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Chinese Zhurong rover sends audiovisuals from Mars
by Chandrakant Isi
Zhurong rover, which is a part of China's Tianwen-1 mission, landed on Mars on May 14. This 240-kilogram rover has been exploring the Utopia Planitia plain after it was deployed on May 21. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has been regularly posting updates of this mission, but today it dropped a video along with the sounds from Mars.
The footage starts with the lander's entry into the Martian atmosphere aided by a supersonic parachute. It is then, followed by the separation, and finally the powered landing. The next part of the video shows Zhurong rover's descend from the lander. You also get to hear the sound coming from the friction between Zhurong's wheels and the Martian surface. The equipment used for picking up this audio will later come in handy to analyze Martian winds.
To study the Martian geology and topography, the rover is loaded with spectroscopy instruments, cameras, ground-penetrating radar, and a magnetometer. The data sent by the rover, including this latest video, gets relayed via the Tianwen-1 orbiter. Due to the vast distance of millions of miles between the Earth and Mars, the data transfer rates are painfully slow.
With the Tianwen-1 mission, China has become the second nation after the US, to soft-land a rover on Mars. The information gathered from this mission will be crucial for China's future space missions. According to the Chinese state-run media Global Times and CGTN (earlier known as CCTV), the country is planning to launch its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft announces Project Acoustics 2.0 with faster bake times, dynamic openings, and more
by Usama Jawad
Project Acoustics is Microsoft's wave-based simulation engine to introduce immersive acoustics in 3D environments such as those offered by a game or a mixed reality experience. It emulates wave effects like occlusion and obstruction without having to rely on hardware-intensive ray-tracing capabilities. As of now, it supports deployment to Windows, Xbox, Android, and macOS as runtime platforms and integrates with game engines like Unity and Unreal.
Today, Microsoft has announced version 2.0 of Project Acoustics.
The new release of Project Acoustics packs several Unreal- and Unity-specific features. On Unreal, dynamic openings are supported which form a geometrical mesh of the environment on runtime to simulate acoustics accordingly. Apart from relying on auto-generated probes, you can also manually plant your own in 3D environments. You can even set the volume of pre-generated probes for individual regions. Having more probes would mean more accurate acoustics but would obviously result in more bake time as well. Furthermore, you can utilize the "material override" option to manually set the absorption coefficient for all materials in a region.
On the Unity side, the only specific feature that has been highlighted is support for Wwise integration for Unity. Overall, Microsoft has noted that bake times will be twice as fast compared to the previous version and that the new release also contains several bug fixes.
If you're interested in trying out Project Acoustics 2.0, head over to the dedicated page here. The engine supports Windows and macOS as editor platforms right now, but the latter has plugins available for Unity only.
China successfully lands its Zhurong Mars rover
by Paul Hill
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has successfully landed its Zhurong rover on the Martian surface, according to a report from BBC News. During its 90 Sol mission at Utopia Planitia in the northern hemisphere, Zhurong will study Martian geology using a laser tool that can assess a rock’s chemistry and search for sub-surface water-ice.
While China and the United States may be squabbling over 5G, NASA had much more cordial words for China with regards to its landing. Thomas Zurbuchen, head of science at NASA, said:
According to Xinhua, the Zhurong rover touched down on the Martian surface on Saturday at 7:18 a.m. Beijing Time. The landing was all pre-programmed by CNSA due to the communication time lag between the Earth and Mars. To establish the success of the mission, the rover unfurled its solar panels and antenna and sent a signal back to Earth to indicate that it had survived the landing – this process took over an hour and included the Mars to Earth delay of 17 minutes.
With the successful landing, China becomes the second country in the world to land a rover on the Martian surface. Since the 1960s, only half of the 40 Mars missions have succeeded and this rate drops further when it comes to landing on the surface of the planet. The last few weeks have been very good for China’s space ambitions; a few weeks ago, it launched its space station which will eventually be manned by taikonauts.
ESA announces details of its online E3 experience, open to everyone
by João Carrasqueira
After skipping out on a show last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is bringing E3 back this year as an all-digital event. Today, the organization shared some more details of how the experience will work for fans and members of the media, going over the aspects of its online portal and mobile app.
These two access points will be the hub for everything happening at E3, for both media and the general public, but the experience will be different for each type of attendee. Those with media accreditation will be able to access the portal/app from June 7, a few days ahead of the official start of the event, and will allow members of the press to schedule meetings and communicate with companies to learn more about their announcements. Then, on June 12, when E3 officially starts, the general public will also be able to enter.
The app will feature a number of sections for attendees to explore. First off, there will be exhibition booths from participating companies, featuring "special events", videos, and articles about the products shown off at the show. For the more social aspects of E3, there will also be lounges for users to gather in, and dedicated forums for discussion about different topics. Finally, there will be a leaderboards section that tries to "gamify" the experience and encourage attendees to participate as actively as possible. The app will also feature the main E3 broadcast, which includes publisher showcases, press conferences, panels, and so on.
There's less than one month left for E3 to start, so it'll be interesting to see how successfully the event can transition to its online format, and how that might affect plans for future editions of the show. Participants for this year include big names such as Xbox, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Konami, Capcom, and more.
NASA has delayed the Crew-2 Dragon mission to the ISS
by Paul Hill
Over the weekend when This Week in Rocket Launches #9 was published, it was planned that the Crew-2 Dragon mission carrying astronauts to the International Space Station would take place on Thursday, April 22. Due to unfavourable weather conditions along the flight path, NASA is now looking to launch the mission at 5:49 a.m. EDT on Friday, April 23.
According to the new schedule, the crew is scheduled to dock at the space station just under 24 hours after launch at 5:10 a.m. on Saturday, April 24. The mission will be carrying four astronauts, namely NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA’s Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA’s Thomas Pesquet. Once they arrive, the ISS will be host to a large crew of 11 people.
On Friday at 1:30 a.m. EDT, NASA Television will begin live launch coverage. This will be followed up at 7:30 a.m. with a press conference hosted by NASA’s Steve Jurczyk and Kathy Lueders, JAXA’s Hiroshi Sasaki, ESA’s Frank de Winne, and an unnamed representative from SpaceX.
The docking, hatch opening, and welcoming ceremony will also be streamed live on Saturday at 5:10 a.m., 7:15 a.m., and 7:45 a.m. respectively. To prepare for the stream, be sure to head over to the NASA TV website and save it as a bookmark ready for the launch.