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NASA's Artemis Mission: Why It May Be The Last Mission For NASA Astronauts

Neil Armstrong took his historic "one small step" on the Moon in 1969. And just three years later, the last Apollo astronauts left our celestial neighbour. Since then, hundreds of astronauts have been launched into space but mainly to the Earth-orbiting International Space Station. None has, in fact, ventured more than a few hundred kilometres from Earth. The US-led Artemis program, however, aims to return humans to the Moon this decade - with Artemis 1 on its way back to Earth as part of its first test flight, going around the Moon.

The most relevant differences between the Apollo era and the mid-2020s are an amazing improvement in computer power and robotics. Moreover, superpower rivalry can no longer justify massive expenditure, as in the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union. In our recent book "The End of Astronauts", Donald Goldsmith and I argue that these changes weaken the case for the project.

The Artemis mission is using Nasa's brand new Space Launch System, which is the most powerful rocket ever - similar in design to the Saturn V rockets that sent a dozen Apollo astronauts to the Moon. Like its predecessors, the Artemis booster combines liquid hydrogen and oxygen to create enormous lifting power before falling into the ocean, never to be used again. Each launch therefore carries an estimated cost of between $2 billion (£1.7 billion) and $4 billion (£3.4 billion). This is unlike its SpaceX competitor "Starship", which enables the company to recover and the reuse the first stage.

The benefits of robotics

Advances in robotic exploration are exemplified by the suite of rovers on Mars, where Perseverance, Nasa's latest prospector, can drive itself through rocky terrain with only limited guidance from Earth. Improvements in sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) will further enable the robots themselves to identify particularly interesting sites, from which to gather samples for return to Earth.

Within the next one or two decades, robotic exploration of the Martian surface could be almost entirely autonomous, with human presence offering little advantage. Similarly, engineering projects - such as astronomers' dream of constructing a large radio telescope on the far side of the Moon, which is free of interference from Earth - no longer require human intervention. Such projects can be entirely constructed by robots.

Instead of astronauts, who need a well equipped place to live if they're required for construction purposes, robots can remain permanently at their work site. Likewise, if mining of lunar soil or asteroids for rare materials became economically viable, this also could be done more cheaply and safely with robots.

Robots could also explore Jupiter, Saturn and their fascinatingly diverse moons with little additional expense, since journeys of several years present little more challenge to a robot than the six-month voyage to Mars. Some of these moons could in fact harbour life in their sub-surface oceans. Even if we could send humans there, it might be a bad idea as they could contaminate these worlds with microbes form Earth.

Managing risks

The Apollo astronauts were heroes. They accepted high risks and pushed technology to the limit. In comparison, short trips to the Moon in the 2020s, despite the $90-billion cost of the Artemis program, will seem almost routine.

Something more ambitious, such as a Mars landing, will be required to elicit Apollo-scale public enthusiasm. But such a mission, including provisions and the rocketry for a return trip, could well cost Nasa a trillion dollars - questionable spending when we're dealing with a climate crisis and poverty on Earth. The steep price tag is a result of a "safety culture" developed by Nasa in recent years in response to public attitudes.

European Space Agency Announces First 'Parastronaut'

European Space Agency announces first ‘parastronaut’
European Space Agency announces first ‘parastronaut’

For the first time in 13 years, the European Space Agency has announced a new class of trainee astronauts, including the world's first "parastronaut." The third generation of Europeanspacefarers includes five career astronauts, 11 members ofa reserve pool of astronautsand one astronaut with a physical disability, who will take part in a feasibility project to include astronauts with disabilities in human spaceflight and possible future missions. The 17 were chosen from more than 22,500 applicants from across Europe.

"This ESA astronaut class is bringing ambition, talent and diversity in many different forms - to drive our endeavours, and our future," ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said in a news release, referring to the "continuous exploration in low Earth orbit on the International Space Station, going forward to the Moon - and beyond." Five new recruits, three men and two women, will start 12 months of basic training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany,to enable them to reach the standard specified by the International Space Station partners, the space agency said. The candidates are Sophie Adenot, Pablo Álvarez Fernández, Rosemary Coogan, Raphaël Liégeois and John McFall.

It's the first time the space agency has established an astronaut reserve, which is made up of candidates who successfully completed the selection process but were not recruited. Astronauts in the reserve remain with their current employers and will receive a consultancy contract. McFall, a British medic and Paralympian, said he felt compelled to apply when he saw ESA's ad for an astronaut with a physical disability. His right leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident when he was 19.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is such a huge, interesting opportunity,'" McFall said in a video posted on ESA's website. "I thought I would be a very good candidate to help ESA answer the question they were asking, 'Can we get a person with a physical disability into space?'" The ESA's call for candidates with physical disabilities was open to those with a lower limb deficiency or who are considered to be of short stature - less than 130 centimeters or 4 feet, 3 inches.

The space agency has been closely involved with NASA's Artemis mission to put humans back on the moon, and ESAhopes that the first European to set foot on the moon will be among this class of astronauts. The space agency on Wednesday also agreed ona new budget of 16.9 billion euros ($17.5 billion) for the next three years - an increase of 17% from 2019.

Would You Pay $125,000 To See The Northern Lights From A Space Balloon?

Space Perspective hopes to take tourists to the edge of space from 2024.  Space Perspective
Space Perspective hopes to take tourists to the edge of space from 2024. Space Perspective

Going to the edge of space in Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin New Shepard vehicle-as Bezos himself did in 2021-might give you an adrenaline rush, but space tourists' view of the West Texas desert launch area is never going to change. Cue Space Perspectives' new idea to send up capsules underneath high-altitude balloons from a vessel that can go anywhere and so have passengers see any view they want.

The sub-orbital space tourism company this week announced its plans to build multiple marine spaceports, the first of which will be called MS Voyager. It's currently selling tickets for the trip-which lasts two hours and reaches an altitude of about 100,000 feet-for a cool $125,000. That's a lot less either Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic are selling their rocket-fueled trips, albeit they reach higher altitudes.

"We always imagined offering the opportunity to view the most incredible natural phenomena from space, including the Northern Lights, the boot of Italy, the sheer scale of the Nile Delta, and the deep blue seas around the Bahamas," said Jane Poynter, Space Perspective's Founder and Co-CEO.

The new mobile launch platform will, say Space Perspectives, allow it launch and location flexibility, essentially giving passengers whatever view they choose as they float up to see the curvature of Earth against the blackness of space. Conversations are underway with destinations across the globe to offer its passengers awe-inspiring view of some of the world's most iconic geography, said Space Perspective.

The pressurized capsule, called Spaceship Neptune, take eight people, has huge windows, WiFi and a bar. The trip ends with a gentle water landing. Space Perspective's planned test flights will commence in early 2023.

Space Perspective

"Space Perspective will change your relationship with our planet by providing the quintessential astronaut experience of viewing Earth from the blackness of space," said Poynter, adding that the company needed to think about its business with a global mindset. "Removing geographic borders for launch and landing accelerates our mission of making this transformative experience more accessible to the world and international marketplace-safely, reliably and with minimal impact on our planet."

Anchored at Port Canaveral on Florida's Space Coast, the 292-foot-long MS Voyager is now being outfitted for launch, retrieval and "space balloon" operations. The retrofit is using biofuel to reduce its carbon footprint. Test flights are planned for early 2023 and commercial operations are penciled in for 2024.

The Next And Most Profound Industrial Revolution In Human History Is Underway In Low Earth Orbit

These technologies have been in development for several years, and today are in advanced stages of production and test.
These technologies have been in development for several years, and today are in advanced stages of production and test.

The Next And Most Profound Industrial Revolution In Human History Is Underway In Low Earth Orbit

Riding on the shoulders of the Apollo generation, the Artemis missions will pave the way for humans to return to the moon, begin human exploration of Mars, and someday for humanity to reach the edges of our solar system and beyond. While the exploration of deep space is critical to advancing our understanding of so many unanswered questions about the universe and our place in it, it is equally as critical that the United States government and private industry work together to lead the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and capture the resulting massive new space economy.

The most profound chapter in human history is the industrial revolution happening in LEO, just 250 miles above our heads. We are at a turning point for our civilization, pivoting from 60 years of space exploration to a new era of unprecedented economic activity, manufacturing and growth in space. This burgeoning epoch is called the Orbital Age, and it will drive a new trillion-dollar industry.

We are on the cusp of the full commercialization of space as the businesses and factories of the Orbital Age establish a permanent human presence in LEO. Microgravity, higher radiation levels and a near-vacuum state provide an extraordinary environment that will enable discoveries that can improve life on Earth. As explorers, we will always stargaze and wonder about other worlds, but as stewards of this planet, we must look back on it from space and ask ourselves what we can do to help.

Biotech firms, pharmaceutical manufacturers, the makers of semiconductors and other advanced materials - companies from across the entire industrials sector - will invent and produce their next breakthrough products that will benefit life on Earth in the microgravity factories of space.

Sierra Space is building the infrastructure, and the end-to-end business and technology platform, that will accelerate the new space economy. Our company is committed to fostering close, mutually beneficial relationships with existing businesses and partners - creating powerful ecosystems - to enable companies across myriad sectors to innovate in space. As a first mover in the Orbital Age, we know how crucial this is for businesses to make the leap to LEO.

Our business ecosystem architecture will unlock this new era. It start with leveraging our revolutionary technologies such as the first commercial family of spaceplanes, and the first commercial family of ultra-large and ultra-strong expandable and tailorable space facilities. These technologies have been in development for several years, and today are in advanced stages of production and test. Our Dream Chaser spaceplane will launch to the International Space Station starting in 2023, and our expandable space module system, LIFE™, having successfully completed two critical ultimate burst tests, will be on orbit in four years.

Sierra Space is creating an entire platform and ecosystem by bringing together next-generation space transportation, affordable in-space infrastructure systems, and innovative partners, to provide turn-key solutions for our commercial and government customers. Our human spaceflight center and astronaut training academy is developing and preparing the workforce that will enable this new economy. And our science office, led by our PhDs in biotechnology and advanced materials, is working with our customers to develop new products, such as oncology drugs and advanced metallic materials.

In the 1990s, onboard a NASA platform in LEO called Wake-Shield Facility, University of Houston materials scientist Alex Ignatiev manufactured a semiconductor in the vacuum of space that was 10,000 times better in quality than ones made on Earth. In 2016, bioengineers used a 3-D printer to create a two-chambered structure of an infant's heart from stem cells during a parabolic flight that simulated weightlessness. Microgravity quite simply revolutionizes the way we make things and will lead to advancements that benefit all of humanity.

Orbital fabrication will also unlock billions of dollars in value for companies, particularly drug makers. According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, pharmaceutical companies could see upwards of $4B in increased annual revenue by collaborating with space companies. Consider that just one big breakthrough in oncology compounds has the dual benefit of transforming health care as we know it today.

Authors of the Harvard Business Review article, "Your Company Needs a Space Strategy (Now)," seem to share our sense of urgency and offer some advice about finding the right team. "If you have an idea for a good or service you could produce or provide in space if a key partnership could be developed, make that partnership happen."

I signed an agreement recently on behalf of Sierra Space with University of California San Diego to extend the work their researchers are doing on the International Space Station to a new commercial destination on orbit. UC San Diego and its Sanford Stem Cell Institute will have dedicated research and bio-fabrication facilities on Orbital Reef, the world's first commercial space station being built by Sierra Space and Blue Origin, by the end of the decade. 

They are already learning things that are not possible under normal gravity on the ISS. Breakthroughs in pre-cancer diagnostics and therapeutics on Orbital Reef could lead to the on-orbit manufacture of drugs that eradicate forms of cancer at the earliest stages. Our company is committed to leading the commercialization of LEO, and to working with other industry leaders, so we can find new solutions to the challenges here on Earth.

What Earthly ObjectsCan Be Seen From Space?

The city lights of England, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, as seen from the International Space Station on September 15, 2021.
The city lights of England, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, as seen from the International Space Station on September 15, 2021.

When famed Star Trek actor William Shatner embarked on a space tourism flight last year, the view brought him to tears. He later described crying while looking back at Earth, as well as a profound sense of grief - as if he had just learned about the death of a loved one. Scientists call this feeling the "overview effect." It happens to astronauts when they look back at Earth and feel an overwhelming connection with the planet and its people.

What a space traveler sees, of course, is all dependent on how high they fly. Whereas Shatner and other space tourists soared to 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level, astronauts in the International Space Station orbit around 260 miles (420 km) above. And the few who make it all the way to the Moon venture more than 226,000 miles (364,000 km) beyond Earth's surface. In recent years, astronauts like Tim Peake from the U.K. and Chris Hadfield of Canada have shared their experiences on social media via photographs and descriptions of the view. Their insight is helping those of us below understand what is visible from space.

Space sights

When a passenger looks out the window of an airplane, they are likely flying around 7 to 8 miles (11 to 13 km) above sea level. That puts them in the stratosphere, the second layer of our atmosphere. On clear days, passengers can see dams, bridges, monuments and other human-made structures.

The next atmospheric layer, the mesosphere, ranges from 31 to 50 miles (50 to 80 km) above sea level and is the highest layer where a cloud can form. The fourth layer, the thermosphere, ranges from 50 to 440 miles (80 to 710 km) above sea level. The thermosphere contains the point that most international space programs consider the start of space - the Kármán Line - at 62 miles (100 km) above sea level.

The ISS orbits in the thermosphere, some 260 miles (420 km) above Earth. Astronauts in the space station have described how it rotates around Earth every 92 minutes; because of this, the view is always changing. From the ISS, astronauts can identify rivers snaking through cities or forests, shining city lights, and farm fields that resemble patchwork quilts from high above.

Astronauts on the ISS have also reportedly seen deforestation in places like Madagascar, evident from the red soil that spills into the ocean. They can even spot phytoplankton blooms that discolor water, and swirling hurricanes. With a powerful camera lens, astronauts can zoom in on cities or spy human-made structures like the Egyptian pyramids; but even then, the ISS rotates so quickly that they only have a moment to snap a picture.

If those aboard the ISS can't discern the pyramids or glimpse the Great Wall of China without a camera, you may be wondering what astronauts on the Moon see when they look back at our blue marble.

Moon marvels

Astronaut Neil Armstrong debunked the myth that human-made structures could be viewed from the Moon. In an oral history with NASA, he said he could make out only continents - particularly Greenland, because it was a white shape against a sea of blue. Africa was also visible, and he saw a reflection on water that he thought might have been Lake Chad.

Despite Armstrong's first-hand observations, the claim that structures like the pyramids or Great Wall are visible from the Moon has persisted through the years. Armstrong even double-checked with other astronauts, including those on the ISS. All agreed they could not see such objects from space without a magnifying device.

Color contrast is a key factor in whether something can be viewed from space. Dark rivers that run through light-colored terrain, for example, are easy to identify from the ISS. But the Great Wall of China is a similar color to the land around it, making it difficult to see from high above even with camera equipment.

Although the Great Wall impresses people on the ground, many astronauts describe lights as the most dazzling vision from space. Astronaut Jeffery Hoffman, for example, flew five space flights between 1985 and 1996, including missions to service satellites and telescopes. From hundreds of miles in the air, Hoffman said, it only took 30 minutes to orbit the Pacific Ocean; when their shuttle approached the West Coast, the city lights that broke the darkness mesmerized the crew.

To Hoffman, the lights on the Las Vegas Strip were so "ridiculously bright" that he could see them without any equipment. From his perspective, in fact, looking down at the twinkling city was similar to being on Earth and looking up at the starry sky. "No matter where you look," he said, "you can see the city lights below you and the stars above you."

15 Simple Facts About Spaceflight That You Can Share With Your  Friends.

1. Russia was first

Yep, Russia (then the main country of the Soviet Union) beat the U.S. in spaceflight pretty much every step of the way until NASA landed people on the Moon. The first artificial satellite - Sputnik, launched Oct. 4, 1957 - was Russian. So was the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, who also became the first person to orbit Earth. That happened April 12, 1961. The first woman in space was also Russian. Valentina Tereshkova orbited Earth 48 times starting June 16, 1963. She's also the only woman who ever flew a mission to space alone.

2. Space begins above our atmosphere

Believe it or not, there is a legal definition for where space begins. That's because the movements of spacecraft are regulated by different treaties than those of aircraft. Most countries use the Kármán line, which is named for Hungarian-American physicist Theodore von Kármán, the first person to calculate an altitude where space begins. The Kármán line lies 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level.

3. rockets were invented long ago

The Chinese invented rockets perhaps as early as the 10th century. Some historians date their first recorded use to 1232. Early Chinese rockets used gunpowder as fuel, so they were a lot like fireworks. Soldiers attached an arrow to each rocket and launched them at their enemies during battles. By the 15th century, militaries around the world had adopted rocket technology.

4. Robert Goddard was a pioneer rocket man

Goddard was an American inventor who built the first liquid-fueled rocket. Historians credit the launch of his first rocket, on March 16, 1926, with starting the modern age of rocketry. Over the next decade, he and his team launched several dozen rockets, which traveled as fast as 550 mph (885 km/h) and as high as 1.6 miles (2.6 km).

5. Sputnik changed everything

If the question is "When did the Space Age start?", the answer is "When Sputnik was launched." In the 1950s, the Soviet Union was in a race with the U.S. to be the first country to send a satellite into space. Scientists and engineers on both sides spent years trying to reach this goal. Then, on Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, which became Earth's first artificial satellite (i.e., one launched by humans). Sputnik had four radio antennas and measured 23 inches (58 centimeters) across. It orbited Earth once every 96 minutes and 12 seconds. The radio transmitter Sputnik carried only sent back beeps. It worked for three weeks until the batteries ran out. And although the message was simple, it seemed to tell every radio operator on Earth who listened to it, "The Soviet Union is in space."

6. Alan Shepard was first for the U.S.

Shepard was a naval pilot and one of seven people chosen for Project Mercury, NASA's first space program. On May 5, 1961, he became the first American and the second person in space. In 1971, he became the fifth astronaut - and, at age 47, the oldest - to walk on the Moon.

7. The "Moon race" began with a speech

On Sept. 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech to a crowd of about 40,000 at Rice University Stadium in Houston, Texas. Among other things, Kennedy said, "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." However, The line that most historians think started the race to land a person on the Moon didn't come from this speech. Instead, it came from an address to Congress May 25, 1961, in which Kennedy said, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." And although Kennedy didn't live to see it, in July 1969, the U.S. did exactly that.

8. Neil Armstrong was first on the Moon.

This naval pilot entered the astronaut program in 1962. He first flew into space in 1966 aboard Gemini 8. That mission featured the first docking of two spacecraft in orbit. Later, he was named commander of the historic Apollo 11 mission, the first human Moon landing.

9. Spacewalks aren't really walks

Many astronauts have completed an extravehicular activity (EVA) in space. Astronauts often refer to this as a spacewalk. But usually, that term means going outside a vessel in orbit, attached by a cord.

In 1965, the Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first human to walk in space. The journey, during his Voskhod 2 mission, lasted 12 minutes. The first U.S. spacewalk took place later in 1965, when astronaut Ed White walked in space for 23 minutes during the Gemini 4 mission.

10. That's a long time in space

Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov spent 437 days and 18 hours on a single trip to space, the longest ever by any human. He launched to the Mir space station Jan. 8, 1994, and returned to Earth March 22, 1995. The longest spaceflight by a woman is 328 days. NASA astronaut Christina Koch launched to the International Space Station March 14, 2019. She returned to Earth Feb. 6, 2020.

11. This crew went the fastest

On May 26, 1969, the crew of NASA's Apollo 10 mission (Thomas Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan) reached a speed of 24,791 mph (39,897 km/h), or about 32 times faster than the speed of sound on Earth at sea level.

12. Spaceflight is dangerous.

As of this writing, 30 humans have been killed in the pursuit of outer space. Six were Soviet or Russian cosmonauts, one was Israeli, and the rest were U.S. astronauts. Of these, 11 were killed during training or test flights and 19 were killed in actual flight. The latter group includes two seven-person crews aboard the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, which were destroyed during atmospheric flight. The three-man crew of Soyuz 11 are the only people to have died in space.

13. Spacesuits are important

Space is a harsh environment. It's extremely cold and there's no atmosphere. Plus, human beings are pretty fragile creatures. So, exploring space means using special suits that allow astronauts to breathe and stay at the right temperature.

In 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin wore the first spacesuit; since then, they have come a long way. In the U.S., the Project Mercury spacesuits were just a bit different from the jumpsuits worn by fighter pilots. Each had a bubble-shaped helmet and its own air supply. The Gemini suits were more advanced and there were several types. One was for wearing inside the spacecraft, while others were for spacewalks.

NASA's spacesuits took a big leap forward with the Apollo missions. These suits were larger and made so astronauts could walk around on the Moon for hours. The suits were fireproof and had a liquid cooling system inside. The outer layer protected astronauts from possible strikes from micrometeoroids, tiny particles of rock that zip through space at high speeds.

Space shuttle astronauts wore partially pressurized suits adapted from the Air Force. And shuttle astronauts on spacewalks used the advanced extravehicular mobility unit, which gave them a lot more protection. Future spacesuits will be even better. New models are already being used by SpaceX astronauts and will be used by the men and women who journey back to the Moon.

14. Astronauts use the bathroom in space.

Bathrooms became very important for Alan Shepard, NASA's first astronaut. There was no toilet because the flight would last only 15 minutes. Nobody thought that he might have to wait in his capsule for about four hours before the launch. When he asked to go, the command crew first said no, but finally said OK - but he couldn't leave the capsule. Luckily, the air flowing through his suit dried everything out before the launch. After that, NASA designed equipment to deal with pee.

The first one was connected to a plastic tube, a valve, a clamp, and a collection bag. It wasn't great because it sometimes leaked. In 1962, John Glenn used one on his five-hour flight.

Because the Gemini flights were a lot longer than earlier ones, NASA finally had to deal with poop in space. The first equipment was pretty simple: a bag that the astronauts taped to their butts. NASA's first space station, Skylab, needed a toilet because astronauts would be living in space for months. Unfortunately, it was just a hole in the wall with a fan for suction and a bag.

With women as part of the space shuttle crews, NASA needed to rethink their toilet design. It was called the Waste Collection System. The opening was much smaller than a regular toilet hole, so an astronaut's aim had to be good! Today, astronauts on the International Space Station use a much larger toilet and a vacuum sucks waste away. The waste then goes into a container that its jettisoned and burns up in Earth's atmosphere. Using the bathroom in space is still a pain, but it's a lot better than it was.

15. The future looks bright.

The U.S., Russia, China, India, and other nations are all active with big plans for their space programs. And rather than governments being the only players in space, private companies are now joining the effort. SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and more are getting involved in space travel.

The U.S. and China both have plans to return humans to the Moon. Japan and South Korea are planning their first robotic lunar-landing missions, too. Several countries, space organizations, and companies would also like to send humans to Mars. This would be an extremely expensive, time-consuming, and dangerous endeavor.

Many nations are also actively exploring our solar system via robotic craft, including the United Arab Emirates, which recently sent a probe to Mars for the first time. There are missions from the U.S., Europe, and Japan - both planned and underway - to visit asteroids and comets, and other missions will explore the outer planets and their moons.

Only Two-Thirds Of American Millennials Believe The Earth Is Round

Millennials in America sometimes get a bad reputation, this time for good reason. A recent survey found that just 66 percent of young adults aged 18 to 24 years old have "always believed the world is round." YouGov polled 8,215 US adults on February 8th, 2018 to get a representative idea of America's views on the shape of the Earth. What they found would make any scientist shake their heads, a surprising percentage of responders weren't convinced the Earth is round.

The survey found that 2% of Americans firmly believe the Earth is flat, with interesting differences segmented by age, religion, income, and political affiliation. 


Of the thousands of American adults surveyed, the percent that always believed the Earth is round decreased with younger generations. In total, 84% of Americans responded that they believe the Earth is round. While the large majority believe the world is round, young millennials aged 18 to 24 are more likely to subscribe to the flat Earth belief (4%).

Religious beliefs appear to be correlated with one's likelihood to subscribe to a flat Earth. YouGov found that 52 percent of flat earthers consider themselves "very religious."  Most flat Earth believers are also "very religious"


The degree to which Americans, particularly those who are very religious and/or a millennial is troubling on many levels. Are millennials sourcing their beliefs from sports stars such as Kyrie Irving, who regularly claims the Earth is flat? Or is there an underlying disbelief of science that is fueling their rejection of a spherical world? It's hard to know for sure the underlying causes prompting a belief in a flat Earth for different segments of Americans.

Robin Andrews with IFLScience pointed out that staunch religious conservatives tend to hold a disbelief in science and are unwilling to support scientific research and findings.


Comparing religious beliefs, YouGov found that Democrats are slightly less likely to believe the Earth is round than Republicans (83 versus 89 percent, respectively). This, perhaps, could be an overprint of younger generations more likely to lean Democratic and older generations more likely to lean Republican. While YouGov didn't find a significant variation in flat Earth beliefs geographically, they did find a significant variation based on income level.

The survey found that those with an income less than $40,000 (79%) are much less likely to believe the world is round compared to those with an income over $80,000 (92%).

A pristine Chunk Of Space Rock Tells Us About The Birth Of The Solar System

This is the largest whole piece recovered of the Winchcombe meteorite (103 grams),
This is the largest whole piece recovered of the Winchcombe meteorite (103 grams),

At about 10 o'clock on the night of February 28 2021, a fireball streaked through the sky over England. The blazing extraterrestrial visitor was seen by more than 1,000 people, and its descent was filmed by 16 dedicated meteor-tracking cameras from the UK Fireball Alliance and many dashboard and doorbell cams. With the time difference to Australia, the Global Fireball Observatory team at Curtin University were the first to dig into their cameras' data, quickly realising there may be very special meteorites to find around the town of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.

The next morning's news told people in the area to look out for black rocks in their garden. The Wilcock family discovered a pile of dark powder and small rocky pieces on their driveway. They called in specialists from the Natural History Museum who confirmed it was a meteorite and collected the space rubble for further analysis, all within 12 hours of it landing. More fragments were collected from the surrounding area over the next month. All told, the samples added up to around 600 grams of exceptionally pristine asteroid rock from the outer Solar System.

We have been studying this precious find with colleagues from around the world for the past 18 months. As we report in a new paper in Science Advances, it is a very fresh sample of an ancient rock formed in the early years of the Solar System, rich in the water and organic molecules that may have been crucial in the origin of life on Earth.

How to catch a fireball

Meteorites are rocks from space that have survived the fiery descent through our atmosphere. They are the remnants of our (very) distant past - around the time the planets were formed, holding clues to what our Solar System was like billions of years ago. There are more than 70,000 meteorites in collections around the world. But the Winchcombe meteorite is quite a special one. Why? Well, of all the meteorites ever found, only around 50 have ever been seen falling with enough precision to calculate their original orbit - the path they took to impact the Earth. Figuring out the orbit is the only way to understand where a meteorite came from.

The Global Fireball Observatory is a network of cameras on the lookout for falling meteorites. It is a collaboration of 17 partner institutions around the world, including Glasgow University and Imperial College in the UK. This collaboration grew out of Australia's Desert Fireball Network, run by Curtin University. Of the few meteorite samples with known origins, more than 20% have now been recovered by the Global Fireball Observatory team.

Tracking the Winchcombe meteorite

The Winchcombe meteorite was one of the most well observed yet. All these observations helped us determine this special sample came from the main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. Observing a fireball from a network of cameras means we can recreate the rock's path through the atmosphere and not only calculate its orbit, but also its fall to the ground. In an email to the UK team seven hours after the fireball, my colleague Hadrien Devillepoix pointed out the unusual amount of fragmentation, and the orbit, could mean we would be looking for a less common type of meteorite.

A space rock generally stops burning by the time it reaches about 30km altitude. The rest of the fall is affected by high-altitude winds, so predicting where the meteorite will land is not always easy. The team at Curtin played a major role in predicting the fall area from the fireball data. We recreated the flight path of the space rock to tell people where to search for meteorite fragments. Although many samples were found in Winchcombe town, the largest whole piece was recovered in a field during a dedicated search, found within 400 metres of the predicted position.

The building blocks of life

Winchcombe is a very rare type of meteorite called a carbonaceous chondrite. It is similar to the Murchison meteorite that fell in Victoria in 1969. They contain complex carbon-based molecules called amino acids, which are regarded as the "building blocks of life". These meteorites are thought to have formed in the early Solar System, billions of years ago.  They formed far enough from the Sun that water hadn't completely evaporated, and was around to be incorporated into these meteorites. They may have been responsible for bringing water to Earth later on.

Carbonaceous chondrites are known to contain water, though most samples have been contaminated by long contact with Earth's atmosphere. Some pieces of the Winchcombe meteorite are hardly contaminated at all because they were recovered within hours of its fall. These samples are incredibly pristine, and contain almost 11% water by weight.

A home-delivered space rock

Space agencies go a long way to find space rocks this fresh. In 2020, Japan's Hayabusa2 mission delivered a few grams of material from a carbonaceous asteroid called Ryugu back to Earth. Next year, NASA's OSIRIS-REx will bring home a somewhat larger chunk from asteroid Bennu. The speed with which samples of the Winchcombe meteorite were discovered, combined with the precise observations which let us determine its original orbit in the asteroid belt, make it similar to materials returned by space missions.

The triangulation of the Winchcombe fireball, orbital analysis, recovery, and the geochemical techniques used to investigate this space rock's history required a huge amount of teamwork. Alongside the scientific secrets it will unlock, the story of the Winchcombe meteorite is a fantastic demonstration of the power of collaboration in unravelling the mysteries of our Solar System.

Bright Light From Early Universe 'Opens New Chapter In Astronomy'

An unexpectedly rich array of early galaxies that was largely hidden until now has been observed by researchers using data from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. The researchers found two exceptionally bright galaxies that existed approximately 350 and 450 million years after the big bang. Their extreme brightness is puzzling to astronomers and challenges existing models of galaxy formation.

"These objects are remarkable because they are far brighter than we would expect from our models of how galaxies form," said Joel Leja, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, who developed the code used to analyze light from the distant galaxies. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Leja developed code capable of making sense of infrared data from distant galaxies, such as those imaged by Webb, proving that they are in fact our first glimpses of the very early universe.

"The code combines models of all the things that live in galaxies and interprets the light we observe from them," said Leja. "This includes things like stars of various ages and elemental compositions, cosmic dust that blocks the light we see from stars, emission from gaseous nebulae, and so on."

Two research papers, one led by Marco Castellano of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, Italy, and another by Rohan Naidu of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Leja as co-author, have been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The two papers describe the bright celestial objects, which both teams discovered separately in quick succession just days after Webb officially started science operations. "With Webb, we were amazed to find the most distant starlight that anyone had ever seen, just days after Webb released its first data," Naidu said in a NASA news release.

With just four days of analysis, the researchers found two exceptionally bright galaxies. They determined the young galaxies transformed gas into stars extremely rapidly, meaning the onset of stellar birth may have started just 100 million years after the big bang, roughly 13.8 billion years ago. The researchers also determined the two galaxies existed approximately 450 and 350 million years after the big bang, though future spectroscopic measurements with Webb will help confirm their findings.  


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Many thanks to Peter and the crew at ASTRO ANARCHY Queensland. A New business with the amateur astronomer firmly in mind.  Astro Anarchy has the experience, the stock and the knowledge to set up the first timer, to assist in the development of our hobby for the experienced observer OR cater to any other size need or desire in the field of amateur astronomy. 

ATRO ANARCHY AS OUR SPONSOR: My business partner Peter Davies and I have set up a new Astro Tourism business focusing on the recently 'Dark Sky Town' accredited to Norfolk Island. We call it 'Norfolk Island STARGAZING'. When approached, Pete from Astro Anarchy had no hesitation in organizing and supplying all our Telescopes, Binoculars and associated gear to get started. Nothing was any trouble allowing us more than enough time to set up and become fully operational. He and he and his business come highly recommended for anyone wanting any astronomical gear in Australia.

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