from the world's big
The Earth Return Orbiter is part of a long-term mission to search for ancient alien life on Mars.
- On July 30, NASA is set to launch the Perseverance rover toward Mars on a mission to search for biosignatures of ancient life within the planet's Jerezo Crater.
- The soil samples collected by the rover would then be launched from the Martian surface into orbit, where a European-made "cargo ship" will intercept the container.
- The cargo ship — a satellite called the Earth Return Orbiter — could return the samples to Earth for further study by 2031.
Jerezo Crater landing site
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/University of Arizona via Wikimedia Commons<p>It would be the first mission to return Martian matter to Earth.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This is not just twice as difficult as any typical Mars mission; it's twice squared — when you think about the complexity involved," Dr. David Parker, the director of human and robotic exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA), told <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/science-environment-53575353" target="_blank">BBC News</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"And this satellite that Airbus will build - I like to call it 'the first interplanetary cargo ship', because that's what it will be doing. It's designed to carry cargo between Mars and Earth."</p>
ESA's Earth Return Orbiter
ESA<p>Finding signs of alien life isn't the rover's only function. The 2,300-pound Perseverance will be equipped with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, a small 4-pound drone designed to help scientists learn more about the feasibility of achieving flight on Mars, a planet with an atmosphere that's <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/6-things-to-know-about-nasas-ingenuity-mars-helicopter/" target="_blank">99 percent less dense than Earth's</a>.</p><p>Perseverance will also carry technology designed to analyze the chemical composition of the Martian surface, study weather, take images of the Martian subsurface, and produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide — a proof-of-concept method that could someday allow astronauts to produce oxygen for rocket propellant or breathing.</p>
Illustration of the Mars Ascent Vehicle
NASA<p>But Perseverance's main mission is to find signs of alien life. If it does, that would suggest that life may be relatively common throughout the universe, as Kenneth Farley, the project scientist for Perseverance and a professor at the California Institute of Technology, told <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2020/7/28/21307109/nasa-mars-rover-perseverance-launch-date-alien-life" target="_blank" style="">The Verge</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The central question of 'Is there life on other planets?' — it really comes down to: is the origination of life some kind of magic spark that happens only incredibly rarely, or alternatively, is it the kind of thing that is inevitable?" Farley said. "What we can do is we can go to such place in our own solar system on Mars and ask the question, 'Is life ubiquitous?'"</p>
We need electric planes, sustainable aviation fuels, and hybrid propulsion now, not later.
In the year when the Swedish word "flygskam" (flight-shaming) hit the news in Europe, public concern about carbon emissions from aviation is endangering the sector's social license to operate.
The KLM airplane which runs on biokerose, a type of biofuel.
Lex Lieshout/AFP/Getty Images<h2>2. Finance takes to the skies</h2><p>Such funding from corporate actors, or a collection of willing enterprises, could also be accumulated in a new type of investment fund, not unlike the<a href="https://oilandgasclimateinitiative.com/" target="_blank"> Oil and Gas Climate Initiative</a>. Through co-investment, the high risks associated with new refineries and related infrastructure can be lowered, and there can be greater confidence the SAF will be used once produced (referred to as "off-take agreements" in the industry). The more plants that are built, the cheaper the production process and fuel product becomes. The resulting SAF from new refineries may only be used several years after the initial investment, but the capital pooled in the investment fund could provide the initial push necessary to get the industry to 2% (or even higher) use of SAF by 2025. As was shown in the case of solar energy, this would be an important benchmark that raises the prospect for reaching price parity with conventional fuel and achieving a complete energy transition of the industry over the longer term.</p><p>Financial institutions could play a direct role themselves. The World Economic Forum's community of CEO Climate Leaders <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/11/business-is-stepping-up-its-fight-against-climate-change-this-is-how/" target="_blank">has made great strides</a> in reducing the carbon footprints of their businesses in order to help meet the Paris Climate Goals. Some of the CEOs represent banks that have taken active steps towards ceasing to provide funding for coal-fired power stations and other heavily polluting assets. More recently, stakeholders in the shipping industry have launched the Poseidon Principles, which sees 11 major banks commit to lending portfolios and practices that incentivise the transition to a decarbonised shipping industry. A similar approach in the airline industry could result in beneficial financing terms for operators that commit to progressive adoption of SAF.</p><h2>3. Supply</h2><p>If buyers' clubs have the potential to provide significant momentum through a demand-led approach, opportunities exist for supply-led stimulation as well. One option is for airport operators, in collaboration with their carriers, to make landing rights and lowered associated fees an incentive for driving sustainability. Airports faced with the need to expand in order to accommodate growing demand are under huge pressure to limit their environmental footprint or undertake net-zero growth. The beauty of blended biofuels means that airports could gradually ramp up the percentage of SAF provided to airlines, raising it slowly as global supply increases. That percentage could increase to double digits by the 2030s.</p><p>In addition, smart regulatory choices designed to make production and sale of SAF more attractive could help level the playing field with traditional petroleum-based fuels. In emerging economies, like India and Brazil, where there is an abundance of appropriate feed stocks, inexpensive solar and wind resources or land available for refineries, such incentives could serve to encourage investment into new supply chains and scale SAF production in the near to medium term.</p><p>The well-sequenced combination of nuanced demand- and supply-led innovations, alongside the emergence of new or improved technologies, presents the aviation industry with a much-needed opportunity to protect its social license to operate and grow in an age of increased awareness around carbon emissions. There is no time to lose.</p><p>Reprinted with permission of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>. Read the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/carbon-neutral-flying/" target="_blank">original article</a>.</p>
The FAA is not amused by flame-throwing drones.
- Federal Aviation Administration publishes a notice warning the public not to weaponize their personal drones.
- Doing so will result in a $25,000 fine per violation.
- The FAA is keeping pace with the rapid development of this new and popular technology.
FAA’s response to weaponized drones<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTA3NTUwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDg4NzExNH0.JBaGB3nbJBeFUwaZ1-SDitu6G_yK6GoFZaUeg6sprsM/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C680%2C848%2C366&height=700" id="a58c5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="625c0101e209e7db15af306ad74f25d0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Fingerprinting and facial recognition may lead the way in air travel.
The future of air travel is… paperless. Or will be, under an initiative introduced by the World Economic Forum.
An elegant, 400-year-old means of navigating the stars takes flight.
- The Planetary Society is about to launch LightSail 2, a crowdfunded light sail craft.
- LightSail 2 uses photons from the sun as fuel.
- Space X's Falcom Heavy rocket will carry LightSail 2 aloft, 720 kilometers up.
Rising slowly<p><u></u>The pieces of Kepler's dream have been falling into place bit by bit since that letter to Galileo. The discovery of photons in the late 1800s by James Clerk Maxwell revealed the energetic particles in light whose momentum could be transferred to other objects. </p><p>Friedrich Zander envisioned the "tremendous mirrors of very thin sheets" propelling craft through space, and then Carl Wiley foresaw a solar sail as a shiny, reflective, parachute-like material opening in the direction of sunlight.<br></p><p>By 1976, Carl Sagan went on TV to show off a demonstration model of a light sail craft, <a href="http://www.planetary.org/multimedia/video/lightsail-then-and-now.html" target="_blank">enthusing</a> about the amazing technology and its potential. </p><p>Among Sagan's students some 40 years ago was Nye, a frequent Big Think contributor. The Society was founded by Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman in 1980. In 2005, the Society launched the world's first light sail craft, the Cosmos 1, aboard a submarine-based ICBM. Unfortunately, it was lost when the ICBM failed before allowing Cosmos 1 a chance to fly on its own.</p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fCMQEUU4LHs" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
About the Planetary Society<p>The Planetary Society is the world's largest non-profit space organization, crowdfunded by over 50,000 members from over 100 countries, and supported by hundreds of volunteers. The Society was founded as outlet for the general public's interest in space, a level of interest not always reflected in governmental budgets. In addition to mounting <a href="http://www.planetary.org/explore/projects/" target="_blank">projects</a> such as the LightSail craft, the Society serves as an educational connection between the scientific community and the general public, advocates for robust governmental funding of space programs, and provides anyone an opportunity to get involved in some real space science.</p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1gny4Q9Kcl0" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
The Society’s Lightsail craft<p>At the center of each frankly beautiful LightSail craft is a cubesat. While we tend to think of satellites as large, bus-sized objects, they can be much smaller for simpler missions. The cubesat for the upcoming LightSail 2, for example, is about the size of a loaf of bread.</p><p>At launch, the cubesat and sails are encased in four solar panels. Once in orbit, the panels swing up into operational position, exposing the cubesat and stored sails.</p><p>The sails themselves are four shiny Mylar sheets 4.5 microns thick — that's thinner than a human hair. They're next pulled outward by four cobalt-alloy booms that extend like tape measures. The process takes about three minutes. When deployed, the triangular sails together form a square that's just 32 square meters, about the size of a boxing ring.</p><p>The primary force to be overcome by LightSail craft is <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_decay" target="_blank">atmospheric drag</a>, its collision with gas particles in the Earth's upper atmosphere. Think of it as friction that causes a satellite to slow and thus drop from orbit. In order for a craft to catch enough photon "propellant" — and to be high enough to get away from the upper atmosphere, its orbit needs to be above about 700 kilometers. </p><p>The Society has built two LightSail craft.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwMTYyMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTc1NjgxNH0.nC9Si08mHK3gUxnhzrx5vCfQvqn54-NKDgJd5MrbZoE/img.jpg?width=980" id="f70fe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a14aa054fcb1627f154a0d9aa94923a1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Planetary Society
LightSail 1<p>Around 2014, NASA offered the Society a free ride aboard an Atlas V rocket as part of the agency's Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program. Even though the Lightsail craft would be placed into orbit below the necessary 700-kilometer height, the Society decided to use one of their LightSails to test the mechanics of the sail deployment system. </p><p>Dubbed "LightSail 1," the sails successfully unfurled, as this selfie taken by LightSail 1 attests.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwNTAwMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjI5Mzg1Nn0.wPhIRmAjQ10Jcs56O1-F1icM-3lO24MqUkl-L1Htk1Y/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=309%2C158%2C0%2C315&height=700" id="dabdd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dbaf58e3c941d930d4bcbfc840a0215d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Planetary Society