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Blue Origin Protest Over NASA Lunar Contract Rejected by US Watchdog

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A US government watchdog on Friday sided with NASA over its decision to pick a single lunar lander provider, rejecting a protest filed by Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics Inc.

The companies had challenged the $2.9 billion award to Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the lander, arguing NASA was required to make multiple awards. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said it “denied the protest arguments that NASA acted improperly in making a single award to SpaceX.”

Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, said on Friday it remained convinced that there were “fundamental issues” with NASA’s decision, and that GAO was not able to address them “due to their limited jurisdiction.”

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Blue Origin said it will continue to advocate for two immediate providers as it believes that to be the right solution.

“GAO’s decision will allow NASA and SpaceX to establish a timeline for the first crewed landing on the Moon in more than 50 years,” NASA said in a statement on Friday, adding that sending American astronauts to the moon is a priority for the Biden Administration.

Dynetics, a unit of Leidos Holdings, said it was disappointed with the decision, but plans to compete for other opportunities announced by NASA in the future.

SpaceX did not comment, but Musk sent a tweet saying just “GAO” with a flexed muscle emoji.

NASA had sought proposals for a spacecraft that would carry astronauts to the lunar surface under its Artemis program to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972.

In April, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to build such a spacecraft as early as 2024.

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Blue Origin had contended NASA gave SpaceX an unfair advantage by letting it revise its pricing.

On Monday, Bezos offered to cover up to $2 billion in NASA costs if the U.S. space agency awarded Blue Origin a lunar landing contract.

In a letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Bezos said Blue Origin would waive payments up to $2 billion, and pay for an orbital mission to vet its technology. In exchange, Blue Origin would accept a firm, fixed-priced contract, and cover any system development cost overruns.

“Without competition, NASA’s short-term and long-term lunar ambitions will be delayed, will ultimately cost more, and won’t serve the national interest,” Bezos said.

Bezos’ offer came six days after he flew alongside three crewmates to the edge of space aboard Blue Origin’s rocket-and-capsule New Shepard.

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"Mirror World" Behind One Of Space’s Mysteries: Study

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A mirror world is a common trope in fantasy and fiction, but it may also be the answer to one of Space’s biggest mysteries today. A group of scientists behind a new research paper suggest that a “mirror world” of particles that remains unseen from us may be the answer to the Hubble Constant problem. The Hubble constant problem refers to the discrepancy in the theoretical value of the rate of expansion in the universe and the actual rate of expansion as observed by measurements. The issue remains to reconcile the two without upending the entire cosmological model as it stands today. As doing so would ruin the agreements with the current scientific models and the observed phenomenon in Space like the cosmic microwave background.

“Basically, we point out that a lot of the observations we do in cosmology have an inherent symmetry under rescaling the universe as a whole. This might provide a way to understand why there appears to be a discrepancy between different measurements of the Universe’s expansion rate,” said lead researchers Francis-Yan Cyr-Racine from the University of New Mexico, and Fei Ge and Lloyd Knox at the University of California.

Their observations were published in the paper titled Symmetry of Cosmological Observables, a Mirror World Dark Sector, and the Hubble Constant, which was released recently in Physical Review Letters.

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“The mirror world idea first arose in the 1990s but has not previously been recognised as a potential solution to the Hubble constant problem. This might seem crazy at face value, but such mirror worlds have a large physics literature in a completely different context since they can help solve an important problem in particle physics,” said Cyr-Racine. “Our work allows us to link, for the first time, this large literature to an important problem in cosmology.”

Apart from the mirror world idea, scientists have also considered the possibility of measurement errors to be behind the discrepancy. But as measurement tools have gotten better, the deviation between the theoretical and observed value has only increased, leading many to believe that measurement errors are not the reason behind the discrepancy.

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NASA Satellite Captures Unique View of Total Lunar Eclipse That Occurred on May 15

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A NASA satellite, named Lucy which was launched in October 2021, managed to capture a unique perspective on the total lunar eclipse, which occurred on May 15-16. The satellite was launched for a 12-year journey to probe eight different asteroids, including one asteroid from the main asteroid belt in the solar system. The other seven asteroids that the satellite will probe are from Jupiter’s trojans asteroid cluster.

The satellite was already at a distance of 64 million miles (100 million km) from the Earth, roughly 70 percent of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, when it observed the total lunar eclipse.

“While total lunar eclipses aren’t that rare – they happen every year or so – it isn’t that often that you get a chance to observe them from an entirely new angle,” said planetary scientist Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), who is the principal researcher of the mission in a statement.

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“When the team realized Lucy had a chance to observe this lunar eclipse as a part of the instrument calibration process, everyone was incredibly excited,” Levison added.

“Capturing these images really was an amazing team effort. The instrument, guidance, navigation and science operations teams all had to work together to collect these data, getting the Earth and the Moon in the same frame,” said Acting Deputy Principal Investigator Dr. John Spencer, also from SwRI.

The satellite took 86 one-millisecond exposure shots in order to make a 2-second timelapse of the first half of the eclipse. The video was published by NASA on its website. People can see a cross-sectional view of the eclipse in the short but mesmerising video.

The video can be found on the following link.

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This Battery-Like Device Can Absorb Carbon Dioxide While Charging

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Researchers at the University of Cambridge have designed a battery-like device that can take us a step further to solve the carbon dioxide emission problems in the present world. This supercapacitor device can selectively absorb CO2 during its charging process. When the battery-like device discharges, it will release the carbon dioxide in a controlled manner in such a way that can be collected to reuse or dispose of it later.

According to an article by EurekAlert, almost 35 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere every year. Hence, the world is in need of urgent solutions to eliminate these emissions to solve the climate change problems.

There have been efforts in this direction, to control, capture, reuse and eliminate carbon emissions from the atmosphere. But the most advanced technologies, in this field, use a lot of energy and are highly expensive. The supercapacitor at the University of Cambridge is designed to capture and store carbon using low-cost technology.

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The supercapacitor is as small as a coin. It is partly made using sustainable materials like coconut shells and seawater. Grace Mapstone, the co-author of the study, said, “The best part is that the materials used to make supercapacitors are cheap and abundant. The electrodes are made of carbon, which comes from waste coconut shells.”

Dr Alexander Forse from Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry led the research. He said, “We found that by slowly alternating the current between the plates we can capture double the amount of CO2 than before.” He added, “The charging-discharging process of our supercapacitor potentially uses less energy than the amine heating process used in industry now. Our next questions will involve investigating the precise mechanisms of CO2 capture and improving them. Then it will be a question of scaling up.”

The research, which has been published in the journal Nanoscale, describes the supercapacitor. It uses two electrodes of positive and negative charge. Unlike a rechargeable battery, it does not use chemical reactions to store energy. Instead, it stores energy by the movement of electrons between the electrode plates. This gives it a longer lifespan.

Grace Mapstone said, “We want to use materials that are inert, that don’t harm environments, and that we need to dispose of less frequently. For example, the CO2 dissolves into a water-based electrolyte which is basically seawater.”

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