IS 3D-PRINTED ROCKET READIES FOR LAUNCH?

A U.S. start up is behind Terran 1, and could be a pioneering effort in the still-nascent commercial space industry.

Relativity Space is a Los Angeles aerospace start-up that builds rockets using advanced 3D printing technology.

Its debut rocket, the Terran 1, has completed pre-launch testing, ahead of a planned launch window beginning June 30. Originally intended to be ready by 2020, the project is running about 18 months behind schedule. The first rocket launch will carry no cargo and is purely a test flight. If successful, a second flight will carry a NASA payload-it is capable of lifting up to one tonne into low Earth orbit.

The Terran 1 is an intended stepping stone on the way to realising the Terran R, a reusable rocket currently under development, capable of carrying 20 times the cargo of the Terran 1, when it launches in 2024. In order to 3D-print large components, Relativity Space has created "Stargate" a system that it claims is the world's largest 3D printer of metals. It uses existing welding technology to melt metal wire, layer by layer, into precise and complex structures that have minimal joints and parts. The company says it will eventually be able to build an entire rocket (95% of which is 3D-printed) in two months. Traditional methods of construction take 24 months and use 100 times as many parts.

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WHO WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN WOMAN TO WALK IN SPACE?

On June 18, 1983, Sally K. Ride was onboard the space shuttle Challenger for the STS-7 mission, thereby becoming the first American woman to go into space. Apart from making two space flights, Ride championed the cause of science education for children.

The first decades of space exploration was largely dominated by two countries the US and the Soviet Union This period is even referred to as the Space Race as the two Cold War adversaries pitted themselves: against each other to achieve superior spaceflight capabilities.

While the two countries were neck and neck in most aspects. the Soviets sent a woman to space much before the US. Even though Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in June 1963, it was another 20 years before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space

Urged to explore

Ride was the older of two daughters born  to Carol Joyce Ride and Dale Ride. Even though her mother was a counsellor and her father a professor of political science. Ride credits them for fostering her interest in science by enabling her to explore from a very young age.

An athletic teenager, Ride loved sports such as tennis, running, volleyball, and softball. In fact, she attended Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles on a partial tennis scholarship. She even tried her luck in professional tennis, before returning to California to attend Stanford University.

By 1973, Ride not only had a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, but had also obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She got her Master of Science degree in 1975 and obtained her Ph.D. in Physics by 1978

Restriction removed

Having restricted astronaut qualification to men for decades,  NASA expanded astronaut selection with the advent of the space shuttle from only pilots to engineers and scientists, opening the doorway for women finally. Having seen an ad in a newspaper inviting women to apply for the astronaut programme Ride decided to give it a shot

Out of more than 8,000 applications, Ride became one of six women who were chosen as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. Spaceflight training began soon after and it included parachute jumping, water survival, weightlessness, radio communications, and navigation, among others. She was also involved in developing the robot arm used to deploy and retrieve satellites.

Ride served as part of the ground-support crew for STS-2 and STS-3 missions in November 1981 and March 1982. In April 1982, NASA announced that Ride would be part of the STS-7 crew, serving as a mission specialist in a five-member crew.

First American woman in space

On June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space. By the time the STS-7 mission was completed and the space shuttle Challenger returned to Earth on June 24, they had launched communications satellites for Canada and Indonesia. As an expert in the use of the shuttle's robotic arm, Ride also helped deploy and retrieve a satellite in space using the robot arm.

Ride created history once again when she became the first American woman to travel to space a second time as part of the STS-41G in October 1984. During this nine-day mission, Ride employed the shuttle's robotic arm to remove ice from the shuttle's exterior and to also readjust a radar antenna. There could have even been a third, as she was supposed to join STS-61M, but that mission was cancelled following the 1986 Challenger disaster.

Even after her days of space travel were over, Ride was actively involved in influencing the space programme. When accident investigation boards were set up in response to two shuttle tragedies - Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 Ride was a part of them both.

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WHAT IS SPACE JUNK?

Space junk, or space debris, is any piece of machinery or debris left by humans in space.

It can refer to big objects such as dead satellites that have failed or been left in orbit at the end of their mission. It can also refer to smaller things, like bits of debris or paint flecks that have fallen off a rocket.

Some human-made junk has been left on the Moon, too.

How much space junk is there?

While there are about 2,000 active satellites orbiting Earth at the moment, there are also 3,000 dead ones littering space. What's more, there are around 34,000 pieces of space junk bigger than 10 centimetres in size and millions of smaller pieces that could nonetheless prove disastrous if they hit something else.

How does space junk get into space?

All space junk is the result of us launching objects from Earth, and it remains in orbit until it re-enters the atmosphere.

Some objects in lower orbits of a few hundred kilometres can return quickly. They often re-enter the atmosphere after a few years and, for the most part, they'll burn up - so they don't reach the ground. But debris or satellites left at higher altitudes of 36,000 kilometres - where communications and weather satellites are often placed in geostationary orbits - can continue to circle Earth for hundreds or even thousands of years.

What risks does space junk pose to space exploration?

Fortunately, at the moment, space junk doesn't pose a huge risk to our exploration efforts. The biggest danger it poses is to other satellites in orbit.

These satellites have to move out of the way of all this incoming space junk to make sure they don't get hit and potentially damaged or destroyed.

In total, across all satellites, hundreds of collision avoidance manoeuvres are performed every year, including by the International Space Station (ISS), where astronauts live.

Space junk in numbers

2,000 active satellites in Earth's orbit

3,000 dead satellites in Earth's orbit

34,000 pieces of space junk larger than 10 centimetres

128 million pieces of space junk larger than 1 millimetre

One in 10,000: risk of collision that will require debris avoidance manoeuvres

25 debris avoidance manoeuvres by the ISS since 1999

How can we clean up space junk?

The United Nations ask that all companies remove their satellites from orbit within 25 years after the end of their mission. This is tricky to enforce, though, because satellites can (and often do) fail. To tackle this problem, several companies around the world have come up with novel solutions.

These include removing dead satellites from orbit and dragging them back into the atmosphere, where they will burn up. Ways we could do this include using a harpoon to grab a satellite, catching it in a huge net, using magnets to grab it, or even firing lasers to heat up the satellite, increasing its atmospheric drag so that it falls out of orbit.

Credit :  Natural History Museam

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CAN PLANTS GROW ON LUNAR SOIL?

 

Have you ever looked up at our moon and wondered if it was possible to grow plants there? According to a new study published in Communications Biology, the answer is maybe. Success in growing a plant on the moon, it seems, depends on where exactly the planting is done.

The research, performed by a team of two horticulturists and one geologist from the University of Florida, showed for the first time that plants could be grown in lunar soil. The results are an important step towards humanity's ambitions of making long-term stays on the moon possible.

Third-time lucky

The research has been in the making for a long time. This was the third time that these scientists had applied to NASA over the last 11 years for samples of soil brought back to the Earth by any or all of the six Apollo landing missions. Having been declined on the first two instances, the researchers got their wish this time around.

Probably because NASA themselves are planning longer excursions to our natural satellite, they parted with 12 grams of soil about 18 months ago. This soil was gathered by the crews of Apollos 11, 12, and 17 and were part of just 382 kg of lunar soil and rocks brought back during the Apollo missions.

The researchers chose the thale cress plant, both because of its hardiness and the fact that its genome has been fully sequenced. The planting was done in plastic plates with wells that are usually used to grow cell cultures. There were four wells apiece for each of the three Apollo missions, and they got a gram of soil each. Four more wells were used as a control, with simulated lunar soil prepared using earthly materials.

To their astonishment, researchers noticed that the seeds sprouted after two days. Regardless of whether they were growing in a lunar sample or in the control, they looked the same for the first six days. Differences began to emerge after that as the plants grown in lunar soil showed stress, developed slowly, and ended up being stunted.

Geological age factor

There were also differences within the lunar samples as the Apollo 11 plans grew most poorly, followed by Apollo 12 and then Apollo 17. The researchers concluded that the reason for this has to do with the age of the soil. While the samples brought back by Apollo 11 are older geologically than those brought back by Apollo 12, the samples from Apollo 17 are most recent in geological time.

The results from this research are very important as it helps us develop food sources for future astronauts who might live and operate in deep space for extended durations. Such plant growth research could also unlock innovations in agriculture that might allow us to grow plants under stressful conditions in places where food is scarce here on Earth.

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WHAT IS JUPITER’S IO MOON?

Io or Jupiter I, is the innermost and third-largest of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter. Slightly larger than Earth’s moon, Io is the fourth-largest moon in the Solar System, has the highest density of any moon, the strongest surface gravity of any moon, and the lowest amount of water (by atomic ratio) of any known astronomical object in the Solar System. It was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei and was named after the mythological character Io, a priestess of Hera who became one of Zeus's lovers.

With over 400 active volcanoes, Io is the most geologically active object in the Solar System.

 This extreme geologic activity is the result of tidal heating from friction generated within Io's interior as it is pulled between Jupiter and the other Galilean moons—Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Several volcanoes produce plumes of sulfur and sulfur dioxide that climb as high as 500 km (300 mi) above the surface. Io's surface is also dotted with more than 100 mountains that have been uplifted by extensive compression at the base of Io's silicate crust. Some of these peaks are taller than Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth's surface.  Unlike most moons in the outer Solar System, which are mostly composed of water ice, Io is primarily composed of silicate rock surrounding a molten iron or iron sulfide core. Most of Io's surface is composed of extensive plains with a frosty coating of sulfur and sulfur dioxide.

Io's volcanism is responsible for many of its unique features. Its volcanic plumes and lava flows produce large surface changes and paint the surface in various subtle shades of yellow, red, white, black, and green, largely due to allotropes and compounds of sulfur. Numerous extensive lava flows, several more than 500 km (300 mi) in length, also mark the surface. The materials produced by this volcanism make up Io's thin, patchy atmosphere and Jupiter's extensive magnetosphere. Io's volcanic ejecta also produce a large plasma torus around Jupiter.

Io played a significant role in the development of astronomy in the 17th and 18th centuries; discovered in January 1610 by Galileo Galilei, along with the other Galilean satellites, this discovery furthered the adoption of the Copernican model of the Solar System, the development of Kepler's laws of motion, and the first measurement of the speed of light. Viewed from Earth, Io remained just a point of light until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it became possible to resolve its large-scale surface features, such as the dark red polar and bright equatorial regions. In 1979, the two Voyager spacecraft revealed Io to be a geologically active world, with numerous volcanic features, large mountains, and a young surface with no obvious impact craters. The Galileo spacecraft performed several close flybys in the 1990s and early 2000s, obtaining data about Io's interior structure and surface composition. These spacecraft also revealed the relationship between Io and Jupiter's magnetosphere and the existence of a belt of high-energy radiation centered on Io's orbit. Io receives about 3,600 rem (36 Sv) of ionizing radiation per day.

Further observations have been made by Cassini–Huygens in 2000, New Horizons in 2007, and Juno since 2017, as well as from Earth-based telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Credit : Wikipedia 

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