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Space Exploration is not something Chicago Student Mawuto Akploh says she finds in her Textbooks or Classroom discussion in her School

Moses views the opportunity for widely available space flight as a unifying endeavor for humanity, but knows well that the final frontier of space is a difficult environment to master.

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Virgin Galactic- founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, seeking to be the first company consistently taking paying passengers into orbit. Source-Wikimedia commons
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Chicago, May 20, 2017: Space exploration is not something Chicago student Mawuto Akploh says she finds in her textbooks or classroom discussion in her school.

“We do physics, biology, earth, and space sciences,” she told VOA. “But we never actually take the time to talk about the people who actually do those things.”

Akploh is originally from Togo and immigrated with her parents to the United States when she was a young child. She now attends a Chicago area high school career academy, and just became certified as an automobile mechanic.

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Akploh says aerospace engineering wasn’t an option at her school.

“It’s not that people don’t want to do it… it’s that people don’t know about it.”

That lack of knowledge has, in part, fueled a shortage of students in the U.S. seeking advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math – also known as STEM. Fields the aerospace industry depends on.

“There is a shortage across engineering which I think is generally bad for humanity.” Which is one reason Beth Moses hopes her career serves as an inspiration to others to answer that shortage.

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After successfully serving at NASA as the assembly manager for the International Space Station, Moses is now the chief astronaut trainer at Virgin Galactic, founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, seeking to be the first company consistently taking paying passengers into orbit.

“We are doing something, and I am doing something that has never been done before,” she explained to VOA. “There’s no road map, there’s no instruction manual, no guidance on how to do this.”

Which is why, as Moses writes one of the new instruction manuals in the emerging field of commercial human spaceflight, the need for more engineers is critical to help her company – and others – meet the demands of a growing industry that Moses says doesn’t “come in pink or blue.”

“In my entire time, in school and in aerospace engineering both at NASA and here at Virgin Galactic, I’ve never once had any hassle or gender issue, and there have been plenty of women around and also plenty of diversity of all kinds… age, race, points of view.”

It was a message Moses reinforced to those gathered at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, where she was awarded the 2017 “Women in Space Science Award” from the Adler Planetarium’s Women’s Board.

It also was a part of her pitch to hundreds of Chicago area high school students, including Mawuto Akploh, who gathered to see her speak at the place that sparked Moses’ own interest in space… the Adler Planetarium.

In front of a large view screen in the Adler’s theater, the audience was awed by her video presentation showing test flight footage from Virgin Galactic, and what the experience of heading into space as a commercial passenger with her company might look like, when it takes off.

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Moses views the opportunity for widely available space flight as a unifying endeavor for humanity, but knows well that the final frontier of space is a difficult environment to master.

In 2006, Richard Branson told VOA he was hopeful Virgin Galactic would be orbiting the earth soon.

“Twenty-four months from now, my parents, my children and myself shall be popping into space,” he said with a grin.

But a series of setbacks, including a crash in 2014 that led to the death of one of the test spacecraft’s co-pilots, has pushed that timeline back.

Eleven years later, Branson still waits to be his company’s first passenger.

He told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph in April he hopes to see Virgin Galactic’s first sub-orbital flight by the end of 2017.

“We are in the air and we are working our way through a test program,” Moses told VOA. “When it is complete and the vehicle is safe, we’ll start commercial flights with Richard and his family.”

Those are flights that more than 700 passengers have already paid more than $200,000 to experience, reinforcing to students contemplating a career in aerospace engineering that not only is it in demand, it could also be lucrative… something Mawuto Akploh is keeping in mind as she plans for college, where a course of study in physics is her top pick. (VOA)

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NASA Chooses Landing Site For Mars 2020 Rover

The Rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA's next step in exploration of the Red Planet

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NASA selects landing site for Mars 2020 Rover. Flcikr

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater delta, where the sediments contain clays and carbonates, as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 Rover mission, the US space agency said.

Jezero Crater, 45 kilometres in size, is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia — a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator.

Its ancient lake-delta system offers many promising sampling targets of at least five different kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life.

“The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with land forms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement on Monday.

“Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbour life,” he added.

The crater, once home to an ancient river delta, could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

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The Rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet. Flickr

In addition, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west, and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

Selecting a landing site this early allows the Rover drivers and science operations team to optimise their plans for exploring Jezero Crater once the Rover is safely on the ground.

The Rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet.

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It will not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions and past microbial life but will also collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet’s surface.

Earlier in November, ExoMars rover — the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian Roscosmos’ joint venture to the Red Planet that will set out in 2020 — also chose a landing site on Mars’ equator called Oxia Planum, which had in the prehistoric era housed a massive pool of water. (IANS)