Category: Science

An artificial moon to light up the Earth

China artificial Moon illustration.

Oct. 19, 2018

Beijing would like to reflect sunlight on Earth overnight to achieve lighting savings.

China wants to launch in space by 2020 an “artificial Moon”, which would reflect on Earth the sunlight during the night and would achieve savings in lighting, said Friday a state media.

Russian project “Mayak satellite”

This satellite equipped with a reflective film would be responsible for illuminating the large city of Chengdu (southwest) and should be eight times brighter than the lunar body, reports the China Daily.

A first copy should first be sent to space, followed by the success of three others in 2022, Wu Tengfeng, the head of the Tianfu New Area Science Society, told Xinhua.

“The first Moon will be mainly experimental, but the three sent in 2022 will be the real finished product. They will have great potential in terms of services to the people and from a commercial point of view, "Wu said.

Significant electricity savings

By sending sunlight back to Earth, the satellite, which would evolve at an altitude of 500 km, is supposed to be able to partially replace streetlights. It could save Chengdu about 1.2 billion yuan (about 170 million francs) of electricity a year if it can illuminate an area of ​​50 square kilometers.

The artificial light source could also be used after natural disasters, by deflecting solar rays to terrestrial areas where power was cut off, Wu Chunfeng said. AFP could not contact Mr. Wu or his institution directly.

Russian project "Znamya”

Beijing has for many years been conducting an ambitious space program to catch up with the United States and Russia. The country plans to send a small robot named Chang’e-4 on the far side of the moon by the end of 2018.

China is not the first country to try to reflect the sun’s rays on the Earth. In the 1990s, Russian scientists had developed a similar project called Znamya (“Banner”), stopped after some tests.

Images, Text, Credits: Tianfu New Area Science Society/IEEE Spectrum/AFP/GM Productions/Mike Fisher/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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The claw game on Mars: NASA InSight plays to w…

Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 19, 2018

If you’ve ever played the claw machine at an arcade, you know how hard it can be to maneuver the metal “hand” to pick up a prize. Imagine trying to play that game when the claw is on Mars, the objects you’re trying to grasp are far more fragile than a stuffed bear and all you have is a stitched-together panorama of the environment you’re working in. Oh, and there might be a dust storm.

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US-Russia space cooperation to go on despite S…

Moscow (Sputnik) Oct 19, 2018

According to NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, the launch of manned Soyuz spacecraft will resume on schedule. The statement comes after last week’s Soyuz spacecraft launch failure. Radio Sputnik has discussed the prospects for Russia-US space cooperation with Professor Steven Freeland, Dean of the School of Law at Western Sydney University.

Sputnik: What can you say about the US-Russia
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Launches of Russian Rokot-2 rocket may begin a…

Moscow (Sputnik) Oct 19, 2018

The launches of the Russian Rokot-2 light carrier rockets may begin again in 2021 which would allow achieving annual incomes of over 8 billion rubles ($120 million) if the decision to resume the project is made this year, a source in the aerospace industry told Sputnik.

“The launches of Rokot-2 may begin in 2021 if the decision to resume the project is made in 2018. The positive money flow
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BepiColombo – Swiss Technology on Mercury

ESA – BepiColombo Mission patch.

Oct. 19, 2018

Ariane 5 will take off this weekend from Kourou, with two probes and instruments designed by the University of Bern on board.

Swiss researchers and companies took part in the ambitious Mercure research mission to be launched on the night of Friday to Saturday. The instruments developed must help reveal the secrets of the planet closest to the sun.

BepiColombo in the withe room

Instruments designed and manufactured by the Institute of Physics at the University of Bern will travel aboard the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) probes.

This is the Bela laser altimeter, the largest and most fragile instrument of the mission, and the brand new Strofio mass spectrometer, says the University of Bern.

BepiColombo Laser Altimeter – BELA

The BepiColombo mission consists of two space vehicles: one built by Europeans, Mercury Planetary Orbiter (DFO), and the other by the Japanese agency, Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).

The two vehicles will travel together to Mercury in a coupled system, but once there, they will be placed in different orbits. The MMO will study the interaction between the planet and the solar wind, while DFO will be responsible for mapping the surface of Mercury.

3D representation of the planet

The objective of the Bela laser altimeter, one of the elements on board DFO, is to measure the shape, topography and morphology of the Mercury surface. “Bela essentially allows us to create a 3D representation of the whole planet,” explains Nicolas Thomas, co-director of the project and director of the Institute of Physics at the University of Bern.

BepiColombo configuration

The all-new Strofio mass spectrometer is designed to capture the very fine atmosphere of Mercury – the exosphere – and to analyze its chemical composition.

The researchers had to design instruments so that they could withstand the heat of the sun: on Mercury, the temperature can be ten times higher than on Earth.

Neuchatel micro-cameras

The academic world is not the only Swiss player involved in the BepiColombo research mission. Neuchâtel equipment developed by Micro-Cameras & Space Exploration (MCSE) is part of the trip.

Digital Space Micro-Camera

MCSE has completely produced an instrument panel consisting of three micro-cameras. These will be used especially to photograph the passages near Venus and the approach of Mercury.

For its part, the armament and aeronautics group Ruag notably delivered the structure of the MPO vehicle in aluminum panels.

BepiColombo is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is the first Mercury mission to send two science orbiters to make complementary measurements of the planet’s dynamic environment at the same time.

A third module will transport the orbiters on the seven year cruise to Mercury, using a combination of solar electric propulsion and nine gravity assist flybys at Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Watch live as the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury is launched on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana:

BepiColombo launch live broadcast:


03:15 CEST Start of live transmission
03:45 CEST Liftoff, followed by confirmation of acquisition of signal, expected 40 minutes after launch
04:30 CEST End of live transmission

Related links:

ESA’s BepiColombo:

BepiColombo Laser Altimeter – BELA:

Micro-Cameras & Space Exploration (MCSE):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/ATS/University of Bern/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,
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NASA’s Fermi Mission Energizes the Sky With Ga…

NASA – Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope logo.

Oct. 18, 2018

Long ago, sky watchers linked the brightest stars into patterns reflecting animals, heroes, monsters and even scientific instruments into what is now an official collection of 88 constellations. Now scientists with NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have devised a set of modern constellations constructed from sources in the gamma-ray sky to celebrate the mission’s 10th year of operations.

To explore Fermi’s Gamma-ray Constellations, visit:

The new constellations include a few characters from modern myths. Among them are the Little Prince, the time-warping TARDIS from “Doctor Who,” Godzilla and his heat ray, the antimatter-powered U.S.S. Enterprise from “Star Trek: The Original Series” and the Hulk, the product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry.

“Developing these unofficial constellations was a fun way to highlight a decade of Fermi’s accomplishments,” said Julie McEnery, the Fermi project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “One way or another, all of the gamma-ray constellations have a tie-in to Fermi science.”

Animation above: New, unofficial constellations appear in this image of the sky mapped by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Fermi scientists devised the constellations to highlight the mission’s 10th year of operations. Fermi has mapped about 3,000 gamma-ray sources — 10 times the number known before its launch and comparable to the number of bright stars in the traditional constellations. Animation Credit: NASA.

Since July 2008, Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) has been scanning the entire sky each day, mapping and measuring sources of gamma rays, the highest-energy light in the universe. The emission may come from pulsars, nova outbursts, the debris of supernova explosions and giant gamma-ray bubbles located in our own galaxy, or supermassive black holes and gamma-ray bursts — the most powerful explosions in the cosmos — in others.

“By 2015, the number of different sources mapped by Fermi’s LAT had expanded to about 3,000 — 10 times the number known before the mission,” said Goddard’s Elizabeth Ferrara, who led the constellation project. “For the first time ever, the number of known gamma-ray sources was comparable to the number of bright stars, so we thought a new set of constellations was a great way to illustrate the point.”   

The 21 gamma-ray constellations include famous landmarks — such as Sweden’s recovered warship, Vasa, the Washington Monument and Mount Fuji in Japan — in countries contributing to Fermi science. Others represent scientific ideas or tools, from Schrödinger’s Cat — both alive and dead, thanks to quantum physics — to Albert Einstein, Radio Telescope and Black Widow Spider, the namesake of a class of pulsars that evaporate their unfortunate companion stars.

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA

Ferrara and Daniel Kocevski, an astrophysicist now at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, developed a web-based interactive to showcase the constellations, with artwork from Aurore Simonnet, an illustrator at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, and a map of the whole gamma-ray sky from Fermi. Clicking on a constellation turns on its artwork and name, which includes a link to a page with more information. Other controls switch on the visible sky and selected traditional constellations.

“Fermi is still going strong, and we are now preparing a new all-sky LAT catalog,” said Jean Ballet, a Fermi team member at the French Atomic Energy Commission in Saclay. “This will add about 2,000 sources, many varying greatly in brightness, further enriching these constellations and enlivening the high-energy sky!”

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

To explore Fermi’s Gamma-ray Constellations, visit:

For more about NASA’s Fermi mission, visit:

Animation (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Francis Reddy.

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Sound, vibration recognition boost context-awa…

Pittsburgh PA (SPX) Oct 18, 2018

Smart devices can seem dumb if they don’t understand where they are or what people around them are doing. Carnegie Mellon University researchers say this environmental awareness can be enhanced by complementary methods for analyzing sound and vibrations.

“A smart speaker sitting on a kitchen countertop cannot figure out if it is in a kitchen, let alone know what a person is doing in a kitc
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NASA just uploaded a test of their new Launch …

NASA just uploaded a test of their new Launch Pad Water Deluge System. Releases 450,000 gallons of water to cool rocket exhaust, spraying 100 ft. in the air.

Rocket Lab selects Wallops Flight Facility for…

Wallops Island VA (SPX) Oct 19, 2018

US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has today confirmed it will build its first US launch pad for the Electron rocket at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, USA. The site will be Rocket Lab’s second dedicated launch complex and builds on Rocket Lab’s existing ability to launch up to 120 times annually from the world’s only private launch site, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, in New Zealan
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Russian investigators identify responsible for…

Moscow (Sputnik) Oct 19, 2018

Members of Roscosmos commission and investigators have identified those who could be responsible in the damage to one of the sensing devices on board the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket, which could have led to the failed launch of the Soyuz MS-10 manned spacecraft, a source at the Baikonur space center told Sputnik on Thursday.

“The responsibility of certain employees is being established. The re
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