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NASA to put humans on the Moon again: Mike Pence

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NASA to put humans on the Moon again: Mike Pence (Image:Wikimedia)
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Washington, Oct 6: The Trump administration will direct NASA to land humans on the Moon and establish presence on the lunar surface before sending astronauts to the Red Planet and beyond, US Vice President Mike Pence has said.

Pence made the administration’s intentions known in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, as well as a speech he gave during the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council — a newly resurrected executive group aimed at guiding the US space agenda, The Verge reported on Thursday.

“We will return NASA astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation, we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” he told reporters at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Pence made it clear that space is a national priority, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement after the first meeting of the Council.

“The vice president also announced a call for renewed U.S. leadership in space – with a recommendation to the president that NASA help lead and shape the way forward,” Lightfoot said.

“Specifically, NASA has been directed to develop a plan for an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system, returning humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations,” Lightfoot added.

The Council acknowledged the strategic importance of cis-lunar space — the region around the Moon — which will serve as a proving ground for missions to Mars and beyond, Lightfoot added. (IANS)

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InSight Spacecraft of NASA Reaches Halfway to Mars

The camera will take the first image of Elysium Planitia minutes after InSight touches down on Mars in November

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NASA's InSight spacecraft crosses halfway mark to Mars. Pixabay

NASA’s InSight spacecraft that is en route to Mars, has passed the halfway mark to its destination and all its instruments are working well, the US space agency said.

InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The spacecraft, which crossed the halfway mark on August 6 is expected to land on Mars on November 26 to study the Red Planet’s deep interior, NASA said in a statement on Monday.

The spacecraft has now covered 277 million km since its launch 107 days ago and in another 98 days, it will travel another 208 million km and touch down in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region.

Earlier the lander’s launch and landing were scheduled around Mars’ closest approach to Earth that occurred on July 31.

However, it was delayed by the Martian storm that has engulfed the Planet and has cut off communication with another NASA robot, the Mars rover Opportunity.

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InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. (IANS)

NASA engineers used this long travel time to plan, activate and check spacecraft subsystems vital to cruise, landing and surface operations, including the highly sensitive science instruments, the statement said.

The instruments aboard the spacecraft include a seismometer, which will be used to detect quakes on Mars, and a self-hammering probe that will measure the amount of heat escaping from the planet’s interior.

It also has cameras to take a “selfie” of the mission’s equipment.

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“If you are an engineer on InSight, that first glimpse of the heat shield blanket, harness tie-downs and cover bolts is a very reassuring sight as it tells us our Instrument Context Camera is operating perfectly. The next picture we plan to take with this camera will be of the surface of Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The camera will take the first image of Elysium Planitia minutes after InSight touches down on Mars in November. (IANS)

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