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NASA launches first space probe to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

NASA launched a first-of-its kind mission on Saturday to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, two large clusters of space rocks that scientists believe are remnants of primordial material that formed the solar system’s outer planets, Reuters reported.

The space probe, dubbed Lucy and packed inside a special cargo capsule, lifted off on schedule from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:34 a.m. EDT (0934 GMT), NASA said. It was carried aloft by an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (UAL), a joint venture of Boeing Co (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N).

Lucy’s mission is a 12-year expedition to study a record number of asteroids. It will be the first to explore the Trojans, thousands of rocky objects orbiting the sun in two swarms – one ahead of the path of giant gas planet Jupiter and one behind it.

According to the report the largest known Trojan asteroids, named for the warriors of Greek mythology, are believed to measure as much as 225 kilometers (140 miles) in diameter.

Scientists hope Lucy’s close-up fly-by of seven Trojans will yield new clues to how the solar system’s planets came to be formed some 4.5 billion years ago and what shaped their present configuration.

Believed to be rich in carbon compounds, the asteroids may even provide new insights into the origin of organic materials and life on Earth, NASA said.

“The Trojan asteroids are leftovers from the early days of our solar system, effectively the fossils of planet formation,” principal mission investigator Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, was quoted by NASA as saying.

No other single science mission has been designed to visit as many different objects independently orbiting the sun in the history of space exploration, NASA said.

As well as the Trojans, Lucy will do a fly-by of an asteroid in the solar system’s main asteroid belt, called DonaldJohanson in honor of the lead discoverer of the fossilized human ancestor known as Lucy, from which the NASA mission takes its name. The Lucy fossil, unearthed in Ethiopia in 1974, was in turn named for the Beatles hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Lucy the asteroid probe will make spaceflight history in another way. Following a route that circles back to Earth three times for gravitational assists, it will be the first spacecraft ever to return to Earth’s vicinity from the outer solar system, according to NASA.

The probe will use rocket thrusters to maneuver in space and two rounded solar arrays, each the width of a school bus, to recharge batteries that will power the instruments contained in the much smaller central body of the spacecraft, Reuters reported.

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Google to ban political advertising ahead of Philippine election

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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google said on Wednesday it will ban political advertising on its platform in the run-up to Philippine elections in May next year to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The move comes amid pressure on social media platforms over their handling of political advertising during the U.S. presidential election in 2020, Reuters reported.

Social media platforms have become political battlegrounds in the Southeast Asian nation, with studies showing Filipinos top the rankings globally for time spent on social media.

Election advertisements that promote or oppose any political party or the candidacy of any person or party for public office, would not be allowed to run between February 8 to May 9, next year, Google said in an update to its political content policy.

The dates cover the period of campaigning in the Philippines up to election day on May 9.

Google said notifications would be sent to affected advertisers about the policy update.

Google has banned political advertising on its platform before, including in Canada’s federal election in 2019 and before an election in Singapore in 2020.

Social media platforms like Facebook have helped strengthen Duterte’s support base, with analysts regarding them as instrumental in his election victory in 2016.

The Philippines will choose a successor to Duterte, who under the constitution is not allowed to seek another term, but will be standing for a senator’s seat.

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Citing debris risk, NASA delays spacewalk to fix space station antenna

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2021)

A spacewalk planned for Tuesday to repair a faulty antenna on the International Space Station was postponed indefinitely, NASA said, citing a “debris notification” it received for the orbiting research laboratory.

Two U.S. astronauts had been scheduled to venture outside the space station at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time (1210 GMT) to begin their work, facing what NASA officials had called a slightly elevated risk posed by debris from a Russian anti-satellite missile test this month.

But about five hours before the outing was to have commenced, NASA said on Twitter that the spacewalk had been called off for the time being.

“NASA received a debris notification for the space station. Due to the lack of opportunity to properly assess the risk it could pose to the astronauts, teams have decided to delay the Nov. 30 spacewalk until more information is available,” the space agency tweeted.

It was not made clear how close debris had come to the space station, orbiting about 250 miles (402 km) above the Earth, or whether it was related to the Russian missile test.

NASA TV had planned to provide live coverage of the 6-1/2-hour “extravehicular activity,” or EVA, operation by astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Brown. The outing would be the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, 61, a medical doctor and former flight surgeon with two previous trips to orbit, and the first for Barron, 34, a U.S. Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer on her debut spaceflight for NASA.

The objective is to remove a faulty S-band radio communications antenna assembly, now more than 20 years old, and replace it with a new spare stowed outside the space station.

According to plans, Marshburn was to have worked with Barron while positioned at the end of a robotic arm operated from inside the station by German astronaut Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency, with help from NASA crewmate Raja Chari.

The four arrived at the space station on Nov. 11 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, joining two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut already aboard the orbiting outpost.

Four days later, an anti-satellite missile test conducted without warning by Russia generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit, and all seven crew members took shelter in their docked spaceships to allow for a quick getaway until the immediate danger passed, according to NASA.

The residual debris cloud from the blasted satellite has dispersed since then, according to Dana Weigel, NASA deputy manager of the International Space Station (ISS) program.

But NASA calculates that the remaining fragments continued to pose a “slightly elevated” background risk to the space station as a whole, and a 7% higher risk of spacewalkers’ suits being punctured, as compared to before Russia’s missile test, Weigel told reporters on Monday.

Although NASA has yet to fully quantify additional hazards posed by more than 1,700 larger fragments it is tracking around the station’s orbit, the 7% higher risk to spacewalkers falls “well within” fluctuations were previously seen in “the natural environment,” Weigel said.

Still, mission managers canceled several smaller maintenance tasks under consideration for Tuesday’s spacewalk, Weigel added.

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US robot company offers $200,000 to use volunteer’s face for robot

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2021)

A US robot manufacturer said it will offer $200,000 to volunteers to allow the company to use their face on its robots that will work as assistants for airports, hotels, and shopping malls.

Promobot, which is making new realistic robots, said that the volunteers should be willing to transfer the rights to use of their face forever.

“The condition regarding appearance is set due to the project specifics as the robot will function as a consultant within crowded places. Gender and age do not matter,” Promobot said in a statement.

“Our company is developing technologies in the field of speech and facial recognition, autonomous navigation, and artificial intelligence, among other areas of robotics.”

“We have been actively building and supplying humanoid robots to the market. Our new clients want to launch a large-scale project,” the statement added.

By Monday afternoon, however, Promobot had closed the application process, noting it had received over 20,000 applications.

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