Diffractive sails on spacecrafts

A Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) researcher is taking solar sailing to the next level.

He proposes replacing reflective metallic sails with diffractive metafilm sails. The new materials could be used to steer reflected or transmitted photons for near-Earth, interplanetary and interstellar space travel.

Grover Swartzlander is leading an exploratory study supported by phase one funding from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. The nine-month, $125,000 award encourages development of visionary technology with potential to revolutionize future space exploration.

At the same time, Swatzlander also mentions that, “Diffractive sails may also be designed for laser-based propulsion, a decades-old concept that has recently attracted significant interest from private investors, resulting in a program called Breakthrough Starshot.”

Data by New solar sailing technology for NASA

Diverse minerals found in Mars

#Mars #NASA #Curiosity #space #life #planet #minerals

Curiosity rover, the NASA’s rover on Mars, has found a variety of minerals on the red planet. These layers of rocks are predicted to have been deposited about 3.5 billion years ago, coinciding with a time on Earth when life was beginning to take hold. In fact, early Mars could have been very similar to early Earth.

Four samples were drilled near the base of Mount Sharp:

Telegraph Peak sample had minerals similar to quartz.

Buckskin sample had tridymite, which is rather strange considering that the mineral is found from partial melting of a planet’s crust (such as Earth’s crust), and Mars is assumed to never have had tectonic plates

Confidence Hills and Mojave 2 sample had clay minerals, generally formed in the presence of liquid water with a near-neutral pH.

Read the full article here

There were several other minerals found. So, since Mars had a habitable environment in the starting, could it be that there was life on Mars and was later wiped out? or rather life managed to reach Earth from Mars?

Colorful skies over New York/North Carolina

#NASA #air #experiment #NewYork #Sky #color #space

An experiment conducted by NASA might color the skies over the US mid-Atlantic coast with bluish green and red clouds. The experiment was scheduled for Sunday evening, in which NASA seeks to learn more about charged particles at the Ionosphere (Earth’s top most atmosphere layer).

A small rocket carrying 10 canisters of barium and other chemicals is due to lift off from Wallops Island, Virginia. The canisters (about the size of soda cans) will be launched and they will release blue-freen and red vapors, forming into artificial clouds visible from New York to North Carolina.

The colors are produced due to the chemicals barium, strontium and cupric-oxide interacting with the sunlight.

Read the full article here

Well. Indeed. It might be a colorful day for New Yorkers.

NASA’s Deep Space Lunar Gateway

#NASA #Space #Moon #DeepSpaceGateway #astronauts #Mars #science

NASA aims to have a Deep space Gateway up and running in the 2020s. The gateway will be located on Moon and have a crew habitat, a propulsion module and an airlock. However, the gateway will be occupied intermittently, rather than continuously like the ISS.

The gateway will enable a variety of missions in Earth-Moon space, and will even help get dirt and rocks from other planets. The basis will be that, there will be a system that will let astronauts go from the Earth to the Moon gateway. From there, the crew can go anywhere with the existing capabilities. However, there is no concrete plan regarding the gateway at present.

NASA has quite a few missions lined up for the 2020s, such as the launching of SLS and completing it’s flight tests with crew onboard, the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission that is aimed at returning a sample of space rock from the asteroid Bennu, the development of new Space suits for the astronauts to be used in Mars and many more.

Read the full article here

This is amazing. Exploration, especially in Space, has no bounds and is worth taking note of, considering that most of the population might be living outside Earth in the next century or so. And it is always filled with unique findings, and who knows, someday we might be able to make contact with friendly-Aliens.

Going to be hit by an Asteroid?

#space #meteor #asteroid #NASA #Sentry #Collision #TauridStream

The Taurid meteoroid stream produces a low number of meteors and a meteor shower usually in October and November. The branch includes asteroids having diameters more than 200 meters, and it is unclear if any of them has a trajectory collision with Earth, although no such situation has been found yet.

However, to be cautious many Space organizations have Collision monitoring system that routinely scans for asteroids and determines the probability of a collision. One such system is Sentry, used by NASA.

Asteroids and comets are usually influenced by Jupiter’s strong gravity, which makes them re-direct towards the Earth or nearby planets. One such meteor shower took place in 2015 caused by comet Encke’s redirection, when astronomers analyzed 144 Taurid meteors that produced a large flash when they hit the atmosphere.

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So basically, our civilization is still safe as of now. No external forces causing any troubles. What about the internal forces though?

Learning more about Neutron Stars

#NASA #SpaceX #star #Sun #NeutronStar #Xrays #space #NICER

The Space X Dragon cargo capsule will reach the International Space Station by Saturday, which is carrying an unusual telescope designed to look at neutron stars. A neutron star has a diameter of 15-16 kms, and has a mass of more than twice the mass of the Sun. It has such high density that, one teaspoon of the star will weigh 10 million tons.

NICER, a Neutron Star Composition Explorer, is not an optical telescope. Rather it is a one meter cube made with solid aluminum. The face has 56 holes drilled, and the instrument has its own array of special lenses that deflect x-rays and focus them towards sensors fixed on the inner wall.

The lenses are 24 concentric aluminum cylinders, coated with a thin layer of gold, and bent very slightly. X-rays are used to study the neutron star because the neutron star is glowing in x-ray light, and in order to look at the surface of the star for interior make up.

Read the full article here

Having twice the mass of Sun within a ball of diameter 16 kilometers. That is incredible, and very dense. It will be interesting to know more about neutron stars for sure. Does it happen to every star when it cools off and compresses?

Cassini sends images before the grand finale

#space #NASA #Cassini #Saturn #Daphnis #rings #image #solarsystem

Currently, the Cassini spacecraft is performing flybys of Saturn, making its closest approach to it’s rings. These will continue on till the mission ends in September, when Cassini will perform a death plunge into the gas giant.

Every new image beamed by Cassini during its last mission has come bearing some evolutionary secret or shows an unpredictable side of the planet or a feature that would otherwise been impossible to envisage.

Cassini recently shared an image taken on January 16, 2017 that shows unprecedented views of the outer edges of Saturn’s main ring system. The image also shows the planet’s moon Daphnis.

The image was taken 30,000 kms from Daphnis and at a Sun-Daphnis-spacecraft angle of 69 degrees.

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Getting to know more about the outside space, just makes us more curious on what is to see out there. This is amazing, and I am wishing further missions such as this in the future.

NASA will soon announce details regarding the mission near Sun

#NASA #space #Sun #solarsystem #SolarProbePlus #TouchtheSun #spacecraft #Corona

NASA will share the details regarding it’s mission “to touch the Sun” on May 31st. The details will be announced by the agency through a live-streamed event from the University of Chicago’s William Eckhardt Research Center Auditorium.

The Solar Probe Plus (SPP), the aircraft being used in this mission, will be launched in Summer 2018, and will be placed in orbit within 4 million miles of the Sun’s surface.

The spacecraft is to make critical observations regarding the outer atmosphere of the Sun, and why it’s temperature is several degrees higher than the surface of the Sun itself. The Sun’s outer atmosphere Corona can have temperature of 500,000 degrees celsius or higher.

NASA is planning to use a 11.5 cm thick carbon-composite heat shield to make the spacecraft orbit the sun at 4 million miles, where the temperature will be around 1,500 degrees celsius.

Read the full article here

It’s amazing that space agencies are looking to study the main object in our solar system. Our energy source. It might also help us gain more insight on nuclear fusion, and how to better harness Sun’s almost infinite energy.

NASA to build a satellite with ISRO

#NASA #ISRO #satellite #Earth #imaging #NISAR #space

NASA and ISRO will be teaming up to build the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite, an Earth imaging satellite. The project cost will be close to $1.5 billion.

NISAR is the first big collaboration between NASA and ISRO, certainly on RADAR but just in general as well. This is two frequency RADAR, it is an L-band 24 centimeter RADAR and S-band 13 centimeter. S-band is being built by ISRO and L-band by NASA.

The satellite is scheduled to be launched in 2021 using the Geo-synchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV).

The satellite will be used to take snapshots of the Earth, images of the motion of tectonic plates, of ice sheets, of agricultural land changes and forests. Also include natural disasters like earthquakes, volcano eruptions and sea level rise.

Read the full article here

This is an amazing opportunity for India to collaborate with US and vice versa, sharing technologies and developing more cost-effective space programs!

‘Bubble’ around Earth

#Earth #space #radiations #NASA #VLF #barrier #radiotransmissions

NASA has spotted a man-made barrier around the Earth that prevents high-energy space radiation from reaching the planet. VLF (Very Low Frequency) radio communications interact with particles in space, affecting how and where they move. These interactions can create a barrier around the Earth against natural high energy particle radiation in space.

The bubble barrier can be seen by a spacecraft above the Earth’s surface, such as NASA’s Van Allen Probes. It is speculated that without the man-made VLF transmissions, the boundary of the barrier would have probably been closer to the Earth.

This VLF transmissions barrier can serve as a way to remove excess radiation from the near-Earth environment.

Read the full article here

Wow this is amazing. This reminded me of Men In Black III. But seriously, pretty amazing how things done can unknowingly be helpful to the humans.