Welcome to the fifth review of "Space and Astronomy" news, selected for you by Insane Curiosity Channel. The news, which will be weekly, will try to provide a quick overview of everything interesting happened in recent days in the field of astronomical research and space exploration.
1 - Despite its relative proximity, Venus is not an easy planet to study. It is always prospectively close to the Sun and this makes observations conducted from Earth very difficult. The surface is also perpetually hidden by a thick blanket of clouds, so that some fundamental characteristics, such as the distribution of internal mass and variations in the length of its rotation period, have long remained unknown. However, the cloud blanket can be pierced with infrared observations at certain wavelengths and, even better, with radar observations; and that's what Jean-Luc Margot, of the University of California, has done.
2 - China has sent the main module of its future space station into space, kicking off a series of missions aimed at completing the construction of the station by the end of next year. The Long March-5B Y2 rocket, carrying the Tianhe ("harmony of the skies") module, lifted off from the Wenchang launch site on the southern coast of Hainan Island at 11:23 a.m. (Beijing time) on April 29.
The station will be T-shaped, with the central module in the center and capsule-laboratory on either side. Each module will have a mass of more than 20 tons.
This year, China will also send the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-12 manned spacecraft to dock with the central module. Onboard the Shenzhou-12 will be 3 astronauts who will stay in orbit for three months.
3 - Big bad news. Michael Collins, protagonist of the Apollo 11 mission that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon, died in Florida on April 28 at the age of 90.
Collins was part of an even more restricted club than the one to which the 12 moonwalkers belonged. Collins, in fact, was the pilot of the command module, the first of six in their respective missions remained in orbit to await the return of those who had meanwhile descended to the lunar surface. Of these six, of this somewhat forgotten category inaugurated by Collins, now only one remains alive, the eighty-six years old Ken Mattingly, of Apollo 16.
4 - And three! The Martian helicopter named Ingenuity is getting a taste of it...
After the first two test flights, whose main objective was to verify that it was able to detach itself from the ground - the first time up to three meters, the second time up to five - and to land without problems, yesterday it was time to move, once at altitude. And not by a little bit: once reached the height of five meters, Ingenuity has tilted a little and has moved away, at the respectable speed of two meters per second, covering about fifty meters and finally returning to the place of departure.
5 - Nasa has finally chosen the lander that will bring back after more than half a century a human crew on the lunar surface: SpaceX's Starship!
Elon Musk's company was competing with Dynetics and Blue Origin's taskforce, also composed of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper. However, as stated by the Nasa administration, the choice fell on SpaceX's technical proposal because of the significantly lower cost and better project management.
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Credits: Ron Miller
Credits: Mark A. Garlick / MarkGarlick.com
Credits: Nasa/Shutterstock/Storyblocks/Elon Musk/SpaceX/ESA/ESO