China Sends Nine Satellites Into Space in First Sea-Based Commercial Launch

China has successfully sent nine satellites into orbit in its first commercial launch of a rocket from a platform at sea, state media reported on Wednesday.

The satellites, one of which belonged to video-sharing platform Bilibili, were deployed by a Long March 11 rocket from the Yellow Sea on Tuesday, media reported.

The Long March 11, designed to be deployed quickly and from mobile launch sites such as a ship, is mainly used to carry small satellites. The rocket made its first sea launch in June last year.

“Sea launch platforms will increase the number of China’s launch areas, improve launch efficiency, and make launches safer and more flexible,” the official People’s Daily cited Li Zongli, director of the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, as saying.

China has three inland space launch centres, where used rocket stages return to earth and sometimes pose a danger to inhabited areas. Sea launches would reduce that risk.

China has made its space programme a top priority in recent years as it races to catch up with the United States and become a major space power by 2030.

© Thomson Reuters 2020


Is Android One holding back Nokia smartphones in India? We discussed

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NASA Plans for Return to Moon to Cost $28 Billion

NASA on Monday revealed its latest plan to return astronauts to the Moon in 2024, and estimated the cost of meeting that deadline at $28 billion (roughly Rs. 2,05,787 crores), $16 billion (roughly Rs. 1,17,592 crores) of which would be spent on the lunar landing module.

Congress, which faces elections on November 3, will have to sign off on the financing for a project that has been set by President Donald Trump as a top priority. The $28 billion (roughly Rs. 2,05,787 crores) would cover the budgetary years of 2021-25. 

In a phone briefing with journalists Monday on the Artemis mission to return human beings to the Moon, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine noted that “political risks” were often the biggest threat to NASA’s work, especially before such a crucial election.

Barack Obama cancelled plans for a manned Mars mission, after his predecessor spent billions of dollars on the project.

If Congress approves the first tranche of $3.2 billion (roughly Rs. 23,515 crores) by Christmas, “we’re still on track for a 2024 moon landing,” Bridenstine said.

“To be clear, we’re going to the South Pole,” he said, ruling out the sites of the Apollo landings on the Moon’s equator

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High Tech Meets Jugaad in the Jungle to Study Agumbe’s Flying Dragons

A drone, 7 GoPro cameras, 2 Wi-Fi GoPro trigger remotes, a Canon DSLR, multiple camera lenses, 7 heavy duty tripods, 8 memory cards, 8 walkie-talkies, 7 high capacity power banks, a anemometer, countless charging and data transfer cables, an optically stabilizing binocular, a 4TB external hard drive, all packed in two black military grade pelican cases. I still remember the glances that I got from people at the airports while bringing all my research gear from the USA to India in the summer of 2017. I looked like a man on a mission… a very important mission. It was near certain that I would be pulled out at the security check at every airport. I had my elevator pitch ready on how all these gadgets were to help me unravel the mysteries of the flying dragon!

I was traveling to the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS); nestled in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, the Agumbe rainforest is home to one of many species of gliding lizards belonging to the genus Draco found in Asia. Famously referred to as the flying dragons of the animal kingdom, these magnificent, yet cryptic creatures are not your conventional gliders. Measuring approximately a palm length,

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Back to Venus: Upstart Company Wants to Beat NASA in Search for Life

Can a small American aerospace company get to Venus before NASA returns to our superheated planetary neighbour?

That’s what Peter Beck, the CEO of Rocket Lab, is hoping as he sets his sights on launching a low-cost probe in 2023.

Over the past decade his company has become very good at putting satellites in to orbit — and his dream of taking the next step, an interplanetary mission, has received a shot of adrenaline recently with the surprising discovery of a gas linked to living organisms in Venus’s corrosive, sulphuric atmosphere.

“What we’re looking for on Mars is signs of previous life,” Beck explains.

“Whereas Venus, it’s signs of potential life now.”

With its hellish landscape, Venus has been largely neglected by the major space agencies since the 1980s in favour of the Solar System’s more distant bodies.

Dozens of missions have notably been sent to Mars seeking signs of ancient microbes.

But the discovery by Earth-based radio telescopes of a gas called phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere, reported on September 14, sparked a new wave of enthusiasm among scientists who had for years defended the hypothesis that tiny organisms could live in the planet’s clouds.

Phosphine isn’t definitive

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NASA OSIRIS-REx Probe to Touch Down on Asteroid Bennu on October 20

After a four-year journey, NASA’s robotic spacecraft OSIRIS-REx will descend to asteroid Bennu’s boulder-strewn surface on October 20, touching down for a few seconds to collect rock and dust samples, the agency said Thursday.

Scientists hope the mission will help deepen our understanding of how planets formed and life began and provide insight on asteroids that could impact Earth.

“Years of planning and hard work by this team are essentially coming down to putting the TAGSAM (Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) into contact with the surface for just five to 10 seconds,” said Mike Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager.

NASA has chosen a site called Nightingale, a rocky area 52 feet (16 meters) in diameter, for the spacecraft’s robotic arm to attempt to collect a sample, because it holds the greatest amount of unobstructed fine-grained material.

The spacecraft, about the size of a large van, will need to touch down in an area about the size of a few parking spots, taking care to avoid surrounding boulders.

Because the spacecraft and Bennu will be approximately 207 million miles (334 million kilometres) from Earth, it will take about 18.5 minutes for signals to travel between them. 

This prevents the live

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Says Fires, Storms Show Impact of Climate Change

Apple chief Tim Cook said Monday he views the recent increase in fires, hurricanes and floods as strong proof that climate change is real.

The disasters should sway those denying science that shows greenhouse gases are dangerously changing weather patterns, Cook said in a talk streamed during an online event by The Atlantic magazine.

Cook reasoned that wildfires raging on the US West Coast, hurricanes slamming the South, and flooding in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions make a compelling case for climate change.

“All of these together, I do believe will convince the people that are not currently convinced about climate change,” Cook said.

His remote interview with Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg was recorded last week, when smoke from wildfires turned day to night in California and ash fell like snow in some places.

“It’s horrendous,” Cook said.

“It’s a reminder of how serious climate change is and what’s at stake.”

Cook declined to answer whether he had any luck convincing US President Donald Trump that climate change is real during any of their conversations, saying those exchanges were private.

“I don’t want to talk about it in detail, but if you sort of back up from it, my

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