Nearly a decade after its launch in 2013, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission has run out of fuel and will cease operations. The mission, which was the first Mars mission by an Asian country, demonstrated a different approach to planetary science by being built and launched on a much smaller budget than is typical for Mars missions from larger space agencies like NASA or the European Space Agency.
In an update shared this week, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) hailed the achievements of the mission, writing that, “despite being designed for a life-span of six months as a technology demonstrator, the Mars Orbiter Mission has lived for about eight years in the Martian orbit with a gamut of significant scientific results on Mars as well as on the Solar corona, before losing communication with the ground station, as a result of a long eclipse in April 2022.”
In discussions at an ISRO national meeting, scientists there declared that the mission will now have run out of propellant and so it would no longer be possible to orient the spacecraft. “It was declared that the spacecraft is non-recoverable, and attained its end-of-life,” ISRO wrote. “The mission will be ever-regarded as a remarkable technological and scientific feat in the history of planetary exploration.”
The mission was launched for just $73 million, which is extremely cheap for a Mars mission, even an orbiter. It is generally cheaper to design and launch an orbiter than a rover or lander, but even Mars orbiter mission budgets are typically in the range of hundreds of millions.
ISRO was able to launch its low-cost mission by reducing testing, simplifying design, and taking a modular approach to the hardware. There were also long working days expected of the scientists and engineers, and a focus on scheduling to prevent costly delays, according to an interview with Forbes by Koppillil Radhakrishnan, chairman of the ISRO who oversaw the mission development.
Some of the mission’s scientific achievements include uncovering information about the composition of the martian atmosphere, as well as learning more about potential causes of the atmospheric escape through which Mars is losing its atmosphere over time. The mission was also able to take images of the entire face of Mars due to its elliptical orbit, which at times took it far away from the planet’s surface. However, one of the mission’s big aims, to understand more about methane in the Mars atmosphere, was missed because a methane sensor on board the spacecraft didn’t work.
Even so, the mission has been unquestionably groundbreaking, and there are already plans for a follow-up mission, Mars Orbiter Mission 2, planned to be launched in 2024.
It’s not breaking news that air pollution impacts low-income neighborhoods and communities of color disproportionately. Mission Local wrote eight years ago that the Mission had the worst air quality, and the highest overall negative health indicators in San Francisco.
The latest data indicates a similar result: Communities of color are exposed to 55 percent more nitrogen dioxide than white communities, according to Aclima, a company that measured the region’s air quality, block-by-block.
The map shows that the Mission District is one of the city’s neighborhoods with more people of color, poverty, renters — and higher pollutant levels, especially nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.
“San Francisco families suffer from poor air quality near freeways, such as 101 and 280,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. At a Tuesday press conference in advance of the fifth annual California Clean Air Day on Oct. 5, he noted that this is not only an environmental issue, but also a public health issue.
Along with speakers including Department of the Environment director Tyrone Jue, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and Brian Sheridan from Coalition for Clean Air, Safaí outlined small, everyday steps San Franciscans can take to reduce this city’s air pollution.
Nancypili Hernandez from the Latino Task Force said the access to fresh air is vital to Latinx communities, as many Latinx tenants live in close quarters and high-density buildings. To combat the effects, the Latino Task Force promotes family gardening and biking.
A gardening event hosted by the Latino Task Force and Excelsior Strong will be held at 4834 Mission St. near Onondaga Street, starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
And on Thursday, the group is collaborating with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, to teach kids to bike. Five bicycles for children under eight years old will be given out through a raffle.
This is the first time the Latino Task Force has participated in California Clean Air Day, as it was preoccupied with responding to Covid-19 last year.
In December, 2021, Mayor London Breed announced the 2040 net-zero emission goal for the city, which means reducing emissions 90 percent below 1990 levels and absorbing the other 10 percent through natural solutions, like trees and green spaces. In 2019, the city’s carbon footprint was reduced by 41 percent from 1990 levels.
Jue noted that the two biggest sources of emissions are buildings and transportation. Natural gas, diesel and gasoline are all fossil fuels.
Individual actions include taking more public transportation, bringing a lunch to work, planting a home garden, and switching to a cleaner non-wood burning stove. The full video is available here.
“Try to educate yourself, try to think about the small things that you can do. That will really make a difference here in our city in the Bay Area,” said Safaí.
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NASA is just days away from slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth.
The agency's long-awaited Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission will impact with the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos on Monday (Sept. 26), if all goes according to plan. The DART mission launched on Nov. 23, 2021 on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and is now hurtling through deep space toward the binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) Didymos and its moonlet Dimorphos.
The mission, which is managed by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), is humanity's first attempt to determine if we could alter the course of an asteroid, a feat that might one day be required to save human civilization. While changing the orbit of an asteroid 7 million miles away sounds daunting, DART team members from NASA and JHUAPL said during a media briefing on Thursday (Sept. 22) that they are confident that the years of planning that have gone into the mission will lead to success.
Related: NASA's DART asteroid-impact mission will be a key test of planetary defense
Traveling at speeds of 4.1 miles per second (6.6 km/s), or 14,760 mph (23,760 kph), the DART spacecraft will impact the 560-foot-wide (170 meters) Dimorphos, a moonlet that orbits the other member of its binary system, the 2,600-foot-wide (780 m) asteroid Didymos.
Doing so, NASA believes, will shift Dimorphos' orbital period enough to alter its gravitational effects on the larger Didymos, changing the trajectory of the pair.
Katherine Calvin, chief scientist and senior climate advisor at NASA, said that while DART will be a key test of this "kinetic impactor" planetary defense strategy, the mission will also produce valuable science that will allow astronomers to peer back into the deep history of the solar system.
"We're looking at asteroids to make sure that we don't find ourselves in their path. We also study asteroids to learn more about the formation and history of our solar system. Every time we see an asteroid, we're catching a glimpse of a fossil of the early solar system," Calvin said.
"These remnants capture a time when planets like Earth were forming," she added. "Asteroids and other small bodies also delivered water, other ingredients of life to Earth as it was maturing. We're studying these to learn more about the history of our solar system."
Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA, said that DART marks a turning point in the history of the human species.
"This is an exciting time, not only for the agency, but for space history and the history of humankind," Johnson said during Thursday's briefing. "It's quite frankly the first time that we are able to demonstrate that we have not only the knowledge of the hazards posed by these asteroids and comets that are left over from the formation of the solar system, but also have the technology that we could deflect one from a course inbound to impact the Earth. So this demonstration is extremely important to our future."
That sentiment was echoed by Tom Statler, a DART program scientist at NASA. "The first test is a test of our ability to build an autonomously guided spacecraft that will actually achieve the kinetic impact on the asteroid. The second test is a test of how the real asteroid responds to the kinetic impact," Statler said. "Because, at the end of the day, the real question is: How effectively did we move the asteroid, and can this technique of kinetic impact be used in the future if we ever needed to?"
Read more: DART asteroid mission: NASA's first planetary defense spacecraft
The outcome of the DART mission on Monday (Sept. 26) will certainly help answer that question, and many of the DART team members shared their confidence in the mission during the briefing. Edward Reynolds, DART project manager at JHUAPL, said the spacecraft is ready to smash itself to pieces on the surface of Dimorphos when the time comes.
"What we can say at this point is that all subsystems on the spacecraft are green, they're healthy, they're performing very well. We have plenty of propellant and we have plenty of power," Reynolds said. "We've been doing a bunch of rehearsals, and some of the rehearsals are very nominal."
"At this point, I can say that the team is ready," Reynolds added. "The ground systems are ready, and the spacecraft is healthy and on track for an impact on Monday."
Engineers on the DART team are watching the spacecraft's trajectory carefully over the coming days leading up to the impact, which should occur at 7:14 p.m. EDT (2314 GMT) on Monday (Sept. 26). Elena Adams, DART mission systems engineer at JHUAPL, said that the team is still making sure the impactor spacecraft is on course.
"Over the next couple of days, we're actually still performing some trajectory correction maneuvers to make sure that we are on the right path to hit the asteroid," Adams said. "We rehearsed a lot. But as we go through the cruise phase, we update parameters in the spacecraft to make sure that we can actually hit the asteroid. And so in the last couple of days, we'll update those parameters; we'll do checks like streaming images back to Earth."
"So in the next few days, we'll take more images of the Didymos system, we'll do trajectory correction maneuvers, and then at 24 hours prior to impact, it's all hands on deck," she added.
Adams said the team has 21 contingencies in place in case DART's Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real Time Navigation (Smart Nav) system determines that the spacecraft is off course. "We've planned for all the things, and we're ready to intervene. And we have been rehearsing this for quite some time."
The 21st contingency the team has planned for is DART's survival. In the event that DART misses Dimorphos, Adams says the team will immediately begin processing the data the spacecraft collected and plan for a possible impact with other objects.
"We're going to sit down back into our seats and we're going to start preserving all the data on board if it misses. And we'll have time with our Deep Space Network right afterwards to be able to actually get all that data down," Adams said. "And then we'll start conserving propellant and we'll start looking for [other] objects to come back to."
In response to a question from Space.com concerning any flight testing the team has conducted, Adams mentioned a accurate set of images the DART spacecraft's DRACO camera took of Jupiter and its four big Galilean moons. The DART team captured the images in order to "fool" the DART spacecraft's SMART Nav system so that its tracking capabilities could be tested.
"We actually watched Europa exit from behind Jupiter. And we fooled our Smart Nav that Jupiter was Didymos and Europa was Dimorphos, and we actually watched the separation happen," Adams said.
That's important, she added, "because in the last four hours during our terminal phase, when the spacecraft is completely autonomous, we're going to watch Dimorphos emerge from behind Didymos. So, we already trained the system to do this in flight. So we're looking forward to it. I think we can do it."
Statler reiterated that confidence, adding that, while this type of mission was once the stuff of fantasy, the DART team believes we now have the tools and the knowledge to carry out a successful planetary defense mission.
"We're moving an asteroid. We are changing the motion of a natural celestial body in space," Statler said. "Humanity has never done that before. And this is the stuff of science fiction books, and really corny episodes of 'Star Trek' from when I was a kid. And now it's real. And that's kind of astonishing that we are actually doing that and what that bodes for the future: What we can do, as well as our discussions of what humanity should do.
"It opens up an amazing frontier," he added. "It's very exciting."
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Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part Two” production was paused after a flock of sheep interrupted filming.
The eighth and final installment in the “Mission: Impossible” film franchise had to cease filming after dozens of sheep invaded production in the Lake District in England, as reported by Fox News.
Lead star and producer Cruise stood to the side to make way for the sheep to pass through; additional set photos included Cruise flying in mid-air while attached to a blue parachute. Cruise plays spy Ethan Hunt in the film franchise, with upcoming “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One” set for a July 14, 2023 release date.
Cruise and the “Mission: Impossible” cast and crew began filming its sequel immediately after wrapping “Mission: Impossible 7” following COVID-19 pandemic delays. “Dead Reckoning – Part Two” is slated for a June 28, 2024 release, one year after the seventh installment hits theaters.
Director Christopher McQuarrie also returns for both upcoming films, which will exclusively have theatrical releases in part due to Cruise’s urging. Production for “Dead Reckoning – Part One” was repeatedly halted by the pandemic but eventually wrapped in September of 2021.
A first look at “Mission: Impossible 7” during Paramount Pictures’ showcase at CinemaCon earlier this year captured Cruise holding onto a plane while flying over South Africa. Not to be forgotten, but Cruise famously does his own stunts.
The “M:I 7” trailer includes Cruise’s Ethan being told that his “days of fighting for the greater good are over” and that he needs to pick a side when it comes to international espionage. Returning stars Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, and Vanessa Kirby reprise their respective roles, while new cast members include Hayley Atwell and Pom Klementieff.
Cruise has been playing Ethan Hunt for 26 years, with the first “Mission: Impossible” film premiering in 1996. The actor gave a glimpse at the death-defying stunts in the upcoming “Dead Reckoning” films during this year’s CinemaCon.
“Wish I could be there with you,” Cruise said in a pre-recorded video while holding onto the outside of a plane. “I’m sorry for the extra noise. As you can see, we are filming the latest installment of ‘Mission: Impossible.'”
Paramount president Brian Robbins previously said, “The ‘MI’ series really does represent the pinnacle of filmmaking excellence. And we have no doubt that this new picture will set the bar even higher.”