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Is Mercury's core liquid or solid, and why -- on the smallest planet in our solar system -- is it so big? What can the planet closest to the Sun tell us about how our solar system came into being? An unmanned European-Japanese space mission, dubbed BepiColombo, blasted off early Saturday morning from French Guiana, to probe these and other mysteries.
A British-built spacecraft fitted with Star Trek-style "impulse engines" is on its way to Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. BepiColombo was blasted into space from the European space port at Kourou, French Guiana, at about 2.45am UK time on Saturday. It was carried on top of an Ariane 5, the European Space Agency's (ESA's) most powerful rocket. After a tense countdown in French the rocket rose slowly above a ball of orange flame and thundered into the sky before disappearing into cloud. Now begins a complex journey for the spacecraft that will take seven years and cross five billion miles (8.5 kilometres) of space. Following the "escape trajectory" launch, BepiColombo will swing past the Earth in a wide curve before first heading for Venus. In 2025 it will place two probes, one European the other Japanese, in orbit around Mercury, the least explored world in the solar system. Speaking after the launch, Professor Gunther Hasinger, ESA's director of science, said: "This is truly breathtaking. We have today written history. "We have sent the most complex stack of spacecraft that ever have been conceived into space, and to a very long journey to an environment which is truly out of the Earth; truly out of this world." The Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), carrying the orbiters, was built in Stevenage by the Defence and Space division of aerospace company Airbus. Another view of the launch site Credit: Stephane Corvaja/ESA /PA Wire Key elements of ESAs Mercury Planet Orbiter were also assembled by Airbus in the UK. Scientists hope the £1.4 billion mission will unravel some of Mercury's many mysteries, such as the reason for its oversized iron core, its spectacular volcanic vents, and tantalising hints of water ice in shadowy parts of the scorching hot planet. The answers they get will shed new light on the origins and evolution of the solar system. A key feature of BepiColombo is that it is the first interplanetary mission to employ advanced electric ion propulsion technology. Four Star Trek-style "impulse engines", two firing at a time, will emit beams of electrically charged, or "ionised", xenon gas. They will be used not to accelerate the craft but to act as a brake against the sun's enormous gravity. An Ariane 5 lights up the sky as it lifts off from its launchpad in Kourou, at the European Space Center in French Guiana Credit: Jody Amiet/AFP A series of fly-bys past the Earth, Venus, and Mercury will also help to reduce BepiColombo's velocity by 7km per second. At top speed after launch, the spacecraft will be moving at 60km (37 miles) per second. One of the biggest challenges for mission planners was ensuring the spacecraft could withstand searing temperatures of more than 350C so close to the sun. Protective measures include a heat shield, novel ceramic and titanium insulation, ammonia-filled "heat pipes", and in the case of the Japanese orbiter, "roast-on-a-spit" spinning. A suite of 11 instruments on the MPO will map the surface of Mercury and probe its chemical composition for up to two years. The Ariane 5 rocket carrying BepiColombo waiting on its launch pad Credit: John von Radowitz/PA Meanwhile, the Japanese space agency Jaxa's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter's five instruments will focus on the planet's unusual lopsided magnetic field. One of BepiColombo's main instruments, the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (Mixs), was designed and built at the University of Leicester. The ion thrusters were supplied by the UK defence technology company QinetiQ. Only two spacecraft have previously visited Mercury. Nasa's Mariner 10 flew past the planet three times in 1974-75 and the American space agency's Messenger probe orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015. BepiColombo was named after the late Giuseppe "Bepi" Colombo, an Italian scientist and engineer who played a leading role in the 1974 Mariner 10 mission.
SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. government is trying again to stop a high-profile climate change lawsuit days before young activists are set to argue at trial that the government has violated their constitutional rights through policies that have caused a dangerous climate.
For the first time, humans will visit the deepest part of each of the five oceans, plunging to the sea floor using a two-person craft designed to withstand the intense pressures more than 5.5 miles (9 km) below the surface. The project, known as Five Deeps Expedition, will use a special submersible vehicle that took more than three years to build. It is made of titanium and other special materials that can dive to the bottom of the ocean, said Victor Vescovo, an explorer who will pilot the vehicle after it leaves its supporting boat and descends toward the deepest parts of the ocean.
The skull, though damaged, was protected by a cabinet that fell over the glass box it was encased in, the museum's deputy director Cristiana Serejo said. Luzia was the star of a collection of 20 million items in the 200-year-old building that also contained Egyptian artifacts, archeological finds and historical memorabilia. A fire last month destroyed the vast majority of the collection and triggered an outcry about how Brazil's cultural institutions have deteriorated during an era of a weak economy and deep austerity measures.
Notice of Availability of Administrative Supplements for Microphysiological Systems Developers : Development of Tissue Chips to Model Nociception, Opioid Addiction and Overdose
Scientists have discovered a primitive "supercluster" of galaxies forming in the early Universe, just 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang. The structure, nicknamed Hyperion, is the largest and most massive to be found so early in the formation of the Universe, which sprang into existence around 13.7 billion years ago. "This is the first time that such a large structure has been identified at such a high redshift, just over two billion years after the Big Bang," said Olga Cucciati, a researcher at the Astrophysics and Space Sciences Observatory in Bologna and lead author of a study detailing the discovery.
Chicago Police Say Foul Play Is Suspected in the Disappearance of a Pregnant 26-Year-Old Postal Worker
Expert Panel Meeting to Discuss Study Design for a Longitudinal Study of the Impact of Prenatal Opioid and other Substance Exposure on Brain and Behavioral Development
The first ever European mission to Mercury will launch on Saturday morning. Led by the European Space Agency, the mission aims to learn more about one of the Solar System’s least explored planets. A British-built spacecraft will travel over 5 billion miles to transport two satellites into Mercury’s orbit.
China is planning to launch its own 'artificial moon' by 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in urban areas, state media reported Friday. Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, is developing "illumination satellites" which will shine in tandem with the real moon, but are eight times brighter, according to China Daily. The first man-made moon will launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, with three more to follow in 2022 if the first test goes well, said Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society, the organization responsible for the project.
What Happened to My Friend Jamal Khashoggi Shows How Saudi Arabia Spreads Fear and Buys the West's Silence
NIH Funding Opportunities
- Notice of Availability of Administrative Supplements for Microphysiological Systems Developers : Development of Tissue Chips to Model Nociception, Opioid Addiction and Overdose
- Expert Panel Meeting to Discuss Study Design for a Longitudinal Study of the Impact of Prenatal Opioid and other Substance Exposure on Brain and Behavioral Development
- Administrative Supplements for Complementary Health Practitioner Research Experience (Admin Supp Clinical Trial Optional)
- Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for the Development, Implementation, and Management of a Funding System to support the Grade A Milk Safety Program and National Shellfish Sanitation Program
- BRAIN Initiative: Research on the Ethical Implications of Advancements in Neurotechnology and Brain Science (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)