The next several years are shaping up to be busy ones for the moon, with no fewer than 14 landings in the works. That includes the robotic missions soon to be undertaken by five privately funded teams vying for the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, in which the contestants must land a rover on a pre-planned spot, move it at least 500 meters “along an interesting path in a deliberate manner,” and transmit video and other data back to Earth. In fact, tracks from the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) rovers could be the next intentional tracks to be made by humans on the moon’s surface.
But amid the excitement of exploring the moon, we can’t overlook our lunar heritage, says Derek Webber, a commercial space exploration consultant and former satellite engineer (TEDxBudapest talk: Claiming the future; protecting the past). After all, humanity’s past isn’t just what has been left here on Earth — it’s in space, too. “Lunar heritage is the record of when we first reached the moon, and it captures the epoch-making reality of what happened back then,” he says. New voyagers will encounter 58 years’ worth of human-created artifacts on the moon, including flags and footprints. Here’s why we should be thoughtful about what we do with them. Continue reading
Galileo, a global navigation satellite system that will reach more places and work more precisely than today’s GPS services, is now available for free public use. When it is complete, expected by 2020, Galileo will have taken two decades and an estimated $10 billion to build. But the system, created by the European Union, will make your phone run better and offer new possibilities for both corporate and government users.
Ronnie Nader is practically a one-man space program. Nader, a systems engineer and Ecuador’s only astronaut candidate, completed four years of cosmonaut training in Moscow in 2007, subsequently helped establish Ecuador’s own “vomit comet” zero-gravity training program, and managed the design, construction, launch, and operations of the country’s first two orbiting satellites in 2013. Continue reading
Small spikes in the magnetic field in our solar system may reveal dust and debris, including some on a collision path with Earth, according to a researcher at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.
The solar wind, which consists of charged particles flowing at high speed from the Sun, creates a magnetic field detectable from interplanetary space probes. Planetary scientist Christopher Russell of the University of California in Los Angeles and his colleagues have been examining small wrinkles in that magnetic field called interplanetary field enhancements (IFEs) since the 1980s. At an EGU session on 13 April, Russell presented the latest evidence that it might be possible to use IFEs to detect asteroid-orbiting clouds of dust and rock, including some that threaten Earth.
“The dust is sort of a warning signal. It’s the smoke telling you where the fire is,” he told Eos. Continue reading