Artemis: European astronauts to train for Moon trip — including Britain’s Tim Peake

The European Space Agency announced the list of candidates who will train to join a future NASA Artemis mission to the Moon during the International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Paris yesterday. Alongside Britain’s Tim Peake, the contenders include France’s Thomas Pesquet, Germany’s Dr Alexander Gerst and Dr Matthias Maurer, Italy’s Luca Parmitano and Samantha Cristoforetti and Denmark’s Dr Andreas Mogensen. All seven have all completed at least one mission serving on board the International Space Station (ISS) in low-Earth orbit.

Between them, ESA communications head Philippe Wikkekens said, the candidates have a combined 4.5 years of experience in orbit and 98 hours of spacewalking under their belt.

Three of the astronauts will be selected to go to the Gateway — a planned space station that will orbit the Moon and provide a stepping stone down to the lunar surface.

However, only one of them will be destined to join their NASA counterparts walking on the Moon before the end of the decade.

It will be up to ESA officials to decide which of the seven get to go to Gateway, and which individual is honoured with a mission to the lunar surface.

Mr Pesquet said: “We’re all candidates, and what matters is to go there as a team.”

“Look, we’re all wearing the same shirt,” he added, referencing how he, Mr Parmitano and Drs Gerst and Maurer all attended the event wearing the same navy polo shirts bearing both ESA and Artemis logos.

Cristoforetti dialled into the event from her current tour of duty on the ISS, during which she recently became the first European woman to embark on a spacewalk outside of the orbiting laboratory.

Dr Mogensen also joined via video, albeit from a more earthly location — the Danish astronaut and aerospace engineer is presently preparing for his trip to the ISS.

The announcement comes as NASA yesterday successfully completed a fuelling test of the core and interim cryogenic propulsion stages of the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at the heart of the space agency’s Artemis lunar exploration program.

The demo was necessary following two aborted launches of the uncrewed Artemis I mission into lunar orbit — the first caused by a faulty sensor reading in one of the SLS’s four main engines and the most recent caused by a persistent leak in the liquid hydrogen fuel line.

NASA is now aiming for a launch on September 27 — with a backup window on October 2.

A key aim of the Artemis I mission is to test that the heat shield on the new Orion space capsule is indeed capable of surviving atmospheric reentry, paving the way for Artemis II, which will carry a four-person crew in a lunar flyby.

It won’t be until 2025’s Artemis III that astronauts will once again set food on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972 — and the ESA astronauts will likely not see space on the missions until Artemis IV at the earliest.

As ESA director of human and robotic exploration, David Parker, told the AFP: “During this decade, three astronauts will fly to the Lunar Gateway — our permanent station we’re building around the Moon.

“And if all that goes well, by the end of this decade we’ll be ready to send the first European astronaut to the moon.”

Mr Pesquet added that putting an ESA astronaut on the Moon would be “something inspiring for Europe, a strong signal to say that ‘here we are, taking our place in the space world, in a cooperative way.”

Dr Maurer added: “With a European on the Moon, I hope that a united Europe will be more of a reality than it is today.”

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  • 17 минут назад 05.10.2022Science
    Royal Hall of first East Anglian Kings unearthed in Suffolk — ‘International importance’

    A community archaeology project in Rendlesham, Suffolk has unearthed the remains of the royal Hall of the first Kings of East Anglia. The timber building, which was built some 1,400 years ago, was 75 feet long and 32 feet wide, and sat within a royal compound that covered an area of around six hectares. For 150 years, this site was from where a major province of the kingdom of East Anglia — one centred around the valley of River Deben — was ruled. According to The Venerable Bede, Rendlesham was where King Aethelwold stood sponsor at the baptism of King Swithelm of the East Saxons between AD 655 and 663.

    Lead archaeologist Professor Christopher Scull of Cardiff University said: “The results of this season’s excavation are of international importance.

    “Rendlesham is the most extensive and materially wealthy settlement of its date known in England, and excavation of the Hall confirms that this is the royal residence recorded by Bede.

    “Only at Rendlesham do we have the wider settlement and landscape context of an early English royal centre together with an assemblage of metalwork that illuminates the lives and activities of its inhabitants across the social range.

    “Together, these are radically re-writing our understanding of the sophistication, complexity and international connections of society at that time.”

    Prof Scull continued: “It has been wonderful working with our terrific team of partners and volunteers, who should be proud of what they achieved.

    “Their work is a major advance in our understanding of the early East Anglian Kingdom and the wider North Sea world of which it was a part.”

    Alongside the foundations of the large timber Hall — which were first identified back in 2015 via aerial photography — the dig also revealed a perimeter ditch that surrounded the royal compound, traces of beef and pork preparation and consumption, and assorted artefacts.

    These included dress jewellery, personal items and pieces of both glass drinkware and pottery.

    The archaeologists also found traces of earlier human activity on the site — from both the early Roman and early Neolithic periods.

    Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro is Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Protected Landscapes and Archaeology.

    She said: “The council’s archaeological service has had another hugely successful summer, overseeing work which tells us even more about our county’s and country’s history — and how people lived their lives more than a thousand years ago.

    “It can’t be underestimated how important this part of Suffolk is to understanding our local and national heritage.

    “I’d like to thank the landowners for their support and enabling us to carry out the excavations on their private land. All the volunteers, local school children and charities are also key to making this happen.

    “They tell us that they’ve gained so much from this unique experience, from making new friends, to being in touch with their history, to having space and activities to benefit their mental health.”

    More than 250 volunteers from the local community were involved in the excavation works — including both 100 primary school children and young adults from both Suffolk Family Carers and mental health charity Suffolk Mind.

    Suffolk Family Carers’ Keiron Whall said: “Suffolk Family Carers support young people from all over Suffolk, affected by a family member who has a long-term illness or condition.

    “This opportunity for eight of our young carers, aged 12–16, to be involved in the archaeological fieldwork has been an exciting new experience, offering them respite from their day-to-day challenges.

    “The archaeology team made the young people so welcome and supported, teaching them new skills. We look forward to working with the project again in the future.”

    Further fieldwork as part of the “Rendlesham Revealed” project will take place next summer. In the meantime, work will soon be underway to analyse artefacts from the site, with provisional results expected to be published next year.

  • 4 часа, 17 минут назад 05.10.2022Science
    ‘Bionic pancreas’ simplifies blood sugar management for type 1 diabetics

    A new system dubbed the “iLet Bionic Pancreas” could help simplify and improve blood glucose control for type 1 diabetics, a clinical trial has revealed. The device is presently under review by the United States Food and Drug Administration. If approved, the system would become the most automated method available for blood sugar management — tracking glucose levels and administering insulin with little patient input.

    Paediatric endocrinologist Dr Jennifer Sherr of the Yale School of Medicine said: “This technology takes more of the burden away from patients.”

    While Dr Sherr specialises in treating children with type 1 diabetes, she said the new device could help patients of any age by making their disease less of a burden to manage.

    The rarer of the main two varieties of the condition, type 1 diabetes is caused when the body’s immune system accidentally destroys the cells in the pancreas that create insulin, the hormone that allows cells to take in glucose-based sugar from the bloodstream.

    To compensate, people with type 1 diabetes need to routinely inject synthetic insulin — and walk the fine line between keeping their blood sugar levels from getting too high and too low, as to lower the risk of complications like kidney failure, nerve damage and heart disease.

    Blood sugar management has usually involved the use of fingerprinting and glucose testing strips — which is then used to guide insulin injections. However, some wearable devices have been developed to make this process easier.

    A “pump”, for example, delivers insulin throughout the day via a small tube that runs under the skin. Glucose monitors, meanwhile, provide constant blood sugar monitoring without the need for daily finger-pricking.

    Recently, these two concepts have been combined into so-called “hybrid closed-loop” or “artificial pancreas” systems, which use computer algorithms to automatically adjust insulin doses based on data collected via continuous glucose monitoring.

    Past studies have shown that such systems are able to control the blood sugar levels of type 1 diabetes patients more effectively than conventional treatments.

    Endocrinologist Dr Steven Russell of Harvard Medical School said: “Technology really has moved forward in recent years.” However, he added, artificial pancreas systems still require a not-insignificant amount of patient input — calculating carbs to be eaten and tweaking insulin doses accordingly.

    The team’s bionic pancreas, as Dr Russell puts it, improves glucose management by “eliminating the math”.

    As with artificial pancreas systems, the new device combines glucose monitoring with an insulin pump.

    However, improved software replaces direct carb counting with the selection of meal classification (i.e. breakfast) and a relative measure of how much is being consumed.

    Dr Russell said: “The system determines every drop of insulin that’s given.”

    To demonstrate the potential of the new device, the team recruited 326 people with type 1 diabetes aged between 6–79 and gave 219 of them a bionic pancreas to try for 13 weeks.

    The other 107 participants stuck with their standard monitoring tool — either a hybrid closed-loop system, a conventional insulin pump, or injections.

    The team found that patients who used the bionic pancreas saw a decline in their so-called “HbA1c levels”, which is a measure of average blood sugars levels over three months, from an average of 7.9 down to 7.3 percent, far closer to the goal of 7.

    In comparison, the subjects in the comparison group showed no change.

    Patients using the bionic pancreas also spent more time — around 2.5 hours on average — with their blood sugar levels in the target range.

    Should the device be approved for widespread use, the team hopes that the bionic pancreas will make automated insulin therapy more available.

    However, they noted, some patients may prefer to stick with their current routine — which they may feel gives them more hands-on control over their insulin dosing.

    Dr Russell concluded: “I think it’s good to have options.”

    Dr Sherr has described the bionic pancreas in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

  • 4 часа, 28 минут назад 05.10.2022Science
    Stunning James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory images reveal cosmic secrets

    NASA combined X-ray data from its Chandra X-Ray Observatory with infrared data from the James Webb Space Telescope to create gorgeous new composite images that it released today – showcasing the capabilities of both instruments.

    The space agency’s James Webb, which released its first images to worldwide acclaim in July, was always meant to work in partnership with NASA’s other telescopes and observatories – whether on the ground or in space.

    The newly released images depict Webb’s earliest observations, including Stephens Quintet, the Cartwheel Galaxy, SMACS 0723..3-7327 and the Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula.

    NASA’s Chandra was specially designed to capture X-ray emissions from extremely hot areas of the universe. With the combined data from Chandra, higher-energy process can be seen that aren’t visible in the James Webb’s infrared view.

    The James Webb’s primary mirror intercepts red and infrared light traveling through space and reflects it onto a smaller secondary mirror. The secondary mirror then directs the light into the scientific instruments where it is recorded.

    Stephan’s Quintet

    The four galaxies within Stephan’s Quintet are undergoing an intricate dance choreographed by gravity.

    ‘The Webb image (red, orange, yellow, green, blue) of this object features never-seen-before details of the results of these interactions, including sweeping tails of gas and bursts of star formation,’ NASA explains.

    ‘The Chandra data (light blue) of this system has uncovered a shock wave that heats gas to tens of millions of degrees, as one of the galaxies passes through the others at speeds of around 2 million miles per hour.’

    This new composite also includes infrared data from NASA’s now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope.

    Cartwheel Galaxy

    The Cartwheel galaxy gets its shape from a collision with another smaller galaxy about 100 million years ago.

    ‘When this smaller galaxy punched through the Cartwheel, it triggered star formation that appears around an outer ring and elsewhere throughout the galaxy,’ NASA states in a blog post.

    According to the U.S. space agency, X-rays seen by Chandra (blue and purple) come from superheated gas, individual exploded stars, and neutron stars and black holes pulling material from companion stars.

    Webb’s infrared view (red, orange, yellow, green, blue) shows the Cartwheel galaxy plus two smaller companion galaxies — which are not part of the collision — against a backdrop of many more distant galactic cousins.

    SMACS 0723.3–7327

    Webb data shows the galaxy cluster SMACS J0723, which is located about 4.2 billion light-years away, containing hundreds of individual galaxies.

    ‘Galaxy clusters, however, contain far more than their galaxies alone. As some of the largest structures in the universe, they are filled with vast reservoirs of superheated gas that is seen only in X-ray light,’ NASA notes.

    ‘In this image, the Chandra data (blue) reveals gas with temperatures of tens of millions of degrees, possessing a total mass of about 100 trillion times that of the Sun, several times higher than the mass of all the galaxies in the cluster. Invisible dark matter makes up an even larger fraction of the total mass in the cluster,’ the space agency explains.

    NGC 3324, The Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula

    Chandra’s data of the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ (pink) reveals over a dozen individual X-ray sources.

    These are mostly stars located in the outer region of a star cluster in the Carina Nebula with ages between 1 and 2 million years old, which is very young in stellar terms.

    Young stars are much brighter in X-rays than old stars, making X-ray studies an ideal way to distinguish stars in the Carina Nebula from the many stars of different ages from our Milky Way galaxy along our line of sight to the nebula.

    The diffuse X-ray emission in the top half of the image likely comes from hot gas from the three hottest, most massive stars in the star cluster. They are all outside the field of view of the Webb image. The Webb image uses the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, and blue.

    The Chandra orbits above Earth at an altitude of 86,500 miles (139,000 km) and the Smithsonian’s Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts hosts the center that operates the satellite, processes the data and distributes it to scientists worldwide for analysis.

    NASA’s James Webb began transmitting its first image this summer and is expected to provide scientists with many years of discoveries regarding the earliest moments of our universe – just after the Big Bang.

  • 4 часа, 28 минут назад 05.10.2022Science
    Earth’s next supercontinent Amasia will form around the North Pole in 300 million years

    A new model predicts the Pacific Ocean will disappear 300 million years from now, bringing the continents together to form a new supercontinent called Amasia located around the North Pole.

    The simulation was conducted by a team of researchers led by Australia’s Curtin University, which highlights the fact that the Pacific Ocean is the oldest and began shrinking back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth – it is currently losing a few centimeters per year.

    The model shows Asia moving east toward the Americas, which are pulled to the west until the three continents meet like a perfect puzzle piece. Antarctica eventually finds its way to South America, Africa attaches to Asia on one side and Europe on the other to complete Amasia.

    The analysis could be on point, as evidence shows a new supercontinent has formed every 600 million years and the last one was Pangaea that formed 300 million years ago.

    The first supercontinent, believed to be Vaalbara, formed 3.3 billion years ago and was followed by Ur 300 million years after.

    Ur, however, is widely accepted as the first supercontinent due to stronger evidence showing its existence – not much is known about Vaalbara.

    Kenorland was next when it formed 2.7 billion years ago and is said to have been made up of smaller cratons, which are large stable blocks of the earth’s crust forming the nucleus of a continent.

    And then came Columbia, which was formed by colossal collision events 1.8 billion years ago.

    This supercontinent consisted of the proto-cratons that had previously made up Laurentia, Baltica, the Ukranian and Amazonian Shields, Australia and even Siberia, North China and Kalaharia.

    As Columbia started to break apart over the course of a few hundred million years, they then reunited about a billion years ago to form Rodinia and it dominated the world for the next 350 million years.

    Pannotia came next, forming about 600 million years ago, and lasted for about 550 million years before splitting up into Laurentia, Siberia and Baltica with the main landmass of Gondwana to the south.

    Then the famous Pangea appeared 300 million years ago.

    This large mass began to break apart about 200 million years ago, during the Early Jurassic, eventually forming the modern continents and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

    And the next supercontinent will be Amasia.

    Lead author Dr Chuan Huang said in a statement: ‘The resulting new supercontinent has already been named Amasia because some believe that the Pacific Ocean will close (as opposed to the Atlantic and Indian oceans) when America collides with Asia.

    ‘Australia is also expected to play a role in this important Earth event, first colliding with Asia and then connecting America and Asia once the Pacific Ocean closes.’

    The Pacific Ocean formed about 700 million years ago when Rodinia began to break up, making it the oldest ocean out of the bunch.

    However, it is also shrinking 0.19 square miles per year due to plate tectonics shifting under the seafloor.

    Co-author John Curtin Distinguished Professor Zheng-Xiang Li, also from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said that having the whole world dominated by a single continental mass would dramatically alter Earth’s ecosystem and environment.

    ‘Earth as we know it will be drastically different when Amasia forms. The sea level is expected to be lower, and the vast interior of the supercontinent will be very arid with high daily temperature ranges,’ Li said.

    ‘Currently, Earth consists of seven continents with widely different ecosystems and human cultures, so it would be fascinating to think what the world might look like in 200 to 300 million years’ time.’

  • 6 часов, 17 минут назад 04.10.2022Science
    Nobel Prize in Physics: 2022 award given to trio for work on Einstein’s ‘spooky action’

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in quantum mechanics. The honour was bestowed in recognition of their “experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science.” The trio has been awarded a prize fund of 10 million Swedish kronor (£804,000), which will be shared between them. They were previously awarded the Israeli non-profit Wolf Foundation’s Prize in Physics back in 2010, also for their works on entangled states.

    Entanglement is a strange phenomenon predicted by quantum mechanics, the science of how matter and light behave on the atomic and subatomic scale.

    In fact, entanglement is one of the key differences between quantum mechanics and classical mechanics, which better describes the motion of objects on a larger scale.

    According to quantum mechanics, it is possible for a particle to exist in two mutually exclusive conditions at the same time — having, for example, a polarisation that is both horizontal and vertical — at least until such is measured, or “observation”.

    At this point, the “superposition” of the different states collapses and the particle is found to be in either one state or the other. Before the measurement, all the possible outcomes can be described as a probability distribution known as a “quantum state”.

    When two particles become entangled, they behave not individually but as if they were part of a larger whole, even when separated by vast distances, such that it is impossible to describe the quantum state of one particle independently of the other.

    This means that measurements of physical properties of entangled particles — such as their polarisation or spin — can be correlated.

    In a simple example, if one has a pair of entangled particles with a total spin of zero, if one particle is found to have a clockwise spin on a given axis, then the spin of the other particle on the same axis will be anticlockwise.

    The really confusing part lies in the fact that the collapsed state of the first particle is only set when the measurement is taken — but it will still correlate instantly with measurements of the other particle in the entanglement.

    Despite being partly responsible for the theory of quantum entanglement, Professor Albert Einstein was not keen on the idea — dismissing it as “spooky action at a distance” — as it appeared that it could facilitate the transfer of information faster than the speed of light.

    Instead, Prof. Einstein proposed that both particles must have so-called “hidden variables” which accounted for their correlation without needing to break the universe’s speed limit.

    In the 1960s, the Northern Irish physicist Dr John Stewart Bell argued that quantum mechanics would allow for stronger statistical correlations between certain measurements of entangled, distant particles than possible under “local” theories, like the use of hidden variables.

    If quantum mechanics is a viable explanation for how the universe works, then the results of certain experiments should violate the mathematical constraint predicted on the maximum correlation possible using hidden variables — the so-called “Bell inequality”.

    Dr Clauser, who is based in California, developed Dr Bell’s ideas into a practical experiment that tested the viability of quantum mechanics vs hidden variables.

    The test involved calcium ions that emitted entangled photos when illuminated with a special light. The polarisation of photons sent off in different directions was measured using a filter.

    His measurements showed a clear violation of a Bell inequality, supporting quantum theory and showing that it cannot be replaced by one that employs hidden variables.

    There remained, however, some loopholes in the experimental approach used by Dr Clauser.

    The method was refined by Prof. Aspect of France’s Université Paris-Saclay and École Polytechnique, such that entangled photons were emitted both at a higher rate, but also in a way that the system could be switched between various settings.

    In this way, the system could not be argued to contain any advanced information that might affect the outcomes.

    Finally, the third prize winner — Prof. Zeilinger of the University of Vienna — showed how entangled quantum states might be used across systems with more than two particles, and for practical applications.

    For example, his research group has shown how quantum states can be moved from one particle to another far away in a process known as “quantum teleportation”.

    Such quantum tricks have the potential to be harnessed to produce uncrackable encryption schemes — with entangled particles used to produce the “key” to deciphering encrypted data in a way that cannot be measured by a third party without alerting the sender.

    Nobel Committee for Physics Chair Anders Irbäck: “It has become increasingly clear that a new kind of quantum technology is emerging.

    “We can see that the laureates’ work with entangled states is of great importance, even beyond the fundamental questions about the interpretation of quantum mechanics.”

    American Physical Society president Frances Hellman added: “This prize reflects the importance of the awardees’ experiments to our fundamental understanding of quantum mechanics as well as to emerging technologies such as quantum computers and quantum communication.

    “The work is a great example of the best of physics — exploring the truth and beauty of the universe while also laying the foundation for technologies that improve life on Earth.”

  • 6 часов, 28 минут назад 04.10.2022Science
    Archaeologists unearth well-preserved 2,000-year-old status of Roman god Hercules in Greece

    Archaeologists unearthed a well-preserved statue of the Roman god Hercules during excavations at a site in Greece’s ancient city of Philippi.

    A team from Aristotle University found the statue, which was in a few pieces but still in good condition, in an area that was once part of the Roman and Byzantine empires.

    Hercules is the Roman equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles, son of Jupiter and the mortal Alcmene – who was herself the granddaughter of the hero Perseus.

    In classical mythology, Hercules was famous for having super-human strength and was seen as the champion of the weak and a great protector.

    Hercules is often depicted with a lion skin cloak over his arm and holding a club.

    The group of professors and students found each of these elements, which helped them identify the ancient artifact as Hercules.

    The statue was found on the eastern side of one of the main streets of the city.

    Researchers believe that the statue once adorned a building that dates to the late Byzantine period in the 8th or 9th century AD.

    Philippi was a major Greek city northwest of the nearby island, Thasos. Its original name was Crenides after its establishment by Thasian colonists in 360/359 BC.

    The city was renamed by Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest

    The Ministry of Culture in Greece also noted that in Constantinople, statues from the classical and Roman period would often adorn buildings and public spaces until the late Byzantine period.

    Modern day Greece – and its ancient sites sprinkled elsewhere – have been the location of many archaeological discoveries over the years.

    In 2021, researchers determined that a 14th-century Byzantine warrior had survived a broken jaw by having it wired shut with gold threading years after unearthing the man’s skull.

    The unknown warrior’s skull and lower jaw were unearthed 30 years ago at the site of fort Polystylon, a Byzantine stronghold built on the remains of the ancient Greek city of Abdera near the Aegean, in what is now Western Thrace.

    Last year, archaeologists discovered at trove of copper coins dating to the sixth century in Phanagoria, an ancient-Greek city in what is now southwestern Russia.

    According to a translated statement from the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 80 copper staters were found in the remains of a 6th century fire.

    ‘Treasures [like this] are not often found,’ said Vladimir Kuznetsov, head of the Phanagoria archaeological expedition of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in the statement.

    Experts believe the fire may have destroyed a ‘significant part of the city’ and may have stemmed from the attacks that were orchestrated by the Huns or the Turks.

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