NASA sends woman to moon, which woman?


This 2018 video says about itself:

Moon 101 | National Geographic

What is the moon made of, and how did it form? Learn about the moon’s violent origins, how its phases shaped the earliest calendars, and how humans first explored Earth’s only natural satellite half a century ago.

NASA PLANNING TO SEND FIRST WOMAN TO THE MOON IN 2024 NASA revealed this week that it plans to send a woman to the moon for the first time in 2024. The Artemis Plan describes the first lunar mission since 1972 aimed at sending a man and the first woman to Earth’s nearest neighbor. “Sending human explorers 250,000 miles to the Moon, then 140 million miles to Mars, requires a bold vision, effective program management, funding for modern systems development and mission operations, and support from all corners of our great nation as well as our partners across the globe,” NASA said in the plan’s introduction. [HuffPost]

So, now the question is: Which woman will be sent to the moon? Some people in the USA might suggest: Ann Coulter, provided it is a one-way ticket.

And which man? Donald Trump, same condition?

Space discoveries in 2019


This 17 June 2019 video says about itself:

Space is amazing. Over the years, NASA’s revealed some unusual mysteries about it. Lets find out amazing the most amazing recent discoveries made in space!

By Maria Temming, December 23, 2019 at 7:00 am:

How 2019’s space missions explored distant worlds

Planets, asteroids and Arrokoth were the focus of new discoveries

From asteroids to exoplanets, spacecraft are leaving no space rock unturned. While agencies in China, India and Israel made headlines with missions to the moon, here are some other places that space probes scouted in 2019.

Zoom and enhance

Touring Pluto in 2015 may have been New Horizons’ main event (SN: 12/26/15, p. 16), but flying by what used to be called Ultima Thule was an awesome encore. The space probe zipped by this Kuiper Belt object, now called Arrokoth, on New Year’s Day (SN Online: 12/30/18). Scientists were on the edge of their seats as the probe snapped pictures and sent higher- and higher-resolution images over several weeks, revealing the visage of Arrokoth to look like an elongated blob, then a snowman and finally a pair of lumpy pancakes (SN: 3/16/19, p. 15). Uncovering the origins of Arrokoth’s awkward shape may lend insight into the early stages of planet formation (SN: 4/13/19, p. 11).

I spy exoplanets

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, racked up eight exoplanet finds in its first few months of observation (SN: 2/2/19, p. 12). That initial cache included some weirdos, such as a planet that is about as dense as pure water and a “lava world” known as LHS 3844b that sizzles at about 540° Celsius. TESS has since discovered a new type of exoplanet called an ultrahot Neptune, which appears to be a fluffy gas giant in the process of stripping down to its rocky core (SN: 8/31/19, p. 11).

Asteroids to go

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 is expected to become the second spacecraft ever to bring a bit of asteroid back to Earth, after the original Hayabusa probe returned with a souvenir from the asteroid Itokawa in 2010. Hayabusa2 touched down on the asteroid Ryugu in February to fetch a sample from the asteroid’s surface (SN Online: 2/22/19). Then, to get a deeper sample, Hayabusa2 fired a copper projectile at Ryugu to punch a crater into the asteroid (SN Online: 4/5/19). The probe then ducked down to snag some rubble excavated from the interior (SN: 8/17/19, p. 14). Scientists won’t know exactly how much of Ryugu was collected until Hayabusa2, which started its journey home on November 13, arrives at Earth in late 2020.

Another sample-return mission, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, is still orbiting its asteroid. When the spacecraft first arrived at Bennu in December 2018, observations unveiled a rugged surface littered with boulders — bad news for a probe designed to navigate more beachlike terrain (SN: 4/13/19, p. 10). Using OSIRIS-REx’s detailed mapping of Bennu from orbit, NASA selected a site for sample collection in the asteroid’s northern hemisphere (SN Online: 12/12/19). Bits of Bennu, to be returned in 2023, may reveal whether a similar asteroid could have delivered to early Earth a molecular starter pack for life (SN: 1/19/19, p. 20).

Meanwhile, on Mars

InSight arrived on the Red Planet in November 2018, and the rookie lander may have already captured the first recording of a Marsquake (SN Online: 4/23/19). Unlike tremors on Earth, underground rumblings on Mars are thought to result from the planet contracting as it cools. Studying such seismic signals could help scientists better understand the structure of Mars’ deep interior.

While InSight had its ear to the ground, the veteran Curiosity rover was measuring the consistency of a Martian mountain (SN Online: 1/31/19). As Curiosity scaled Mount Sharp, accelerometer readings indicated surprisingly loose rock beneath the rover’s wheels — suggesting that winds formed the mountain by sweeping sediment into a giant pile.

Ultimate Thule minor planet renamed Arrokoth


Arrokoth appears as a ruddy deformed snowman in this composite image acquired by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it sped past on January 1, 2019. NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Southwest Research

By Christopher Crockett, 13 November 2019:

NASA gave Ultima Thule a new official name

The far-flung solar system body is now Arrokoth, the Powhatan word for ‘sky’

Ultima Thule is no more. The remote solar system body visited in January by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft now has a proper name: Arrokoth.

The word means “sky” in the language of the Powhatan people, a Native American tribe indigenous to Maryland. The state is home to New Horizons mission control at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.

“We wanted to honor Maryland as our mission epicenter, and the idea of using a Native American language from there just bubbled up,” says Alan Stern, head of the New Horizons mission and a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. “Tying it to our mission by using the word ‘sky’ completed the trifecta.”

NASA announced the name change on November 12, with the consent of Powhatan tribal elders and the International Astronomical Union, the organization of astronomers who, in part, oversee celestial naming conventions.

Arrokoth (pronounced AR-uh-koth), a flattened two-lobed body in the Kuiper Belt of icy worlds beyond Neptune, has been through a couple of names already. Up until now, its official designation had been 2014 MU69. In March 2018, the team landed on the nickname Ultima Thule, a Latin phrase that signifies a place beyond the known world.

“[Ultima Thule] was, as we said, always a placeholder we would discard once we did the flyby,” Stern says. That moniker came under almost immediate criticism after Newsweek noted that the phrase had also been appropriated by the Nazis as the mythical homeland of the Aryan race.

The New Horizons spacecraft — originally sent to check out Pluto and its retinue of moons (SN: 7/26/15) — is still transmitting data from its January 1 flyby of Arrokoth (SN: 1/2/19) and will continue to do so for at least another year, Stern says. By then, the team will have begun hunting for a possible third target, a search they can’t start until Earth gets to the other side of the sun next summer and New Horizons once again becomes visible at night to telescopes.

Hubble telescope’s water discovery on exoplanet


This 11 September 2019 video from NASA in the USA says about itself:

With data from the Hubble Space Telescope, water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet within the habitable zone of its host star.

K2-18b, which is eight times the mass of Earth, is the only planet orbiting a star outside the solar system (or “exoplanet”) within the habitable zone.

This may be the first known exoplanet with rain and clouds of water droplets. Two teams have detected signs that K2 18b has a damp atmosphere: here.

See also here.

Researchers have described a new, lower size limit for planets to maintain surface liquid water for long periods of time, extending the so-called Habitable or ‘Goldilocks’ Zone for small, low-gravity planets. This research expands the search area for life in the universe and sheds light on the important process of atmospheric evolution on small planets: here.

Why just being in the habitable zone doesn’t make exoplanets livable. Debate over what makes a planet habitable highlights the trickiness in searching for alien life: here.

Sunset timelapse video from space


This 3 June 2019 NASA video says about itself:

Sunset Timelapse from the International Space Station

Enjoy this sped-up Earth view, captured by the Expedition 59 astronauts currently onboard the International Space Station. The station orbits the Earth every 90 minutes — meaning this sunset you see is actually one of 16 the station residents see each day!

Astronomical and spaceflight update


This video says about itself:

JAXA’s Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” collected a sample from asteroid Ryugu on 22 February 2019. The touchdown was captured using the onboard small monitor camera (CAM-H). The image of the site immediately after touchdown was taken with the Optical Navigation Camera – Wide angle (ONC-W1) on 22 February 2019.

Ryugu is probably a chip off one of these two other asteroids. Japan’s Hayabusa2 team has narrowed down the asteroid’s origins based on its color. By Lisa Grossman, 3:20pm, March 20, 2019.

This video says about itself:

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission returned the first scientific observations, revealing that asteroid Bennu is an active asteroid. OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) is the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid (near-Earth asteroid Bennu), retrieve surface material and return it to Earth for study in September 2023. Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, explained the findings in a media teleconference.

Surprising astronomers, Bennu spits plumes of dust into space. It’s the first time astronomers have seen such activity on an asteroid. By Lisa Grossman, 2:55pm, March 19, 2019.

X-ray ‘chimneys’ connect the Milky Way to mysterious gamma-ray bubbles. Two glowing columns hundreds of light-years long extend from the center of the galaxy. By Emily Conover, 2:00pm, March 20, 2019.

Dwarf planet Ultima Thule flatter than thought


This 8 February 2019 video says about itself:

Ultima Thule is Flatter Than Previously Thought

NASA New Horizons‘ imagery of the Kuiper Belt Object has revealed its true shape.

Ultima Thule is shaped like two lumpy pancakes. New images reveal the skinny side of the Kuiper Belt object. By Emily Conover, 6:00pm, February 8, 2019.

Ultima Thule may be a frankenworld, Astronomers are closer to uncovering the distant space rock’s origin story. By Lisa Grossman, 5:35pm, March 18, 2019.

Scientific progress, capitalist social backwardness


This video says about itself:

The Most Mind Blowing Space Discoveries | SPACE WEEK 2018

Many amazing space discoveries have been made over the years, from finding out that the Earth orbits the Sun, to discovering there is a lot more to dwarf planets than we thought…

By Bryan Dyne in the USA:

Science and social crisis in 2019

19 January 2019

In the opening days of the new year, a series of major scientific breakthroughs have demonstrated humanity’s immense capacity for understanding the world and using this knowledge to solve the many social ills plaguing modern life:

• On January 1, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule. It was the second astronomical body observed by New Horizons, after Pluto, and the most distant asteroid ever observed by a robotic explorer launched from Earth. The data sent back by the probe, through the combined efforts of an international team of hundreds of scientists and engineers, has already begun to inform the research describing the early history of our Solar System.

• On January 3, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) lunar exploration mission Chang’e 4 achieved the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon and successfully deployed its rover Yutu-2. The scientific payloads were developed and are operated in tandem with researchers in China, Germany, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Sweden. It sent back the first closeup images of the less explored half of the Moon via a relay satellite positioned so as to be able to communicate with Earth and the lander simultaneously. Both New Horizons and Chang’e 4 are among the dozens of spacecraft, landers and rovers that are currently studying the Earth, Sun, Moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, asteroids, comets and even the regions immediately outside our Solar System.

• On January 4, plant scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture and the University of Illinois showed that it is possible to make genetically engineered plants that fix a “glitch” in photosynthesis. This flaw sometimes causes plants to produce toxins within themselves that must be expunged. Crops grown without this flaw could improve their productivity by 40 percent, which has the potential to help mitigate climate change and abolish world hunger.

• On January 14, scientists operating Chang’e 4 announced the successful germination of food and clothing crops on the Moon, under the very low gravity of that body and after being bathed in solar radiation. Cotton, potato and rapeseed were all grown inside a miniature, artificial self-sustaining environment that was launched as part of the spacecraft’s scientific payload. While the experiment has reportedly reached the end of its lifespan, it was a critical step towards establishing and maintaining human life on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

• Concurrently, machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming more and more integrated with aspects of modern life, including medicine, transportation and manufacturing. Computer scientists are constantly exploring new ways to use this technology and they have encountered as yet no limits. Whole cities are steadily becoming powered by AI. Self-driving cars are on the verge of mass implementation.

Each of these advances demonstrates the potential to alleviate the need for backbreaking labor, to vastly reduce the time and human resources needed to build homes, schools and hospitals, to roboticize farming and transportation and to develop breakthroughs in medicine and human health. They are powerful rebukes to the incessant contemporary glorification of irrationalism, whether through the cultivation of backwardness and religious prejudice or the promotion of postmodernism and its rejection of objective truth. They stand as a mighty vindication of the materialist understanding of the world, that there are objective laws of nature and that humans can comprehend them and through practice based on that understanding, shape the world to improve human life.

These breakthroughs, on the other hand, contrast sharply with similar developments in society that have heralded 2019:

• The most recent data collected from UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank show that one in nine human beings, 815 million people, face malnourishment or hunger and 9.1 million people starve to death annually. These figures include 150 million children who are hungry and 3.1 million children who starve to death each year.

• There are currently 68.5 million people fleeing war, persecution and oppression. The UN estimates there are an additional 210 million people who have been displaced as a result of climate change.

Fascist and extreme right ideologies are once again being promoted by the political establishments in every country. Far-right parties are part of the governments in Italy, Austria, Brazil, Poland, Hungary, Japan, Finland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Philippines and Greece. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been welcomed into German parliament committees and their policies on refugees and internal security have been adopted by the German state. In France, President Macron has openly praised the country’s World War II-era fascist dictator Marshal Philippe Pétain.

• Thousands of scientists at NASA, NOAA, the NSF, the USDA and the National Institutes of Health are currently furloughed as a result of the government shutdown. Dozens of long term experiments that are critical to monitoring Earth’s climate, agriculture and public health are being increasingly disrupted. This disaster for scientific research comes as both Democrats and Republicans agree that the latest developments in modern technology, including drones and sensors, should be deployed against desperate refugees fleeing US-backed oppression and poverty in Central America.

These are only some of the contradictions of life in the 21st century. Even as technology is used to probe deep space, develop higher forms of global coordination and unlock the potential of key biological processes, it is being used to increase militarization, censorship and oppression at home and abroad. Every advance made in space exploration is intertwined with increased militarization internationally and the growing threat of world war. For every rocket that is aimed to study the cosmos, many more are developed and built to destroy either a part or the whole of humanity. Crop science is not used to feed the tens of millions of starving humans on six continents but to increase the profits and market dominance of a few agriculture conglomerates and to develop biological and chemical warfare. Science under capitalism is used to increase, not decrease, social inequality.

Artificial intelligence plays a particularly sinister role. It is being increasingly used by companies such as Amazon, Uber and Lyft to track every move employees make and force them to work longer and harder. Tens of thousands of jobs will be eliminated as automation becomes more and more commonplace. And it has been deployed on a mass scale by Google, Facebook and other tech companies in conjunction with US military and intelligence agencies to impose censorship on left-wing, anti-capitalist and socialist publications, track down immigrants with facial recognition, spy on virtually every human being and make war against the world’s population on an ever increasing scale.

Both factions of the US ruling elite are at war with science. Trump and the Republicans deny climate change and openly promote religious obscurantism. Official liberalism and academia are in thrall to the postmodernists who reject any conception of objective truth and the application of science to human thought, society, and culture, denying in particular the revolutionary role of the working class.

In contrast, Marxists insist that science can and must be applied to society itself, above all, to the socio-economic structures in which humanity is currently trapped. This means cutting through the ideological domination of the corporate elite, and studying the unfolding events from the standpoint of the class forces at work. This means taking up a study of Marxism, which bases its revolutionary politics on an analysis of objective reality and class interests, and it means a turn toward the working class, the only progressive, revolutionary and international social force on the planet.

The working class offers humanity an alternative to the war, poverty, and social misery that are endemic to capitalism. It is noteworthy that, in the ongoing Los Angeles Teachers strike, educators are demanding not only better pay and smaller class sizes, but the defense of public education from a capitalist oligarchy intent on gutting it. While the ruling elite is set on dragging society backwards, the working class, in the struggle for socialism, offers it a way forward.

Only in a socialist society can the vast scientific and technological achievements of mankind be transformed from cudgels for enforcing class exploitation and fighting war, to the instruments of securing a prosperous and fulfilling life for all people.

Dwarf planet Ultima Thule first photos


This 2 January 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

New Horizons probe sends back first images of Ultima Thule

NASA says it will release new images Wednesday of Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever explored by humans, taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. Scientists believe the icy world, more than a billion miles beyond Pluto, will reveal clues about the origins of the solar system. Mark Strassmann reports.

New Horizons shows Ultima Thule looks like a snowman, or maybe BB-8. The Kuiper Belt object is probably two rocks stuck together. By Lisa Grossman, 5:42pm, January 2, 2019.

See also here.

The latest picture of Ultima Thule reveals a remarkably smooth face. The object’s lack of craters suggests the Kuiper Belt isn’t filled with lots of space hazards. By Lisa Grossman, 11:17am, January 29, 2019.

The moon, science and militarisation


This video from the USa says about itself:

Trump Presents ‘Space Force: Episode Dumb’

Today Donald Trump is calling for a space military. Tomorrow he’ll be calling for a space military parade.

By Henry Allan and Bryan Dyne in the USA:

Moon targeted for further exploration, orbiting space stations and militarization

27 December 2018

Earlier this year, NASA announced plans to build a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, which is slated to be humanity’s tenth space station and the first that will orbit the Moon. The Gateway is projected to be operational by the mid-2020s, with the first initial component of the outpost ready to launch in 2022. Congress has already provided $504 million for the initial planning and design of the space station and the project, if it goes forward, is estimated to cost $3 billion a year.

NASA is promoting the Gateway as a lunar-orbiting station with scientific instruments attached externally as well as internally in order to conduct scientific experiments, control lunar rovers, or even act as a jumping off point for further ventures into space, including possible launches towards deep space.

“I envision different partners, both international and commercial, contributing to the gateway and using it in a variety of ways with a system that can move to different orbits to enable a variety of missions”, said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, earlier this year. “The gateway could move to support robotic or partner missions to the surface of the moon, or to a high lunar orbit to support missions departing from the gateway to other destinations in the solar system.”

Whatever its potential achievements, however, the development of the Gateway cannot be seen outside the context of the plan to create a “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the US military and the growing militarization of space in general.

When US President Donald Trump announced his intent to form the “Space Force” in June, he made it clear that the move was part of the war plans directed against Russia and China. “Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security”, Trump declared, adding that the United States should not have “China and Russia and other countries leading us.” He further emphasized, “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space.”

House Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin, a Texas Republican, echoed the national-chauvinist line of Trump, declaring, “Under the president’s leadership, we are now on the verge of a new generation of American greatness and leadership in space—leading us to once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”

The Gateway would inevitably be a part of these efforts. A US space station orbiting the Moon immediately raises the possibility of policing of the space between Earth and the Moon, whether by manned or unmanned vehicles. These in turn would need a broader support network of spy satellites and other infrastructure necessary for such an undertaking, including space-based weapons.

It would no doubt also be used as an attempt to counter the influence of China, which is currently planning on building its own base on the surface of the Moon. It is not far-fetched to consider a “freedom of navigation” provocation, like those conducted repeatedly by the US military in the South China Sea, carried out against Chinese vessels in space. The Gateway might also be used as the pretext for attacking a craft that simply went too close to the station, violating its “territorial waters”, so to speak. Any of these could be used to start a war.

Such moves in the direction of new wars of aggression came into sharp focus when Trump announced the unilateral US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia, which prohibited Washington and Moscow from developing short- and medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The withdrawal will set the stage for a further development of the US nuclear arsenal. It also poses the possibility of placing strategic weapons in space, perhaps even as part of the proposed space station.

The Gateway has also drawn criticism from scientists and astronauts who oppose the project as a drain on the already limited resources for space exploration. While the total cost of the Gateway is not fully worked out, it is already known that it will take twenty launches from currently available rockets to get the planned modules for the station to the Moon. This would eliminate twenty launches that could otherwise be dedicated to different unmanned interplanetary missions. While this could be reduced to as little as four if the Gateway was built with either NASA’s Space Launch System or SpaceX’s Super Heavy Starship, [both] of those rocket designs have yet to be built.

Opponents of the Gateway have also pointed out that, unlike the currently operational International Space Station (ISS), because there are no agreements to share any benefits that might be gained from the Gateway, there are no cost-sharing agreements for the station’s operation. If US unilateralism on trade is an example of what will be demanded in space, then other nations will probably stick to the ISS or even begin developing their own, similar projects, with the same inherent risks—the danger of disaster in space and war on Earth.

It is also not clear that the Gateway would actually be a “stepping stone” to missions elsewhere in the Solar System. To arrive at the station, a spacecraft would have to enter orbit around the Moon, which costs fuel. As of now, a trip to the surface of the Moon that first stopped at the Gateway would require thirty percent more fuel. A trip to an asteroid, Mars or elsewhere faces similar problems.