Showing posts with label Space Related. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Space Related. Show all posts

21 September 2019

Australia Commits to Join NASA in Lunar Exploration and Beyond

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Moon to Mars: "Gateway"
Moon to Mars: "Gateway" - Poster (image via NASA)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced his nation's intention to join the United States' Moon to Mars exploration approach, including NASA's Artemis lunar program.

The announcement took place at a ceremony Saturday at NASA Headquarters in Washington during which NASA Deputy Administrator, Jim Morhard, and Head of the Australian Space Agency, Megan Clark, signed a joint statement of intent. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Australian Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey and U.S. Ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse Jr. also participated in the ceremony.

The statement foresees potential Australian contributions in areas of mutual interest such as robotics, automation, and remote asset management – similar to that currently used by Australia in mining operations – and builds on a unique history of space cooperation between the U.S. and Australia that dates back to the Apollo era. 

Moon to Mars: "Moon" - Poster
Moon to Mars: "Moon" - Poster (image via NASA)
As part of Australia's commitment to partner with NASA, Morrison pledged to more than triple the Australian Space Agency budget to support Artemis and Moon to Mars.
"We are honored by today's statement and the commitment of our friends from Australia to support us in our mission to return to the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program," Morhard said. "The strong relationship between NASA and the Australian Space Agency affirms NASA's commitment to establish sustainable exploration with our commercial and international partners by 2028."
Although the Australian Space Agency is relatively new, established a little over a year ago, Australia has a long tradition of working closely with the U.S. in space activities. A formal agreement between NASA and the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) signed in 1960 allows for tracking and communication of NASA missions through the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla, as well as the Data Relay Satellite facilities in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and Dongara, Western Australia. The CDSCC serves as an integral component of NASA's Deep Space Network.
In August, the Mars 2020 and ExoMars rover science teams honed their skills in the Australian Outback, where the rocks are of similar age to the terranes on Mars, in preparation for their respective missions to launch to the Red Planet next summer in search of signs of past life on Mars.
Saturday's joint statement strengthens the relationship between Australia and the U.S. and broadens the community of nations joining NASA in further exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Through Artemis, NASA will send the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024, and establish sustainable exploration with its commercial and international partners by 2028. NASA's Artemis program is the next step in human exploration and is a part of America's broader Moon to Mars exploration approach.
Moon to Mars: "Mars" - Poster
Moon to Mars: "Mars" - Poster (image via NASA)

SOURCE: NASA

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20 December 2018

In 1968, Apollo 8 Realised The 2,000-Year-Old Dream Of A Roman Philosopher

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Earth seen from the Moon
Earth seen from the Moon (NASA)
Half a century of Christmases ago, the NASA space mission Apollo 8 became the first manned craft to leave low Earth orbit, atop the unprecedentedly powerful Saturn V rocket, and head out to circumnavigate another celestial body, making 11 orbits of the moon before its return. The mission is often cast in a supporting role – a sort of warm up for the first moon landing. Yet for me, the voyage of Borman, Lovell and Anders six months before Neil Armstrong’s “small step for a man” will always be the great leap for humankind.

Apollo 8 is the space mission for the humanities, if ever there was one: this was the moment that humanity realised a dream conceived in our cultural imagination over two millennia ago. And like that first imagined journey into space, Apollo 8 also changed our moral perspective on the world forever.

In the first century BC, Roman statesman and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero penned a fictional dream attributed to the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus. The soldier is taken up into the sphere of distant stars to gaze back towards the Earth from the furthest reaches of the cosmos:
And as I surveyed them from this point, all the other heavenly bodies appeared to be glorious and wonderful — now the stars were such as we have never seen from this earth; and such was the magnitude of them all as we have never dreamed; and the least of them all was that planet, which farthest from the heavenly sphere and nearest to our earth, was shining with borrowed light, but the spheres of the stars easily surpassed the earth in magnitude — already the earth itself appeared to me so small, that it grieved me to think of our empire, with which we cover but a point, as it were, of its surface.

Earth-centric

Even for those of us who are familiar with the ancient and medieval Earth-centred cosmology, with its concentric celestial spheres of sun, moon, planets and finally the stars wheeling around us in splendid eternal rotation, this comes as a shock. For the diagrams that illustrate pre-modern accounts of cosmology invariably show the Earth occupying a fair fraction of the entire universe.
The geocentric model. Bartolomeu Velho, 1568 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris)
The geocentric model. Bartolomeu Velho, 1568 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris). Wikimedia Commons
Cicero’s text informs us right away that these illustrations are merely schematic, bearing as much relation to the actual imagined scale of the universe as today’s London Tube map does to the real geography of its tunnels. And his Dream of Scipio was by no means an arcane musing lost to history – becoming a major part of the canon for succeeding centuries. The fourth century Roman provincial scholar Macrobius built one of the great and compendious “commentaries” of late antiquity around it, ensuring its place in learning throughout the first millennium AD.

Cicero, and Macrobius after him, make two intrinsically-linked deductions. Today we would say that the first belongs to science, the second to the humanities, but, for ancient writers, knowledge was not so artificially fragmented. In Cicero’s text, Scipio first observes that the Earth recedes from this distance to a small sphere hardly distinguishable from a point. Second, he reflects that what we please to call great power is, on the scale of the cosmos, insignificant. Scipio’s companion remarks:
I see, that you are even now regarding the abode and habitation of mankind. And if this appears to you as insignificant as it really is, you will always look up to these celestial things and you won’t worry about those of men. For what renown among men, or what glory worth the seeking, can you acquire?
The vision of the Earth, hanging small and lowly in the vastness of space, generated an inversion of values for Cicero; a human humility. This also occurred in the case of the three astronauts of Apollo 8.

A change in perspective

There is a vast difference between lunar and Earth orbit – the destination of all earlier space missions. “Space” is not far away. The international space station orbits, as most manned missions, a mere 250 miles above our heads. We could drive that distance in half a day. The Earth fills half the sky from there, as it does for us on the ground.
Apollo 8 crew-members: James Lovell Jr., William Anders, Frank Borman
Apollo 8 crew-members: James Lovell Jr., William Anders, Frank Borman (L-R). NASA
But the moon is 250,000 miles distant. And so Apollo 8, in one firing of the S4B third stage engine to leave Earth orbit, increased the distance from Earth attained by a human being by not one order of magnitude, but three. From the moon, the Earth is a small glistening coin of blue, white and brown in the distant black sky.

So it was that, as their spacecraft emerged from the far side of its satellite, and they saw the Earth slowly rise over the bleak and barren horizon, the crew grabbed all cameras to hand and shot the now iconic “Earthrise” pictures that are arguably the great cultural legacy of the Apollo program. Intoning the first verses from the Book of Genesis as their Christmas message to Earth – “… and the Earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep…” – was their way of sharing the new questions that this perspective urges. As Lovell put it in an interview this year:
But suddenly, when you get out there and see the Earth as it really is, and when you realise that the Earth is only one of nine planets and it’s a mere speck in the Milky Way galaxy, and it’s lost to oblivion in the universe — I mean, we’re a nothing as far as the universe goes, or even our galaxy. So, you have to say, ‘Gee, how did I get here? Why am I here?’
The 20th century realisation of Scipio’s first century BC vision also energised the early stirrings of the environmental movement. When we have seen the fragility and unique compactness of our home in the universe, we know that we have one duty of care, and just one chance.

Space is the destiny of our imagination, and always has been, but Earth is our precious dwelling place. Cicero’s Dream, as well as its realisation in 1968, remind the world, fresh from the Poland climate talks, that what we do with our dreams today will affect generations to come.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:

Tom McLeish, Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Department of Physics, University of York
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Space And NASA Related Stories:



10 December 2018

FIRST MAN: DVD & Blu-Ray To Land In January 2019

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From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: First Man
From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: First Man
Follow the gripping and captivating true story of the first manned mission to the moon in FIRST MAN, arriving on Digital and via the digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on January 8, 2019 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on January 22, 2019 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. 
Hailed by critics as "the best movie of the year" (Collider) and "exhilarating" (Entertainment Weekly), FIRST MAN comes from acclaimed Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash) and stars Ryan Gosling (La La LandThe Big Short) as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy ("The Crown," Breathe) as Janet Armstrong in the heroic and emotionally driven journey through a pivotal moment in the history of mankind. 
Receiving two Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Foy) and Best Original Score (Justin Hurwitz), the critically acclaimed film is packed with bonus features including deleted scenes and special featurettes showing behind-the-scenes looks at creating the film.
The dangers of space were not exaggerated, and started with the terrestrial training. Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) ejected seconds before the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle crashed and burned at Ellington Air Force Base...
The dangers of space were not exaggerated, and started with the terrestrial training. Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) ejected seconds before the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle crashed and burned at Ellington Air Force Base... (Image via LoupDargent.info)
Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen and from visionary filmmaker Damien ChazelleFIRST MAN is the riveting story behind the first manned mission to the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the decade leading to the historic Apollo 11 flight. 
A visceral and intimate account told from Armstrong's perspective, the film explores the triumphs and the cost—on Armstrong, his family, his colleagues and the nation itself—of one of the most dangerous missions in history. 
The critically acclaimed FIRST MAN comes from legendary executive producer Steven Spielberg(Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomSchindler's List) alongside fellow executive producers Adam Merims (Baby DriverStraight Outta Compton) and Josh Singer (The PostSpotlight) with a screenplay by Singer allowing audiences to relive the historic achievement in human history that has never been told cinematically. 
Filled with outstanding performances from an all-star cast led by Gosling and Foy alongside an incredible roster of supporting talent including Kyle Chandler (The Wolf of Wall Street, "Friday Night Lights"), Jason Clarke (Zero Dark ThirtyMudbound), Corey Stoll ("The Strain," "House of Cards"), Pablo Schreiber (Skyscraper, "Orange is the New Black"), Christopher Abbot ("The Sinner," Whiskey Tango Foxtrot),  and Ciarán Hinds ("Game of Thrones," Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), FIRST MAN  "explodes with cinematic wonder" (Inverse).

The Trailer:

4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital Bonus Features:
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Shooting for the Moon – Take an intimate look at the production of FIRST MAN and the collaborative relationship between Director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling.
  • Preparing to Launch – It's difficult to believe that FIRST MAN is the first major feature film to tell the journey of Apollo 11. Hear from Director Damien Chazelle and his cast why now is the time to tell the story of this historic event.
  • Giant Leap in One Small Step – A heroic character study, FIRST MAN sheds light on all the hard working individuals that got us to the moon and back.
  • Mission Gone Wrong – Watch as Ryan Gosling reenacts a test piloting sequence gone terribly wrong. Go behind the scenes to see how he trained to nail the landing, performing the majority of his own stunts.
  • Putting You In the Seat – Through the use of innovative technology, most of FIRST MAN was shot in-camera. Take an in-depth look behind the lens of this epic film.
  • Recreating the Moon Landing – Filmed in IMAX to show the vastness of the moon, find out all that it took to recreate the most famous moment in NASA history.
  • Shooting at NASA – Hear from Ryan Gosling and Director Damien Chazelle on how shooting at NASA brought unparalleled authenticity to FIRST MAN.
  • Astronaut Training – Go behind the scenes of the three day boot camp each of the actors underwent prior to filming FIRST MAN.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross
FIRST MAN will be available on 4K Ultra HD in a combo pack which includes 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and Digital. The 4K Ultra HD disc will include the same bonus features as the Blu-ray version, all in stunning 4K resolution.

Filmakers:  
Cast: Ryan GoslingClaire FoyJason ClarkeKyle ChandlerCorey StollChristopher Abbot, Ciarán Hinds 
Casting By: Francine Maisler CSA Music By: Justin Hurwitz 
Costume Design: Mary Zophres 
Film Editor: Tom Cross ACE Production Design: Nathan Crowley 
Director of Photography: Linus Sandgren FSF Executive Producers: Steven SpielbergAdam MerimsJosh Singer 
Produced By: Wyck Godfrey p.g.aMarty Bowen p.g.a, Isaac KlausnerDamien Chazelle 
Based on the Book By: James R. Hansen 
Screenplay By: Josh Singer 
Directed By: Damien Chazelle

Technical Information

 4K Ultra HD 
Street Date: January 22, 2019 
Selection Number: 61201572 (US) / 61201574 (CDN) 
Layers: BD-100 
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 16:9 2.40:1 
Rating: PG -13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language 
Video: 2160p UHD Dolby Vision/HDR 10 
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French Subtitles  
Sound: English Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 
Run Time: 2 hours 20 minutes


Dolby Vision: 
FIRST MAN 4K Ultra HD is available in Dolby Vision. Leveraging the HDR innovation that powers Dolby's most advanced cinemas around the world, Dolby Vision transforms the TV experience in the home by delivering greater brightness and contrast, as well as a fuller palette of rich colors.

Dolby Atmos Soundtrack: 
FIRST MAN Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD will feature a Dolby Atmos soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead. To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar.

Technical Information Blu-Ray:  
Street Date: January 22, 2019 
Selection Number: 61193705 (US) / 61193827 (CDN) 
Layers: BD-50 
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 16:9 2.40:1 
Rating: PG -13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language 
Languages/Subtitles:
 English SDH, Spanish and French Subtitles  
Sound: English Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 
Run Time: 2 hours 20 minutes


Technical Information DVD: 
Street Date: January 22, 2019 
Selection Number: 61193704 (US) / 61193826 (CDN) 
Layers: DVD 9 
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 16:9 2.39:1 
Rating: PG -13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language 
Languages/Subtitles:
 English SDH, Spanish and French Subtitles  
Sound: English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 
Run Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
More than a national effort: (left to right) Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), Mike Collins (Lukas Haas) and Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) head for the Moon. (Daniel McFadden)
More than a national effort: (left to right) Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), Mike Collins (Lukas Haas) and Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) head for the Moon. (Daniel McFadden) (Image via LoupDargent.info)
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19 November 2018

To Celebrate NASA's 60th Anniversary, Monaco Will Host US Astronauts, Aerospace Experts, and the Screening of "Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow"

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"Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow" "Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow" - Poster
"Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow" - Poster
This Thanksgiving the Principality of Monaco will host NASA legends from the US space shuttle program at a forum to mark the agency's 60th anniversary, featuring a special screening of the Discovery documentary "Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow" from Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winning film maker, Rory Kennedy.
Held under the patronage of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, this initiative of the Embassy of Monaco in Washington, D.C. will start at 5:00pm with a screening of the film in English with French subtitles (free and open to the public with advanced reservations). 

It will be followed by an hour-long discussion with some of today's eminent aerospace leaders on the subject of air and space exploration with a focus on the importance of international cooperation (MonacoEventsUSA.com).
Panelists include Columbia (Jan 1986) Space Shuttle mission crew  and one of NASA's pioneering women astronauts:
  • Captain Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former US naval officer, test pilot, aeronautical engineer, retired NASA astronaut who flew aboard the space shuttles Columbia, Atlantis, and Endeavour;
  • General Charles Bolden, former NASA Administrator, Major General of the US Marine Corps and NASA astronaut;
  • Dr. George "Pinky" Nelson, US physicist, astronomer, scientific educator and former NASA astronaut;
  • Dr. Margaret "Rhea" Seddon, surgeon, NASA shuttle crew member, one of the first women accepted into NASA's Astronaut Corps;
  • Captain Michael López-Alegria, NASA veteran of three Space Shuttle missions and one ISS mission;
  • Mr. Guy Beutelschies, Lockheed Martin's vice president, Commercial and Civil Space; and
  • Dr. Ilhami Aygun, president and CEO of SSI- MonacoSat
"The crew of Space Shuttle Columbia's 1986 launch is extremely honored to be taking part in this exciting program. We are so very grateful to His Serene Highness Prince Albert II for inviting us," said Captain Robert "Hoot" Gibson.
The panel Moderator is Mr. Mesut Ciceker, director, EMEA for Lockheed Martin Space, and Master of Ceremonies is Mr. Christian Moore, President of Media SSI-Monaco. 
The documentary will be introduced by the Director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum and former NASA Chief Scientist, Dr. Ellen R. Stofan
Other esteemed NASA alumni expected to attend include French astronauts Patrick Baudry and Jean-Francois Clervoy.
"Earth science and space exploration have impacted humankind in countless positive and tangible ways. Monaco is proud to once again bring together such distinguished international panelists to share their experiences, and the Monaco screening of 'Above and Beyond' provides the perfect launch pad to celebrate 60 extraordinary years of NASA," said Her Excellency Maguy Maccario DoyleMonaco'sAmbassador to the U.S.A. and the event's convener.
"This will be the second space forum initiated by the Embassy. The first, in 2016, premiered 'The Last Man on the Moon' (monacodc.org/Nov10), and underscores the Principality's historical interest in aviation and aerospace technology and exploration, given that SSI-Monaco, with partner Thales Alenia Space, launched its first communications satellite MonacoSat-1 with SpaceX's Falcon9 launcher into geostationary transfer orbit on April 27, 2015. A second satellite MonacoSat-2 is being planned by SSI-MonacoSat with an expected launch date by 2021-22."
"I am honoured that the Embassy has chosen to screen 'Above and Beyond' during this prestigious gathering of NASA astronauts and others who have dedicated their lives to understanding more about our planet and the world around us," says Rory Kennedy.  "Our goal in making this film was to present a record of the great accomplishments of NASA over the past 6 decades, and to look forward to its next great missions. From landing rovers on Mars to measuring the health of our planet, NASA's work is not only awe-inspiring but essential to our future well-being."
"In Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey To TomorrowRory Kennedy commemorates the Apollo program's remarkable journey to the Moon, and the creativity of those who worked to achieve it, and most importantly, what we choose to do with our heritage of achievement," said Dr. Stofan, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
"Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow" - Astronaut on the Moon
"Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow" - Astronaut on the Moon

When & Where:
Thursday, November 22, 2018.
Film starts at 5:00pm, panel discussion from 6:45pm,
Auditorium Rainier III, Boulevard Louis II, 98000 Monaco

⏩ The panel discussion only will be live-streamed from 6:45pm: 

SOURCE: Embassy of Monaco

NASA Related Stories:

Related Video:



20 October 2018

#BepiColombo: Europe Blasts Off To Mercury – Here's The Rocket Science

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BepiColombo
BepiColombo MPO at Mercury (Spacecraft ESA, Mercury NASA, Author provided)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched its BepiColombo mission to the planet Mercury from its spaceport near the equator in Kourou, French Guyana, on October 20. My involvement in the mission means that I will be anxiously following the journey as the spacecraft carries out a series of tricky manoeuvres, culminating in its final approach to Mercury in 2025.

The mission comes 25 years after a group of scientists first proposed to ESA that it should send a probe to Mercury, and 18 years after ESA approved the project as a “cornerstone” mission. This is the category of world class, scientifically excellent missions needing significant new technology development. Previous ESA cornerstone missions include the Rosetta comet mission and the LISA Pathfinder gravitational wave observatory.



But why Mercury? It is a puzzling planet. NASA’s MESSENGER orbiter (2011-2015) revealed many reasons why scientists are keen to learn more about it. These include the planet’s abnormally large core – we don’t know why it is still molten and able to generate a magnetic field, unlike that of Mars or Venus. Another mystery is the abundance of (largely unidentified) volatile substances at its surface. These ought not to have been incorporated in a planet that formed so close to the sun as Mercury now is.

The rocket science 
BepiColombo’s initial course after three days of orbiting the Earth for checkouts will be an elliptical orbit about the sun. This will begin by taking it inside the Earth’s orbit. But early in 2019, it will cross outside it for most of the year. It will then move back inside before coming very close to the Earth in April 2020.


BepiColombo launch and separation timeline
BepiColombo launch and separation timeline. (ESA)
At that time it will make a gravity-assist” flyby – using the Earth’s gravity to swing itself inwards towards Venus. There will also be a gravity-assist flyby of Venus when it gets there in 2020, followed by yet another in 2021 to send it towards Mercury. Then, there will be a series of six similar flybys of Mercury in 2021-2025, needed to ensure that the spacecraft eventually closes in on its target at a slow enough speed to be captured into orbit around it in December 2025.



Each flyby, shown in the animation above, has to be executed perfectly. Things could go wrong, especially during the launch, but I have ample confidence in the abilities of ESA’s flight control team at Darmstadt, Germany.

Stacked spacecraft 
The mission, which is named in memory of Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo who first proposed gravity-assist flybys for spacecraft, is a joint venture between ESA and its Japanese counterpart, JAXA.

The stacked spacecraft carries two orbiters. ESA’s is a two-metre long unit, massing more than a tonne, referred to as the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, MPO. I suspect that after it begins to orbit Mercury, it will inherit the name of BepiColombo or maybe just Bepi. The Japanese orbiter is smaller, and its mass is about a quarter of ESA’s orbiter. Originally called the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, MMO, in June it was awarded the name Mio, which in Japanese carries connotations of safe navigation. During the cruise to Mercury, Mio will be housed inside a sunshield and attached to one side of the European orbiter.


Artist’s impression of BepiColombo during its April 2020 Earth flyby. Mio can be seen nestled inside its sunshield
Artist’s impression of BepiColombo during its April 2020 Earth flyby. Mio can be seen nestled inside its sunshield. (ESA/ATG medialab)
On the other side of the orbiter is the Mercury Transfer Module, MTM. This is operated by ESA, and provides the propulsion to take the stacked spacecraft all the way to its Mercury orbit. It has a 7.5-metre long “wing” of solar panels, whose job is to turn sunlight into electricity to power its “ion drive”. This is a propulsion device that creates thrust by accelerating xenon gas that has been positively charged (by stripping its atoms of electrons). This technique can provide much more thrust per mass of fuel than conventional chemical rockets.

The sun’s enormous gravity means that more energy is needed to get into a stable orbit about Mercury than would be needed to send the same spacecraft to vastly more distant Pluto. Because of this, the ion drive will be operated at intervals amounting to about half the cruise duration, mostly to slow the spacecraft down.

Unfortunately, the stacked configuration of the combined spacecraft impedes its ability to do science during the planetary flybys. Some scientific data will be collected, but the best pictures we are likely to get during flybys will be from the selfie-cams mounted on the MTM.

Arriving at Mercury 
On arrival at Mercury in late December 2025, the transfer module will be detached. Mio, spinning at 15 revolutions per minute for stability, will then be liberated into a strongly elliptical orbit about Mercury. As soon as this happens, JAXA will take over Mio operations and guide it through its tasks studying the planet’s magnetic field and the associated space environment.

ESA’s orbiter will then jettison the sunshield, its last impediment, and use its own chemical thrusters to achieve a closer, more circular, orbit about Mercury. From there it will study the planet’s surface by using an assortment of cameras and other instruments. This should pin down the composition and geological history in much better detail than the smaller and less complex MESSENGER. The orbiter will also carry a magnetometer so that both it and Mio will be able to report magnetic conditions at two places simultaneously – an important first for a deep space mission that should teach us about the speed at which disturbances travel through the planet’s magnetic field.



It’s exciting to think that BebiColombo may transform our knowledge of Mercury in just a few years. And while you wait, from October 23, you will be able to listen to some beautiful, evocative music that the planet has inspired as part of the Planets 2018 project. This was set up to commemorate the centenary of Gustav Holst’s Planets Suite with music inspired by the science of the planets.

About Today's Contributor:
David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences, The Open University
  • David Rothery is co-leader of the European Space Agency's Mercury Surface and Composition Working Group, and a Co-Investigator on MIXS (Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer). 
  • He has received funding from the UK Space Agency and the Science & Technology Facilities Council for work related to Mercury and the European Space Agency's Mercury orbiter BepiColombo, and is currently funded by the European Commission under its Horizon 2020 programme for work on planetary geological mapping (776276 Planmap). 
  • He is author of Planet Mercury - from Pale Pink Dot to Dynamic World (Springer, 2015), Moons: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2015) and Planets: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010). 
  • He is Educator on the Open University's free learning Badged Open Course (BOC) on Moons and its equivalent Future Learn Moons MOOC, and chair of the Open University's level 2 course on Planetary Science and the Search for Life.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Bonus Video:

13 October 2018

Museum of Science, Boston Celebrates the Charles Hayden Planetarium's 60th Anniversary with the Release of New Film

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Destination Mars: The New Frontier
Destination Mars: The New Frontier
Since 1958, the Museum of Science's Charles Hayden Planetarium has dazzled and immersed visitors in the wonders of the night sky and the universe. 
Premiering on October 20th and created in-house by the award-winning Planetarium staff of producers and artists, and with funding support from NASA's Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums Plus NASA Visitor Centers, the newest Planetarium show, Destination Mars: The New Frontier celebrates the persistent curiosity that drives us to explore the future of human spaceflight to Mars. 
The Planetarium, which has impressed visitors since its installation, has welcomed more than 13 million visitors to more than 400 original show titles over its sixty-year history.
Destination Mars: The New Frontier will examine the human desire to travel to Mars and give audiences an up-close look at this epic endeavor. 

The newest Charles Hayden Planetarium show will answer such questions as: What is it about Mars that captures our interest and imagination? What steps have been taken to advance our journey to the Red Planet? What might a trip to Mars look like for the first astronauts to make the trek?  

The film features narration from Hollywood actor, Keith David and includes an original orchestral score by Grammy Award winner and professor at Berklee College of MusicClaudio Ragazzi.
"This is our team's fourth full-length feature production for the Planetarium, and our second working closely with our partners and supporters at NASA.  We're thrilled to use our immersive, 57-foot dome to showcase the incredible technology that NASA and others are working on right now— at the Kennedy Space Center and all over the world— to make our dream of one day transporting humans to Mars a reality," said Dani LeBlanc, Director of the Charles Hayden Planetarium.
Over the course of the month of October, the Museum of Science will feature a variety of programming to celebrate the Planetarium’s 60th anniversary and its technology.
Over the course of the month of October, the Museum of Science will feature a variety of programming to celebrate the Planetarium’s 60th anniversary and its technology. Everything from special Planetarium presentations exploring galaxies to an ImprovBoston show, The Big Quiz Thing, Boston’s Best Drag Queens, and a concert from Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.
Over its sixty years, the Charles Hayden Planetarium has brilliantly showcased a wide variety of original programming, including both live and pre-recorded presentations. 
Today the theater serves as everything from a unique venue for music and visual arts, to a spaceship transporting viewers through the universe.
Built in 1958, the Planetarium has utilized three projectors since its opening. The current projector, the Zeiss Starmaster, projects over 9,000 stars as naturally as they appear to twinkle in the cosmos.  

The projector, coupled with the Planetarium's state-of-the-art digital system, which can access the latest astronomical databases from researchers around the world, make the Planetarium the most technologically advanced digital dome in New England.
For more details, visit mos.org/planetarium60  

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