has Facebook Reality Labs Research written on his shirt, and his camera-enabled glasses say "Research" in large white letters. Here's a closer look at the glasses themselves: Cameras encircle the Project Aria research glasses. Facebook Participants are said to receive training ahead of deployment, and are advised against entering public bathrooms or prayer spaces while wearing the glasses. They goal is to map the environment "in real-world conditions, indoors and outdoors" as a means of determining best practices for a potential future where smartglasses and, eventually, augmented reality glasses are common. Critically, Bosworth said that all data collected by Project Aria participants will be "quarantined" before it's used for research by Facebook. Faces and license plates collected will be blurred, he said. You can watch the full introduction video to Project Aria right here: Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email ([email protected]), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.
NASA: A truck-sized asteroid is headed toward Earth one day before the November election - Business Insider - Business Insider
An asteroid has a slim chance of putting us out of our misery on November 2 as it heads toward Earth one day before the US election, according to NASA.
An asteroid has a slim chance of putting us out of our misery on November 2 as it heads toward Earth one day before the US election, according to NASA. Named "2018 VP1," the asteroid is pretty tiny, with an estimated diameter of 1.8 to 3.9 meters, NASA data show. It's only 0.41% likely to actually impact the Earth, CNN reported, but celestial objects that size tend to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere anyway, according to NASA. Between the coronavirus pandemic, a reckoning with racial justice, sky-high depression and anxiety, election season, and murder hornets (which aren't really invading the US, by the way) perhaps some are wishing the chances were a bit higher. 2018 VP1 has had a few close encounters with Earth before, dating back to 1970. It last visited in November of 2018, roughly when it was discovered at California's Palomar Observatory. It's due back, after a two-year orbit around the sun, to come within 4,800 and 260,000 miles of our atmosphere, NASA data show. For reference, the International Space Station sits about 254 miles above the planet. The size of asteroids like this one makes them hard to spot until they get close to Earth, but the majority pass by much farther away than the Moon, NASA said in a recent release. In fact, one dubbed 2020 QG passed the earth just 1,830 miles above the Indian Ocean last week — the closest such encounter on record — and NASA didn't even see it coming, they said. "It's quite an accomplishment to find these tiny close-in asteroids in the first place, because they pass by so fast," said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "There's typically only a short window of a couple of days before or after close approach when this small of an asteroid is close enough to Earth to be bright enough but not so close that it moves too fast in the sky to be detected by a telescope," he said. NASA did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for more information. Loading Something is loading.
Photographer Captures Eerie And Majestic Sky 'Jellyfish' During a Storm - ScienceAlert
A thunderstorm can sometimes birth a rarely seen phenomenon in Earth's atmosphere: red space lightning called sprites that look like jellyfish.
If you've ever looked up during a thunderstorm and glimpsed a red jellyfish sitting high in the sky, you weren't hallucinating. These tentacle-like spurts of red lightning are called sprites. They're ultrafast bursts of electricity that crackle through the upper regions of the atmosphere — between 37 and 50 miles up in the sky — and move towards space, according to the European Space Agency. The phenomenon is a rare sighting: It lasts just tenths of a second and can be hard to see from the ground since it's generally obscured by storm clouds. But Stephen Hummel, a dark-skies specialist at the McDonald Observatory, captured a spectacular image of one of these sprites on July 2 (shown above) from a ridge on Mount Locke in Texas. "Sprites usually appear to the eye as very brief, dim, grey structures. You need to be looking for them to spot them, and oftentimes I am not certain I actually saw one until I check the camera footage to confirm," Hummel told Business Insider. On the night he snapped this photo, he'd recorded 4 1/2 hours of footage before capturing the sprite on film. "Overall I've probably recorded close to 70 hours' worth of footage and stills this year, and caught about 70 sprites," he said, adding that half of those were in a single storm. Jellyfish sprites can be seen glimpsed from space Davis Sentman, a professor of physics at the University of Alaska who died in 2011, proposed the name "sprite" for this type of weather phenomenon. He said the name was "well suited to describe their appearance," since the word evokes the lightning's fairy-like, fleeting nature. Some sprites, like the one Hummel photographed, are jellyfish-shaped. Others are just vertical columns of red light with tendrils snaking down: these are called carrot sprites. Jellyfish sprites can be enormous — the one Hummel photographed was "probably around 30 miles long and 30 miles tall," he said. Some can be seen from more than 300 miles away. They occur because when lightning strikes the ground, it tends to release positive electrical energy that needs to be balanced out by equal and oppositely charged energy elsewhere in the sky. So sprites are the electrical discharges that balance the equation. "The more powerful the storm and the more lightning it produces, the more likely it is to produce a sprite," Hummel said. While similar to regular lightning, which shoots between electrically charged air, clouds, and the ground, sprites happen much farther from Earth's surface. Astronauts sometimes spot them from the International Space Station. Astronauts glimpse a red lightning sprite below the white light of an active thunderstorm from aboard the International Space Station, August 2015. NASA As a sprite sparks, it turns red because of nitrogen floating high in Earth's atmosphere. The gas gets excited by the burst of electricity and emits a red glow. —Paul M Smith (@PaulMSmithPhoto) April 21, 2019 Since the sprites' discovery in 1989, scientists have spotted them over every continent except Antarctica. Dave Mosher contributed reporting to this story.
NASA Perseverance rover launches Thursday, will fly helicopter on Mars - Business Insider - Business Insider
The nuclear-powered rover will roam Mars' Jezero Crater, where some of the planet's oldest rock is exposed. It could find signs of ancient life.
NASA is gearing up to launch its next Mars rover: an SUV-sized, nuclear-powered robot decked out in cutting-edge equipment. Perseverance, the fifth rover the US has sent to Mars, is set to complete tasks that the previous robots could only dream of. The $2.4 billion vehicle is designed to collect unprecedented video and audio, drill samples of Martian rock and soil for later return to Earth, search for chemical remnants of ancient microbial life, and test out technologies that future astronauts will need on the red planet. NASA's Mars Perseverance rover waits to be lifted onto its Atlas V launch vehicle in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 7, 2020. NASA/KSC The rover is scheduled to launch at 7:50 a.m. ET on July 30, atop an Atlas V rocket. Its seven-month, 314-million-mile (505-million-kilometer) journey to Mars is slated to end in the Jezero Crater — one of the largest impact craters on Mars. A giant jetpack is built in to lower Perseverance onto the site, where some of the planet's oldest rock is laid bare. Here's how the mission will work. Martian rock samples could contain evidence of alien life An illustration of NASA's Mars Perseverance rover using its drill to core a rock sample. NASA/JPL-Caltech Perseverance's mission calls for it to mine Jezero Crater's ancient rock for chemical signatures of ancient alien life. Rocks that formed in water, for example, could have preserved the remains of chemicals that only life can create. Such rocks may be plentiful in the Jezero Crater exposed layers. A special arm of the robot is designed to drill cores from those rocks and cache them on the planet's surface. An illustration shows how the Perseverance rover will store rock and soil samples in sealed tubes on Mars's surface for future missions to retrieve. NASA/JPL-Caltech "Samples from Mars have the potential to profoundly change our understanding of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system," Lori Glaze, Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said in a briefing on July 17. An artist's concept shows a proposed NASA mission launching a sample from Mars toward Earth. NASA/JPL-Caltech NASA plans to launch another rover to retrieve those samples in 2026. The fetch rover would collect the tubes and carry them to a rocket, which would then launch them into Mars's orbit. There, a spacecraft circling the planet would catch the samples and carry them back to Earth. "If it sounds complicated — it is," Glaze said. But this rover has more immediate, straightforward goals, too. The first interplanetary helicopter will drop from the rover's belly An engineer observes a test of the Mars Helicopter Delivery System at Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, in April 2019. LMS About two months after it lands, Perseverance is set to drop a small helicopter from its belly. NASA has programmed the helicopter, named Ingenuity, to demonstrate the first powered flight ever conducted on another planet. NASA/JPL-Caltech If successful, four carbon-fiber blades will spin eight times as fast as a standard helicopter on Earth, lifting Ingenuity off the ground and carrying it through the thin Martian atmosphere. Ingenuity weighs just 4 pounds, since the Martian air is just 1% of the density of Earth's atmosphere. Perseverance will beam back high-def video of a Mars landing Engineers install the SuperCam instrument on the Perseverance rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, June 25, 2019. NASA/JPL-Caltech For the first time, NASA plans to film the entire landing of a Mars rover in high definition. "Those cameras will be taking high-definition video of the spacecraft during entry, descent, and landing activity. So we should be able to watch this big parachute inflate supersonically, we should be able to watch the rover deploy and touch down on the surface," Matt Wallace, the deputy project manager for Perseverance, said in the briefing. "This is going to be very exciting. It's the first time that we have ever been able to see a spacecraft landing on another planet." The rover's 3D cameras can also take high-definition photos and high-speed video as it roams the Martian surface. Two cameras on the mast are programmed to identify rocks and soil for the rover's other instruments to investigate or collect and stow. The cameras should also help scientists observe details in Martian rock and sediment. Perseverance will carry microphones as well. If the devices work, they'll enable NASA to record the first bonafide audio of Mars, including gusts of wind, the rover's wheels rolling over soil and rocks, the sounds of drilling, and more. Previous Mars missions also brought microphones with them, but as Nancy Atkinson wrote for The Planetary Society, those were a "huge let-down" — they either failed or never activated. Perseverance will test technologies to keep astronauts alive to Mars An artist's concept of human habitats on Mars. JPL/NASA NASA ultimately aims to send astronauts to Mars and set up a settlement there. (Elon Musk, who is developing a spaceship that might be able to carry people to the red planet, hopes to put boots there in 2024.) But NASA first needs to figure out how to meet the needs of any future Mars-dwelling people: oxygen, food, water, and fuel. Perseverance will help the agency test some options. One of the rover's projects, called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), will attempt to convert Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen that future astronauts could breathe. Workers install the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) into the chassis of the Perseverance Mars rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, March 20, 2019. NASA/JPL-Caltech About 95% of the red planet's atmosphere is CO2, so successfully converting it to oxygen would be a big win for future Martian settlements. Abundant oxygen would also help astronauts produce new rocket fuel for the journey home. Five small pieces of spacesuit material, including a piece of helmet visor, will also travel to Mars aboard the rover. One of the robot's instrument will track the materials' reaction to the Martian environment, to inform future Mars-spacesuit designers. The rover will also collect data that could help scientists better predict Martian weather — an ability that will be crucial to survival on the planet's harsh surface.
Mesmerising Animation Reveals Our Entire Solar System Doesn't Exactly Orbit The Sun - ScienceAlert
Jupiter, Saturn, and the sun play a constant game of tug-of-war around the invisible center of our solar system called the barycenter.
It's common knowledge that the sun is the center of the solar system. Around it, the planets orbit — along with a thick belt of asteroids, some meteor fields, and a handful of far-traveling comets. But that's not the whole story. "Instead, everything orbits the solar system center of mass," James O'Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency, JAXA, recently explained on Twitter. "Even the sun." That center of mass, called the barycenter, is the point of an object at which it can be balanced perfectly, with all its mass distributed evenly on all sides. In our solar system, that point rarely lines up with the center of the sun. To demonstrate this, O'Donoghue created the animation below, which shows how the sun, Saturn, and Jupiter play tug-of-war around the barycenter, pulling our star in looping mini-orbits. In his free time, O'Donoghue makes animations to show how the physics of planets, stars, and the speed of light work. "The natural thinking is that we orbit the sun's center, but that very rarely happens," he said. "It's very rare for the solar system's center of mass to align with the sun's center." The sun's movement is exaggerated in the video above to make it more visible, but our star does circle millions of kilometers around the barycenter — sometimes passing over it, sometimes straying away from it. Much of that movement comes from Jupiter's gravity. The sun makes up 99.8% of the solar system's mass, but Jupiter contains most of the remaining 1.2%. That mass pulls on the sun ever so gently. "The sun actually orbits Jupiter slightly," O'Donoghue said. Within the solar system, planets and their moons have their own barycenter. Earth and the moon do a simpler dance, with the barycenter remaining inside Earth. O'Donoghue made a video of that, too: The animation also shows how the Earth and moon will move over the next three years, in 3D. (The distance between Earth and the moon is not to scale.) Pluto and its moon, Charon, do something similar, but with a unique twist: The barycenter is always outside of Pluto. So, every planetary system orbits an invisible point, including the star or planet that appears to be at the center. Barycenters sometimes help astronomers find hidden planets circling other stars, since they can calculate that the system contains mass they can't see. "The planets do orbit the sun of course," O'Donoghue said. "We are just being pedantic about the situation."