NASA Postpones Rocket Launch To Moon After Fuel Leak

NASA's Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39B after the launch was scrubbed at Kennedy Space Center on September 03, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/AFP
NASA’s Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39B after the launch was scrubbed at Kennedy Space Center on September 03, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/AFP

 

NASA on Saturday scrapped a second attempt to get its new 30-story rocket off the ground and send its uncrewed test capsule toward the Moon after engineers detected a fuel leak.

With millions around the globe and hundreds of thousands on nearby beaches waiting for the historic launch of the massive Space Launch System (SLS), a leak near the base of the rocket was found as ultra-cold liquid hydrogen was being pumped in.

“The launch director waived off today’s Artemis I launch,” NASA said in a statement. “Multiple troubleshooting efforts to address the area of the leak… did not fix the issue.”

Though the area around the launch site was closed to the public, an estimated 400,000 people had gathered nearby to see — and hear — the most powerful vehicle that NASA has ever launched climb into space.

The initial launch attempt on Monday was also halted after engineers detected a fuel leak and a sensor showed that one of the rocket’s four main engines was too hot.

Early Saturday, launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson had given the go-ahead to start filling the rocket’s tanks with cryogenic fuel.

About three million liters of ultra-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen were due to be pumped into the spacecraft, but the process soon hit problems.

No new date for another try was immediately announced.

After the latest delay, there are backup opportunities on Monday or Tuesday. After that, the next launch window will not be until September 19, due to the Moon’s position.

The purpose of the Artemis 1 mission is to verify that the Orion capsule, which sits atop the SLS rocket, is safe to carry astronauts in the future.

Mannequins equipped with sensors are standing in for astronauts on the mission and will record acceleration, vibration and radiation levels.

Apollo’s twin sister

It will take several days for the spacecraft to reach the Moon, flying around 60 miles (100 kilometers) at its closest approach. The capsule will fire its engines to get to a distant retrograde orbit (DRO) of 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, a record for a spacecraft rated to carry humans.

The trip is expected to last around six weeks and one of its main objectives is to test the capsule’s heat shield, which at 16 feet in diameter is the largest ever built.

On its return to Earth’s atmosphere, the heat shield will have to withstand speeds of 25,000 miles per hour and a temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) — roughly half as hot as the Sun.

Artemis is named after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo, after whom the first Moon missions were named.

Unlike the Apollo missions, which sent only white men to the Moon between 1969 and 1972, Artemis missions will see the first person of color and the first woman step foot on the lunar surface.

A government audit estimates the Artemis program’s cost will grow to $93 billion by 2025, with each of its first four missions clocking in at a whopping $4.1 billion per launch.

The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts to the Moon without landing on its surface.

The crew of Artemis 3 is to land on the Moon in 2025 at the earliest, with later missions envisaging a lunar space station and a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.

According to NASA chief Bill Nelson, a crewed trip to the red planet aboard Orion, which would last several years, could be attempted by the end of the 2030s.

AFP

Engine Issue Forces NASA To Call Off Test Flight To The Moon

The Artemis I unmanned lunar rocket sits on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on August 29, 2022. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)
The Artemis I unmanned lunar rocket sits on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on August 29, 2022. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

 

NASA called off a test flight on Monday of its largest-ever rocket in a setback to the ambitious program to send humans back to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

“We don’t launch until it’s right,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said after an engine temperature issue forced liftoff from Kennedy Space Center to be scrubbed.

“This is a very complicated machine,” Nelson said. “You don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go.”

Alternative dates for launch of the US space agency’s uncrewed Artemis 1 mission are Friday and next Monday.

Blastoff had been planned for 8:33 am (1233 GMT) but was cancelled because of a temperature problem with one of the four RS-25 engines on the 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

NASA said a test to get one of the engines to the proper temperature range for liftoff was not successful.

It said the SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule which sits on top “remain in a safe and stable configuration.”

Nelson said delays were “just part of the space business” and expressed confidence that NASA engineers will “get it fixed and then we’ll fly.”

Tens of thousands of people — including US Vice President Kamala Harris — had gathered near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the launch, which comes 50 years after Apollo 17 astronauts last set foot on the Moon.

The goal of the flight is to test the SLS and Orion crew capsule. Mannequins equipped with sensors are standing in for a crew for the mission.

Overnight operations to fill the orange-and-white rocket with more than three million liters of ultra-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen were briefly delayed by a high risk of lightning.

Around 3:00 am, another hiccup emerged: a potential leak was detected during the filling of the main stage with hydrogen, causing a pause. After tests, the flow resumed.

NASA engineers later detected the engine temperature problem and put a hold on the countdown before eventually scrubbing the launch.

The rocket’s Orion capsule is to orbit the Moon to see if the vessel is safe for people in the near future. At some point, Artemis aims to put a woman and a person of color on the Moon for the first time.

Extreme temperatures

During the 42-day trip, the Orion capsule will orbit the Moon, coming within 60 miles (100 kilometers) at its closest approach, and then fire its engines to shoot out 40,000 miles — a record for a spacecraft rated to carry humans.

One of the mission’s primary objectives is to test the capsule’s heat shield, which at 16 feet in diameter is the largest ever built.

On its return to Earth’s atmosphere, the heat shield will have to withstand speeds of 25,000 miles per hour and a temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) — roughly half as hot as the Sun.

The dummies aboard the spacecraft will record acceleration, vibration and radiation levels.

The craft will also deploy small satellites to study the lunar surface.

A complete failure would be devastating for a program costing $4.1 billion per launch that is already years behind schedule.

Life on the Moon

The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts into orbit around the Moon without landing on its surface. The crew of Artemis 3 is to land on the Moon in 2025 at the earliest.

And since humans have already visited the Moon, Artemis has its sights set on another lofty goal: a crewed mission to Mars.

The Artemis program is to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon with an orbiting space station known as Gateway and a base on the surface.

Gateway would serve as a staging and refueling station for a voyage to Mars that would take a minimum of several months.

 

AFP

First Photos From The Moon Set For Auction In Copenhagen

This file photo taken on July 21, 1969, shows the astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin descending the steps of the Apollo XI Lunar Module (LM) to walk on the moon. PHOTO: NASA / AFP

 

The first NASA photographs taken on the Moon, including the first shot of an “Earthrise” and Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface, will be auctioned off in Copenhagen, Denmark on Wednesday.

“One of my favourite photos from this fantastic collection depicts a photo of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong, and you can actually see Neil Armstrong being reflected in Buzz Aldrin’s visor”, Kasper Nielsen, the head of the Bruun Rasmussen auction house’s valuation team, told AFP.

A total of 74 unique NASA photographs are up for sale, including 26 taken on the Moon during the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s.

READ ALSO: Over 140,000 Flee Ukraine In 24 Hours – UN

“Of course, the highlight is the Apollo mission reaching the Moon for the first time” on July 20, 1969, said Nielsen.

Bruun Rasmussen — which was contacted by a foreign collector who wanted to sell the photos and who has asked to remain anonymous — has estimated the collection at 1.4 million kroner, or almost 190,000 euros ($205,000).

Each photograph is up for sale individually.

The most valuable item, the first “Earthrise” photographed by US astronaut William Anders while orbiting the Moon in December 1968 on Apollo 8, is valued at between eight and 12,000 euros.

The collection also includes photos from the dramatic Apollo 13 mission, which never landed on the Moon due to a malfunction, instead looping around it before splashing down in the South Pacific Ocean after six days.

Several of the photos are on public display for the first time, having previously been part of NASA’s archives.

Others have appeared on the cover of US magazines such as National Geographic or Life, illustrating America’s success in the space race.

“This collection is very important today”, Nielsen said.

“It shows us all the great achievements of mankind, looked upon with a historical view, looking at what mankind actually achieved in the 1960s and the 1970s”.

Additionally, “it shows us all that when you put your mind upon a thing, upon a target, almost everything is possible”.

The last time man set foot on the Moon was in 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission, but NASA is planning to send astronauts again in 2025-2026.

AFP

China Plants Flag On The Moon

This picture taken and released on December 4, 2020, by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows a Chinese national flag unfurled from the Chang'e-5 lunar probe. China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS / AFP
This picture taken and released on December 4, 2020, by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows a Chinese national flag unfurled from the Chang’e-5 lunar probe. China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS / AFP

 

A Chinese flag has been planted on the moon after the country completed a space probe to the surface of the Moon, an ambitious effort to bring back the first lunar samples in four decades.

Beijing is looking to catch up with the US and Russia after taking decades to match its rivals’ achievements and has poured billions into its military-run space programme.

The Chang’e-5 spacecraft, named after the mythical Chinese Moon goddess, left the Moon at 1510 GMT Thursday, said China’s space agency.

A module carrying lunar rocks and soil was launched into orbit by a powerful thrust engine, officials said of the mission that landed Tuesday on the Moon.

Video footage from China’s state broadcaster CCTV showed the probe taking off from the surface of the Moon in a bright burst of light.

READ ALSO: Chinese Space Probe Completes Moon Mission

The space agency said that “before lift-off, the Chinese flag was raised on the moon’s surface”.

It added that this was the first time that China had achieved take-off from an extraterrestrial body.

The module then must undergo the delicate operation of linking up with the part of the spacecraft that is to bring the specimens back to Earth, official news agency Xinhua reported.

Scientists hope the samples will help them learn about the Moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity on its surface.

If the return journey is successful, China will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.

Space dreams

This is the first such attempt since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.

The spacecraft’s mission was to collect two kilograms (4.5 pounds) of material in an area known as Oceanus Procellarum — or “Ocean of Storms” — a vast, previously unexplored lava plain, according to the science journal Nature.

Xinhua, which called Chang’e-5 “one of the most complicated and challenging missions in Chinese aerospace history”, reported the probe worked for about 19 hours on the Moon.

The samples were to be returned to Earth in a capsule programmed to land in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region, according to US space agency NASA.

Under President Xi Jinping, plans for China’s “space dream”, as he calls it, have been put into overdrive.

China hopes to have a crewed space station by 2022 and eventually send humans to the Moon.

China launched its first satellite in 1970, while human spaceflight took decades longer — with Yang Liwei becoming China’s first “taikonaut” in 2003.

A Chinese lunar rover landed on the far side of the Moon in January 2019 in a global first that boosted Beijing’s aspirations to become a space superpower.

The latest probe is among a slew of ambitious targets, which include creating a powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a lunar base, and a permanently crewed space station.

China’s taikonauts and scientists have also talked up crewed missions to Mars.

Possible New ‘Minimoon’ Discovered Orbiting Earth

A handout artist’s impression released on September 11, 2019, by ESA/Hubble shows the K2-18b super-Earth, the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life.  AFP

 

Earth has acquired a second “mini-moon” about the size of a car, according to astronomers who spotted the object circling our planet.

The mass — roughly 1.9-3.5 meters (6-11 feet) in diameter — was observed by researchers Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on the night of February 15.

“BIG NEWS. Earth has a new temporarily captured object/Possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3,” likely to be a C-type asteroid, Wierzchos tweeted on Wednesday.

The astronomer said it was a “big deal” as “this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth (after 2006 RH120, which was also discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey).”

Its route suggests it entered Earth’s orbit three years ago, he said.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Minor Planet Center, which collects data on minor planets and asteroids, in an announcement said “no link to a known artificial object has been found,” implying it was likely an asteroid captured by Earth’s gravity.

“Orbit integrations indicate that this object is temporarily bound to the Earth.”

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk said the car-sized object was not the Telsa Roadster he launched into space in 2018, which is now orbiting the Sun.

“It’s not mine,” he tweeted.

Earth’s new neighbour is not in a stable orbit around the planet and is unlikely to be around for very long.

“It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak,” Grigori Fedorets, a research fellow at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, told New Scientist magazine and was likely to escape in April.

The only other asteroid is known to orbit Earth, 2006 RH120, rotated the planet from September 2006 to June 2007.

AFP

India Loses Contact With Moon Lander

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) employees react as they watch the live broadcast of the soft landing of spacecraft Vikram Lander of Chandrayaan-2 on the surface of the Moon at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) centre in Bangalore early on September 7, 2019. MANJUNATH KIRAN / AFP

 

India’s space programme suffered a huge setback Saturday after losing contact with an unmanned spacecraft moments before it was due to make a historic soft landing on the Moon.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to comfort glum scientists and a stunned nation from mission control in Bangalore, saying India was still “proud” and clasping the visibly emotional space agency head in a lengthy hug.

Blasting off in July, the emerging Asian giant had hoped to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia and regional rival China to make a successful Moon landing, and the first on the lunar South Pole.

But in the early hours of Saturday local time, as Modi looked on and millions watched nationwide with bated breath, the Vikram lander — named after the father of India’s space programme — went silent just 2.1 kilometres (1.3 miles) above the lunar surface.

Its descent had been going “as planned and normal performance was observed”, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan said.

“Subsequently the communication from the lander to the ground station was lost,” he said after initial applause turned to bewilderment at the operations room. “The data is being analysed.”

The Chandrayaan-2 (“Moon Vehicle 2”) orbiter, which will circle and study the Moon remotely for a year, is however “healthy, intact, functioning normally and safely in the lunar orbit”, the ISRO said.

– Consoler-in-chief –
Freshly re-elected Modi had hoped to bask in the glory of a successful mission, but on Saturday he deftly turned consoler-in-chief in a speech at mission control broadcast live on television and to his 50 million Twitter followers.

“Sisters and brothers of India, resilience and tenacity are central to India’s ethos. In our glorious history of thousands of years, we have faced moments that may have slowed us, but they have never crushed our spirit,” he said.

“We have bounced back again,” he added. “When it comes to our space programme, the best is yet to come.”

Other Indians also took to Twitter to offer words of encouragement. “The important thing is we took off and had the Hope and Belief we can,” said Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

Indian media offered succour by quoting a NASA factsheet that said out of 109 lunar missions in the past six decades, 48 have failed.

Chandrayaan-2 took off on July 22 carrying an orbiter, lander and rover almost entirely designed and made in India — the mission cost a relatively modest $140 million — a week after an initial launch was halted just before blast-off.

ISRO had acknowledged before the soft landing that it was a complex manoeuvre, which Sivan called “15 minutes of terror”.

It was carrying rover Pragyan — “wisdom” in Sanskrit — which was due to emerge several hours after touchdown to scour the Moon’s surface, including for water.

According to Mathieu Weiss, a representative in India for France’s space agency CNES, this is vital to determining whether humans could spend extended periods on the Moon.

That would mean the Moon being used one day as a pitstop on the way to Mars — the next objective of governments and private spacefaring programmes such as Elon Musk’s Space X.

‘Space superpower’

In March Modi hailed India as a “space superpower” after it shot down a low-orbiting satellite, a move prompting criticism for the amount of “space junk” created.

Asia’s third-largest economy also hopes to tap into the commercial possibilities of space.

China in January became the first to land a rover on the far side of the Moon. In April, Israel’s attempt failed at the last minute when its craft apparently crashed onto the lunar surface.

India is also preparing Gaganyaan, its first manned space mission, and wants to land a probe on Mars.

In 2014, it became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet, and in 2017 India’s space agency launched 104 satellites in a single mission.

The country’s principal scientific adviser, K Vijay Raghavan, described Chandrayaan-2 as “very complex, and a significant technological leap from previous missions of ISRO” in a series of tweets on Saturday.

Raghavan said the orbiter will help India better understand the Moon’s evolution, mapping minerals and water molecules “using its eight state-of-the-art scientific instruments”.

“After a moment of despondency, it is back to work!! It is inspirational to see this characteristic of science in collective action. Kudos to ISRO,” he added.

ISRO in a late Saturday statement said that the orbiter’s “precise launch and mission management has ensured a long life of almost 7 years instead of the planned one year.”

“The Orbiter camera is the highest resolution camera (0.3m) in any lunar mission so far and shall provide high resolution images which will be immensely useful to the global scientific community,” it added.

India Space Agency Loses Communication With Moon-Landing Craft

This screen grab taken from a live webcast by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on August 6, 2019 shows Vikram Lander before it is supposed to land on the Moon.  AFP

 

India’s space programme suffered a huge setback Saturday after losing contact with an unmanned spacecraft moments before it was due to make a historic soft landing on the Moon.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to comfort glum scientists and a stunned nation from mission control in Bangalore, saying India was still “proud” and clasping the visibly emotional space agency head in a lengthy hug.

Blasting off in July, the emerging Asian giant had hoped to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia and regional rival China to make a successful Moon landing, and the first on the lunar South Pole.

But in the early hours of Saturday local time, as Modi looked on and millions watched nationwide with bated breath, Vikram — named after the father of India’s space programme — went silent just 2.1 kilometres (1.3 miles) above the lunar surface.

“The Vikram lander descent was (going) as planned and normal performance was observed,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan said.

“Subsequently the communication from the lander to the ground station was lost,” he said after initial applause turned to bewilderment at the operations room. “The data is being analysed.”

The Chandrayaan-2 (“Moon Vehicle 2”) orbiter, which will circle and study the Moon remotely for a year, is however “healthy, intact, functioning normally and safely in the lunar orbit”, the ISRO said.

 Consoler-in-chief 

Freshly re-elected Modi had hoped to bask in the glory of a successful mission, but on Saturday he deftly turned consoler-in-chief in a speech at mission control broadcast live on television and to his 50 million Twitter followers.

“Sisters and brothers of India, resilience and tenacity are central to India’s ethos. In our glorious history of thousands of years, we have faced moments that may have slowed us, but they have never crushed our spirit,” he said.

“We have bounced back again,” he added. “When it comes to our space programme, the best is yet to come.”

Other Indians also took to Twitter to offer words of encouragement. “The important thing is we took off and had the Hope and Belief we can,” said Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.

Indian media offered succour by quoting a NASA factsheet that said out of 109 lunar missions in the past six decades, 48 have failed.

Chandrayaan-2 took off on July 22 carrying an orbiter, lander and rover almost entirely designed and made in India — the mission cost a relatively modest $140 million — a week after an initial launch was halted just before blast-off.

ISRO had acknowledged before the soft landing that it was a complex manoeuvre, which Sivan called “15 minutes of terror”.

It was carrying rover Pragyan — “wisdom” in Sanskrit — which was due to emerge several hours after touchdown to scour the Moon’s surface, including for water.

According to Mathieu Weiss, a representative in India for France’s space agency CNES, this is vital to determining whether humans could spend extended periods on the Moon.

That would mean the Moon being used one day as a pitstop on the way to Mars — the next objective of governments and private spacefaring programmes such as Elon Musk’s Space X.

‘Space superpower’ 

In March Modi hailed India as a “space superpower” after it shot down a low-orbiting satellite, a move prompting criticism for the amount of “space junk” created.

Asia’s third-largest economy also hopes to tap into the commercial possibilities of space.

China in January became the first to land a rover on the far side of the Moon. In April, Israel’s attempt failed at the last minute when its craft apparently crashed onto the lunar surface.

India is also preparing Gaganyaan, its first manned space mission, and wants to land a probe on Mars. In 2014, it became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet.

AFP

India’s Chandrayaan-2 Moon Mission Successfully Enters Lunar Orbit

Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Kailasavadivoo Sivan gestures during a press conference at the ISRO headquarters in Bangalore on August 20, 2019. Manjunath Kiran / AFP

 

India’s Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft entered lunar orbit on Tuesday, executing one of the trickiest manoeuvres on its historic mission to the Moon.

After four weeks in space, the craft completed its Lunar Orbit Insertion as planned, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a statement.

The insertion “was completed successfully today at 0902 hrs IST (0332 GMT) as planned, using the onboard propulsion system. The duration of manoeuver was 1738 seconds,” the national space agency said.

India is seeking to become just the fourth nation after Russia, the United States and China to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

If the rest of the mission goes to plan, the Indian probe will land on the lunar South Pole on September 7.

To enter the final orbit over the lunar poles, Chandrayaan 2 will undergo four more similar manoeuvres, with the next scheduled for Wednesday.

ISRO chief K. Sivan said the manoeuvre was a key milestone for the mission, adding he was hoping for a perfect landing next month.

“On September 7, the lander will land on the moon. Whatever is humanly possible, has been done by us,” Sivan told reporters.

Tuesday’s insertion was one of the trickiest operations in the mission because if the satellite had approached the Moon at a higher velocity it would have bounced off and got lost in deep space.

And had it approached at a slow velocity, the Moon’s gravity would have pulled it in, causing a crash.

 Heart-stopping moments 

“The approach velocity had to be just right and the altitude over the moon precise. Even a small error would have killed the mission,” Sivan said.

“Our heartbeats increased… for 30 minutes, our hearts almost stopped.”

Chandrayaan 2, or Moon Chariot 2, lifted off from India’s spaceport at Sriharikota in southern Andhra Pradesh state on July 22.

The spacecraft used in the mission comprises an orbiter, a lander and a rover almost entirely designed and made in India. The orbiter has a mission life of a year and will take images of the lunar surface.

ISRO says the mission will help scientists to better understand the origin and evolution of the Moon by conducting detailed topographical studies, mineral analyses and a host of other experiments.

About $140 million was spent on preparations for the probe’s mission — a much smaller price tag compared to similar operations by other countries.

It was launched on India’s most powerful rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII.

The lift-off was successful in its second attempt, a week after it was aborted just under an hour from its launch due to a technical glitch.

India’s first lunar mission in 2008 — Chandrayaan-1 — did not land on the Moon but carried out a search for water using radar.

A soft landing on the Moon would be a huge leap forward in India’s space programme, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi determined to launch a manned mission into space by 2022.

India also has ambitions to land a probe on Mars. In 2014, India became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet.

AFP

Tardigrades, Earth’s Toughest Creatures, May Be Alive On The Moon

Tardigrade

There may be life on the Moon after all: virtually indestructible beings that can withstand extreme radiation, sizzling heat, the coldest temperatures of the universe, and decades without food.

These terrifying-sounding creatures aren’t aliens but in fact, microscopic Earthlings known as tardigrades, who likely survived a crash landing on the lunar surface by Israel’s Beresheet probe in April, the organisation responsible for their trip said on Tuesday.

Based on an analysis of the spacecraft’s trajectory and the composition of the device the micro-animals were stored in, “we believe the chances of survival for the tardigrades…are extremely high,” Nova Spivack, founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, told AFP.

The non-profit is dedicated to spreading backups of human knowledge and Earth’s biology throughout the Solar System, a quest it likens to the creation of an “Encyclopedia Galactica” as a gift to the future.

“Tardigrades are ideal to include because they are microscopic, multicellular, and one of the most durable forms of life on planet Earth,” Spivack said.

He added that the diminutive creatures, which are under a millimeter (0.04 inches) in size, had been dehydrated to place them in suspended animation and then “encased in an epoxy of Artificial Amber, and should be revivable in the future.”

The tardigrades were stored inside a “Lunar Library,” a nanotechnology device that resembles a DVD and contains 30-million-page archive of human history viewable under microscopes, as well as human DNA.

Spivack is confident this too survived impact — but it doesn’t represent the first genetic code or life forms to be left behind on the barren celestial body.

That distinction belongs to the DNA and microbes contained in the almost 100 bags of feces and urine left behind by American astronauts during the Apollo lunar landings from 1969-1972.

 No rescue mission

Also known as water bears or moss piglets, tardigrades can live in water or on land, and are capable of surviving temperatures as high as 150 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit) and as low as minus 272 degrees Celsius (-458 Fahrenheit), albeit for a few minutes.

The grub-like, eight-legged animals can come back from being dried out to a lifeless husk for decades, and withstand near-zero pressure in outer space as well as the crushing depths of the Mariana Trench, as well radiation at levels a thousand times greater than lethal levels for humans.

If they did not burn up in an explosion, they could, in theory, survive the tiny pressure on the lunar surface, and the extremes of temperature, William Miller, a tardigrades expert at Baker University, told AFP.

“But to become active, to grow, eat, and reproduce they would need water, air and food,” so it would not be possible for them to multiply and form a colony, he added.

NASA astrobiologist Cassie Conley said that their exact survival time would depend on the condition of the impact site and the temperatures to which they are exposed.

“If they don’t get too hot, it’s possible they could survive for quite a long time (many years),” she told AFP.

“As a biologist studying organism survival in extreme environments, I’d be more concerned that the animals would be affected by toxic chemicals from the epoxy or glue” used to store them, as opposed to conditions in space, she added.

Even if the creatures lived on for several years, there is no crewed mission to the Moon planned until NASA’s Artemis program in 2024 at the south pole — far from Beresheet’s crash site on the Sea of Serenity, so they probably won’t make it home.

“It is unlikely that they will be rescued in time, so my guess is that, even if they survived, they are doomed,” Rafael Alves Batista, a physicist at Sao Paulo university who co-authored a paper on tardigrades’ extreme resilience, told AFP.

AFP

How Conspiracy Theories Followed Man To The Moon

This NASA photo obtained July 3, 2019 shows a fully functional Launch Abort System (LAS) with a test version of Orion attached,as it soars upward on NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test atop a Northrop Grumman provided booster on July 2, 2019, after launching at 7 am EDT, from Launch Pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. TONY GRAY, KEVIN O’CONNELL / NASA / AFP

 

It was the biggest piece of supposed fake news before the term “fake news” was even invented.

Millions of people across the world still believe that no one has ever walked on the Moon, and that the images that NASA broadcast in July 1969 were shot in a Hollywood studio.

Thousands of Internet sites are devoted to “proving” that the landing never happened, or calling into question the whole Apollo 11 mission.

Some claim that NASA did not have the technological know-how to pull off such a coup, or that if it did that it wasn’t done with a human crew — who would surely have been fried alive by cosmic rays.

Others tout possible alien involvement, which of course has been covered up — as has the lunar civilisation the astronauts discovered…

But almost all the conspiracy theories focus on supposed anomalies in the grainy photos and videos which NASA sent back to Earth.

Shadows in the footage show they were suspect, as is the absence of stars in the sky in some images — theories which have long since been refuted by scientists.

Yet theories live on regardless of proof from the Lunar Orbiter in 2009 which showed the abandoned modules from Apollo 11, 14, 15, 16 and 17 still on the Moon’s surface.

Six in 10 Russians sceptical

When Apollo 11’s lunar module touched down on the Sea of Tranquility in 1969, less than one in 20 Americans doubted what they were seeing on their television screens.

By the turn of the century a Gallup poll found scepticism has only spread to six percent of the population.

In contrast, more than half of Russians — the old Cold War enemy — still refuse to believe that the Americans got there first.

But surprisingly serious doubt is also rampant among some of Washington’s closest allies, with a 2009 TNS survey showing a quarter of British people did not believe the landings happened, while nine percent of French people were also unconvinced, according to pollsters Ifop.

Academic Didier Desormeaux, who has written widely on conspiracy theories, said the more important an event the more likely it is to attract outrageous counter-narratives.

“Conquering space was a major event for humanity. Undermining that can shake the very foundations of science and man’s mastery of nature,” he told AFP, making it a huge target for conspiracists.

While earlier conspiracy theories also involved images — such as the assassination of US president John F Kennedy in 1963, and the so-called Roswell UFO incident — “what is new about these rumours is that they are based on a minute deconstruction of the images sent back by NASA,” the French specialist insisted.

‘Images anaesthetise thinking’

For Desormeaux it is the first time a “conspiracy theory was built entirely around the visual interpretation of a media event — which they denounce entirely as a set-up.”

The same logic has been used repeatedly to dismiss school massacres in the US as fake, he added, with hardcore conspiracists claiming that the dead “are played by actors”.

“Images can anaesthetise our capacity to think” when deployed with ever more twisted leaps of logic, Desormeaux warned.

“The power of such theories is that no matter what they survive, because they become a belief which comes with a kind of evangelism and so they can go on forever,” he added.

For NASA’s former official historian Roger Launius, “the fact that the denials of the Moon landings would not go away should not surprise anyone.”

Launius — who has devoted a large part of his career to fighting them — said in his latest book, “Apollo’s Legacy”, that deniers “do not accept the same rules of investigation and knowledge that all others live by.

“They have tapped into a rich vein of distrust of government, populists critiques of society and questions about the fundamentals of (scientific method) and knowledge creation,” he added.

For decades they have played on “our deepest and most secret fears”, fed by America’s defeat in the Vietnam war at home and by anti-Americanism abroad, he said.

But Launius also blames the media for adding fuel to flames of paranoia.

“Moon landings denials were fanned by… competition for a new and different perspective on the events,” he said.

AFP

South Korea’s Moon Sacks Finance Minister, Policy Chief

South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in

 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in sacked his top two economic officials Friday, the government said, as the world’s 11th-largest economy struggles with slowing growth, rising unemployment and persistent income gaps.

Finance minister Kim Dong-yeon and presidential chief of staff for policy Jang Ha-sung had both been replaced, top Blue House spokesman Yoon Young-chan said in a televised statement.

The pair had reportedly been at odds with each other over how to address the situation.

Moon’s global profile has been dominated by his role in the rapid diplomatic rapprochement with nuclear-armed North Korea but at home his handling of the economy has become increasingly controversial, contributing to falling poll ratings.

His administration has steeply raised South Korea’s minimum wages, cut working hours and converted temporary staff to permanent in a series of redistributive moves it says will lead to what it calls “income-led growth”.

It is a marked change from the growth model of the past, driven by exports and investments by the South’s major companies, that has seen the South rise to become Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

And critics say the moves have had the opposite effect to what was intended, worsening the situation of many low-income earners and seeing small businesses cut staff, while big firms hold back investment in the face of tougher regulation.

Last month, the central Bank of Korea cut its growth forecast for this year to 2.7 per cent, down from the 3.1 per cent achieved in 2017.

And unemployment jumped 0.4 percentage points to 3.8 per cent in the third quarter, with youth joblessness at its highest since 1999 at 9.4 per cent.

Finance minister Kim had called for redistributive policies to be rowed back, including minimum wage hikes, while Jang wanted to stick with pursuing equality.

Kim was replaced by Hong Nam-ki, a veteran bureaucrat, while Jang was succeeded by Kim Soo-Hyun, currently Moon’s top social affairs adviser.

AFP

Singapore Agreement Will End Cold War, Says Moon

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (R) hugging North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un after their second summit at the north side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). / AFP

 

South Korean President, Moon Jae-in has hailed the outcome of the summit between President Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un as a “historic event” that ended the last Cold War conflict.

“I offer my heartfelt congratulations and welcome the success of the historic North Korea-United States summit”, Moon said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The June 12 Sentosa Agreement will be recorded as a historic event that has helped break down the last remaining Cold War legacy on Earth,” he said.

Moon has made great efforts playing the role of mediator to bring the Cold War foes back to dialogue.

He praised Trump and Kim for their “courage and determination” not to settle for “that outdated and familiar reality but to take a daring step towards change”.

He lionised Trump for achieving “a feat that no one else has ever delivered”, adding Kim would also be remembered as “a leader who made a historic moment by taking the first bold step toward the world”.

“Building upon the agreement reached today, we will take a new path going forward.

“Leaving dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation. We will be there together with North Korea along the way”, he said.

Moon, however, cautioned that this was “just a beginning and there may be many difficulties ahead”.

“But we will never go back to the past again and never give up on this bold journey. History is a record of people who take action and rise to a challenge,” he added.

AFP