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NASA unveils Perseverance landing footage and Mars audio
by Paul Hill
Just days after the successful landing of its Perseverance rover, NASA has released extraordinary footage of the landing sequence as well as audio from the surface of the planet where you can make out the sound of the wind blowing. High definition cameras that give a view above and below the rover, as well as the one looking from the vantage point of the sky crane, caught all the action beginning 11 kilometres from the surface to the rover’s landing.
Some of the highlights of the three-and-a-half-minute clip include seeing the Martian surface from a high altitude, seeing the dust on the surface come to life as the rover was close to landing, seeing the sky crane fly off after the rover had touched down and seeing the parachute unfurl. According to NASA, the parachute is also the most massive ever to be sent to another planet.
Commenting on the content, NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said:
To watch the descent, check out the embedded video below. To hear the audio from the rover, skip to 40:48 in this NASA event.
Since landing, NASA has been busy checking equipment on the rover to ensure there are no problems. Some of the instruments being checked this week include the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer to look at the weather in the area and the Mastcam-Z which can take panoramic shots of the Jezero crater. The crater used to be a lakebed and contains rocks and sediment which the rover plans to collect up so that it can be examined to find out whether life ever existed on Mars.
Aside from searching for evidence of ancient life, the rover is also carrying the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) which will try to produce oxygen. This part of the mission is key for future human-led missions to Mars where resources will be scarce and the ability to generate oxygen essential.
TWIRL 1: SpaceX set to launch 60 Starlink satellites this week
by Paul Hill
'This Week in Rocket Launches' is a new weekly series that aims to bring you a round-up of all the planned rocket launches over the coming week. With India, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States all sending missions to Mars and private companies like SpaceX inserting Starlink satellites into Earth’s orbit, the occurrence of rocket launches is pretty frequent. Streams to upcoming launches will be provided where possible but some space agencies only post videos after launch.
This week, there are five rocket launches from China, India, Iran, Russia, and SpaceX. There’s nothing super exciting such as human flights this week, instead, all of the missions are concerned with getting various satellites into orbit. The launch with the most delays is the SpaceX mission which planned to fly in November, December, January 27, 29-31, February 1-5, 7, 16, and 17 - hopefully, it gets off the ground this week to take a batch of Starlink satellites into the Earth's orbit.
The first launch will come sometime on Monday in China. A Long March CZ-4C rocket will take the Yaogan 31 Group 03 satellites into orbit where they will perform electromagnetic environment surveys and other related technology tests. It’s unclear what time the launch is slated for but the Long March rocket will take off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and if we see any footage it will be after the event.
The next launch is slated for Thursday, this time from the Islamic Republic of Iran which is using its Simorgh rocket to carry the Pars 1 satellite into orbit. The mission will launch from the Imam Khomeini Space Launch Center in Semnan after it was delayed last year. Pars 1 has been described as the country’s most advanced remote-sensing satellite and will apparently monitor the country’s agricultural lands, forest and lakes, as well as help estimate the damage from fires and floods that occur.
SpaceX is up on Friday at 2:40 AM UTC (Thursday 21:41 PM local time). A Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket will take 60 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit and further boost the firm’s satellite internet coverage which it recently began opening up to customers. The YouTube channel CosmoSapiens already has a YouTube event lined up so feel free to set a reminder, you might also get to watch the launch directly on SpaceX’s YouTube channel and SpaceX’s launch page.
After SpaceX’s launch, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, will launch a Soyuz 2.1b rocket carrying the first Arktika-M remote sensing and communications satellite that will be used for weather forecasting and monitoring the environment in the Arctic region. The 2.1-tonne payload will sit in a highly elliptical 12-hour Molniya orbit and carry a multi-spectral imager for hydro-meteorological studies and rescue system transmitters for cases where emergency communications are needed. The mission has been delayed several times since 2018 but as long as the weather is good, the dependable Soyuz rocket should take off successfully on Sunday from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.
The final launch of the week comes from Sriharikota in India. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will carry the Amazonia 1 satellite as well as three CubeSats: Anand, Saditsat, and Unitysat. Amazonia 1 is a Brazilian satellite that’s equipped with an optical camera to monitor environmental conditions in the Amazon. This launch was originally scheduled for September and February 22 but hopefully, it lifts off on the 28th.
NASA successfully lands Perseverance rover on Mars
by Paul Hill
The American space agency, NASA, has confirmed that its Perseverance rover has successfully landed on the red planet, Mars. NASA announced the landing from its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 3:55 p.m. EST following a 203-day ride covering 472 million kilometres.
Commenting on the successful landing, NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said:
The car-sized rover will do several tests over the next couple of weeks before it begins its mission to investigate rocks and sediment in the Jezero crater, an ancient lakebed and river delta. One of the objectives of the mission, and probably the most exciting, is to search for signs of microbial life that may have once swum in the lake that used to occupy the region - if life is found, it’ll be the first time that we’ve conclusively found evidence of extraterrestrial life.
The samples that Perseverance collects will have to be transported back to Earth for examination with equipment that was too big for the rover to carry, these samples will return with a proposed Mars sample-return mission.
In addition to searching for signs of life, the mission will also carry out the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), a technology demonstration that will try to manufacture oxygen - this ability will be vital for any human missions to Mars.
The Perseverance rover is planned to operate on Mars for one Martian year or 687 Earth days. Despite the mission only being funded for around two years, the rover itself will likely last many more years if it has the same luck as the Curiosity rover which landed in 2012 and is still operational.
Bill Gates says there needs to be an Elon Musk in every sector
by Paul Hill
Just days after Bill Gates launched his new book, How To Avoid A Climate Disaster, the Microsoft founder and former CEO has said that we need innovators like Elon Musk in every sector - naming steel and cement specifically - to help tackle global warming. Musk’s contributions to climate change include pushing the limits of electric vehicles with Tesla and developing reusable rockets.
Gates made the comments in an interview with CNBC while being quizzed over whether or not he has been shorting Tesla stock, to which he said that he doesn’t discuss his investing practices.
In the interview with CNBC, Gates said:
Heavy industries such as steel and cement produce more carbon dioxide emissions than the entire United States, according to New Scientist, but the development of new technologies could significantly reduce the carbon emissions in these sectors. Gates clearly thinks that those industries need people that will experiment and improve on nascent technologies as Musk has done with electric vehicles and rockets.
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SpaceX's Starship SN9 ends short flight with fiery crash
by Paul Hill
SpaceX has carried out a flight of its Starship SN9 rocket from Boca Chica, Texas today only to have it crash as it attempted to land. It was a similar flight to that carried out by Starship SN8 which reached an altitude of 12.5 kilometres before attempting to land back on the ground - which it failed at too. If you'd like to participate in the discussion about this launch, be sure to check out the associated forum thread.
The launch on Tuesday afternoon followed a number of flight scrubs last week but with good visibility and wind conditions, SN9 was able to take off. To watch the flight, check out the video below from SpaceX. The other Starship you can see in the video is SN10, the next rocket the company will use to test with, hopefully they get the landing right next time.
SpaceX's Starship will eventually be made up of two stages - a booster stage called Super Heavy and the upper stage also called Starship, which was tested today. The upper stage will be able to take off from the Moon and Mars when it goes there in future missions but to take off from the Earth, SpaceX will use the Super Heavy booster.
In typical SpaceX fashion, the firm has made it so that both of these stages can land back on the ground after taking off, saving the company lots of money and time. The use of sea-based droneships also gives SpaceX a lot of flexibility in terms of future launches.
As things stand now, SpaceX has another nine upper stage Starships in production and two Super Heavy boosters. By 2022, the company hopes to send a cargo mission to Mars using Starship and by 2024 have people go to Mars in the spacecraft.