Japan is planning a moon landing for 2029 and wants its astronauts to explore the lunar surface in a vehicle built by Japanese automaker Toyota.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota announced Tuesday that it will collaborate on international space exploration, specifically on developing a manned, pressurized rover that uses Toyota’s fuel cell vehicle (FCV) technologies.
“Manned, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s, ” said Koichi Wakata, JAXA Vice President. “We aim at launching such a rover into space in 2029.”
JAXA, which earlier this month landed its Hayabusa2 probe on the asteroid Ryugu, is hoping the collaboration with Toyota will “give rise to intellectual properties” needed for international space exploration.
An FCV is a type of electric vehicle that, instead of using a battery, uses a fuel cell of oxygen and compressed hydrogen, which react with each other to generate electricity. The zero-emissions technology is already used on Toyota’s Mirai vehicle. “Fuel cells, which use clean power-generation methods, emit only water, and, because of their high energy density, they can provide a lot of energy, making them especially ideal for the project being discussed with JAXA,” said Shigeki Terashi, Executive Vice President at Toyota. He also mentioned that Toyota’s automated driving technologies were part of the project.
Although the amount of fuel that could be taken to the moon would be limited, said JAXA and Toyota, the pressurized rover would have a total lunar-surface cruising range of more than 10,000 km.
However, Toyota’s ‘space mobility’ concept for the pressurized rover being studied by JAXA and Toyota is pretty small. It envisions a 6 meter by 5.3-meter vehicle standing 3.8 meters tall. That’s enough room for two people, say JAXA and Toyota, or four in an emergency. Toyota and JAXA also revealed that they have been jointly studying the concept of a manned, pressurized rover since May 2018.
The moon presents some special challenges for any vehicle. Gravity is one-sixth of Earth’s, and the lunar surface is pocked by craters, cliffs, and hills. “It is exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment,” said Wakata. “For a wide-ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurized rover that can travel more than 10,000 km in such environments is a necessity.” Wakata also stressed the need for a ‘Team Japan’ approach to space exploration.
That’s a message that appears to be finding favor. Japan Airlines-backed startup ispace last month announced that its HAKUTO-R mission will orbit the moon in 2020 ahead of a mission to land on the surface in 2021. An finalist in the ill-fated Google Lunar XPRIZE, ispace plans to map, and eventually recover, water ice on the moon and learn how to use it as a resource. If it can separate lunar water into hydrogen and oxygen, it could provide fuel for Toyota’s moon buggy, as well as for a self-sufficient moonbase, and even rockets.
Aside from Japan Airlines, HAKUTO-R’s corporate partners include Japanese national daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun and Japan NGK Spark Plug, which wants to test solid-state battery technology on the moon in 2021. Another is Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, which last month announced a new lunar insurance service. “The availability of lunar exploration insurance will encourage new players to participate in the lunar industry by reducing the risk of entry,” said ispace founder Takeshi Hakamada last month. “With the ability to insure our landers and rovers, ispace and its customers will be able to concentrate on realizing our vision without hesitation.”
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes
Humans on Mars could become a new species
Image Credit: NASA
Babies born on Mars may be quite unlike those born on Earth.
An evolutionary biologist has outlined what is likely to happen when people start living full-time on Mars.
Imagine for a moment that mankind has not only achieved a successful manned landing on the Red Planet, but has also constructed a permanent, self-sufficient colony populated by hundreds of people.
In a recent interview with Inverse, Prof Scott Solomon of Rice University, Texas talked about some of the changes and adaptations that humans living in such a colony may start to undergo.
“Evolution is faster or slower depending on how much of an advantage there is to having a certain mutation,” he said. “If a mutation pops up for people living on Mars, and it gives them a 50-percent survival advantage, that’s a huge advantage, right? And that means that those individuals are going to be passing those genes on at a much higher rate than they otherwise would have.”
Martians could, for instance, develop stronger and denser bones to compensate for the lower gravity. They could also end up with a different skin tone to help protect against harmful radiation.
Living in cramped habitation modules could mean that nearsightedness becomes a more common trait, as could the ability to make more efficient use of the available oxygen.
Cut off from the bacteria and viruses found on Earth, the people of Mars may also end up with a weaker immune system that could make intimate encounters with visitors from Earth very risky.
Eventually, given enough time, Mars colonists may even become a whole new species.
Source: Tech Times
NASA celebrates 50th anniversary of Apollo 10
Image Credit: NASA
Apollo 10 was a complete success.
50 years ago, the Apollo 10 crew flew within 9 miles of the Moon’s surface a mere two months before Apollo 11.
While it was Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who ultimately took the first tentative steps on to the surface of our lunar neighbor, the crew of Apollo 10 had previously come tantalizingly close.
On May 18th 1969, Eugene Cernan, John Young and Thomas Stafford blasted off from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida on what was essentially a ‘dress rehearsal’ for a lunar landing.
Their trip to the Moon was the same as Apollo 11’s in almost every way aside from the fact that, instead of landing, the Apollo Lunar Module only flew to within around 9 miles of the Moon’s surface before returning to the command and service module.
Cernan jokingly claimed that NASA had even taken the precaution of under-fuelling the Lunar Module just in case he and Stafford got any ideas about attempting to land.
“A lot of people thought about the kind of people we were: ‘Don’t give those guys an opportunity to land, ’cause they might!'” said Stafford.
The Apollo 10 crew returned to Earth on May 26th and Apollo 11 launched a mere two months later.
“This is the greatest honor of my life,” Stafford said upon receiving the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. “I am very proud to have contributed to our nation’s future in space and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the beginning of America’s venture into the new and endless frontier.”
Space Force will not be the military branch that repels an alien invasion, officials say
Listen up conspiracy theorists, schizophrenics, and other beloved readers: Some of you out there might have been wondering if Space Force will fight aliens.
Yet only a fool would pose such a question to senior defense officials. Thankfully, your friend and humble Pentagon correspondent is that fool.
During a roundtable on Friday, this reporter asked if Space Force is concerned about threats posed by extraterrestrial intelligence.
The official answer: No.
A December 2018 Defense Intelligence Agency report warns that, “potential adversaries are developing and proliferating a variety of weapons that could disrupt or deny civil and military space services.”
But the report does not mention xenomorphs, Bugs, or Cylons. (This reporter looked.)
Now it is up to Congress to decide whether to approve standing up Space Force as the sixth military service. The last time lawmakers approved the creation of a new military branch was when the Air Force became its own service in 1947.
“We want people to be recruited into the Space Force similar to the way the Marine Corps recruits Marines,” one senior defense official said. “They don’t recruit them into the Navy. They actually go after the specific people with a vision that is necessary to build that culture.”
It has yet to be decided if Space Force will have its own boot camp, officials said. However, ideal Space Force personnel would be able to apply science, technology, engineering, and math skills to warfighting. (Apparently, in space no one eats crayons.)
As currently envisioned, Space Force would fall under the Department of the Air Force. The service would ultimately have about 15,000 service members and civilians, most of whom would likely be transferred from the other services, defense officials said on Friday. The Pentagon estimates that Space Force will cost $2 billion over five years.
“The Space Force will develop forces for: space situational awareness; satellite operations and global, integrated, command and control of military space forces; global and theater military space operations to enable joint campaigns (to include missile warning); space support to land, air, naval, and cyber forces; spacelift and space range operations; space-based nuclear detonation detection; and prompt and sustained offensive and defensive space operations to achieve space superiority,” according to a strategic overview of the proposed service.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has already said that Space Force would not include rifle squads to seek out and destroy new life forms.
One unresolved question is whether Space Force will have its own uniform, like the other military branches.
“They can,” said a senior defense official, who was unable to say what the Space Force uniform might look like. “That’s an important detail to be worked out in the future.”
Your friend and humble narrator will be following the Space Force uniform issue as it develops.
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