Aquí está la química detrás de esto!
A crewed mission to Mars is still many years out — if not decades.
But as rocket technology makes massive strides, scientists are starting to wonder what the best way to get there could be. And one new idea, Space.com reports, involves a side trip to another of our star system’s planetary bodies.
To make visits to the Red Planet cheaper and faster, scientists are arguing that making a Venus flyby could make a lot of sense.
In a white paper penned by a team led by John Hopkins planetary geologist Noam Izenberg, the researchers argue that Venus flybys not only “provide opportunities to practice deep space human operations,” but “offer numerous safe-return-to-Earth options” as well.
“There’s science at two planets for much less than the price of two separate crewed missions,” Paul Byrne, a planetary geologist at North Carolina State University, who worked on the paper, told Space.com.
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to get to Mars and back: either you go when Earth and Mars orbits align, something that only occurs every 26 months, and wait until the planets align again for the return. As Space.com points out, that means astronauts could be trapped on Mars for as much as a year and a half.
The other method is to use Venus slingshot to whip a spacecraft using gravitational forces, a process that could end up significantly reducing the amount of fuel needed to get to Mars.
There are plenty of other advantages to this approach as well. Such a trip could be made every 19 months and allow for much shorter stays, down to just a month. It could also allow for much quicker and simpler emergency returns back to Earth if something were to go wrong.
It’s a two-birds-with-one-stone approach — the scientists are also excited at the prospect of getting a better look at Venus during the approach.
Thanks to its proximity and lower lag, astronauts in the vicinity of Venus could even “control rovers on the surface and aircraft in the atmosphere in real time with a virtual reality headset and a joystick,” John Hopkins planetary geomorphologist Kirby Runyon, who worked on the white paper with Izenberg, told Space.com.
But there is a small drawback: The actual journey could take quite a bit longer, and solar radiation could pose more of a threat to astronauts’ health thanks to Venus’ close proximity to the Sun.
Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, wants to build the equivalent of the International Space Station (ISS) — but on the ocean floor deep below the surface, as CNN reports.
All images: Courtesy Proteus/Yves Béhar/Fuseproject
With the help of industrial designer Yves Béhar, Cosuteau unveiled his bold ambition: a 4,000 square foot lab called Proteus that could offer a team of up to 12 researchers from all over the world easy access to the ocean floor. The plan is to build it in just three years.
The most striking design element of their vision is a number of bubble-like protruding pods, extending from two circular structures stacked on top of each other. Each pod is envisioned to be assigned a different purpose, ranging from medical bays to laboratories and personal quarters.
“We wanted it to be new and different and inspiring and futuristic,” Béhar told CNN. “So [we looked] at everything from science fiction to modular housing to Japanese pod [hotels].”
The team claims Proteus will feature the world’s first underwater greenhouse, intended for growing food for whoever is stationed there.
Power will come from wind, thermal, and solar energy.
“Ocean exploration is 1,000 times more important than space exploration for — selfishly — our survival, for our trajectory into the future,” Cousteau told CNN. “It’s our life support system. It is the very reason why we exist in the first place.”
Space exploration gets vastly more funding than its oceanic counterpart, according to CNN, despite the fact that humans have only explored about five percent of the Earth’s oceans — and mapped only 20 percent.
The Proteus would only join one other permanent underwater habitat, the Aquarius off the coast of Florida, which has been used by NASA to simulate the lunar surface.
READ MORE: Ambitious designs for underwater ‘space station’ and habitat unveiled [CNN]
More on underwater bases: NASA is Using This Underwater Lab to Train Astronauts for the Moon
NASA’s much-awaited James Webb Space Telescope may finally get its place in the night sky: NASA says it’s now completed its final litany of critical software and electrical systems tests, theoretically clearing it for launch as soon as 2021.
It’s the “largest and most technically complex space science telescope NASA has ever built,” according to a statement. It’s an international collaboration of unprecedented proportions between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency.
Engineers worked 24 hours a day for 15 days straight, executing over a thousand scripts and instructions — a 1,370 step process, according to NASA.
Development of the delay-plagued orbital spyglass began in 1996, with an initial launch planned in 2007. Now, after a slew of major redesigns, countless delays, and budget overruns, NASA is tentatively eyeing a March 2021 launch. The space agency will reevaluate launch readiness this month.
The 21-feet-wide telescope will observe distant space, orbiting the Sun instead of the Earth, but at a distance called the Lagrange point that will keep pace with the Earth, as illustrated in the animation below.
An origami-like sunshield the size of a tennis court will keep it cool.
Its iconic 18 hexagonal mirror segments, each over four feet in diameter, will combine post-launch into a giant reflector with an area of 25.4 square meters (273 square feet). The huge reflector will allow the telescope to observe the stars in much lower frequency ranges compared to its predecessor, NASA’s Hubble space telescope. Each mirror is fabricated from lightweight yet resilient beryllium.
The telescope will collect invaluable data using four scientific instruments, including cameras and spectrometers, to find out more about the earliest galaxies that first formed shortly after the Big Bang. It will also observe the early life cycles of stars as they form and evolve.
Another goal will be to take the temperature and investigate the chemical properties of other planetary systems to investigate if life can survive in those systems, according to NASA.
READ MORE: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Completes Comprehensive Systems Test [NASA]
More on the space telescope:NASA Finally Assembled The James Webb Space Telescope
Is there a ninth planet lurking beyond the orbit of Neptune?
Astronomers have been observing strange gravitational patterns of a cluster of bodies known as “trans-Neptunian objects,” or TNOs, that could be explained by the presence of massive ninth planet in our solar system. The hypothetical planet, dubbed “Planet Nine,” would orbit our star at hundreds of times the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
It’s been a contentious topic, with some writing off the odd behavior of TNOs as being caused by a cluster of much smaller space rocks. Others predict that such a planet would be five times the mass of the Earth, orbiting our star at about 400 times the Earth’s distance from the Sun.
Finally, there’s the possibility that Planet Nine is actually a teeny-tiny black hole left over from the Big Bang. So tiny, in fact, that it’d only measure about five centimeters across — basically impossible to see with any kind of telescope.
“There has been a great deal of speculation concerning alternative explanations for the anomalous orbits observed in the outer solar system,” explained Amir Siraj, a Harvard undergraduate student, in a statement. “One of the ideas put forth was the possibility that Planet Nine could be a grapefruit-sized black hole with a mass of five to 10 times that of the Earth.”
So which is it then? In a new paper accepted into the The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Siraj, alongside a team of astronomers from Harvard University and the Black Hole Initiative outlined a newly developed method that could hopefully answer that question once and or all.
Their plan is to look for accretion flares given off as the tiny black hole gobbles up matter surrounding it. If they find some, it’d mean that Planet Nine is actually a black hole. “In the vicinity of a black hole, small bodies that approach it will melt as a result of heating from the background accretion of gas from the interstellar medium onto the black hole,” Siraj said.
“Because black holes are intrinsically dark, the radiation that matter emits on its way to the mouth of the black hole is our only way to illuminate this dark environment,” added Avi Loeb, professor of science at Harvard who was also involved in the research.
The team is placing their bets on the upcoming Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) mission taking place at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. Astronomers involved in the mission are hoping to answer questions about the nature of dark energy and dark matter as well as the formation and properties of planets in our solar system.
“LSST has a wide field of view, covering the entire sky again and again, and searching for transient flares,” Loeb said. “Other telescopes are good at pointing at a known target, but we do not know exactly where to look for Planet Nine. We only know the broad region in which it may reside.”
According to Loeb, the LSST’s “unprecedented depth” will be able to spot even the smallest of flares.
It’s not the only attempt to uncover the mysteries behind Planet Nine. Most recently, a different team of astronomers announced it’s hoping to launch a fleet of thousands of “nanospacecraft” to search for the mysterious object.
Unfortunately, that vision is still a moonshot, with cost estimates breaking the $1 billion mark — that is, if it’s even feasible from a technological standpoint in the first place.
READ MORE: Scientists propose plan to determine if Planet Nine is a primordial black hole [Harvard]
More on Planet Nine: A Black Hole May Be Orbiting Our Sun. This Guy Wants to Find It.