NUNZIUM

News That Matters

27/08/2022 ---- 29/08/2022

Today NASA announced postponing Artemis I flight due to engine issues. At the same time the Chinese space program continues towards a fully functional space station and receives good news from botanic experiments onboard. China's Wentian lab module successfully arrived at the China Space Station in the early hours on July 25 and docked with the Tianhe core cabin. Wentian is the second section of the three module Chinese Space Station. Before China, only the former Soviet Union and the US were capable of assembling ultra-large spacecraft in orbit. Today, August 29, good news come from the Wentian’s ecology experimental module as rice seeds have sprouted into tall plants and growing. The experiment is expected to complete a full life cycle "from seeds to seeds”, and during the process astronauts will collect samples and then freeze and preserve them, before finally returning them to the ground for analysis. If completed, this will be the world's first to complete the whole life cycle of rice cultivation under space microgravity conditions. The long term goal of such developments being deep space exploration, a new highly competitive race may have started between US and China in space.

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Almost 50 years after the last Apollo mission ventured to the lunar surface, NASA has established the Artemis program, which has the ultimate goal of establishing a long-term presence on the Moon’s surface. With a long-term presence established on or around the Moon, it would then be used for future missions further afield, including to Mars - and it all begins with Artemis I. All of the objectives for the inaugural Artemis flight will demonstrate capabilities necessary for when the Orion spacecraft carries humans to deep space. The list includes an overall safe flight, the performance of the rocket, testing the heat shield and retrieving the spacecraft. Artemis I is officially a test flight where new technologies will be tested without crew onboard. After Artemis I comes Artemis 2 and 3, NASA’s first manned lunar missions in five decades. Artemis 3 will be the first crewed lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. It is also intended to be the first mission to land a woman on the Moon. After the discovery in 2009 of Lunar pits and caves that could provide Earth-like temperatures (17 degrees Celsius, 63 Fahrenheit) long term permanence on the Moon’s surface may not be too far away. These pit craters, and the caves to which they may potentially lead, would make safer, more thermally stable base camps for lunar exploration and long-term habitation than the rest of the Moon’s surface, which heats up to 260 degrees (126.6 Celsius) during the day and drops to 280 degrees below zero at night (-173.3 Celsius).

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It is a scientific fact that human life depends on oceans and their biodiversity. In the last decades an incredible number of species in the sea have reduced in number so much that they are now at risk of extinction. A study published in Science found that under business-as-usual global temperature increases, marine systems are likely to experience mass extinctions on par with past great extinctions. Protecting the biodiversity that has been created in the seas in the last 50 million years is now a critical and urgent global matter. Yet, a fifth round of negotiations for a UN ocean treaty to protect and manage the high seas failed to reach an agreement on Friday in New York. The negotiations focused on four key areas: (1) Establishing marine protected areas for more than 30% of the earth’s surface; (2) Improving environmental impact assessments; (3) Providing finance and capacity building to developing countries; (4) Sharing of marine genetic resources - biological material from plants and animals in the ocean that can have benefits for society, such as pharmaceuticals, industrial processes and food. Laura Meller, who leads Greenpeace’s ocean protection campaign, accused rich countries such as the United States of being too slow to compromise. “Russia has also been a key blocker in negotiations, refusing to engage in the treaty process itself, or attempting to compromise with the European Union and many other states on a wide range of issues,” Meller said. The talks will resume next year unless a special emergency session is called before the end of 2022. One of the most sensitive issues revolves around the sharing of possible profits gained from developing genetic resources in international waters, where pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic companies hope to find miracle drugs, products or cures. Such costly research at sea is largely the prerogative of rich nations, but developing countries do not want to be left out of potential windfall profits drawn from marine resources that belong to no one. Similar issues of equity between the Global North and South arise in other international negotiations, such as on climate change, where developing nations feel outsized harms from global warming and try in vain to get wealthier nations to help pay to offset those impacts. Economic differences between nations are hindering developments that are more and more urgent for our species’ future survival.

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