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Over the Moon #24

  • Private trips to space station
  • African space race
  • Space agencies join hands
  • Lunar restrooms
Published every Monday

War on the Rocks

Is the United States losing the African space race?

Africa’s space programs account for a very small part of the world’s space activity. But the continent’s profile in space is growing, and if decision-makers in Washington don’t start paying closer attention to Africa’s orbital ambitions, the United States will see itself outpaced in this critical space race by China and Russia.

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Editor’s Note:

China, the US, India and Russia all feature repeatedly in this newsletter. Here Judd Devermont and Temidayo Oniosun look at the space industry in Africa, expected to grow rapidly, from an American perspective and wonder about an opportunity missed.

Digital Trends

How to Build a Base on Mars

Elon Musk often talks about getting a SpaceX Starship ready for a manned mission to Mars within a decade, with a first launch of the craft as early as next year. But as intimidating as sending humans to another planet for the first time may be, getting there is only half the challenge. The big problem is how humans can exist on the surface of a planet with an unbreathable, thin atmosphere, pounded by cosmic radiation, with freezing surface temperatures, millions of miles from home.

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The Verge

Virgin Galactic will organize private passenger trips to the space station for NASA

Richard Branson’s space tourism venture Virgin Galactic will start coordinating private astronaut trips to the International Space Station for NASA — a new partnership aimed at increasing commercial use of the space agency’s orbiting outpost.

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ESA

Space agencies join forces to produce global view of COVID-19 impacts

In an unprecedented collaboration, ESA, NASA and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have created a new tool that combines a wealth of data from Earth-observing satellites to monitor the worldwide impacts of COVID-19. This new online platform is now available to the public.

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Bloomberg

Mars Mission Is Next Step in Intensifying Middle East Space Race

As space gets cheaper and more accessible, new countries are drawing our gaze to the heavens—and away from their controversies on Earth.

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Editor’s Note:

Beyond Africa, there are other places looking to get in on space, including the Middle East. Here John Beck analyzes the key contenders in the race, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Universe Today

Do We Now Understand Why the Moon’s Near and Far Sides Look So Dramatically Different?

The Moon is easily the most well-studied object in the Solar System, (other than Earth, of course.) But it still holds some puzzles for scientists. Why, for instance, is one side of the Moon so different from the other?

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Science

NASA’s new rover will collect martian rocks — and clues to planet’s ancient climate

NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, is going back in time to the bottom of a vanished lake. If all goes well, in February 2021 it will land in Jezero crater and pop the dust covers off its camera lenses. Towering in front of it, in all likelihood, will be a 60-meter cliff of mudstone: the edge of a fossilized river delta.

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Wired

The rocket motor of the future “breathes” air like a jet engine

This theoretical engine could drastically reduce the cost of getting to space.

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The Verge

NASA wants to hear your ideas for engineering the best toilet to use on the Moon

When NASA sends astronauts back to the Moon, they’ll need a place to go to the bathroom when they reach the lunar surface. And in order to create the best Moon toilet the Solar System has to offer, NASA wants to hear from members of the public who might have ideas on the best way to manufacture an easy-to-use lunar restroom.

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Editor’s Note:

There is no dearth of articles related to the upcoming Moon missions being planned around the world. However, one aspect that is still not often talked about is the outhouse that astronauts will use way out there. Loren Grush reports that NASA now wants to hear about this issue from the public.

Max Planck Society

Physicist discusses eRosita mission

It may well mark a revolution in X-ray astronomy: The eRosita space telescope, which was launched last July, has completed its first complete survey of the sky. Over a million objects are visible on the map it has produced. Astronomers are excited about the results from the observatory.

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