Science & Technology
NASA picks Bezos’ Blue Origin to build lunar landers for moonwalkers
Jeff Bezos’ rocket company has won a NASA contract to land astronauts on the moon, two years after it lost out to SpaceX, AP reported.
Blue Origin received a $3.4 billion contract Friday to lead a team to develop a lunar lander named Blue Moon. It will be used to transport astronauts to the lunar surface as early as 2029, following a pair of crew landings by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
NASA will get astronauts to lunar orbit using its own rockets and capsules, but wants private companies to take over from there.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the agency wants different landing options as it seeks a return to the moon more than a half-century after the end of the Apollo moonshots.
Blue Origin is kicking in billions of dollars, on top of the NASA contract, to help establish a permanent presence on the moon.
“We have a lot to do before we successfully land and return astronauts,” said John Couluris, a Blue Origin vice president.
Two years ago, Blue Origin sued after NASA awarded SpaceX the contract for the first lunar landing. A federal judge upheld the space agency’s decision.
NASA’s Artemis program, which follows the 1960s and 1970s Apollo moonshots. kicked off with a successful test flight late last year. Launched atop NASA’s new moon rocket, an empty Orion capsule went into lunar orbit before returning home.
The next Artemis flight will come late next year when one Canadian and three U.S. astronauts fly to the moon and back, but not land. Two Americans would descend to the lunar surface aboard a SpaceX Starship on the mission after that, no earlier than late 2025.
Like SpaceX, Blue Origin plans to practice landing on the moon without a crew, before putting astronauts on board.
Science & Technology
North Korea says it will launch its first military spy satellite in June
North Korea will launch its first military reconnaissance satellite in June for monitoring U.S. military activities, state media KCNA reported on Tuesday.
In a statement carried by the KCNA news agency, Ri Pyong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party, denounced joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea as openly showing their “reckless ambition for aggression.”
U.S. and South Korean forces have carried out various training exercises in recent months, including what they said were the biggest joint live-fire exercises last week, after many drills were scaled back amid COVID-19 restrictions and hopes for diplomatic efforts with North Korea, Reuters reported.
North Korea’s Ri said the drills required Pyongyang to have the “means capable of gathering information about the military acts of the enemy in real time.”
“We will comprehensively consider the present and future threats and put into more thoroughgoing practice the activities for strengthening all-inclusive and practical war deterrents,” Ri said in the statement.
Nuclear-armed North Korea has said it has completed development of its first military spy satellite, and leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for the launch, read the report.
The statement did not specify the exact launch date, but North Korea has notified Japan of the planned launch between May 31 and June 11, prompting Tokyo to put its ballistic missile defences on alert.
Japan has said it would shoot down any projectile that threatens its territory, Reuters reported.
“(North Korea’s) satellite launches incorporate technology that is almost identical and compatible with those used for ballistic missiles, and regardless of the designation used by North Korea, we believe that the one planned for this time also uses ballistic missile technology,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Tuesday.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Monday any North Korean launch that uses ballistic missile technology, including those used to put a satellite in orbit, would violate multiple United Nations resolutions.
The launch would be the North’s latest in a series of missile launches and weapons tests, including one of a new, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile last month, read the report.
Analysts say the satellite will improve North Korea’s surveillance capability, enabling it to strike targets more accurately in the event of war.
Science & Technology
Venice’s waters turn fluorescent green near Rialto Bridge
The waters in Venice’s main canal turned fluorescent green on Sunday in the area near the Rialto bridge and authorities are seeking to trace the cause, Italy’s fire department said.
The regional environmental protection agency has received samples of the altered waters and is working to identify the substance that changed their color, the department said in a tweet, Reuters reported.
The Venice prefect has called an emergency meeting of police forces to understand what happened and study possible countermeasures, the Ansa news agency reported.
The incident echoes recent episodes in Italy where environmental groups have been coloring monuments, including using vegetable charcoal to turn the waters of Rome’s Trevi fountain black in a protest against fossil fuels.
However, unlike previous cases, no activist group has come forward to claim responsibility for what happened in Venice.
Science & Technology
Gladis the killer whale and her gang of orcas, out for revenge
A British sailor’s boat was targeted on Thursday in the latest attack near Gibraltar, by Gladis, a killer whale and her gang of orcas.
Gladis, believed to be traumatized, is thought to be teaching other orcas to target boats.
So far this month there have been 20 attacks on small vessels sailing in the Strait of Gibraltar. However the Atlantic Orca Working Group (GTOA) have reported dozens of attacks on ships along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts this year.
Experts believe Gladis may have suffered a “critical moment of agony”, such as colliding with a boat or becoming entrapped during illegal fishing, which altered her behavior in a “defensive” fashion, the Independent reported.
“That traumatized orca is the one that started this behavior of physical contact with boats,” Dr Lopez Fernandez told Live Science.
“We do not interpret that the orcas are teaching the young, although the behavior has spread to the young vertically, simply by imitation, and later horizontally among them, because they consider it something important in their lives,” he said.
The behavior has baffled scientists, with some initially suggesting it could be related to the harmful scarcity of food facing the mammals, or the disruptive resumption of business-as-usual nautical activities in the wake of the pandemic, while others have suggested it could be playful behavior.
Although known as killer whales, endangered orcas are part of the dolphin family. They can measure up to eight meters and weigh up to six tonnes as adults.
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