ETTECHX – 05 – 06 – 07 December 2024 – Hyderabad – Telengana

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Higher Education

Odysseus becomes first private spacecraft landing on the Moon

Intuitive Machines has just made history by becoming the first private aerospace company to land a spacecraft on the Moon’s surface. US achieved its first touchdown on lunar surface in over 50 years as a spacecraft built and flown by the Texas-based company landed near Moon’s south pole.

Signals sent back to mission control confirmed the successful landing of the spacecraft. However, there was a delay in re-establishing communication with the lander, causing uncertainty about its condition and position.

What is Intuitive Machines?

Texan company Intuitive Machines has been contracted by the US space agency (NASA) to carry scientific instruments to the Moon’s south pole. It becomes the first American soft landing on the lunar surface since the Apollo era just over half a century ago. To date, only four other countries – the former Soviet Union, China, India, and Japan – have successfully landed spacecraft on the Moon. However, the United States remains the only country to have sent humans to the lunar surface.

The robot lander, Odysseus is the first privately owned spacecraft to achieve its goal after the Astrobotic Peregrine lander, launched by United Launch Alliance last month, failed to reach the Moon. The Nasa payload onboard the spacecraft will focus on collecting data on space weather interactions with the Moon’s surface, radio astronomy, and other aspects of the lunar environment. This information will be crucial for future landers and Nasa’s planned return of astronauts to the Moon in the coming years.

How long is the robot lander expected to operate?

The landing took place as planned at a crater called Malapert A near the moon’s south pole. The Odysseus lander is equipped with a suite of scientific instruments and technology demonstrations for Nasa and several commercial customers. It is designed to operate for seven days on solar energy before the sun sets over the polar landing site.

This successful landing represents the first controlled descent to the lunar surface by a US spacecraft since Apollo 17 in 1972. Odysseus captured several photographs during its journey to the Moon, including some “selfies” with the Earth a day after it launched.

Other recent attempts include Japanese startup ispace’s Hakuto-R mission last April, which lost contact shortly before it was set to touch down, and Israel’s Beresheet lander that crashed in 2019. Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) ran into trouble after coming down facing the wrong way last month, while last fall, Russia’s Luna 25 crashed into the Moon just before India’s Chandrayaan-3 made a successful landing.

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K -12 Education

New ‘super-Earth’ discovered 137 light-years away: NASA

Rocky planets larger than our own, so-called super-Earths, are surprisingly abundant in our Galaxy, and stand as the most likely planets to be habitable. Astronomers are searching for Earth 2.0, a replica of our own system somewhere out there in the cosmos.

In a ground-breaking discovery, a new “super-Earth” has been found in a nearby solar system’s habitable zone, according to the American space agency NASA. The planet, designated as TOI-715 b, is “about one and a half times as wide as Earth” and in a system that is only a measly 137 light-years from Earth.

What is a super-Earth?

Super-Earths are a class of planets unlike any in our solar system – are more massive than Earth yet lighter than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus, and can be made of gas, rock or a combination of both. They are between twice the size of Earth and up to 10 times its mass.

They are rocky planets larger than the Earth, orbiting within the Habitable Zones of their parent stars – the place where liquid water can potentially exist on a planetary surface and where life like our own has the best shot of surviving.

Most of these mysterious planets are discovered when they transit in front of small stars and cause the starlight to dim. From this, researchers can work out the mass and the radius of the planet and the evidence suggests that these worlds are incredibly diverse in their make-up.

Exploring Space with James Webb Telescope

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) played a crucial role in identifying TOI-715 b. The satellite’s ability to detect planets with shorter orbital durations facilitates efficient study and analysis. NASA plans to delve deeper into understanding the newfound planet using the James Webb telescope, with much depending on TOI-715 b’s specific properties.

The term “Super-Earth” refers only to the mass of the planet, and so does not imply anything about the surface conditions or habitability. This does not always mean that they are similar to our planet, meaning not always considered habitable.

The alternative term “gas dwarfs” may be more accurate for those at the higher end of the mass scale, although “mini-Neptunes” is a more common term. In comparison to planets orbiting stars like the Sun, red dwarfs are smaller and colder, which allows planets to cram closer while remaining safely inside the star’s habitable zone.

TOI-715 b revolves around its parent star in the conservative habitable zone, which could give the planet the right temperature for liquid water to form on its surface.

The findings mark another step forward in astronomers’ mission to understand what atmospheric conditions are needed to sustain life and further explore the characteristics of exoplanets beyond our solar system, NASA said.

Categories
Ed Tech News

‘Ham’ The First Chimpanzee launched into Space 63 years ago

With the space race in full swing during the early 1960s, American scientists were determined to be the first to send a person to the moon. But what if the operating systems failed? Could a human carry out tasks during launch, the state of antigravity, and re-entry?

Before sending a person into space, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) trained several chimpanzees to participate in flight simulations.

Chimpanzees are amongst the most intelligent animals on the planet and share 98 percent of their DNA with humans. This makes them obvious candidates for scientific research. The decision was made to launch 3 ½ year old baby chimp HAM into space.

On January 31, 1961, HAM was propelled into space at Cape Canaveral. When Ham was two years old, he was purchased by the US Air Force and was trained to complete simple tasks. They included hitting simple levers to get a treat – they concluded that Ham was pretty smart. He was also a faster learner than many of the other chimps that they had worked with.

His rocket (the Mercury-Redstone rocket) was launched successfully and reached 252km in height. Despite the fact that the NASA scientists lost control of it at one stage, it spent 16 minutes in space and then returned to earth, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. His rocket
capsule gently came down into the water supported by three brightly coloured parachutes.

It was rescued by a helicopter and carried onto a ship. As the rescuers gathered around, they were astonished to find that Ham was alive and well. Later, he was sent to a zoo. HAM is an acronym for the laboratory that trained him for his historic mission: the Holloman Aerospac