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Space Tourism: Russia to Send Japanese Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to ISS

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Russia on Wednesday will send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to the International Space Station in a move marking Moscow’s return to the now booming space tourism business after a decade-long break.

One of Japan’s richest men, Maezawa, 46, will blast off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan accompanied by his assistant Yozo Hirano.

On Sunday morning, their Soyuz spacecraft with a Japanese flag and an “MZ” logo for Maezawa’s name was moved onto the launch pad in unusually wet weather for Baikonur, an AFP journalist saw.

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The mission will end a decade-long pause in Russia’s space tourism programme that has not accepted tourists since Canada’s Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberte in 2009.

However, in a historic first, the Russian space agency Roscosmos in October sent actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko to the ISS to film scenes for the first movie in orbit in an effort to beat a rival Hollywood project.

Maezawa’s launch comes at a challenging time for Russia as its space industry struggles to remain relevant and keep up with Western competitors in the modern space race.

Last year, the US company SpaceX of billionaire Elon Musk ended Russia’s monopoly on manned flights to the ISS after it delivered astronauts to the orbiting laboratory in its Crew Dragon capsule.

This, however, also freed up seats on Russia’s Soyuz rockets that were previously purchased by NASA allowing Moscow to accept fee-paying tourists like Maezawa.

Their three-seat Soyuz spacecraft will be piloted by Alexander Misurkin, a 44-year-old Russian cosmonaut who has already been on two missions to the ISS.

The pair will spend 12 days aboard the space station where they plan to document their journey for Maezawa’s YouTube channel with more than 750,000 subscribers.

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The tycoon is the founder of Japan’s largest online fashion mall and the country’s 30th richest man, according to Forbes.

“I am almost crying because of my impressions, this is so impressive,” Maezawa said in late November after arriving at Baikonur for the final days of preparation.

Maezawa and Hirano have spent the past few months training at Star City, a town outside Moscow that has prepared generations of Soviet and Russian cosmonauts.  

‘Hardest training ever’

Maezawa said that training in the spinning chair “almost feels like torture”.

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“It’s the hardest training ever done,” he tweeted in late November.

So far Russia has sent seven self-funded tourists to space in partnership with the US-based company Space Adventures. Maezawa and Hirano will be the first from Japan.

Maezawa’s launch comes at the end of a year that became a milestone for amateur space travel.

In September, SpaceX operated a historic flight taking the first all-civilian crew on a three-day journey around the Earth’s orbit in a mission called Inspiration4.

Blue Origin, the company of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, completed two missions beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The passengers included 90-year-old Star Trek star William Shatner and Bezos himself.

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Soon after, billionaire Richard Branson travelled aboard his Virgin Galactic spacecraft that also offered a few minutes of weightlessness before coming back to Earth.

Those journeys mark the beginning of space opening up for non-professionals with more launches announced for the future.

In 2023, SpaceX is planning to take eight amateur astronauts around the moon in a spaceflight that is bankrolled by Maezawa, who will also be onboard.

Russia has also said it will take more tourists to the ISS on future Soyuz launches and also plans to offer one of them a spacewalk.

For Russia, retaining its title of a top space nation is a matter of national pride stemming from its Soviet-era achievements amid rivalry with the United States.

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The Soviets coined a number of firsts in space: the first satellite, first man in space, first woman in space, first spacewalk, to name just a few.

But in recent years Russia’s space programme has suffered setbacks, including corruption scandals and botched launches, and faced a cut in state funding.

The industry remains reliant on Soviet-designed technology and while new projects have been announced, such as a mission to Venus, their timeline and feasibility remain unclear.


Will Snapdragon’s new 2022 chips make it more prominent as a brand? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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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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