All posts by Tom

Space Radiation on Earth

So from the Van Allen Belts we turn to cosmic rays. How do we study them? ESA is up to the task.

I can’t wait until this is finished and returning data. Great stuff.

Image: GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH/Jan Michael Hosan 2018

ESA – The constant ‘rain’ of radiation in space includes cosmic rays, which, despite the name ‘ray’, comprises highly energetic particles arriving from beyond the Solar System. These rays are considered the main health hazard for astronauts conducting future exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

This bad stuff can also play havoc with sensitive spacecraft electronics, corrupting data, damaging circuits and degrading microchips.

There are many different kinds of cosmic rays, and they can have very different effects on spacecraft and their occupants, depending on the types of particles, the particles’ energies and the duration of the exposure.

A new international accelerator, the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR), now under construction near Darmstadt, Germany, at the existing GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research (GSI), will provide particle beams like the ones that exist in space and make them available to scientists for studies that will be used to make spacecraft more robust and help humans survive the rigours of spaceflight.

For example, researchers will be able to investigate how cells and human DNA are altered or damaged by exposure to cosmic radiation and how well microchips stand up to the extreme conditions in space.

FAIR’s central element will be a new accelerator ring with a circumference of 1100 m, capable of accelerating protons to near-light speeds. The existing GSI accelerators will repurposed to serve as pre-accelerators for the new FAIR facility.

This image shows the high-tech equipment that generates the particles, which are then injected into the GSI and FAIR accelerator systems.

On 14 February 2018, ESA and FAIR inked a cooperation agreement that will build on an existing framework of cooperation between the Agency and GSI, and see the two cooperate in the fields of radiation biology, electronic components, materials research, shielding materials and instrument calibration.

The agreement also includes cooperation in technology and software development and in joint activities in areas such as innovation management.

ESO’s Studentship Programme

Great opportunity!

ESO — ESO’s Studentship programme provides a valuable opportunity for astronomers of the future to gain experience at the most productive ground-based astronomical observatory in the world. PhD students work alongside senior astronomers and engineers in a creative, collaborative and truly international environment, in which their careers are encouraged to blossom.

Van Allen Belts

I saw somewhere the SpaceX launch couldn’t possibly have deployed the Tesla Roadster because of the Van Allen Belts. What? Well I suppose they are having a laugh, but there is a lot of less than accurate information on the internet about the belts (and a lot of other things).

Here is an excellent overview of the Van Allen Belts, thanks to Fraser Cain.

Perseverance Valley on Mars

Perseverance Valley on Mars as seen from the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity! I can hardly believe the rover has been on Mars for a bit over 11 years landing in January 2004 and it is still delivering science. Amazing.

NASA —

This late-afternoon view from the front Hazard Avoidance Camera on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows a pattern of rock stripes on the ground, a surprise to scientists on the rover team. Approaching the 5,000th Martian day or sol, of what was planned as a 90-sol mission, Opportunity is still providing new discoveries.

This image was taken inside “Perseverance Valley,” on the inboard slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, on Sol 4958 (Jan. 4, 2018). Both this view and one taken the same sol by the rover’s Navigation Camera look downhill toward the northeast from about one-third of the way down the valley, which extends about the length of two football fields from the crest of the rim toward the crater floor.

The lighting, with the Sun at a low angle, emphasizes the ground texture, shaped into stripes defined by rock fragments. The stripes are aligned with the downhill direction. The rock to the upper right of the rover’s robotic arm is about 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide and about 3 feet (1 meter) from the centerline of the rover’s two front wheels.

This striped pattern resembles features seen on Earth, including on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, that are formed by cycles of freezing and thawing of ground moistened by melting ice or snow. There, fine-grained fraction of the soil expands as it freezes, and this lifts the rock fragments up and to the sides. If such a process formed this pattern in Perseverance Valley, those conditions might have been present locally during a period within the past few million years when Mars’ spin axis was at a greater tilt than it is now, and some of the water ice now at the poles was redistributed to lower latitudes. Other hypotheses for how these features formed are also under consideration, including high-velocity slope winds.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For more information about Opportunity, Visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers and http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.

Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

InSight A Few Final Tests

That worked well from a few feet away, hopefully it will work as well as 148.1 million km / 92,000,000 miles away.

Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) or Insight is a lander rather than a rover.

The two main instruments are:

Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), provided by the French Space Agency (CNES) with the participation of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), the Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), Imperial College and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), provided by the German pace Agency (DLR). In addition, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), led by JPL, will use the spacecraft communication
system to provide precise measurements of planetary rotation. This instrumentation will be carried by the proven Phoenix Lander, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, providing low-cost, low-risk access to the surface of Mars. — InSight Fact Sheet (pdf).

Launch is scheduled for May 2018 and landing in late November 2018.

NASA – While in the landed configuration for the last time before arriving on Mars, NASA’s InSight lander was commanded to deploy its solar arrays to test and verify the exact process that it will use on the surface of the Red Planet. During the test on Jan. 23, 2018, from the Lockheed Martin clean room in Littleton, Colorado, engineers and technicians evaluated that the solar arrays fully deployed and conducted an illumination test to confirm that the solar cells were collecting power. The fan-like solar panels are specially designed for Mars’ weak sunlight, caused by the planet’s distance from the Sun and its dusty, thin atmosphere. The panels will power InSight for at least one Martian year (two Earth years) for the first mission dedicated to studying Mars’ deep interior.

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. It is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle and core. Studying Mars’ interior structure may answer key questions about the early formation of rocky planets in our inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars – more than 4 billion years ago, as well as rocky exoplanets. InSight also will measure tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars today.

InSight is scheduled to launch in May 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin Space

The Diamond Ring

ESA brings us this wonderful image of a solar diamond ring for Valentine’s Day. This one is from the Solar Eclipse of 21 August 2017 photographed by during an eclipse expedition to the USA as part of ESA’s CESAR (Cooperation through Education in Science and Astronomy Research) educational initiative. CESAR engages students in the wonders of science and technology – astronomy in particular.

As it happens there will be a solar eclipse tomorrow. This eclipse will be visible to most of Antarctica and southern regions of Chile and Argentina, I know we have readers from the very south of Argentina so here is a map showing when and approximately what you will see.

The map and more information from Wikipedia here.

Progress MS-08 Launch – Replay

The replay above from Space Videos.

So the Progress MS-08 cargo spaceship is on the way to the International Space Station loaded with 1,390 kg / 3,064 lbs of food and supplies including propellant to maneuver the station.

The delay means the cargo spaceship won’t dock until Thursday so we could get a chance to see the pair fly overhead.

Check: Heaven’s Above, N2YO, or SpaceWeather to flyby information.

Launch time: 08:58:45 GMT / 03:58:45 EST / 14:58:45 p.m. Baikonur time

I will start this early so you will see NASA TV until launch time, time well spent.

Replays when available.