0

After Year on Ice, the Biggest Arctic Research Mission Is Done

Posted on

The Polarstern amidst Arctic sea ice.

The Polarstern amidst Arctic sea ice.
Photo: NOAA, University of Colorado, Boulder, and MOSAiC

The largest Arctic research campaign in history just came to a close. For more than a year, a rotating group of roughly 500 scientists and staffers have been traveling the region on a research vessel called the Polarstern as part of the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate expedition, or MOSAiC.

The expedition began last September, when a team packed the ship with 1 million pounds of equipment and set off from Norway toward the North Pole. They then attached the vessel to an ice floe north of Siberia and let it carry them westward for thousands of miles. This allowed the multidisciplinary group of researchers to closely observe the Arctic’s air, ice, and ecosystems to learn more about them and their bearing on our changing climate.

The team studied everything from zooplankton and polar bears to sea ice and wind patterns. Along the way, they encountered many difficulties. At several points, for instance, the ice broke up more than they expected it would and forced them to change their planned path. They also saw dangerous storms, which in more than one case damaged their equipment. At one point, an Arctic fox chewed through data cables—seriously. And of course, there was the covid-19 pandemic, which forced them to pause the expedition for three weeks after a crew member getting ready to deploy to the vessel tested positive, delaying some of their research.

Illustration for article titled After More Than a Year on the Ice, the Biggest Arctic Research Mission Is Complete

Photo: Lianna Nixon, CIRES/University of Colorado, Boulder

The unique nature of the science and circumstances of the pandemic wasn’t the only time the expedition made news; its controversial, sexist dress code prohibiting women from wearing tight clothes also garnered backlash. Despite these challenges, the scientists arrived back on

0

SpaceX’s next astronaut mission for NASA has been pushed to November following an issue with its rocket engines

Posted on



Shannon Walker, Victor J. Glover, Soichi Noguchi that are standing in the snow: From left: mission specialist Shannon Walker, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on September 24, 2020. SpaceX


© SpaceX
From left: mission specialist Shannon Walker, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on September 24, 2020. SpaceX

  • NASA’s next mission with SpaceX will launch “no sooner than early-to-mid November,” the agency announced Saturday.
  • That mission, called Crew-1, will ferry four astronauts to the International Space Station and back.
  • The launch was previously slated for Halloween. The delay allows SpaceX to investigate an issue with its Falcon 9 rocket engines.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

NASA’s four-astronaut team will have to wait a little longer to visit the International Space Station. The agency announced Saturday that Crew-1, its joint mission with SpaceX, won’t take off until at least early-to-mid November.

The mission was previously scheduled for 2:40 a.m. ET on October 31. The latest delay allows SpaceX to evaluate an issue with its Falcon 9 rocket engines during a recent test launch. The rocket’s gas generators demonstrated abnormal behavior, NASA said in a statement, though it didn’t specify what went wrong.

SpaceX aborted a scheduled launch of its Falcon 9 rocket on October 2 after a gas generator saw an unexpected rise in pressure.


Falcon 9's first stage is powered by nine Merlin engines at the bottom of the rocket. NASA


© NASA
Falcon 9’s first stage is powered by nine Merlin engines at the bottom of the rocket. NASA

This isn’t the first time SpaceX has delayed Crew-1, the company’s first official, contracted astronaut mission for NASA. The mission was originally slated to launch as early as September. It was pushed back until Halloween to better coordinate with the schedules of other cosmonauts and astronauts going to and from the ISS. 

NASA said it could have more information on the engine problem in a matter of days. 

“The teams are actively working this finding on the engines,” Kathy Lueder, associate

0

This spacecraft is being readied for a one-way mission to deflect an asteroid

Posted on

In a clean room in Building 23 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, a spacecraft called DART was splayed open like a fractured, cubic egg. An instrument called a star tracker—which will, once DART is in deep space, ascertain which way is up—was mounted to the core, along with batteries and a variety of other sensors. The avionics system, DART’s central computer, was prominently attached to square, precision-machined panels that will form the sides, once the spacecraft is folded up. Wires ran from the computer to the radiosystem that DART will use to communicate with Earth. Gyroscopes and antennas were exposed. In a room next door, an experimental thruster system called NEXT-C was waiting its turn. Great bundles of thick tendrils wrapped in silver insulation hung down from the spacecraft and ran along the floor to the control room, where they connected to a towering battery of testbed computers operated by four engineers.

A clock over one of the computers read, “Days to DART Launch: 350:08:33.”

DART—the Double Asteroid Redirection Test—is designed to crash into an asteroid called Dimorphos. The impact will change Dimorphos’s speed by about one millimeter per second, or one five-hundredth of a mile per hour. Though Dimorphos is not about to collide with Earth, DART is intended to demonstrate the ability to deflect an asteroid like it that is headed our way, should one ever be discovered.

Since a Soviet probe called Luna 1 became the first spacecraft to escape Earth’s orbit on January 2, 1959, humanity has sent about 250 probes into the solar system. DART is unique among them. It is the first that sets out not to study the solar system, but to change it. 


By 1980, astronomers had determined the orbits of about 10,000 asteroids, including

0

Biggest North Pole mission back from ‘dying Arctic’

Posted on

Researchers on the world’s biggest mission to the North Pole returned to Germany on Monday, bringing home devastating proof of a dying Arctic Ocean and warnings of ice-free summers in just decades.

The German Alfred Wegener Institute’s Polarstern ship returned to the port of Bremerhaven after 389 days spent drifting through the Arctic trapped in ice, allowing scientists to gather vital information on the effects of global warming in the region.

“I have waited for this moment for so long that my heart is palpitating. The ship is now back,” said institute director Antje Boetius from on board another ship accompanying the research vessel back to port.

Ahead of their return, mission leader Markus Rex told AFP that the team of several hundred scientists from 20 countries have seen for themselves the dramatic effects of global warming on ice in the region considered “the epicentre of climate change.

“We witnessed how the Arctic ocean is dying,” Rex said. “We saw this process right outside our windows, or when we walked on the brittle ice.”

Underlining how much of the sea ice has melted away, Rex said the mission was able to sail through large patches of open water, “sometimes stretching as far as the horizon”.

“At the North Pole itself, we found badly eroded, melted, thin and brittle ice.”

– ‘Ice-free Arctic’ –

If the warming trend in the North Pole continues, then in a few decades we will have “an ice-free Arctic in the summer”, Rex said.

The researchers’ observations have been backed up by US satellite images showing that in 2020, sea ice in the Arctic reached its second-lowest summer minimum on record, after 2012.

The Polarstern mission, dubbed MOSAIC, spent over a year collecting data on the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice and ecosystems to help assess the

0

NASA delays commercial crew mission to study Falcon 9 engine issue

Posted on

WASHINGTON — NASA is delaying the launch of the first operational SpaceX commercial crew mission to the first half of November to provide more time to review a problem during a recent Falcon 9 launch attempt.

NASA announced Oct. 10 the Crew-1 mission, which was scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 in the early morning hours of Oct. 31 from the Kennedy Space Center, will now launch no earlier than early to mid-November.

The delay, the agency said, will provide more time for SpaceX “to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt.” NASA did not identify the specific launch attempt in question, but an Oct. 2 launch of a Falcon 9 carrying a GPS 3 satellite was scrubbed just two seconds before liftoff because of SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk later described as an “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator.”

“With the high cadence of missions SpaceX performs, it really gives us incredible insight into this commercial system and helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions,” Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in the agency statement. She said an investigation into the problem is ongoing “and we should be a lot smarter within the coming week.”

Both the Crew-1 and the GPS 3 missions are using new Falcon 9 first stages that have not previously launched. After the GPS 3 scrub, SpaceX successfully launched another Falcon 9 Oct. 6 carrying 60 Starlink satellites using a booster making its third flight. SpaceX has yet to reschedule the GPS 3 launch.

NASA said the issue with the Crew-1 mission will not delay another Falcon 9 launch, of the Sentinel-6

1 2 3