SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, perched atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, takes off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying two NASA astronauts to the International Space St…
UAE to make history with launch of Mars probe – Hindustan Times
A rocket carrying the unmanned spacecraft is due to take off from Japan’s remote Tanegashima Space Center at 5:51 am local time although poor weather could delay lift-off until later in a launch window that runs until August 13.
The United Arab Emirates plans to make history Wednesday with the scheduled launch of the “Hope” mission, which will make it the first Arab nation to send a probe to Mars.
A rocket carrying the unmanned spacecraft is due to take off from Japan’s remote Tanegashima Space Center at 5:51 am local time (2051 GMT Tuesday) although poor weather could delay lift-off until later in a launch window that runs until August 13.
The Emirati project is one of three racing to Mars, including Tianwen-1 from China and Mars 2020 from the United States, taking advantage of the period when the Earth and Mars are nearest: a mere 55 million kilometres (34 million miles) apart.
But unlike the two other ventures, the UAE’s Mars probe will not land on the Red Planet.
“Hope” — or Al-Amal in Arabic — is expected to reach Mars’s orbit by February 2021, marking the 50th anniversary of the unification of the United Arab Emirates, an alliance of seven sheikhdoms.
Once there, it will loop the planet for a whole Martian year — 687 days.
The probe is expected to detach from the launch rocket about an hour after blast-off, which is when the UAE Mars mission’s deputy project manager Sarah al-Amiri said the real excitement will begin.
“In my heart of hearts, I’m looking forward to the initial 24 hours after separation, and that’s where we see the results of our work,” said Amiri, who is also Minister of State for Advanced Sciences.
“It is when we first get the signal, when we know that every part of the spacecraft is functioning, when the solar panels are deployed, when we hit our trajectory and are headed towards Mars,” she told AFP earlier this month.
Keiji Suzuki from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which is carrying the Hope probe into space, said that with thunderstorms forecast there was doubt over whether the launch would take place on schedule.
“The weather is going downhill,” he said during a briefing Monday. “However, the current forecast is not for severe thunderstorms all the way through, so our current assessment is that there are chances for a launch.”
The UAE — which is better known for its skyscrapers, palm-shaped islands and mega attractions — has in recent years been pushing to expand its space sector.
While the objective of the Mars mission is to provide a comprehensive image of the weather dynamics in the Red Planet’s atmosphere and pave the way for scientific breakthroughs, the probe is a foundation for a much bigger goal — building a human settlement on Mars within the next 100 years.
The UAE also wants the project to serve as a source of inspiration for Arab youth, in a region too often wracked by sectarian conflicts and economic crises.
Dubai has hired architects to imagine what a Martian city might look like and recreate it in its desert as “Science City”, at a cost of around 500 million dirhams (135 million dollars).
And last September, Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati in space, part of a three-member crew that blasted off on a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan, returning home after an eight-day mission in which he became the first Arab to visit the International Space Station.
Several dozen probes — most of them American — have set off for the Red Planet since the 1960s. Many never made it that far, or failed to land.
The drive to explore Mars flagged until the confirmation less than 10 years ago that water once flowed on its surface.
“What is unique about this mission is that for the first time the scientific community around the world will have an holistic view of the Martian atmosphere at different times of the day at different seasons,” the mission’s project manager Omran Sharaf told Monday’s briefing.
“We have a strategy to contribute to the global effort in developing technologies and science work that will help one day if humanity decides to put a human on Mars.”
Laser-Etched Metal Purifies Contaminated Water Using Sunlight With Greater Than 100% Efficiency – SciTechDaily
By etching metal with ultrashort laser bursts, Rochester researchers demonstrate a way to purify water without wasting energy. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, people in developed countries are assured of ample supplies of clean water to wash their hands as oft…
A laser-etched, energy absorbing, water wicking metal surface, continually angled directly at the sun, provides a cheap, efficient way to purify water from sunlight. The technology was developed by the lab of Chunei Guo at the University of Rochester. Credit: H.M. Cao/University of Rochester
By etching metal with ultrashort laser bursts, Rochester researchers demonstrate a way to purify water without wasting energy.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, people in developed countries are assured of ample supplies of clean water to wash their hands as often as needed to protect themselves from the virus. And yet, nearly a third of the world’s population is not even assured of clean water for drinking.
University of Rochester researchers have now found a way to address this problem by using sunlight—a resource that everyone can access—to evaporate and purify contaminated water with greater than 100 percent efficiency.
How is this possible?
In a paper in Nature Sustainability, researchers in the laboratory of Chunlei Guo, professor of optics, demonstrate how a burst of femtosecond laser pulses etch the surface of a normal sheet of aluminum into a superwicking (water-attracting), super energy-absorbing material.
When placed in water at an angle facing the sun, the surface:
- Draws a thin film of water upwards over the metal’s surface
- Retains nearly 100 percent of the energy it absorbs from the sun to quickly heat the water
- Simultaneously changes the inter-molecular bonds of the water, significantly increasing the efficiency of the evaporation process even further.
“These three things together enable the technology to operate better than an ideal device at 100 percent efficiency,” says Guo, who is also affiliated with the University’s Physics and Materials Science programs.
Using sunlight to boil has long been recognized as a way to eliminate microbial pathogens and reduce deaths from diarrheal infections. But boiling water does not eliminate heavy metals and other contaminants.
Experiments by the lab show that their new method reduces the presence of all common contaminants, such as detergent, dyes, urine, heavy metals, and glycerin, to safe levels for drinking.
The technology could also be useful in developed countries for relieving water shortages in drought-stricken areas, and for water desalinization projects, Guo says.
Solar-based water purification: Seeking an efficient method
Solar-based water purification can greatly reduce contaminants because nearly all the impurities are left behind when the evaporating water becomes gaseous and then condenses and gets collected.
The most common method of solar-based water evaporation is volume heating, in which a large volume of water is heated but only the top layer can evaporate. This is obviously inefficient, Guo says, because only a small fraction of the heating energy gets used.
A more efficient approach, called interfacial heating, places floating, multilayered absorbing and wicking materials on top of the water, so that only water near the surface needs to be heated. But the available materials all have to float horizontally on top of the water and cannot face the sun directly. Furthermore, the available wicking materials become quickly clogged with contaminants left behind after evaporation, requiring frequent replacement of the materials.
The panel developed by the Guo lab avoids these inefficiencies by pulling a thin layer of water out of the reservoir and directly onto the solar absorber surface for heating and evaporation. “Moreover, because we use an open-grooved surface, it is very easy to clean by simply spraying it,” Guo says.
“The biggest advantage,” he adds, “is that the angle of the panels can be continuously adjusted to directly face the sun as it rises and then moves across the sky before setting” —maximizing energy absorption.
“There was simply nothing else resembling what we can do here,” Guo says.
Latest in a series of applications
Guo, who is also affiliated with the University’s physics and materials science programs, has long envisioned an array of humanitarian applications for an efficient solar-based purification method. “This is a simple, durable, inexpensive way to address the global water crisis, especially in developing nations,” he says, noting that it could help relieve water shortages in drought-stricken areas and be helpful in water desalinization projects, he adds.
“The Army and its warfighters run on water, so there is particular interest in basic materials research that could lead to advanced technologies for generating drinking water,” said Evan Runnerstrom, program manager, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “The superwicking and light-absorbing properties of these aluminum surfaces may enable passive or low-power water purification to better sustain the warfighter in the field.”
In addition to using femto-second laser etching technology to create superhydrophobic (water repellent), superhydrophilic (water-attracting), and super energy absorbing metals, the Guo lab has created metallic structures that do not sink no matter how often they are forced into water or how much it is damaged or punctured.
Prior to creating the water attracting and repellent metals, Guo and his assistant, Anatoliy Vorobyev, demonstrated the use of femto-second laser pulses to turn almost any metal pitch black. The surface structures created on the metal were incredibly effective at capturing incoming radiation, such as light. But they also captured light over a broad range of wavelengths.
Subsequently, his team used a similar process to change the color of a range of metals to various colors, such as blue, gold, and gray. The applications could include making color filters and optical spectral devices, using a single laser in a car factory to produce cars of different colors; or proposing with a gold engagement ring that matches the color of your fiancee’s blue eyes.
The lab also used the initial black and colored metal technique to create a unique array of nano- and micro-scale structures on the surface of a regular tungsten filament, enabling a light bulb to glow more brightly at the same energy usage.
Reference: “Solar-trackable super-wicking black metal panel for photothermal water sanitation” by Subhash C. Singh, Mohamed ElKabbash, Zilong Li, Xiaohan Li, Bhabesh Regmi, Matthew Madsen, Sohail A. Jalil, Zhibing Zhan, Jihua Zhang and Chunlei Guo, 13 July 2020, Nature Sustainability.DOI: 10.1038/s41893-020-0566-x
In addition to Guo, coauthors include lead author Subhash Singh, Mohamed ElKabbash, Zilong Li, Xiaohan Li, Bhabesh Regmi, Matthew Madsen, Sohail Jalil, Zhibing Zhan, and Jihua Zhang, all of the Guo Lab. Among them, four are undergraduate students.
The project was supported by funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the US Army Research Office.
Humanity on Mars? Technically possible, but no voyage on horizon – Bangkok Post
WASHINGTON – Robotic landers and rovers have been touching down on Mars since the 1970s, but when will humanity finally set foot on the Red Planet?
WASHINGTON – Robotic landers and rovers have been touching down on Mars since the 1970s, but when will humanity finally set foot on the Red Planet?
Experts believe the technical challenges are nearly resolved, but political considerations make the future of any crewed mission uncertain.
NASA’s human lunar exploration program, Artemis, envisions sending people back to the Moon by 2024 and using the experience gained there to prepare for Mars.
Plans have been proposed for a crewed exploratory mission of our neighboring planet since before NASA was created in 1958, but have never taken off.
In the spring of 1990, then president George Bush Sr announced the most audacious promise to date — a man on Mars before July 20, 2019, the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing.
The commitment clearly never came to pass, and similar goals articulated by presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump have not led to concrete programs.
“I have seen maybe 10,000 graphs, charts, proposing various ideas about how to get to Mars, for humans,” G. Scott Hubbard, an adjunct professor at Stanford and former senior NASA official, told AFP.
“But putting the money behind it to make it a reality has not occurred.”
The mission itself would last two or three years.
Today, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are building heavy rockets capable of sending tens of tons toward Mars.
– Alone, and far –
For the seven-month journey, twenty years of living and working in the International Space Station (ISS) has reassured scientists about the dangers posed by radiation and by weightlessness, such as muscle atrophy.
The body does not emerge unscathed, but the risks are deemed acceptable.
Then there is the stay on Mars itself, which would last 15 months so that the planets are once more on the same side of the Sun.
The surface temperature will average -63 degrees Celsius, and though radiation is a factor, suits and shelters exist that would shield astronauts.
In case of medical emergencies, distance would make an evacuation impossible.
What mishaps should astronauts anticipate?
First of all fractures, but plaster casts would often suffice, says Dan Buckland, an engineer and emergency room doctor at Duke University, who is developing a robotic intravenous needle with support from NASA.
Diarrhoea, kidney stones and appendicitis are generally treatable, except for 30 percent of appendicitis cases which must be operated and could therefore be fatal.
With extensive screening of astronauts’ genetics and family history, you can greatly reduce the probability of having a crew member who develops cancer over the course of a three-year mission.
“I have not found a showstopper for going to Mars, in terms of a health condition,” said Buckland.
One major issue would be protecting the habitats and vehicles from the ravages of the fine dust that covers the surface.
“Mars is unique in that there’s also a concern about dust storms,” said Robert Howard of the NASA Johnson Center.
These hellish planet-wide tempests can block out the Sun for months, rendering solar panels useless.
Small nuclear reactors would therefore be needed.
In 2018, NASA and the Department of Energy successfully completed a demonstration project, the Kilopower Project.
Ultimately, the goal will be to manufacture materials on site using mined resources, probably with 3D printing machines.
Development is embryonic, but the Artemis program will be a testing ground.
– Colonies? –
Musk has proposed colonizing Mars, with a first expedition to build a factory that converts Martian water and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into oxygen and methane fuel.
“Becoming a multi-planet species,” he said in a 2017 speech, “beats the hell out of being a single-planet species.”
Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, likewise advocates for the creation of “new branches of human civilization.”
That no progress has been made since humanity last walked on the Moon in 1972 is, to him, shameful.
“It was as if Columbus had come back from the New World the first time and then (king and queen) Ferdinand and Isabella had said, ‘so what, we’re not interested,'” he said.
Not everyone is convinced.
“Enough of the nonsense!” said exobiologist Michel Viso from CNES, the French space agency.
“We have an amazing planet with an atmosphere, with oxygen, with water…It’s criminal, you don’t have the right to fool people into thinking there is a ‘Plan B,’ a ‘Planet B,’ that we will have a Martian civilization.”
Whether humanity installs a colony or permanent bases, the most important obstacle, for a lasting human presence on Mars, will be to convince people to accept a higher level of risk than for the Moon or the ISS, argues Buckland.
In the long run, not everyone will return.
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