Trump tells NASA to send Americans to Moon

This NASA file photo taken on July 20, 1969 shows astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. saluting the US flag on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 lunar mission. US President Donald Trump directed NASA on Dec. 11, 2017 to send Americans to the Moon for the first time in decades, a move he said would help prepare for a future Mars trip.”This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint,” Trump said at the White House as he signed the new directive.”We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.” (AFP)
Updated 12 December 2017

Trump tells NASA to send Americans to Moon

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump directed NASA on Monday to send Americans to the Moon for the first time since 1972, in order to prepare for future trips to Mars.
“This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint,” Trump said at a White House ceremony as he signed the new space policy directive.
“We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.”
The directive calls on NASA to ramp up its efforts to send people to deep space, a policy that unites politicians on both sides of the aisle in the United States.
However, it steered clear of the most divisive and thorny issues in space exploration: budgets and timelines.
Space policy experts agree that any attempt to send people to Mars, which lies an average of 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) from Earth, would require immense technical prowess and a massive wallet.
The last time US astronauts visited the Moon was during the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.
On July 20, 1969, US astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon.
Trump, who signed the directive in the presence of Harrison Schmitt, one of the last Americans to walk on the Moon 45 years ago, said “today, we pledge that he will not be the last.”
The better known Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the Moon after Armstrong and a fervent advocate of future space missions, was also present at the ceremony but not mentioned by Trump during his speech.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the newly revitalized National Space Council, have previously vowed to explore the Moon again, but offered few details.
Nevertheless, the announcement was welcomed by NASA’s Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who said the agency “looks forward to supporting the president’s directive” and “strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond.”

Former US president George W. Bush also pledged to send Americans to the Moon as part of the Constellation program, which ran from 2005 to 2009.
Constellation was projected to cost $100 billion, and aimed to get boots on the Moon’s surface by the late 2020s.
In 2009, then president Barack Obama deemed it too costly and repetitive of missions already achieved, and canceled the program in order to focus on reaching Mars by the 2030s.
Trump vowed his new directive “will refocus the space program on human exploration and discovery,” and “marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972.”
The goal of the new Moon missions would include “long-term exploration and use” of its surface.
“We’re dreaming big,” Trump said.
His administration has previously held several meetings with SpaceX boss Elon Musk and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, who also owns Blue Origin.
A White House statement acknowledged that partnerships with other nations and private industry could well be on the cards.
The US “will work with other nations and private industry to return astronauts to the Moon, developing the technology and means for manned exploration of Mars and other destinations in our solar system,” it said.


Space telescope offers rare glimpse of Earth-sized rocky exoplanet

Updated 20 August 2019

Space telescope offers rare glimpse of Earth-sized rocky exoplanet

  • LHS 3844b, an exoplanet about 1.3 times the size of Earth, is locked in a tight orbit around a small, relatively cool star called a red dwarf

Direct observations from a NASA space telescope have for the first time revealed the atmospheric void of a rocky, Earth-sized world beyond our own solar system orbiting the most common type of star in the galaxy, according to a study released on Monday.
The research, published in the scientific journal Nature, also shows the distant planet’s surface is likely to resemble the barren exterior of the Earth’s moon or Mercury, possibly covered in dark volcanic rock.
The planet lies about 48.6 light years from Earth and is one of more than 4,000 so-called exoplanets identified over the past two decades circling distant stars in our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
Known to astronomers as LHS 3844b, this exoplanet about 1.3 times the size of Earth is locked in a tight orbit — one revolution every 11 hours — around a small, relatively cool star called a red dwarf, the most prevalent and long-lived type of star in the galaxy.
The planet’s lack of atmosphere is probably due to intense radiation from its parent red dwarf, which, though dim by stellar standards, also emits high levels of ultraviolet light, the study says.
The study will likely add to a debate among astronomers about whether the search for life-sustaining conditions beyond our solar system should focus on exoplanets around red dwarfs — accounting for 75% of all stars in the Milky Way — or less common, larger, hotter stars more like our own sun.
The principal finding is that it probably possesses little if any atmosphere — a conclusion reached by measuring the temperature difference between the side of the planet perpetually facing its star, and the cooler, dark side facing away from it.
A negligible amount of heat carried between the two sides indicates a lack of winds that would otherwise be present to transfer warmth around the planet.
“The temperature contrast on this planet is about as big as it can possibly be,” said researcher Laura Kreidberg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is lead author of the study. Similar analysis previously was used to determine that another exoplanet, 55 Cancri e, about twice as big as Earth and believed to be half-covered in molten lava, likely possesses an atmosphere thicker than Earth’s. This exoplanet, unlike LHS 3844b, orbits a sun-like star.
The planet in the latest study was detected last year by NASA’s newly launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, an orbiting telescope that pinpoints distant worlds by spotting periodic, dips in the light observed from their parent stars when an object passes in front of them.
But it was follow-up observations from another orbiting instrument, the Spitzer Space Telescope, which can detect infrared light directly from an exoplanet, that provided new insights about its features.