New research suggests that the moon’s South Pole, a hotspot for future exploration, might be more challenging than expected due to “moonquakes” and landslides. The moon's allure as a target for space agencies like NASA and private companies like SpaceX is undeniable. But a recent study funded by NASA throws a cautionary flag on the lunar South Pole, a region rich in potential water ice and the target for several upcoming missions, reports CNN. The study revealed that the moon’s core is cooling and shrinking, causing its surface to wrinkle and crack, similar to a raisin, it said. China sends its youngest-ever crew to space as it seeks to put astronauts on moon before 2030 These “faults” trigger moonquakes lasting for hours and landslides, potentially posing a threat to future human settlements and equipment. The moon may seem geologically dead, but its interior is still hot, making it seismically active. The study links a powerful moonquake detected by Apollo astronauts to faults near the South Pole, highlighting the potential dangers. While the findings won’t affect the upcoming Artemis III mission due to its short duration, they raise concerns for long-term lunar settlements. Future site selection may consider factors like proximity to tectonic features. India becomes the fourth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon Yosio Nakamura, , a professor emeritus of geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin, who was among the researchers who first looked at the data collected by the Apollo seismic stations, disagreed with the study’s cause of shallow moonquakes, suggesting they originate deeper within the moon. He emphasized the need for more data. Allen Husker, a research professor of geophysics at the California Institute of Technology, said “It is very unlikely that a large moonquake will happen while they are there. However, it is good to know that these seismic sources (causing the quakes) exist. They can be an opportunity to better study the moon as we do on the earth with earthquakes,” Husker said. “By the time there is an actual moon base, we should have a much better idea of the actual seismic hazard with upcoming missions.” Jeffrey Andrews, an associate professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona, said, “Moonquakes are an incredible tool for doing science.” “They are like flashlights in the lunar interior that illuminate its structure for us to see. Studying moonquakes at the South Pole will tell us more about the moon’s interior structure as well as its present-day activity,” he added. Japan becomes the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the moon
Nayma Binte Nur, a Bangladeshi imaging scientist who is affiliated with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), is having her moment of glory in the global scientific community. Nayma’s expertise lies in hyperspectral remote sensing and radiative transfer modeling, sophisticated techniques allowing her to unravel Earth’s systems’ complexities. In simple terms, she’s decoding the mysteries of the planet by studying how light interacts with its surface. 3 scientists win Nobel Prize in physics for looking at electrons in atoms during split seconds One of Nayma's key focuses is soil moisture, a crucial factor influencing a wide range of ecological systems and affecting everything from agriculture to flood forecasts. Using advanced imaging methods, Nayma accurately determines soil moisture levels and extends her findings across vast areas using satellite imagery, showcasing the broad applicability of her work. This ground-breaking approach has garnered the attention of prestigious scientific organizations, including NASA. In preparation for their upcoming Surface Biology and Geology (SBG) mission, NASA has highlighted Nayma’s work in a special collection, underscoring its potential influence. ISRO Chandrayaan-3: 9 Women Scientists Who Led India’s Moon Landing Nayma’s exceptional research does not end with NASA’s SBG mission; it has been showcased at prominent events hosted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Planet Labs PBC. The scientific community commended her for her contributions and unique skill set, which are poised to drive significant breakthroughs, particularly in using light to reveal intricate details about organic matter in soil across extensive geographic regions. Scientists board India’s research vessel ‘Sagar Nidhi’ for 35-day expedition Nayma’s educational journey included an Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree from Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET), enriched by advanced mathematics studies at Jahangirnagar University, which provided a sturdy foundation for her forays into imaging science.
The Webb Space Telescope has captured the rare and fleeting phase of a star on the cusp of death. NASA released the picture Tuesday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. The observation was among the first made by Webb following its launch in late 2021. Its infrared eyes observed all the gas and dust flung into space by a huge, hot star 15,000 light-years away. A light-year is about 5.8 trillion miles. Shimmering in purple like a cherry blossom, the cast-off material once comprised the star's outer layer. The Hubble Space Telescope snapped a shot of the same transitioning star a few decades ago, but it appeared more like a fireball without the delicate details. Also Read: Nasa issues second image of ‘Pillars of Creation’ taken by James Webb telescope Such a transformation occurs only with some stars and normally is the last step before they explode, going supernova, according to scientists. “We’ve never seen it like that before. It’s really exciting,” said Macarena Garcia Marin, a European Space Agency scientist who is part of the project. This star in the constellation Sagittarius, officially known as WR 124, is 30 times as massive as our sun and already has shed enough material to account for 10 suns, according to NASA.
Russia launched a rescue ship on Friday for two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut whose original ride home sprang a dangerous leak while parked at the International Space Station. The new, empty Soyuz capsule should arrive at the orbiting lab on Sunday. The capsule leak in December was blamed on a micrometeorite that punctured an external radiator, draining it of coolant. The same thing appeared to happen again earlier this month, this time on a docked Russian cargo ship. Camera views showed a small hole in each spacecraft. The Russian Space Agency delayed the launch of the replacement Soyuz, looking for any manufacturing defects. No issues were found, and the agency proceeded with Friday's predawn launch from Kazakhstan of the capsule with bundles of supplies strapped into the three seats. Given the urgent need for this capsule, two top NASA officials traveled from the U.S. to observe the launch in person. To everyone's relief, the capsule safely reached orbit nine minutes after liftoff — “a perfect ride to orbit,” NASA Mission Control's Rob Navias reported from Houston. Read more: North Korea says it test-fired long-range cruise missiles Officials had determined it was too risky to bring NASA’s Frank Rubio and Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin back in their damaged Soyuz next month as originally planned. With no coolant, the cabin temperature would spike during the trip back to Earth, potentially damaging computers and other equipment, and exposing the suited-up crew to excessive heat. Until the new Soyuz pulls up, emergency plans call for Rubio to switch to a SpaceX crew capsule that’s docked at the space station. Prokopyev and Petelin remain assigned to their damaged Soyuz in the unlikely need for a fast getaway. Having one less person on board would keep the temperature down to a hopefully manageable level, Russian engineers concluded. The damaged Soyuz will return to Earth with no one aboard by the end of March, so engineers can examine it. Read more: China calls for Russia-Ukraine cease-fire, peace talks The three men launched in this Soyuz last September on what should have been a six-month mission. They'll now stay in space for a full year, until a new capsule is ready for their crew replacements for liftoff in September. It was their Soyuz that just launched with no one on board. The damaged supply ship was filled with trash and cut loose over the weekend, burning up in the atmosphere as originally planned. “The Russians are continuing to take a really close look” at both spacecraft leaks, NASA's deputy space station program manager Dana Weigel told reporters earlier this week. “They're looking at everything ... to try to understand that." Read more: UN approves resolution calling for Russia to leave Ukraine NASA has a fresh crew of four launching atop a SpaceX rocket early Monday morning from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX's William Gerstenmaier said the four astronauts returning to Earth in a few weeks already have inspected the Dragon capsule that will carry them home and “it all checked out fine."
Russia will send up a new capsule next month to bring back three space station crew members whose original ride home was damaged, officials said Wednesday. The two Russians and one American will stay several extra months at the International Space Station as a result of the capsule switch, possibly pushing their mission to close to a year, NASA and Russian space officials told reporters. Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, and astronaut Frank Rubio were supposed to return in March in the same Soyuz capsule that took them up last September. But that capsule was hit by a tiny meteoroid on Dec. 14, creating a small hole in the exterior radiator and sending coolant spewing into space. Read more: NASA Orion capsule safely blazes back from moon, aces test Sergei Krikalev, head of human spaceflight for the Russian Space Agency, said barring an emergency at the space station, it would be too dangerous for the crew to use that capsule to return to Earth. Although Russian engineers believe the capsule could survive reentry and land safely, the cabin temperature could reach the low 40s Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) with high humidity because it couldn't shed heat generated by a computer and other electronics, noted Krikalev, a former cosmonaut. The new Soyuz capsule will be launched from Kazakhstan on Feb. 20, a month earlier than planned. No one will be on board; the capsule will fly in automatic mode, Russian Space Agency chief Yuri Borisov announced earlier in the day. The original plan was to launch this new Soyuz in March with two Russians and one American, replacements for the three already up there. This new crew will now have to wait until late summer or fall to fly when another capsule is ready for them. Russia will eventually bring back the damaged capsule with only science samples on board. NASA took part in all the discussions and agreed with the plan. “Right now, the crew is safe on board space station,” said NASA's space station program manager Joel Montalbano. “There’s no immediate need for the crew to come home today.” Backup plans are in the works, according to Montalbano and Krikalev, in case an emergency forces the seven space station residents to flee before the new Soyuz can be launched — like a fire or decompression. NASA is looking at the possibility of adding extra crew to the SpaceX capsule currently docked at the station. Read more: Boeing crew capsule launches to space station on test redo Neither Krikalev nor Montalbano could recall a similar case in which a substitute spacecraft needed to be quickly launched. Borisov said analysis confirmed the leak was caused by a micrometeoroid, not a piece of spacecraft debris or manufacturing defect. The resulting hole was about 1 millimeter in size or less than one-tenth of an inch. Montalbano said the three crew members took the news in stride. “I may have to find some more ice cream to reward them" on future cargo deliveries, he told reporters. Besides Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio, the space station is home to NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada; Russian Anna Kikina and Japan's Koichi Wakata. The four rode up on a SpaceX capsule last October.
A 38-year-old retired NASA satellite is about to fall from the sky. NASA said Friday the chance of wreckage falling on anybody is “very low.” Most of the 5,400-pound (2,450-kilogram) satellite will burn up upon reentry, according to NASA. But some pieces are expected to survive. The space agency put the odds of injury from falling debris at about 1-in-9,400. The science satellite is expected to come down Sunday night, give or take 17 hours, according to the Defense Department. Read more: NASA says spacecraft succeeded in changing asteroid’s orbit The California-based Aerospace Corp., however is targeting Monday morning, give or take 13 hours, along a track passing over Africa, Asia the Middle East and the westernmost areas of North and South America. .The Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, known as ERBS, was launched in 1984 aboard space shuttle Challenger. Although its expected working lifetime was two years, the satellite kept making ozone and other atmospheric measurements until its retirement in 2005. The satellite studied how Earth absorbed and radiated energy from the sun. The satellite got a special sendoff from Challenger. America's first woman in space, Sally Ride, released the satellite into orbit using the shuttle's robot arm. That same mission also featured the first spacewalk by a U.S. woman: Kathryn Sullivan. It was the first time two female astronauts flew in space together. Read more: NASA Orion capsule safely blazes back from moon, aces test It was the second and final spaceflight for Ride, who died in 2012.
NASA’s Orion capsule made a blisteringly fast return from the moon Sunday, parachuting into the Pacific off Mexico to conclude a test flight that should clear the way for astronauts on the next lunar flyby. The incoming capsule hit the atmosphere at Mach 32, or 32 times the speed of sound, and endured reentry temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) before splashing down west of Baja California near Guadalupe Island. A Navy ship quickly moved in to recover the spacecraft and its silent occupants — three test dummies rigged with vibration sensors and radiation monitors. NASA hailed the descent and splashdown as close to perfect, as congratulations poured in from Washington.. “I'm overwhelmed,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said from Mission Control in Houston. “This is an extraordinary day ... It's historic because we are now going back into space — deep space — with a new generation.” Read more: NASA's Orion capsule reaches moon, last big step before lunar orbit The space agency needed a successful splashdown to stay on track for the next Orion flight around the moon, targeted for 2024 with four astronauts who will be revealed early next year. That would be followed by a two-person lunar landing as early as 2025 and, ultimately, a sustainable moon base. The long-term plan would be to launch a Mars expedition by the late 2030s. Astronauts last landed on the moon 50 years ago. After touching down on Dec. 11, 1972, Apollo 17′s Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent three days exploring the valley of Taurus-Littrow, the longest stay of the Apollo era. They were the last of the 12 moonwalkers. Orion was the first capsule to visit the moon since then, launching on NASA’s new mega moon rocket from Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 16. It was the first flight of NASA’s new Artemis moon program, named after Apollo’s mythological twin sister. “From Tranquility Base to Taurus-Littrow to the tranquil waters of the Pacific, the latest chapter of NASA’s journey to the moon comes to a close. Orion back on Earth,” announced Mission Control commentator Rob Navias. While no one was on the $4 billion test flight, NASA managers were thrilled to pull off the dress rehearsal, especially after so many years of flight delays and busted budgets. Fuel leaks and hurricanes conspired for additional postponements in late summer and fall. In an Apollo throwback, NASA held a splashdown party at Houston’s Johnson Space Center on Sunday, with employees and their families gathering to watch the broadcast of Orion’s homecoming. Next door, the visitor center threw a bash for the public. Getting Orion back intact after the 25-day flight was NASA’s top objective. With a return speed of 25,000 mph (40,000 kph) — considerably faster than coming in from low-Earth orbit — the capsule used a new, advanced heat shield never tested before in spaceflight. To reduce the gravity or G loads, it dipped into the atmosphere and briefly skipped out, also helping to pinpoint the splashdown area. Read more: NASA’s newest moon rocket lifts off 50 years after Apollo All that unfolded in spectacular fashion, officials noted, allowing for Orion’s safe return. “I don't think any one of us could have imagined a mission this successful," said mission manager Mike Sarafin. Further inspections will be conducted once Orion is back at Kennedy by month’s end. If the capsule checks find nothing amiss, NASA will announce the first lunar crew amid considerable hoopla in early 2023, picking from among the 42 active U.S. astronauts stationed at Houston’s Johnson Space Center. “People are anxious, we know that,” Vanessa Wyche, Johnson's director, told reporters. Added Nelson: “The American people, just like (with) the original seven astronauts in the Mercury days, are going to want to know about these astronauts.” The capsule splashed down more than 300 miles (482 kilometers) south of the original target zone. Forecasts calling for choppy seas and high wind off the Southern California coast prompted NASA to switch the location. Orion logged 1.4 million miles (2.25 million kilometers) as it zoomed to the moon and then entered a wide, swooping orbit for nearly a week before heading home. It came within 80 miles (130 kilometers) of the moon twice. At its farthest, the capsule was more than 268,000 miles (430,000 kilometers) from Earth. Orion beamed back stunning photos of not only the gray, pitted moon, but also the home planet. As a parting shot, the capsule revealed a crescent Earth — Earthrise — that left the mission team speechless. Nottingham Trent University astronomer Daniel Brown said the flight's many accomplishments illustrate NASA's capability to put astronauts on the next Artemis moonshot. “This was the nail-biting end of an amazing and important journey for NASA’s Orion spacecraft," Brown said in a statement from England. The moon has never been hotter. Just hours earlier Sunday, a spacecraft rocketed toward the moon from Cape Canaveral. The lunar lander belongs to ispace, a Tokyo company intent on developing an economy up there. Two U.S. companies, meanwhile, have lunar landers launching early next year.
A large section of the destroyed space shuttle Challenger has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center announced the discovery Thursday. “Of course, the emotions come back, right?” said Michael Ciannilli, a NASA manager who confirmed the remnant's authenticity. When he saw the underwater video footage, “My heart skipped a beat, I must say, and it brought me right back to 1986 ... and what we all went through as a nation." It's one of the biggest pieces of Challenger found in the decades since the acciden t, according to Ciannilli, and the first remnant to be discovered since two fragments from the left wing washed ashore in 1996. Read more: Nasa issues second image of ‘Pillars of Creation’ taken by James Webb telescope Divers for a TV documentary first spotted the piece in March while looking for wreckage of a World War II plane. NASA verified through video a few months ago that the piece was part of the shuttle that broke apart shortly after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986. All seven on board were killed, including the first schoolteacher bound for space, Christa McAuliffe. The underwater video provided “pretty clear and convincing evidence,” said Ciannilli. The piece is more than 15 feet by 15 feet (4.5 meters by 4.5 meters); it's likely bigger because part of it is covered with sand. Because there are square thermal tiles on the piece, it’s believed to be from the shuttle’s belly, Ciannilli said. The fragment remains on the ocean floor just off the Florida coast near Cape Canaveral as NASA determines the next step. It remains the property of the U.S. government. The families of all seven Challenger crew members have been notified. Read more: NASA says spacecraft succeeded in changing asteroid’s orbit “We want to make sure whatever we do, we do the right thing for the legacy of the crew,” Ciannilli said. Roughly 118 tons (107 metric tons) of Challenger debris have been recovered since the accident. That represents about 47% of the entire vehicle, including parts of the two solid-fuel boosters and external fuel tank. Most of the recovered wreckage remains buried in abandoned missile silos at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The exception is a left side shuttle panel on display at Kennedy Space Center's visitor complex, alongside the charred cockpit window frame from shuttle Columbia, which broke apart over Texas during reentry in 2003, killing seven astronauts. Far less has been recovered of Columbia — 42 tons (38 metric tons) representing 38% of the shuttle. The Columbia remains are stored in converted offices inside Kennedy’s massive hangar. Launched on an exceptionally cold morning, Challenger was brought down by eroded O-ring seals in the right booster. Columbia ended up with a slashed left wing, the result of foam insulation breaking off the external fuel tank at liftoff. Mismanagement was also blamed.. A History Channel documentary detailing the latest Challenger discovery airs Nov. 22.
Two NASA spacecraft at Mars — one on the surface and the other in orbit — have recorded the biggest meteor strikes and impact craters yet. The high-speed barrages last year sent seismic waves rippling thousands of miles across Mars, the first ever detected near the surface of another planet, and carved out craters nearly 500 feet (150 meters) across, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Science. The larger of the two strikes churned out boulder-size slabs of ice, which may help researchers look for ways future astronauts can tap into Mars’ natural resources. The Insight lander measured the seismic shocks, while the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provided stunning pictures of the resulting craters. Imaging the craters “would have been huge already,” but matching it to the seismic ripples was a bonus, said co-author Liliya Posiolova of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. “We were so lucky.” Mars’ atmosphere is thin unlike on Earth, where the thick atmosphere prevents most space rocks from reaching the ground, instead breaking and incinerating them. A separate study last month linked a recent series of smaller Martian meteoroid impacts with smaller craters closer to InSight, using data from the same lander and orbiter. Read: NASA says spacecraft succeeded in changing asteroid’s orbit The impact observations come as InSight nears the end of its mission because of dwindling power, its solar panels blanketed by dust storms. InSight landed on the equatorial plains of Mars in 2018 and has since recorded more than 1,300 marsquakes. “It’s going to be heartbreaking when we finally lose communication with InSight,” said Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the lander’s chief scientist who took part in the studies. “But the data it has sent us will certainly keep us busy for years to come.” Banerdt estimated the lander had between four to eight more weeks before power runs out. The incoming space rocks were between 16 feet and 40 feet (5 meters and 12 meters) in diameter, said Posiolova. The impacts registered about magnitude 4. The larger of the two struck last December some 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) from InSight, creating a crater roughly 70 feet (21 meters) deep. The orbiter’s cameras showed debris hurled up to 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the impact, as well as white patches of ice around the crater, the most frozen water observed at such low latitudes, Posiolova said. Posiolova spotted the crater earlier this year after taking extra pictures of the region from orbit. The crater was missing from earlier photos, and after poring through the archives, she pinpointed the impact to late December. She remembered a large seismic event recorded by InSight around that time and with help from that team, matched the fresh hole to what was undoubtedly a meteoroid strike. The blast wave was clearly visible. Scientists also learned the lander and orbiter teamed up for an earlier meteoroid strike, more than double the distance of the December one and slightly smaller. “Everybody was just shocked and amazed. Another one? Yep,” she recalled. Read: NASA’s new telescope shows star death, dancing galaxies The seismic readings from the two impacts indicate a denser Martian crust beyond InSight’s location. “We still have a long way to go to understanding the interior structure and dynamics of Mars, which remain largely enigmatic,” said Doyeon Kim of ETH Zurich’s Institute of Geophysics in Switzerland, who was part of the research. Outside scientists said future landers from Europe and China will carry even more advanced seismometers. Future missions will “paint a clearer picture” of how Mars evolved, Yingjie Yang and Xiaofei Chen from China’s Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen wrote in an accompanying editorial.
NASA’s new moon rocket sprang another dangerous fuel leak Saturday, forcing launch controllers to call off their second attempt this week to send a crew capsule into lunar orbit with test dummies. The inaugural flight is now off for weeks, if not months. The previous try on Monday at launching the 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA, was also troubled by hydrogen leaks, though they were smaller. That was on top of leaks detected during countdown drills earlier in the year. After the latest setback, mission managers decided to haul the rocket off the pad and into the hangar for further repairs and system updates. Some of the work and testing may be performed at the pad before the rocket is moved. Either way, several weeks of work will be needed, according to officials. With a two-week launch blackout period looming in just a few days, the rocket is now grounded until late September or October. NASA will work around a high-priority SpaceX astronaut flight to the International Space Station scheduled for early October. Read: Fuel leak ruins NASA's 2nd shot at launching moon rocket NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stressed that safety is the top priority, especially on a test flight like this where everyone wants to verify the rocket's systems “before we put four humans up on the top of it.” "Just remember: We’re not going to launch until it’s right," he said. NASA already has been waiting years to send the crew capsule atop the rocket around the moon. If the six-week demo succeeds, astronauts could fly around the moon in 2024 and land on it in 2025. People last walked on the moon 50 years ago. Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson and her team had barely started loading nearly 1 million gallons of fuel into the Space Launch System rocket at daybreak when the large leak cropped up in the engine section at the bottom. Ground controllers tried to plug it the way they handled previous, smaller leaks: stopping and restarting the flow of super-cold liquid hydrogen in hopes of closing the gap around a seal in the supply line. They tried that twice, in fact, and also flushed helium through the line. But the leak persisted. Blackwell-Thompson finally halted the countdown after three to four hours of futile efforts. Mission manager Mike Sarafin told journalists it was too early to tell what caused the leak, but it may have been due to inadvertent over-pressurization of the hydrogen line earlier in the morning when someone sent commands to the wrong valve. Read: NASA aims for Saturday launch of new moon rocket after fixes “This was not a manageable leak,” Sarafin said, adding that the escaping hydrogen exceeded flammability limits by two or three times. During Monday's attempt, a series of small hydrogen leaks popped up there and elsewhere on the rocket. Technicians tightened up the fittings over the following days, but Blackwell-Thompson had cautioned that she wouldn't know whether everything was tight until Saturday's fueling. Hydrogen molecules are exceedingly small — the smallest in existence — and even the tiniest gap or crevice can provide a way out. NASA's space shuttles, now retired, were plagued by hydrogen leaks. The new moon rocket uses the same type of main engines. Even more of a problem Monday was that a sensor indicated one of the rocket's four engines was too warm, though engineers later verified it actually was cool enough. The launch team planned to ignore the faulty sensor this time around and rely on other instruments to ensure each main engine was properly chilled. But the countdown never got that far. Thousands of people who jammed the coast over the long Labor Day weekend, hoping to see the Space Launch System rocket soar, left disappointed. The $4.1 billion test flight is the first step in NASA's Artemis program of renewed lunar exploration, named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology. Years behind schedule and billions over budget, Artemis aims to establish a sustained human presence on the moon, with crews eventually spending weeks at a time there. It’s considered a training ground for Mars. Twelve astronauts walked on the moon during the Apollo program, the last time in 1972.