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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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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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NASA Asks American Aerospace Companies to Offer Detailed Ideas for Future Lunar Lander

NASA called the request for input a "major step" forward for its new moon mission, dubbed Artemis

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NASA, American, Aerospace
FILE - NASA's Space Launch System mobile launcher rolls on a crawler-transporter for months of testing before the launch of Artemis 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 27, 2019. VOA

U.S. space agency NASA on Monday asked American aerospace companies to offer detailed ideas for vehicles that could bring two astronauts to the moon by 2024, an American objective that was reconfirmed on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

NASA called the request for input a “major step” forward for its new moon mission, dubbed Artemis — who in Greek mythology was Apollo’s twin sister.

The space agency published documents explaining in detail what it is looking for in a lunar lander that will bring the two astronauts, one a woman, to the moon’s south pole, where they will stay for six-and-a-half days.

In May, 11 companies including sector mainstays Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were picked to lead feasibility studies and develop prototypes by November. Also on the list were newcomers such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

NASA, American, Aerospace
FILE – Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, plant the U.S. flag on the lunar surface, July 20, 1969. VOA

That same month, Blue Origin unveiled its lander project, Blue Moon.

Now, NASA has provided dozens of pages of specifications that must be met in terms of onboard electronics, communications, and spacesuits.

Any company can reply, not just the 11 shortlisted earlier in the year.

“On the heels of the 50th Anniversary of #Apollo11, we’ve just issued a draft solicitation asking US companies to help us develop the 21st century human landing system that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine tweeted.

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Behind schedule

After receiving the responses, NASA is expected to make a decision in a matter of months as to which company will build the lander and how.

It will be the equivalent of the lunar module that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in 1969.

NASA, American, Aerospace
U.S. space agency NASA on Monday asked American aerospace companies to offer detailed ideas for vehicles that could bring two astronauts to the moon by 2024. Pixabay

One important difference will be that the lander will berth at a mini moon-orbiting space station, called Gateway, as a kind of port between Earth and the moon. That will allow for the lander to be reused and refueled.

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For now, the Artemis mission is behind schedule, mainly due to delays in the construction of the huge, single-use Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is primarily being made by Boeing. (VOA)