October 7, 2021
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The Launchpad
Perseverance rover confirms existence of ancient Mars lake and river delta
(NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/LPG)
NASA chose the landing site of its life-hunting Perseverance Mars rover wisely. Perseverance touched down in February on the floor of the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater, which was picked primarily because previous observations by Mars orbiters suggested that it hosted a big lake and a river delta in the ancient past. Photos snapped by Perseverance early in its mission, before the car-sized robot even started roving, confirm this interpretation, a new study reports.
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China's new moon-rock treasure trove may be a billion years younger than the material the Apollo program brought home decades ago, according to new research. All told, in December, China's Chang'e 5 spacecraft managed to return 3.81 pounds (1.73 kilograms) of moon rock from a region called Oceanus Procellarum to scientists on Earth. Since then, scientists with access to the precious material have begun a bevy of experiments to understand the rocks and the secrets of the solar system that they might hold.
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Spaceflight
Not all Mars spacecraft might need such deep cleaning, scientists find
(NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Mars-bound landers and rovers may not need to undergo quite such stringent cleaning procedures as they previously have before leaving Earth, a committee evaluating planetary protection measures has found.
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Blue Origin broke multiple Guinness World Records with its first crewed spaceflight in July. The historic event launched Blue Origin's founder, billionaire Jeff Bezos and three other civilians: Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen on a suborbital flight aboard the company's New Shepard rocket.
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Science & Astronomy
The oldest gamma-ray burst ever discovered was just a piece of space junk
(NASA/ESA/STScI)
Sometimes a flash is just a fluke. A signal that scientists first believed was the ground-breaking discovery of a gamma-ray burst from the oldest known galaxy in the universe was in fact a reflection of sunlight from a spent rocket stage in Earth's orbit, a new paper has found.
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If scientists want astronomy to thrive throughout the 21st century, we need a new approach, one astronomer proposes in a new paper: to view new observatories through a lens of public benefit, wrapping them up in other, space-based infrastructure endeavors.
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Technology
3 years after tiny spacecraft made Mars history, where are all their successors?
(NASA/JPL-Caltech)
When NASA's most recent Mars lander trekked out to the Red Planet, it had historic company: two tiny cubesats, the first to leave the relative safety of Earth orbit. The Mars Cube One (MarCO) mission's twin briefcase-sized satellites watched NASA's InSight lander touch down in November 2018, confirming that the infamous "six minutes of terror" landing sequence went smoothly before NASA's fleet of Mars orbiters could check in on the newest arrival. The MarCO cubesats, affectionately nicknamed Wall-E and Eva, blazed the trail for other small satellites to adventure beyond Earth's orbit — though none of those missions have launched yet.
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Entertainment
New sci-fi anthology 'AI 2041' presents hopeful realities of artificial intelligence
(Currency)
Aside from the unlikely scenario of a Skynet-like incident, the advent of artificial intelligence will bring immeasurable new benefits to humankind as we charge into the next two decades. While the popular Hollywood notion of sinister AI overlords is a cautionary tale, the reality of this burgeoning technology will enhance our planet in ways we're barely able to comprehend.
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As we continue to celebrate the 55th anniversary of "Star Trek," Gene Roddenberry's visionary brainchild, Titan Books is shining the interstellar spotlight on perhaps the franchise’s greatest fictional celebrity … Spock.
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