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Vacation to the Moon Coming Soon: European Space Agency Plans to Build a Moon Village by 2030

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In 20 years from now, it may be possible to go on vacation to the Moon thanks to an ambitious plan recently announced by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Johann-Dietrich Woerner, head of the ESA, has revealed a vision of an international lunar base dubbed Moon Village, which could become a reality as early as by 2030. In a recent video by ESA, Woerner says that the establishment of a permanent settlement on the Moon, which would require a joint effort of all spacefaring nations, would be humanity’s next big step in space exploration. The Moon Village could be used for various purposes, including business, science and even tourism.

The lunar settlement would be built at the poles or on the far side of the Moon, in the areas with continuous daylight. At the same time, the South Pole, which has constant darkness and numerous craters with vast reserves of water ice, could be used to access the water and produce hydrogen and oxygen. In the Moon’s shadow, settlers would be safe from solar and cosmic radiation and would be at a lower risk of micrometeorite impacts.

Since 2013, the ESA has been working with private construction companies on developing and testing different technologies that could be exploited to build a lunar base. As a result, it was determined that the best solution would be to use natural resources found on the surface of the Moon, such as metals, minerals and water ice. It could be done with the help of a rover that would 3D-print building elements and structures out of these materials. Then, the rover would land on the surface and inflate a dome, after which a building would be constructed around it.

“First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into ‘paper’ we can print with,” said Enrico Dini of the UK-based manufacturing company Monolite. “Then for our structural ‘ink’, we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid. Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 meters per hour while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 meters per hour, completing an entire building in a week.”

Woerner says that the Moon Village could open up lots of possibilities not only for space exploration but also for business, mining and even tourism. However, to make this project a reality, the collaboration of all spacefaring nations would be necessary so that each country can contribute with technology and knowledge. The Moon Village would engage space agencies from countries such as USA, Russia, China, India and Japan, as well as other countries.

It is estimated that it will take about 20 years to build the technology necessary for the implementation of the plan. With all these exciting developments and projects we have seen in the last few years, including the Moon Village and the upcoming manned missions to Mars, it becomes clear that humanity is on the verge of a new era in space exploration.

Learn more about the Moon Village in the video below:

Would you like to go on vacation to the Moon? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

References:

  1. BBC
  2. Science Alert

Image credit: ESA

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News

Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”

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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour

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Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.

In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.

While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.

“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.

See for yourself:

Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.

In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.

Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”

Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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