This month, as the last, we gaze up at the stars, which continue surprising us, with a new moon for earth. As the human need to explore continues to rise, it is possible that the era when you and I will be able to travel to the stars – approaches
Zohar Boneh | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida & Ofri Aharon
A new moon: Is it possible?
A new moon, or at least a kind of moon, was discovered in orbit around Earth, which may be constant but isn’t regular. In fact, the asteroid is called “HO3 2016” and was first identified late April by an asteroid survey telescope in Hawaii. The new asteroid orbits the sun while simultaneously rotating around Earth. The asteroids exact measurements have yet to be established, but according to NASA, it is over 36 meters wide and no more than 91 meters long. It is currently locked into a figure-eight like course around earth.
Its orbit course, which ranges between 14 and 40 million km from earth, is too far away to be considered an official satellite of our planet, but is the closest one in existence. “Because the asteroid – that moves in a kind of loop around our planet – never ventures very far away as we both orbit the sun, we refer to it as a quasi-satellite of Earth,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for NEO (Near-Earth Object) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “One other asteroid, “2003 YN107″, followed a similar orbital pattern for over 10 years, but it has since departed. This new asteroid has a stronger ‘lock’ on planet Earth. Our calculations indicate that it has been a stable quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century and that it will continue following this pattern for centuries to come”.
The world’s need for fuel has often been discussed as an intimidating issue. According to a report published in 2003 by Professor David Deming from Harvard University, according to the current fuel consumption statistics, earth’s natural crude oil is likely to be exhausted by 2100. As a result of the efforts to lessen energy consumption, this month, NASA scientists revealed the model of an experimental aircraft that is charged by solar panels while flying.
X-57 Maxwell is equipped with 14 electric engines under its wings and while this doesn’t sound very frugal, it really is. It will only use the 14 engines for landing and takeoff and when cruising, it will only use the two large engines on the end of its wings. In fact, NASA’s scientists believe the aircraft will consume five times less energy than private aircraft that fly at speeds of up to 280 km/h.
NASA will begin conducting a four year long series of experiments to test the aircraft’s efficiency, its noise levels and how environmentally friendly it is. “The X-57 aircraft may be the first step into a new era of aviation”, said Charles Bolden, Administrator of NASA, in a press statement.
Life on Mars
The world, as it turns out, is approaching the day in which we will be able to purchase tickets for flights to mars in great bounds. This month we discovered how close we are to this possibility: “Vulcan Aerospace”, a company owned by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, provided us with a rare look at what will soon be the world’s largest composite aircraft in the world, which is designed to launch satellites to space and when the day comes, humans too.
With a wingspan of 117 meters, the six-engine airplane will be 30% larger than the An-225′ largest airplane in production today which is designed to transport the Soviet “Buran” space shuttle. Just for the sake of scale, the plane will be wider than the length of a football field, including the end zones and will be able to carry 250 tons.
Differing from companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and others, whose goal is to privately fly humans to space while utilizing the familiar methods, thanks to the “Stratolaunch”, Vulcan Aerospace will be able to launch the satellites directly into course and quickly with no schedule issues and delays related to weather, according to Chuck Beams, the Executive Director of the “Stratolaunch” Project.
The airplane’s assembly has been 76% completed, it is planned to be completed by the end of the year and enter service by 2020.
UAVs, which are becoming more and more popular in many fields and industries, will soon offer emergency and lifesaving services. In the past month, the most comprehensive test of UAV abilities in this field so far was performed. Four teams from Britain, Denmark, Iceland and Ireland participated in the test. Each team tested the option of using the UAV in different situations.
So how can a UAV save lives? Well, using the UAV’s camera in areas difficult to enter or traversed by foot, can be of great assistance. For example, in the case of a fire, the high resolution of the picture assists emergency teams to examine if the building’s walls are about to collapse. In addition, when searching for a missing person, a UAV can fly relatively quickly, survey from above and locate the missing person without need for and human interference.
“For us, this technology is a game changer”, said Steve McLinden, a fire fighter who participated in the experiment with two of his colleagues from the West Wales Fire Department. “The UAVs will not replace us, but anything we can do to give our teams an advantage – is great”.