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NASA Selects Missions to Study Sun, its Effects on Space Weather

One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system

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NASA, Missions, Sun
The launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday. Pixabay

NASA has selected two new missions to study the Sun and its dynamic effects on space weather.

The launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday.

One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system and a second will study the Earth’s response.

“These missions will do big science, but they’re also special because they come in small packages, which means that we can launch them together and get more research for the price of a single launch,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington.

NASA, Missions, Sun
NASA has selected two new missions to study the Sun and its dynamic effects on space weather. Pixabay

The Sun generates a vast outpouring of solar particles known as the solar wind, which can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather.

Near Earth, where such particles interact with our planet’s magnetic field, the space weather system can lead to profound impact on human interests, such as astronauts’ safety, radio communications, GPS signals and utility grids on the ground.

The more we understand what drives space weather and its interaction with the Earth and lunar systems, the more we can mitigate its effects – including safeguarding astronauts and technology crucial to NASA’s Artemis programme to the Moon.

One of the two missions that NASA has selected is the Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH. This mission will focus directly on the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, and how it generates the solar wind.

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The second mission is Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS. The TRACERS investigation was partially selected as a NASA-launched rideshare mission, meaning it will be launched as a secondary payload with PUNCH.

TRACERS will observe particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region – the region encircling the Earth’s pole, where our planet’s magnetic field lines curve down towards the Earth, NASA said. (IANS)

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With 50th Anniversary of First Moon Landing, NASA Plans to Send ‘First Woman and Next Man’ on Moon

"Artemis" is named after the twin sister of Apollo who is also the Goddess of the Moon and the hunt

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The five missions between 2022 and 2024 will be operated by private companies, according to NASA's plans. VOA

As the world marked the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, the US space agency said it has doubled down on its next giant leap with the Artemis programme that would take “the first woman and the next man” to the lunar surface.

“Artemis” is named after the twin sister of Apollo who is also the Goddess of the Moon and the hunt. “Artemis will light our way to Mars. The new Artemis identity draws bold inspiration from the Apollo programme and forges its own path, showing how it will pursue lunar exploration like never before and pave the way to Mars,” NASA said in a statement.

The astronauts would explore regions of the Moon never visited before, unlock mysteries of the Universe and test the technology that will extend the bounds of humanity farther into the solar system.

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FILE – Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. VOA

“On the lunar surface we will pursue water, ice and other natural resources that will further enable deep space travel. From the Moon, humanity will take the next giant leap to Mars,” said the agency. Returning astronauts to the Moon in 2024 could cost about $30 billion, or roughly the same price tag as the Apollo 11 spaceflight when factoring in inflation.

The total cost of the Apollo programme that the US launched in 1961 and concluded in 1972 was $25 billion. The climax of that programme came nearly 50 years ago when two astronauts landed on the Moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission, which cost $6 billion at the time, equivalent to $30 billion today.

According to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, the main difference between the Apollo programme and the “Artemis” is that the former culminated with brief stays on the Moon while the latter will entail a permanent human presence there.

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Returning astronauts to the Moon in 2024 could cost about $30 billion, or roughly the same price tag as the Apollo 11 spaceflight when factoring in inflation. Pixabay

The plan will involve the recruitment of private companies and international partners, the construction of a lunar space station and manned landings at the Moon’s south pole within five years.

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The programme includes an unmanned mission around the Moon in 2020 and a manned mission that will also orbit the Moon two years later. The next lunar missions will be delivered into space by the Space Launch System, a rocket being developed by NASA and Boeing that will be the largest ever built once it is fully assembled.

That rocket will send into orbit a new spacecraft known as Orion, whose lead contractor is Lockheed Martin. The five missions between 2022 and 2024 will be operated by private companies, according to NASA’s plans. (IANS)