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Showing posts from August, 2016

Can You Hear Me Now? NASA's 2020 Mars Rover Will Record Red Planet’s Sounds

We’ve all seen the haunting images from the surface of the Red Planet, and now the next Mars rover will give us a chance to listen in, as well. 

On Friday, the Curiosity rover celebrated the four-year anniversary of its arrival on Mars. 
During that time, the robot has explored the interior of Gale Crater and made a number of discoveries, including signs that the planet likely once hosted liquid water.
In another four years, Curiosity will be joined by the Mars 2020 rover, and the new explorer will be outfitted with improved research equipment. 
"[These cameras] are going to produce some of the most exciting imagery I think a planetary mission has ever provided," said deputy project manager Matthew Wallace, according to 
Rover cameras will not only focus on the Martian landscape, but will also pay close attention to Mars 2020’s descent to the surface, providing valuable information about how spacecraft behave while entering the atmosphere.
"We have never seen a p…

Thriving Alien-Life? Scientists Discover Potentially Habitable Planets

For the first time, a team of astronomers discovered three new planets outside our solar system at a distance of 40 light years from Earth, that are potentially habitable.

The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (Transiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile's Observatory ESO La Silla. 
According to the study published in the journal Nature, the planets orbit a dwarf star, now known as TRAPPIST-1. 
Its mass is less than 10 times the sun and it is approximately 500 million years old. 
One of the study's authors, Michael Gillon of the University of Liège in Belgium, said that such dwarf stars have been found previously but the planets in the star’s immediate vicinity have been observed for the very first time. 
“Taking into account these short orbits, the planets are 20 and 100 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun”.
He noted that the discovered star system resembles the l…

‘Habitable Zone’: Newly Discovered Planet May Be Home to Life, Astronomers Say

Using ESO telescopes, astronomers have found evidence of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth. 

The new planet, currently called Proxima b, is roughly the size of Earth, and is only about 4.2 light years from our solar system. 
Members of the study group are excited that the planet falls within the "habitable zone" and may contain water on the surface. 
Lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomy and physics lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement, "We hope these findings inspire future generations to keep looking beyond the stars. 
The search for life on Proxima b comes next." 
For 15 years astronomers have been on an intensive search for planets around Proxima Centauri using equipment like the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) and the Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph (UVES), both of which are operated by Chile’s European Southern Observatory. 
These instruments allow researchers to d…

Dry Planet: NASA Claims No Liquid Water on Mars

Dark gullies on Mars earlier believed by NASA to be an indicator of the presence of liquid water on the Red Planet appear to contain as much moisture as the driest of Earth’s deserts -- in other words, almost none, according to new research based on observations by the agency’s Mars Odyssey mission. 

Last year, NASA identified hydrated salt in the so-called recurring slope lineae (RSL), dark streaks that appear on the Martian surface every spring-summer season. 
That discovery added evidence to a 2011 theory, stating that RSL is a marker of liquid water under the Red Planet’s surface.
​However, temperature measurements made by the Mars Odyssey mission using the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) showcased that the concentration of water in RSL spots is comparable to that of the Atacama Desert and Antarctic Dry Valleys, considered the driest places on Earth.
To arrive at their conclusion, Christopher Edwards of Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, together with Sylvain Piqueu…

Aim Higher: China Plans to Send Rover to Mars in 2020

China plans to land a rover on Mars when the opportunity presents itself in 2020, the country’s chief aerospace engineer said Friday.

Ye Peijian, the chief designer of the country’s state lunar exploration mission, said that Mars makes a close approach to Earth every 28 months, presenting a short window of opportunity for a probe launch. 
"We will not make it by 2018 but we can try to launch a probe in 2020," Ye Peijian was quoted by the Sina news website as saying. 
The scientist said earlier that China had all the technology it needed for a successful launch. 
China has been eyeing the Red Planet after it put a rover on the Moon in 2013. 
Its ambitious space program also includes a permanent space station and manned flights to the Moon and Mars.

Published time 21:38 Toronto

China Releases Images of Orbiter, Lander, Rover for 1st Mission to Mars in 2020

Chief design engineer of the Chinese mission to Mars Zhang Rongqiao stated that the lander on Mars would carry a gasbag, a parachute and reverse thrust engines in order to achieve a safe landing.
China on Tuesday released several details of its first research mission to Mars, which is scheduled for 2020, including images of its orbiter, lander and rover to be involved in the mission and the scientific instruments to be used for the exploration, local media reported. 
In March, chief designer of the Chinese state lunar exploration mission Ye Peijian said that Beijing plans to land a rover on Mars when the opportunity presents itself in 2020. 
Chief design engineer of the Chinese mission to Mars Zhang Rongqiao told journalists at the press conference that the lander would carry a gasbag, a parachute and reverse thrust engines in order to achieve a safe landing, as cited by the GB Times.
He added that scientific goals of the mission include studying the Martian topography, soil, environment,…

China Eyes Manned Radar Station on the Moon

The United States may be the first nation to put a man on the moon, but China could be the first to have man live there. 
"It’s a lunatic idea," a scientist told the South China Morning Post, referring to a plan to install a permanently-manned radar station on the lunar surface.
The facility would involve a 50-meter-high radar that would be used for both scientific and defense purposes. 
The size of the radar dish would allow it to take extremely clear images of Earth, and could cover a broader terrestrial swath than satellites, stationed in near-Earth orbit, are capable of surveying. 
The installation would also feature living quarters for astronauts who would man the base around the clock. 
The base will also require power. 
For this, scientists are considering either a solar or nuclear power plant. 
So far, China’s National Natural Science Foundation has put forth a down payment of $2.4 million to study the project’s feasibility. 
It’s an ambitious project, and naturally has its …

Sealing the Deal: Turkey, China Launch Nuclear Cooperation Partnership

The news follows last week’s ratification by the Turkish parliament of the Sino-Turkish Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. 
As some claim that Turkey is distancing itself from its Western energy-business partners after the failed coup attempt of July 15, the country appears to be increasing focus on its technological capabilities and access to clean energy, as a means of becoming energy independent. 
Ankara has opted to cooperate with Beijing, ratifying an agreement which includes not only nuclear power plant construction on Turkish territory, but also joint nuclear power development with China and the US. 
The Chinese State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation will implement technologies obtained in collaboration with US-based Westinghouse Electric company. 
The potential technological tripartite arrangement could result in significant regional and global political clout, according to the Asia Times. 
After a successful contract with Russia in 2010 to build Turk…

Satellite Data Shows North Korea Tightening Security At Missile Launch Site

North Korea has beefed up security at its Sohae satellite launch station, causing some US analysts to believe that the country is preparing to test ballistic-missile technology currently banned by the United Nations. 
An analysis by Joseph Bermudez, a North Korean military affairs expert, published by 38 North, a US-based website monitoring activities in the DPRK, used satellite images to confirm extensions to the station’s outer and inner security perimeters.
38 North’s summary stated, "While the upgrades are likely tied to the master construction plan, they may also indicate that the launch facility could soon be occupied by NADA and KPA scientists, engineers, technicians and support personnel. 
Upgraded security may also reflect a growing North Korean concern of intelligence collection by foreign governments using defectors from the area or outside agents to infiltrate and collect information." 
Bermudez’s report suggested that these extensions began in 2011, and described n…

Illegal Hunting Puts African Forest Elephant in Grave Danger of Extinction

Forest elephants in Africa are in sharp decline due to poaching, after a 65-percent drop since 2002 was registered. 
According to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology, even an immediate end to poaching will not return the species to 2002 population levels. 
The study authors cite low forest elephant birth rates. 
While their larger relatives, bush elephants living on savannah grasslands, begin breeding at the age of 12, “female forest elephants in the Dzanga population typically breed for the first time after 23 years of age,” said lead author Andrea Turkalo, an associate conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). 
The challenges of living in forests, where elephants feed, limits population growth. 
Most vegetation is raised up in forest canopies that elephants cannot reach. 
“In addition, vegetation in tropical systems are laden with compounds to defend their leaves from herbivores, including elephants,” co-author Peter Wrege, a behavioral e…

Japan Defense Seeks Massive Budget Boost to Defend Against Beijing, Pyongyang

Citing Chinese and North Korean threats, the Japanese Defense Ministry has requested 5.1 trillion yen for fiscal year 2017. 
Japan, a formally pacifist nation, may see a dramatic increase in its defense budget in the coming year. 
The budget request submitted on Wednesday seeks roughly $49 billion, a 2.3 percent increase from the previous year.
A large portion of the money will go toward missile defense. 
The Defense Ministry wants to boost its Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles, as well as the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA intercept system. 
This is in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests. 
Tokyo condemned the most recent test, conducted in the Sea of Japan. 
"The launch is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and poses a threat in terms of security," Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to the Japan Times.
Roughly 84 billion yen will be used for patrols in the East China Sea, where Tokyo is in a territori…

FBI ‘Never Showed Up’ to Interview Top 9/11 Suspect

A top terror suspect, Omar al-Bayoumi, who was named in the recently declassified 28 pages of the congressional inquiry into the September 11, 2001 attacks was never initially pursued by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), former US Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham told Sputnik. 
Leandra Bernstein — The former senator noted that the information was provided to him by Scotland Yard officials.
"Bayoumi left the United States in the summer of 2001, went to Birmingham, England, lived there for awhile and was actually taken into custody after 9/11 at the FBI’s request by Scotland Yard," Graham said on Wednesday. 
Without official charges, UK law enforcement could only legally hold a suspect for seven days, but "the FBI never showed up to interview Bayoumi," during that time, Graham explained. 
On July 15, the Office of the National Director of Intelligence released a previously classified chapter of the congressional 9/11 report. 
The pages include…

Two Alaska Planes Collide Near Russian Mission

Two small aircraft carrying five passengers crashed above the area located northwest of the Yukon River village of Russian Mission, local media reported. 
Both Alaska National Guard and Alaska State Troopers have arrived on the scene for medical assistance. 
“Two aircraft collided mid-air 60 miles north of Bethel,” the Alaska Dispatch said, citing the state's National Army Guard, on Wednesday. 
“There are no survivors following [the] crash of two planes [in the area] this morning.” 
According to the reports, the planes involved in the crash are a Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan and Renfro's Alaskan Adventures Piper PA-18s. Both companies did not immediately respond with comments.

Published time 20:33  Toronto

'Heavenly Palace': China to Launch Two Manned Space Missions This Fall

The two missions are expected to become the country’s first steps to establishing a new space station in low-Earth orbit over the next decade.
Tiangong-2, which means “Heavenly Palace,” is a small space laboratory module, and will be launched in mid-September from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China, atop a Long March 2F rocket. 
The space lab is slated to adopt on orbit at an altitude of some 244 miles (393 kilometers) above Earth, and will serve as the first component for China’s future space station. 
Following that launch, in October the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will launch from the same site, and dock with the Tiangong-2, delivering two male astronauts for a month-long mission, China Manned Space Engineering (CMSE) office reported. 
To make the endeavors possible and improve conditions for future manned mission launches, engineers have upgraded the launch center, introducing 22 technical renovations, Li claimed.
The Chinese space industry’s ambitious goal is signif…