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NASA Picks Three Companies To Build Private Moon Landers



NASA is providing $79.5m to Astrobotic, $77m to Intuitive Machines and $97m to Orbit Beyond for the project.


NASA has chosen the first commercial companies that will carry the agency's equipment to the moon during its lead-up to a human landing in 2024: Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond.
The companies will build moon landers to ferry NASA science experiments and technology demonstrations to the lunar surface. Those flights will be the first step of the agency's ambitious Artemis program to land humans on the moon in 2024. The first mission, by Orbit Beyond, will launch in September 2020. The other two will launch in the summer of 2021.
“This is truly exciting, a new way for us at NASA to do business,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA's science mission directorate, said on Friday, May 31, during the announcement at agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. 
“We cannot wait to do the science that we want to do with instruments that we're developing right now — science that in many cases even five years ago we didn't know how to ask questions about. This is how urgent this is,” he said. 
Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond will each carry a selection of NASA payloads that are intended either to address scientific questions about the moon or to test new technology that engineers are developing to advance space exploration.
NASA is providing $79.5 million to Astrobotic, $77 million to Intuitive Machines and $97 million to Orbit Beyond to work on their landers.  
NASA has not yet decided precisely which payloads will fly on which lander; the agency intends to do so later this year. Astrobotic has said its Peregrine lander will carry up to 14 payloads for NASA as well as 14 experiments for other customers (for a total of 28 payloads in all. Intuitive Machines will fly five payloads on its Nova-C lander, with Orbit Beyond carrying four payloads on its own Z-01 lander.
But each company's lander will be carrying more than just NASA's payloads. Orbit Beyond showed off a small demo rover as well as its lander model during the event NASA held to announce its commercial partners. Astrobotic also said it plans to carry rovers on its lunar lander.
Two of the selected companies are planning to launch their missions two years from now. 
Astrobotic plans to launch its lander in June 2021 and touch down in July 2021; Intuitive Machines to both launch and land in July 2021. Orbit Beyond is pushing the timeline significantly more: the company has told NASA it can land on the moon on Sept. 27, 2020.
The announcement follows the selection of nine finalist companies, which were announced in November. At the time, NASA did not offer any details about specific criteria that guided their choices
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Saturn is Losing its Rings: NASA

Image result for saturn pictures
A view of Saturn's northern hemisphere.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 and 2 observations made decades ago, confirms new NASA research that estimates that the rings have less than 100 million years to live.
Saturn's rings are mostly chunks of water ice ranging in size from microscopic dust grains to boulders several yards (metres) across. The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn's magnetic field.
"We estimate that this 'ring rain' drains an amount of water products that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool from Saturn's rings in half an hour," said lead author of the study James O'Donoghue of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
"From this alone, the entire ring system will be gone in 300 million years, but add to this the Cassini-spacecraft measured ring-material detected falling into Saturn's equator, and the rings have less than 100 million years to live. This is relatively short, compared to Saturn's age of over four billion years," O'Donoghue said.
Scientists have long wondered if Saturn was formed with the rings or if the planet acquired them later in life. The new research favours the latter scenario, indicating that they are unlikely to be older than 100 million years.
"We are lucky to be around to see Saturn's ring system, which appears to be in the middle of its lifetime. However, if rings are temporary, perhaps we just missed out on seeing giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, which have only thin ringlets today," O'Donoghue added.
Various theories have been proposed for the rings' origin. If the planet got them later in life, the rings could have formed when small, icy moons in orbit around Saturn collided, perhaps because their orbits were perturbed by a gravitational tug from a passing asteroid or comet.
The first hints that ring rain existed came from Voyager observations of seemingly unrelated phenomena: peculiar variations in Saturn's electrically charged upper atmosphere (ionosphere), density variations in Saturn's rings, and a trio of narrow dark bands encircling the planet at northern mid-latitudes.
These dark bands appeared in images of Saturn's hazy upper atmosphere (stratosphere) made by NASA's Voyager 2 mission in 1981.
The new study revealed glowing bands in Saturn's northern and southern hemispheres where the magnetic field lines that intersect the ring plane enter the planet.
Scientists analysed the light to determine the amount of rain from the ring and its effects on Saturn's ionosphere. They found that the amount of rain matches remarkably well with the astonishingly high values derived more than three decades earlier.

Why Isro's Gsat-7A launch is important for the Indian Air Force

HIGHLIGHTS



  • The communication satellite will enable the Indian Air Force (IAF) to interlink different ground radar stations, airbases and AWACS aircraft
  • Gsat-7A will not only interlink all airbases, but it will also boost drone operations
  • It will boost the air force’s network-centric warfare capabilities and enhance its global operations


What is the need to launch a dedicated satellite for IAF?



Once GSLV-F11 (GSLV Mk II) rocket launches Gsat-7A satellite from the second launchpad at Sriharikota at 4.10 pm on Wednesday in the geo orbit, the communication satellite will enable the Indian Air Force (IAF) to interlink different ground radar stations, airbases and AWACS aircraft. It will boost the air force’s network-centric warfare capabilities and enhance its global operations.


Why is Gsat-7A important for IAF?



Gsat-7A will not only interlink all airbases, but it will also boost drone operations as it will help the force upgrade from existing ground control stations to satellite-control of military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The transition will boost the range, endurance and flexibility of UAVs. This comes at a time when India is in the process of acquiring American armed Predator-B or Sea Guardian drones, which are high-altitude and long endurance satellite-controlled UAVs that can fire at enemy targets from long distances.


What are the features of Gsat-7A?



Costing around Rs 500-800 crore, the communication satellite is configured on the standard 1-2K Bus with bi-propellant chemical propulsion system for orbit rasing and in-orbit maintenance. Its four solar panels are capable of generating around 3.3 kilowatts of electrical power.




How many dedicated communication satellites Isro has launched for the military?



Before the scheduled launch of Gsat-7A, Isro had launched Gsat-7, also called ‘Rukmini’, on September 29, 2013 exclusively for the Navy. ‘Rukmini’ has helped the Navy monitor the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as the satellite has a nearly 2,000 nautical mile ‘footprint’ and provides real-time inputs to Indian warships, submarines and maritime aircraft. The IAF is also likely to get another satellite Gsat-7C, within a few years that will boost its network-centric operations.




What are the space assets of our Indian military?

India currently possesses around 13 military satellites. Most of these remote-sensing satellites like Cartosat-series and Risat satellites are placed in the near-earth orbit which help in better scanning of the earth. However, some of these military satellites have also been put in the geo orbit. The forces use these satellites for surveillance, navigation and communication purpose. The remote sensing satellites had also helped the military in the surgical strike against Pakistan to destroy terror launchpads.




How many military satellites are there in the world?



Currently, there are 320 military satellites orbiting the earth, with the US owning half of them, followed by Russia and China. Of late, China, considered to be India’s biggest rival, has taken huge strides in developing military assets in space, testing even ASAT (anti-satellite) weapons against “low-earth satellites” in January 2017.

Meet Farout, the Solar System’s Most Distant Minor Planet

Observations suggest the object is 300 miles in diameter, pinkish-red and 3.5 times as far away from the sun as Pluto


Farout
According to Sarah Lewin at Space.com, Farout—whose official name is 2018 VG18—was first spotted in November by researchers using the Subaru 8-meter telescope in Hawaii. Its existence was then confirmed using the Magellan telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Those observations show that the object is about 300 miles across and spherical, making it a dwarf planet. Its pinkish color also suggests that it is covered in ice. The celestial body was found about 120 astronomical units (AU) away, or 120 times the distance of the Earth to the sun. For comparison, Pluto orbits at 34 AUs and Eris, the former farthest observed object in the solar system, is 96 AUs away.