Images Of Saturn’s Moon Titan Reveal Magic Island

The human race can do amazing things, we’ve discovered how the universe works, figured out the theory of black holes and even set foot on the Moon. With plans ahead to land and even live on Mars, it’s no surprise we are also paying attention to other objects in space. Saturn’s moon, Titan, is one such object.

The surface of Titan is cold, as in around -180ºC. This means that only a few things can be liquid on its surface, and yet thanks to a selection of images that were taken since 2007, we may have an idea of just what happens on its surface.

The “lake” shown in the images, Ligeia, is seen dimming and brightening, the result of what scientists have concluded could be the result of waves at or beneath the surface. The Cassini spacecraft that took the photos will be doing a final run looking for these “magic island”s when it flys by Titan in 2017.

If this wasn’t enough during the 2016 budget, the US Congress created the Ocean Worlds explortation program. With the aim of exploring cold, icy moons of the solar system, the project would see us looking for water on other planets and understanding how it’s interacted with the planet.

The hope is that places like Titan which have the fundamental building blocks of life could be our first chance of seeing “wierd life” in the universe.

China Releases True Colour HD Photos of the Moon

The China National Space Administration has released a series of beautiful images from its recent moon mission. The photos – all true colour and high definition, taken by the Chang’e 3 lunar lander and Yutu rover in 2013 – are available for download from the Chinese Science and Application Center for Moon and Deepspace Exploration website. While the Chinese site is a tad unstable, thankfully Senior Editor and planetary evangelist Emily Lakdawalla grabbed some of the highlights and is hosting them on the Lunar Society blog.

China’s Chang’e 3 mission – named for the Goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythology – was the first soft moon landing for 37 years, the first since Russia’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. The Yutu rover, nicknamed the “Jade Rabbit” then explored and photographed the lunar surface with its HD camera, radar, x-ray, and infrared spectrometers.

The results from the Chang’e 3 mission suggested that lunar surface is more diverse than previously thought.

After a year of exposure to lunar conditions, Yutu was left frozen, unable to fully mobilise, and yet was still able to collect data and images, and beam them back to China, until March 2015.

An image from NASA (courtesy of TechCrunch) shows where the Chang’e 3 lunar lander touched down on the surface of the moon:

 

NASA Wants to Install a Robot on an Asteroid and Push into Orbit around the Moon

NASA has unveiled its ambitious plan to collect a massive space rock, attach a robotic space craft, and move the rock into orbit around the Earth’s moon. The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), planned for some time during the 2020s, will allow astronauts to explore the surface of the rock and return with samples.

“NASA has identified multiple candidate asteroids and continues the search for one that could be redirected to near the moon in the 2020s,” the announcement on NASA’s website reads. “Since the announcement of the Asteroid Initiative in 2013, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observation Program has catalogued more than 1,000 new near-Earth asteroids discovered by various search teams. Of those identified so far, four could be good candidates for ARM. Scientists anticipate many more will be discovered over the next few years, and NASA will study their velocity, orbit, size and spin before deciding on the target asteroid for the ARM mission.”

While the mission is intended as a primer for NASA’s proposed future voyages to Mars, one of the engineer who is working on ARM has drawn comparison with a celestial object from a galaxy far, far away. “It could provide the metals,” Brian Muirhead, Chief Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who is working on the ARM project, told Wired. “You have organic compounds, you have water—all the building blocks you would need to build your family Death Star.”

Russia Planning a Permanent Manned Moonbase

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has announced plans to establish a permanent manned base on the moon within the next 15 years. Roscosmos aims to launch a probe to scout Lunar locations in 2024, and has already started construction on the Luna 25 lander that will send its people up to Earth’s satellite in 2030, Russia’s official state news agency Tass reports (via Yahoo).

During the space race between the US and Soviet Russia in the Late-1950s and 1960s, Russia was way ahead of its Western rival, launching the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957, and putting the first man in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. The Soviet space program, however, suffered a severe decline – the details of which were kept secret until Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost (openness) policy in the 1980s – and was soon usurped by NASA, who landed Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, in 1969.

‘’The moon is not an intermediate point in the race. Ot is a separate, even a self-contained goal,” Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s Deputy Premier, wrote in the Government’s official newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. “It would hardly be rational to make some ten or 20 flights to the moon, and then wind it all up and fly to the Mars or some asteroids. This process has the beginning, but has no end. We are coming to the moon forever.”

 

Billionaire Wants to Start Mining the Moon in 2016

Could the Moon and its resources be used to aid humanity in the future? Naveen Jain, co-founder and chairman of California-based company Moon Express, explains that their plan is to explore the Moon for “resources of benefit to humanity”.

The Moon is known for its vast riches like gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten and Helium-3, a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste. However, who ‘owns the Moon’? The United Nations’ 1979 Moon Agreement, states that “the Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind”, while UN’s Outer Space Treaty, states that “the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind”.

“Today, people look at diamonds as this rare thing on Earth,” Jain said. “Imagine telling someone you love her by giving her the Moon.”

NASA is apparently working with Moon Express to develop robotic spacecrafts. Moon Express is said to have signed an agreement to take over the decommissioned Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral. The launch pad will be used for Moon Express’s lander development and flight-test operations.

“Clearly, NASA has an amazing amount of expertise when it comes to getting to the Moon, and it wants to pass that knowledge on to a company like ours that has the best chance of being successful,” Jain said.

Also, Moon Express has been granted a $1 million prize from Google for taking part in the Google-sponsored Lunar X Prize, organised by the X Prize Foundation, that will award $30 million to the first company that lands a commercial spacecraft on the Moon, travels 500 meters across its surface and sends high-definition images and video back to Earth before the end of 2016.

“The purpose is to show that for the first time, a company has developed the technology to land softly on the Moon,” Jain stated. “Landing on the moon is not the hard part. Landing softly is the hard part.”

Moon Express is said to further test its robotic spacecraft at the end of the month. The MX-1, its lander, is said to take off from the pad and go up and sideways before landing back on the pad. Should the test be successful, the MX-1 will be deemed ready to travel to the Moon.

Thank you NEWS.co.au for providing us with this information

Caves on the Moon Could House Astronauts in the Future

When you look at the moon what do you see? Craters or holes? Well there are both on the surface of our moon and according to NASA the holes in the moons surface could mean big underground cave systems. NASA wants to utilize these cave systems as shelter for astronauts as it provides shelter from radiation, prevent the danger of micro meteorites, hardly any dust and there wouldn’t be any extreme day/night temperature swings.

The pits on the surface on the moon vary from anything around 5m in diameter to 900m. The pits are said to have formed when the moons surface collapsed into the cave below, as for the caves themselves they were apparently formed by ancient lava streams, so NASA says. There have been over 200 pits found on the surface so far and more are being discovered all the time.

NASA are wanting to explore these caves soon but they’ll probably send drones in first rather than humans, just to be safe. Once a vast majority has been explored NASA hope to be able to have astronauts using them as their accommodation whilst they are miles away from Earth. Wouldn’t mind a night in a moon cave myself.

Thanks to The Verge for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of The Verge.

Boeing Start Work on 200-foot NASA SLS Rocket

Moving further out in to space is still one of NASAs main goals, but to do so would require new and more up to date rocket technology. Fortunately, Boeing have just been given the green-light and a wad of cash to be begin work on the new Space Launch System (SLS). The new rocket has been designed for missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

The deal means that Boeing now have $2.8 billion to start building the core stage of the rocket and its avionics systems. The core stage is the largest part of the rocket, it will measure around 200ft tall and play house to huge cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel tanks for the engines.

NASA plan to set aside around $6.8 billion of its funds from fiscal years 2014 through to 2018 for this project, and it’s hoping the SLS will be ready for unmanned missions by 2017. The aim is that the new rocket will be able to carry human cargo to asteroids or Mars by 2021.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Engadget.

NASA’s Cassini Visits Titan, Gathering Data on Lakes

The NASA Cassini spacecraft flew by the Saturn’s moon of Titan recently, as researchers want to gain more knowledge about the intriguing smoggy moon.

During the mission, scientists bounced a radio signal from Titan’s surface to Earth, more than 1 billion miles away, using Saturn’s moon as a mirror. The data wasn’t analyzed in real-time, but the radio signal is clear enough for researchers to collect information to work with.

It has been difficult for NASA to determine where to look on the moon, then properly engineer flight patterns and approach patterns for successful maneuvers.

Here is what Essam Marouf, Cassini radio science team member from San Jose State University said in a press statement:

“We held our breath as Cassini turned to beam its radio signals at the lakes. We knew we were getting good quality data when we saw clear echoes from Titan’s surface. It was thrilling.”

Space scientists have been interested in Titan’s surface, trying to determine if it is solid, liquid, or slushy. What the surface is potentially made of, and whether it is reflective. There are still a lot of questions left unanswered, but NASA has an important piece to the puzzle, and research will continue in the future.

Thank you to NASA for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of NASA

Superfast Internet Now A Possibility…. On The Moon

The internet as we know it today is one of man’s basic commodities, sitting alongside other basic products such as food and water. If you think about it as well, we can all relate to this modern need, after all, how lost do you feel when you can’t get online for more than a day or so? It’s hard when you realise just how connected our lives are compared to a few years ago.

Well for the guys (and gals) up on the International Space Station internet connectivity is a possibility, although it has to be made over a VPN to a computer at Houston and even then, it is slow and only works whilst the ISS is over the states. But what if the speed could be much faster?

Those crazy scientists at NASA and group of researchers from MIT have been busy working on a solution to this problem and it looks like a decent wireless internet connection could soon be a strong possibility – on the moon. To put this into perspective we are talking about a connection speed that, during its last set of tests, hit 622Mbps download and 19.4Mbps up. To put this even more into perspective, the recent tests, which are run across a distance close to 400,000km (~250,000 miles), beat the previous connection speeds by a factor of nearly 5000.

To achieve these speeds, which are just over 33x the global average download speed of 18.5Mbps and twice the average upload of 8.2Mbps, the team of scientists set their eyes upon using lasers, the basis for fibre optics which are commonly used to span large distances such as between continents, as opposed to radio waves which were used for the previous record. It’s not just as easy as pointing a laser at the moon and beaming data though. Lasers are great when you have a dead clear line of sight between the two points and unfortunately there is this thing between the ground and the moon known as the atmosphere, or as the team probably know it – an inconvenience. Why is this Well in the higher altitudes of our atmosphere, strong wind currents and extreme turbulence have the effect of distorting and weakening the laser’s beam.

To get around this dilemma, four separate infra-red laser beams, transmitted through four telescopes in New Mexico are adopted, with a total transmission power of 40W between them, but even with this colossal power output, the signal that the moon receives is actually less than one billionth of a watt – that is one heck of a signal loss. Whilst this sounds bad though, this is reportedly still ten times the power needed to achieve these high speeds so the team are still happy.

Obviously the high-speed connection to the moon is a huge step forward in communication to space. In theory a satellite in geostationary orbit could be set to relay this high-speed connection around the world and potentially on to the ISS and beyond, reducing the communication latency and the time taken to send and receive test results to and from base control. Naturally there is going to be a strong cost involved in having the connection deployed on a permanent basis, but as time goes on and the technology becomes more advanced, high-speed space wifi could be a definitive reality.

NASA Starts Taking Contracts for Moon Mining Robot Operation

While the concept of mining the Moon is still in its early stages, NASA have begun to accept applications from private companies who are seeking to do just that. Out of the applicants, NASA will select one company to create a prospecting robot which can be send to the moon to begin mining the Lunar surface.

There are lots of valuable things said to be on the Moon, especially helium 3 which is in abundance, but it is also said to be packed full of rare Earth metals, or should that be Moon metals?

The new proposal does raise some major concerns over lunar property rights, which are supposed to be non-existent as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty of the United Nations says no country can lay claim to the Moon, so does anyone have the right to mine there under that treaty?

The project will not get any funding from the government, but it is another step towards NASA finding its own profitable routes and projects that could one day help it break ties with the government and privatize its self.

Thank you Geeky Gadgets for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Geeky Gadgets.

Chinese Jade Rabbit Rover Lands On Moon

China has announced yesterday that they successfully landed their craft on the moons surface, and later deployed their Jade Rabbit rover, a great success for the nation as their look to further their efforts for space exploration. The mission was the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years! And on Saturday afternoon the landing module underwent its powered decent and several hours later the robotic rover was deployed.

The Chang’e-3 mission launched on a Chinese Long March 3B rocket on December 1st from Xichang, and the module landed on one of the moons flat plains called the Bay of Rainbows, and Chinese state TV displayed pictures of the moon’s surface as the lander touched down.

The mission is now the third ever robotic rover to land on the lunar surface, and the Chinese mission will use it’s ability to climb slopes of up to 30 degrees, 200m per hour speed and  ground-penetrating rader to gather measurements on the lunar soil and crust.

It’s a great achievement for China and it’s just another step in their plans for an advanced space program.

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of BBC.

Telescopes, Lunar Landers And Commercial Developement On The Moon

We are perhaps taking the first step in colonizing our Moon. The last time a human visited the Moon was in 1972, since then only unmanned spacecraft have visited the Moon. Wired.com recently reported that two companies are working together to create a scientific and commercial base on the moon, International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA ) is heading off the project with help from Moon Express are aiming to start construction as soon as 2016.

The two companies will start off by placing two telescopes as well as a 2-meter radio antenna atop a lunar mountain located on the moon’s south pole. This location would give optimal viewing of the center of the Milky Way galaxy giving us perhaps the clearest view possible .

One main concern will be how to design equipment to sustain the harsh temperatures of the moon, reaching highs over 120 degrees Celsius in the sun, and lows below -170 degrees Celsius. Electricity shouldn’t be much of an issue, as they will be able to collect plenty of energy from solar panels.

Moon Express, which aims to become the FedEx of the stars has yet to land a lunar lander on the moon as of yet, but they aim to land their first payload in 2015 in order to win 20 million dollars from the Google Lunar X-Prize. As well as delivering ILO-X, a small telescope in order to test ILOA’s hardware as well as software.

We have so much that we have yet to discover on Earth, I can’t help but wonder why all of this interest in the Moon, and Mars, why not build factories under the ocean.

Thank you Wired for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wired.

Virtual Moon in Entropia Universe Auctioned for $150,000!

Entropia Universe AB, operator of the largest Massively Multiplayer Online Real Cash Economy (MMORCE), announced today that it has auctioned off a newly discovered moon in Entropia Universe. The moon went for 1.5 million PED, the virtual currency used in Entropia Universe, which equals $150 000 in real-world money.

The winning bidder, Jan Terje Egeland (whose Entropia Universe alter-ego is “Modified Akoz Power”), will have the opportunity to get a return on the $150 000 investment through revenue sharing with MindArk from all activity on the moon. This includes the activities of other players, as well as the ability to recruit new Entropia Universe participants and net a share of any revenue they generate from their activities anywhere in Entropia Universe. Jan will also get the chance to work closely with the MindArk team throughout the estate’s development process with direct input on important design decisions.

“This is a great example of how MindArk includes players like myself to truly participate in, and shape the universe,” said Jan Egeland. “I hope for a long and fruitful partnership with MindArk.”

Once the moon, which has been named “Monria”, is operational, Jan will assume the role of Monria’s operator. The moon estate includes a Lunar Command Center and two Lunar Habitats, along with eight subsurface caverns filled with unique creatures and rare resources. The new moon, Monria, is expected to be open for exploration in Entropia Universe Q2 or Q3 of 2013. For more information on Monria, visit www.monria.com.

Entropia Universe is the largest Massively Multiplayer Online Real Cash Economy (MMORCE) game in the world. Players have no monthly costs, but deposit and withdraw real funds for their adventures on any planet in the Entropia Universe. For more information on Entropia Universe or to download the free game please visit www.entropiauniverse.com.