Director/writer Duncan Jones — whom you may know from his hyper-focused, small cast sci-fi films like Moon and Source Code, or the larger-scale Warcraft film that I admittedly never saw — has a new project out in the form of a graphic novel. Madi: Once Upon A Time In The Future is written by Jones and author/letterer Alex de Campi, with a huge team of artists including Ed Ocaña, Pia Guerra, James Stokoe, RM Guéra, Chris Weston, Rufus Dayglo, Annie Wu, David Lopez, Christian Ward, Matt Wilson, Nayoung Kim, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and many more. Here's a brief synopsis:
Madi Preston, a veteran of Britain’s elite special operations J-Squad unit, is burnt out and up to her eyeballs in debt. She and the rest of her team have retired from the military but are now trapped having to pay to service and maintain the technology put into them during their years of service. They're working for British conglomerate Liberty Inc as mercenaries, selling their unique ability to be remote controlled by specialists while in the field, and the debts are only growing as they get injured completing missions. We meet Madi as she decides she’s had enough. She will take an off-the-books job that should earn her enough to pay out her and her sister, but when the piece of tech she’s supposed to steal turns out to be a kid, and she suddenly blacks out... she finds herself on the run from everyone she’s ever known.
Madi is supposed to the final part of a trilogy comprised of Jones's other M-productions, Moon and Mute; while each story exists independently, they're also part of a loosely connected universe. Read the rest
Astronaut David Scott re-created, in 1971 during the Apollo 15 mission, Galileo's "falling bodies" experiment by dropping a hammer and feather on the moon at the same time. Simply, both fell at the same rate because there was no air resistance.
screengrab via Wonders of Physics/YouTube
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Moonward Expansion has always been the inevitable future of the map-making Western world. And now that unsustainable extraction of natural resources is closer than ever to reality. As Reuters reports, the Trump administration has begun drafting the Artemis Accords (named after NASA's moon program and definitely not the kind of thing a comic book supervillain would come up with) to strategize internationals drilling and colonization efforts on our lunar neighbor:
The Trump administration and other spacefaring countries see the moon as a key strategic asset in outer space. The moon also has value for long-term scientific research that could enable future missions to Mars - activities that fall under a regime of international space law widely viewed as outdated.
The Artemis Accords, named after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s new Artemis moon programme, propose “safety zones” that would surround future moon bases to prevent damage or interference from rival countries or companies operating in close proximity.
The pact also aims to provide a framework under international law for companies to own the resources they mine, the sources said.
Once again, the President Who Builds A Space Force And Has Sex With Porn Stars is fulfilling all my 12-year-old fantasies in all the absolute worst ways possible. Speaking of Space Force, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that the creation of that new military department is directly linked to the Artemis Accords, to protect potential future corporate assets once all the oil is sucked out of the Middle East.
I suppose it's worth noting that Reuters' only source for this news is "people familiar with the proposed pact." Read the rest
Tonight's full Moon is a "Pink Moon" aka "Passover Moon" aka "Paschal Moon" aka "Hanuman Jayanti" aka supermoon, the largest full moon of 2020. From NASA:
The term "supermoon" was coined by the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and refers to either a new or full Moon that occurs within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit. Under this definition, in a typical year there can be 3 or 4 full Supermoons in a row and (about half a year apart) 3 or 4 new Supermoons in a row. In practice, what catches the public's attention are the full Moons that appear biggest and brightest each year. For 2020, the four full Moons from February to May meet this 90% threshold, with the full Moons in March and April nearly tied in size and brightness. This full Moon will be slightly closer to the Earth (about 0.1%) than the March full Moon was, so this will be the "most super" of the full supermoons this year.
image: NASA/Bill Dunford
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This footage appears to be a telescopic shot of the moon in daylight. Read the rest
While scientists have studied Moon rocks for 50 years, researchers have for the first time conducted deep analysis on a single grain of lunar dust, atom by atom. Using a common materials science technique called atom probe tomography that's not widely used by geologists, the Chicago Field Museum's Jennika Greer and colleagues probed the grain of soil -- about the width of a human hair -- and were able to learn about the Moon's surface its elemental composition. From the Field Museum:
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In that tiny grain, she identified products of space weathering, pure iron, water and helium, that formed through the interactions of the lunar soil with the space environment. Extracting these precious resources from lunar soil could help future astronauts sustain their activities on the Moon...
Once the sample was inside the atom probe at Northwestern University, Greer zapped it with a laser to knock atoms off one by one. As the atoms flew off the sample, they struck a detector plate. Heavier elements, like iron, take longer to reach the detector than lighter elements, like hydrogen. By measuring the time between the laser firing and the atom striking the detector, the instrument is able to determine the type of atom at that position and its charge. Finally, Greer reconstructed the data in three dimensions, using a color-coded point for each atom and molecule to make a nanoscale 3D map of the Moon dust...
Studying soil from the moon's surface gives scientists insight into an important force within our Solar System: space weathering.
No, this isn't a concept design for a Space: 1999 reboot but rather an illustration of the new moon rover in development by Toyota and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Toyota has just signed a three year agreement with JAXA and created a Lunar Exploration Mobility Works department that they will staff up with 30 people in the next few months. Unlike NASA's 1970s Apollo moon buggies, this vehicle will be pressurized so astronauts won't need to wear oxygen-supplying spacesuits when tooling around the lunar surface. It'll be powered by "fuel cell electric vehicle technologies." From Space.com
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If all goes according to plan, Toyota and JAXA will build a full-scale prototype in the 2022 time frame, design the flight model and build and test an engineering model about two years later, and build and test the flight model around 2027.
Launch would follow in 2029.
"The rover will be used for missions to explore the moon's polar regions, with the aim both of investigating the possibility of using the moon's resources ― such as frozen water ― and of acquiring technologies that enable exploration of the surfaces of massive heavenly bodies," Toyota representatives wrote in the statement.
Fifty years ago today, a Saturn V rocket launched with Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins on board. On July 19, Armstrong became the first human to step onto the moon. Above is almost five hours of CBS News's coverage of the historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon. And that's the way it was.
More: "Apollo 11 launch: Watch the most memorable moments from CBS News' coverage" Read the rest
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first human Moon landing on July 20, Vernacular photography collector Robert E. Jackson curated a lovely collection of vintage snapshots related to the Moon. I've always gotten a kick out of how TV viewers around the world used to snap photos of their screens to commemorate momentous moments.
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Trump’s moon mission threatened
Beneath a crater on the moon lies what could be the remains of a colossal, metal-rich asteroid that hit our moon 4 billion years ago.
From NY Mag:
It sits 180 miles beneath the South Pole-Aitken basin — one of the solar system’s largest impact craters, and the moon’s oldest, at over 4 billion years — a massive dent spanning some 1,550 miles on the far side of the moon. (It’s also where China landed its Chang’e 4 lunar rover in January.) Publishing in Geophysical Research Letters, the Baylor scientists have two theories for the origin of the huge subterranean blob. It could be the leftovers of dense oxides created in the last years when the moon’s surface was an ocean of magma — a theory that relies on the giant-impact hypothesis, when an impactor the size of Mars may have collided into a magma-covered Earth, ejecting magma into orbit that became the surface of the moon.
Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/DLR/ASU Read the rest
Last month, Israeli non-profit SpaceIL's Beresheet probe made it to the lunar surface but sadly it wasn't a soft landing. Beresheet was the first private attempt at a lunar landing and they got pretty damn close. A couple weeks after the crash, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter orbited over the area and NASA has released images that show the impact site. From NASA:
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LROC took this image from 56 miles (90 kilometers) above the surface. The cameras captured a dark smudge, about 10 meters wide, that indicates the point of impact. The dark tone suggests a surface roughened by the hard landing, which is less reflective than a clean, smooth surface.
From so far away, LROC could not detect whether Beresheet formed a surface crater upon impact. It’s possible the crater is just too small to show up in photos. Another possibility is that Beresheet formed a small indent instead of a crater, given its low angle of approach (around 8.4 degrees relative to the surface), light mass (compared to a dense meteoroid of the same size), and low velocity (again, relative to a meteoroid of the same size; Beresheet’s speed was still faster than most speeding bullets).
The light halo around the smudge could have formed from gas associated with the impact or from fine soil particles blown outward during Beresheet’s descent, which smoothed out the soil around the landing site, making it highly reflective...
Most importantly, we knew the coordinates of the landing site within a few miles thanks to radio tracking of Beresheet, and we have 11 “before” images of the area, spanning a decade, and three “after” images.
“We must return to the Moon—this time to stay.”
On Sunday, UK-based backyard astrophotographer Szabolcs Nagy captured a series of images of the International Space Station transiting the moon and combined them in the captivating GIF above. Nagy's tools, seen below in the parking lot where he set up for the shoot, were a Skywatcher 250/1200 FlexTube Ddobson telescope and Zwo ASI224MC camera.
ISS: Extremely Good Lunar Transit (Space Station Guys)
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Starting Sunday evening, Jan. 20, 2019, North and South America will have a chance at seeing 2019's only total lunar eclipse, from start to finish.
Our Earth, Moon and Sun line up on Sunday night for the only total lunar eclipse of of the year. Catch it if you can. Read the rest
A cotton seed has germinated on the moon. The sprout is inside a canister on China's Chang’e 4 lander that touched down on the far side of the moon earlier this month. From The Guardian:
Plants have been grown previously on the International Space Station, but this is the first time a seed has sprouted on the moon. The ability to grow plants in space is seen as crucial for long-term space missions and establishing human outposts elsewhere in the solar system, such as Mars.
Harvesting food in space, ideally using locally extracted water, would mean astronauts could survive for far longer without returning to Earth for supplies...
Scientists from Chongqing University, who designed the “mini lunar biosphere” experiment, sent an 18cm bucket-like container holding air, water and soil.
Inside are cotton, arabidopsis – a small, flowering plant of the mustard family – and potato seeds, as well as fruit-fly eggs and yeast.
Images sent back by the probe show a cotton plant has grown well, but so far none of the other plants had sprouted, the university said.
Imaging the marketing opportunity for a cannabis company to sell space weed!
• China launching lunar spacecraft to test growing plants on the dark side of the Moon
• First images from China's probe that just landed on the dark side of the moon
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Earlier today, the China National Space Administration's Chang'e 4 landed a rover on the far side of the moon for the first time. Blocked from direct communication with the Earth, the lander and rover will depend on China's Queqiao communication satellite launched in May. From the New York Times:
“This is a major achievement technically and symbolically,” said Namrata Goswami, an independent analyst who wrote about space for the Defense Department’s Minerva Research Institute. “China views this landing as just a steppingstone, as it also views its future manned lunar landing, since its long-term goal is to colonize the moon and use it as a vast supply of energy.”
The place the probe is exploring, Dr. Goswami said, could become a future refueling base for missions deeper into space in the way “navies viewed coaling stations, for purposes of refueling and resupply.”
The instruments aboard the lander and the rover include cameras, ground-penetrating radar and spectrometers to help identify the composition of the area, which was formed by a meteorite. Scientists hope the rocks and dirt in the area will add to the understanding of the moon’s geology.
The lander will also conduct a biology experiment to see if plant seeds will germinate and silkworm eggs will hatch in the moon’s low gravity.
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