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NASA Probe Unveils Stormy Environment of Jupiter’s Moon

Jupiter moon Ganymede's environment unique: NASA probe

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NASA, Microsoft
After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

The magnetic field around Jupiter’s moon Ganymede makes it unlike any other in the solar system, shows newly analysed data from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft’s first flyby of the moon two decades ago.

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft spent eight years orbiting Jupiter. During that time, the hearty spacecraft — slightly larger than a full-grown giraffe — sent back spates of discoveries on the gas giant’s moons, including the observation of a magnetic environment around Ganymede that was distinct from Jupiter’s own magnetic field.

The mission ended in 2003, but newly resurrected data from Galileo’s first flyby of Ganymede, detailed in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, offered new insights about the moon’s environment.

“We are now coming back over 20 years later to take a new look at some of the data that was never published and finish the story,” said study lead author Glyn Collinson from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Jupiter's dark side.
Jupiter. Pixabay

“We found there’s a whole piece no one knew about,” Collinson said.

In 1996, shortly after arriving at Jupiter, Galileo made a surprising discovery: Ganymede had its own magnetic field.

While most planets in our solar system, including Earth, have magnetic environments — known as magnetospheres — no one expected a moon to have one.

Between 1996 and 2000, Galileo made six targeted flybys of Ganymede, with multiple instruments collecting data on the moon’s magnetosphere.

The new results reveal interesting details about the magnetosphere’s unique structure.

Also Read: NASA Ready To Study Heart Of Mars

The results showed a stormy scene. Particles blasted off the moon’s icy surface as a result of incoming plasma rain, and strong flows of plasma pushed between Jupiter and Ganymede due to an explosive magnetic event occurring between the two bodies’ magnetic environments.

Scientists think these observations could be key to unlocking the secrets of the moon, such as why Ganymede’s auroras are so bright.

“There are these particles flying out from the polar regions, and they can tell us something about Ganymede’s atmosphere, which is very thin,” said Bill Paterson, a co-author of the study at NASA Goddard who served on the Galileo Plasma Science (PLS) team during the mission.

“It can also tell us about how Ganymede’s auroras form,” Paterson added.  IANS

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SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)