NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope full mirror deployment a success

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The primary mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is planned to be deployed only once more on Earth, before being packaged for delivery to South America.

In a recent test, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope fully deployed its primary mirror into the same configuration it will have when in space.

As Webb progresses towards liftoff in 2021, technicians and engineers have been diligently checking off a long list of final tests the observatory will undergo before being packaged for delivery to French Guiana for launch. Performed in early March, this procedure involved commanding the spacecraft’s internal systems to fully extend and latch Webb’s iconic 21 feet 4-inch (6.5 meter) primary mirror, appearing just like it would after it has been launched to orbit. The observatory is currently in a cleanroom at Northrop Grumman Space Systems in Redondo Beach, California.

The difficulty and complexity of performing tests for Webb has increased significantly, now that the observatory has been fully assembled. Special gravity offsetting equipment was attached to Webb’s mirror to simulate the zero-gravity environment its mechanisms will have to operate in. Tests like these help safeguard mission success by physically demonstrating that the spacecraft is able to move and unfold as intended. The Webb team will deploy the observatory’s primary mirror only once more on the ground, just before preparing it for delivery to the launch site.

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Terraforming Mars might be impossible… for now

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Making Mars more Earth-like would be a gargantuan task. From giant mirrors to tiny microbes, here’s the thinking behind making Mars habitable for humans.

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

At the end of 1990’s sci-fi adventure Total Recall, all it takes is the push of a button. In a matter of minutes, Mars’ sky transforms from a hellish red to an Earth-like blue. After nearly suffocating on the Martian surface just moments before, Arnold Schwarzenegger takes in lungfuls and lungfuls of that sweet, sweet breathable Martian air.

This is terraforming, the concept of making a planet more hospitable to humans, and it’s been cropping up in pop culture since the early 1900s, everywhere from books to movies to video games. Once upon a time, the idea of turning Mars into Earth 2.0 might have been merely a fanciful notion, as theoretical as actually going to the planet at all.

But in 2020, Mars is very much on the agenda. NASA, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic — they all want to put space boots on the ground, and in some cases as soon as the 2030s. But as scientists work toward blastoff, the concept of terraforming will most likely be a case of “failure to launch.”

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The biggest barrier to future space exploration is in our heads

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With enough time, the technological challenges of sending humans to Mars and beyond are solvable. But psychologically, we’re not ready to leave our home.

In 1945 British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke—now best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey—correctly predicted the invention of satellites, the first of which launched into space in 1958. Then in 1963, Clarke predicted that a man would land on the moon and safely return to Earth sometime around the year 1970—which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did in the summer of 1969. In 1973, Clarke predicted a future where humans would be able to monitor outer-space threats such as asteroids and other near-earth objects—NASA established its Near-Earth Object Observations Program in 1998.

Much of what Clarke suggested about our future in outer space, however, has slipped further and further behind schedule in recent years. For example, he predicted commercial space flights by the year 2011 and a manned mission to Mars by 2021. He also spoke of a manned mission to Jupiter by 2099, which experts say looks pretty unlikely at this point.

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Astronauts make cement in space for the first time

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European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst works on an experiment aboard the International Space Station looking into how cement reacts in space.

Concrete could provide humans in space with better protection from radiation and extreme temperatures than many other materials.

In the future, when humans live in and visit space, they’re going to need places to stay and work. That calls for durable infrastructure such as concrete. For the first time, astronauts made cement in space as part of a project looking into the effects of microgravity, NASA said last week.

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Everyone’s going back to the moon. But why?

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The Deep Space Gateway, seen here in an artist’s rendering, would be a spaceport in lunar orbit. Boeing

As the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo landing approaches, a host of countries are undertaking lunar missions. What’s behind the new space race?

At 2.51am on Monday 15 July, engineers at India’s national spaceport at Sriharikota will blast their Chandrayaan-2 probe into orbit around the Earth. It will be the most ambitious space mission the nation has attempted. For several days, the four-tonne spacecraft will be manoeuvred above our planet before a final injection burn of its engines will send it hurtling towards its destination: the moon.

Exactly 50 years after the astronauts of Apollo 11 made their historic voyage to the Sea of Tranquillity, Chandrayaan-2 will repeat that journey – though on a slightly different trajectory. After the robot craft enters lunar orbit, it will gently drop a lander, named Vikram, on to the moon’s surface near its south pole. A robot rover, Pragyan, will then be dispatched and, for the next two weeks, trundle across the local terrain, analysing the chemical composition of soil and rocks.

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Relativity is building a 3D-printing rocket manufacturing hub in Mississippi

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The future of rocket manufacturing has touched down in Mississippi.

At NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center, nestled in Hancock County, Miss., right on the border of Louisiana, the Los Angeles-based 3D-printed spacecraft manufacturer, Relativity Space, is planning a massive $59 million expansion to make a permanent manufacturing hub in this bucolic corner of the southeast.

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Mars colonists ‘will become super-mutants with cancer-immune skin’ – but could die ‘if they mate with Earthlings’, scientist warns

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One of the winning teams of a NASA competition to make a full-scale Mars habitat using
modeling software, Team SEArch+/Apis Cor, designed this Martian abode, which is built
from the upper part of a Hercules Single-Stage Reusable Vehicle.

The first humans on Mars will quickly become too fragile to have sex with.

That’s according to one scientist, who reckons colonists will warp into super-mutants who’ll keel over the moment they sleep with an Earthling.

NASA is keen to land humans on Mars in the 2030s with an eye on setting up a permanent Martian colony.

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New video details NASA’s plan to return humans to the moon

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We Are Going There

NASA is confident it’s going back to the Moon — and this time, it plans to stay there.

On Tuesday, the agency released “We Are Going,” a new video narrated by Star Trek actor William Shatner.

In the clip, NASA details precisely how it plans to send a crewed mission to the Moon by 2024 — touching on everything from the development of brand-new spacecraft to the hunt for mission-supporting water beneath the Moon’s surface.

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NASA will pay you $19,000 to stay in bed — and be spun in a centrifuge

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Some study participants will be spun in a short-arm human centrifuge that generates artificial gravity.

Like to lounge in bed? We might have your dream job.

NASA wants Earth-bound volunteers to test how artificial gravity might help keep astronauts healthy in space.

NASA and the European Space Agency will pay you $19,000 to lie in bed for two months. Two months! That’s a lot of Netflix.

The prolonged bed rest is part of a study that launched this week into the effects of weightlessness on the human body. Phase 2 will be conducted by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) from September through December in Cologne, Germany.

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6 of the most amazing things that were 3D-printed in 2018

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From bridges to cars, 3D printing proved this year that it’s still relevant and exciting.

The hype may have died down a little, but 3D printing was still creating waves in manufacturing in 2018. On the important-but-boring side, manufacturing companies are using the tech for things like weight reduction and cost savings. More interestingly, architects carried out a number of experiments that pushed the artistic limits of what 3D printing can do.

Here are some of the standout achievements and creations from 2018:

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Carbon dioxide fertilization greening earth, study finds

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From a quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 25.

An international team of 32 authors from 24 institutions in eight countries led the effort, which involved using satellite data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer instruments to help determine the leaf area index, or amount of leaf cover, over the planet’s vegetated regions. The greening represents an increase in leaves on plants and trees equivalent in area to two times the continental United States.

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