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NASA’s Tiny Satellite Maps Global Ice Couds

A bread loaf-sized satellite has captured the first global picture of the small frozen particles inside clouds, normally called ice clouds, NASA has said

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

A bread loaf-sized satellite has captured the first global picture of the small frozen particles inside clouds, normally called ice clouds, NASA has said.

Ice clouds start as tiny particles high in the atmosphere. Absorbing moisture, the ice crystals grow and become heavier, causing them to fall to lower altitudes. Eventually, the particles get so heavy, they fall and melt to form rain drops. The ice crystals may also just stay in the air.

Like other clouds, ice clouds affect Earth’s energy budget by either reflecting or absorbing the Sun’s energy and by affecting the emission of heat from Earth into space. Thus, ice clouds are key variables in weather and climate models.

Representational image.
Representational Image, VOA

“Heavy downpours originate from ice clouds,” said Dong Wu, IceCube principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Measuring atmospheric ice on a global scale remains highly uncertain because satellites have been unable to detect the amount of small ice particles inside the clouds, as these particles are too opaque for infrared and visible sensors to penetrate.

The experimental small satellite, IceCube, deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2017, has filled this void, NASA said on Tuesday.

Also Read: NASA Is Sending a Helicopter to Mars in 2020

To overcome that limitation, IceCube was outfitted with a submillimeter radiometer that bridges the missing sensitivity between infrared and microwave wavelengths.

Despite weighing only 10 pounds, IceCube is a bona fide spacecraft, complete with three-axis attitude control, deployable solar arrays and a deployable communications antenna.

Originally a 30-day technology-demonstration mission, IceCube is still fully operational in low-Earth orbit almost a year later, measuring ice clouds and providing data that’s “good enough to do some real science,” Wu said. (IANS)

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NASA: Sending Back Astronauts to Moon in 2024 Could Cost About $30 Billion

The entire project will be framed as a practice run for a future mission to Mars

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NASA, mars
NASA, which has dubbed its current lunar programme Artemis (after Apollo's twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon), plans to send one male and one female astronaut to the moon in 2024. VOA

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, NASA has said.

“For the whole programme, to get a sustainable presence on the moon, we’re looking at between $20 and $30 billion,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a TV interview on Friday, though noting that that figure does not include money already spent on the rocket and space capsule the agency plans to use for the programme, Efe news reported.

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.

nasa, moon
Then one male astronaut and – for the first time – a female astronaut would set foot on the lunar surface in 2024. Pixabay

NASA, which has dubbed its current lunar programme Artemis (after Apollo’s twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon), plans to send one male and one female astronaut to the moon in 2024.

Bridenstine recalled that the main difference between the Apollo programme and the Artemis program is that the former culminated with brief stays on the moon while the latter will entail a permanent human presence there.

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.

NASA, moon
That rocket will send into orbit a new spacecraft known as Orion, whose lead contractor is Lockheed Martin. VOA

The entire project will be framed as a practice run for a future mission to Mars. The programme includes an unmanned mission around the moon in 2020 and a manned mission that also will orbit the moon two years later. Then one male astronaut and – for the first time – a female astronaut would set foot on the lunar surface in 2024.

ALSO READ: NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover, Latest Robotic Mission to Explore Ancient Life on Red Planet

The three 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.

Besides these missions exclusively handled by NASA, five other launches will be carried out to place in lunar orbit the components for construction of the Gateway mini-space station, which will serve as a staging post for moon landings. Those five missions between 2022 and 2024 will be operated by private companies, according to NASA’s plans. (IANS)