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NASA Is Testing Robotics for Bringing First Rock Samples From Mars

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US space agency NASA is now carrying out tests on the crucial hardware that will bring rock and sediment samples from Mars to Earth for closer study. NASA is already collecting those samples using its Perseverance rover and taking images with a tiny helicopter named Ingenuity. Both these machines were launched on the Red Planet aboard the Atlas V rocket on July 30, 2020. They landed on a lake bed called the Jezero Crater on Mars in February this year to find signs of microbial life. 

Perseverance’s sampling system is one of the most complex mechanisms ever sent to space. The robot uses a drill and a hollow coring bit placed at the end of its 2-meter-long robotic arm to extract samples to help scientists better understand the Martian geology and climate.

In an update, NASA said it has started testing its “most sophisticated endeavour” to bring rock and sediment samples from Mars. Out of Perseverance’s 43 sample tubes, four have been filled with rock cores and one with Martian atmosphere. The mission to bring back these samples is likely to be carried out sometime in the 2030s in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).

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ESA is developing a rover for the effort, which would transfer samples to a lander that would use a robotic arm to pack the samples into a small rocket, called a Mars Ascent Vehicle. To develop the systems that would help bring back the samples, NASA engineers are drawing from their long experience of Mars exploration. 

One of the challenges they face is making launch from the Martian surface possible. The major challenge is gravity, Mars’ gravity is one-third that of Earth’s. This means that the weight of the rocket along with the exhaust could cause the lander to slip or tilt.

So NASA engineers have planned a system, known as Vertically Ejected Controlled Tip-off Release (VECTOR), that should be able to toss the rocket into the air at a rate of 5 metres per second.


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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