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NASA announces “exciting new discovery”: Water confirmed to exist on the moon

NASA has finally spilled the details about its stunning new find.

Elias Marat

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After a week of dropping tantalizing hints about an “exciting new discovery” it had made, NASA has finally spilled the details about its stunning new find: there is water on the sunlit surface of the moon – and much, much more than previously expected.

While water ice has previously been found on the moon in the past – mainly in the frigid, shadowed regions of the moon’s huge craters and north and south poles – this is the first time that water has been found on those surfaces exposed to sunlight.

It was previously believed that if water on the lunar surface had been exposed to the warming radiation of the sun, it would evaporate.

However, it turns out that water molecules are trapped within mineral grains across the moon, with more water likely hidden in the ice patches residing under the permanent shadows along the lunar surface, which are believed to have not seen any sunlight for billions of years.

A team of researchers is reporting that the moon could have some 40,000 square kilometers of permanent shadows where hidden pockets of water in the form of ice could be harbored.

The discovery that water is capable of withstanding lunar conditions under sunlight could have major implications for any future efforts to settle the moon as a human settlement, offering a precious resource that future astronauts could potentially use for drinking, or as an ingredient in the production of rocket fuel.

“We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the moon,” said Paul Hertz, the director of the astrophysics division of the science mission directorate at NASA’s Washington headquarters. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”

The discovery, which is detailed in a pair of papers published by the journal Nature, relied on NASA’s airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, which is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a telescope..

One team led by Casey Honniball of the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland found molecular water on the lunar surface, trapped within natural glasses or between grains of debris. While past observations had difficulty discerning between water and hydroxyl – its molecular cousin –the new detection method offered clear findings.

However, the identified hydrogen and oxygen molecules are quite far apart, meaning that they are not lying in puddles or solid blocks of ice.

“A lot of people think that the detection I’ve made is water ice, which is not true. It’s just the water molecules — because they’re so spread out they don’t interact with each other to form water ice or even liquid water,” Honniball said.

The scientists believe that the water could have traveled by way of solar winds or from micrometeorites that contained some water.

Another paper found that the Moon’s “billions” of tiny craters have offered the ideal texture for creating shadowy regions across the moon, offering perfect conditions to hold frozen ice. Some of the shadows are no bigger than a small coin, according to researchers led by planetary scientist Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“Our research shows that a multitude of previously unknown regions of the moon could harbour water ice,” Hayne said. “Our results suggest that water could be much more widespread in the moon’s polar regions than previously thought, making it easier to access, extract and analyse.”

It still remains to be determined whether the water, which appears to be extant across our natural satellite, will be easily accessible to future explorers or settlers.

“We don’t know yet if we can use it as a resource, but learning about water on the moon is key for our Artemis exploration plans,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine noted in a tweet.

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SpaceX Will Help Launch A Remote-Controlled Car Race On The Moon

Justin MacLachlan

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SpaceX with its Falcon 9 rocket will be involved in sending 5.5 pounds of remotely-controlled race cars to the lunar surface, aiding the first-ever remote car race on the Moon!

If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9 rocket will deliver the remote-controlled vehicles to the moon’s surface by October 2021, New Atlas reported.

The interstellar race is being organized by a company called Moon Mark, a multimedia and education content business, which partnered with Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based aerospace company.

Intuitive Machines believes it could soon become “the first private aerospace company to land on the Moon,” according to a recent press release. But SpaceX, a company headed by Elon Musk, one of the world’s most bizarre CEO’s, won’t just allow that to happen without his company’s own involvement.

The SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will assist Intuitive Machines in getting its Nova-C lander onto the moon to deploy the race cars.

The cars will race around the sandy dunes of Oceanus Procellarum, a plain near the western edge of the Moon.

The track will be designed by Formula One racecar track designer Herman Tilke. While McLaren P1 designer Frank Stephenson is involved in designing the cars, along with High School kids.

The “deployment mechanism” used to deposit the 5.5 lb cars on the lunar surface will weigh a further 6.6 lbs. That’s a total of 17.6 lb combined weight being sent into space to our moon.

“Moon Mark’s Mission 1 competition will include six diverse teams of high school students selected from across the United States,” reads a press release, “who will compete in a series of qualifying challenges that include unique demands, such as drone and autonomous vehicle racing, e-gaming, and a space commercialization entrepreneurship contest. The two top teams from the qualifying rounds will win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build and race two vehicles on the Moon. The vehicles will be loaded onto Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C Lunar Lander, launched from Earth on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, and land in 2021. Competitors will then race their rovers remotely, navigating through harsh terrain, racing around a sphere of cameras, which will capture every aspect.”

Lets hope that 2021 is a better year than 2020 was, with space racecars we definitely have something to look forward to.

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Congress to Vote This Week on Bill to Legalize Cannabis, End Federal Prohibition

Elias Marat

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After months of debate and partisan stalling, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 is set for a vote before a full chamber of Congress by the end of this week.

The bipartisan bill sponsored by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has been touted as the most comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation ever introduced and comes after over half a century of a failed “war on drugs” that fueled mass incarceration and other collateral damage for poor communities.

Late last week, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised the Congress that the MORE Act would be taken up by the House at some point between Wednesday evening and Friday.

In a September statement, Hoyer said that “The MORE Act remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform.”

The bill has also gained the support of both liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives who see the responsible use of cannabis as a personal right, as well as other Republicans who believe that it should be up to the states to regulate the dispensation of the plant without the interference or control of federal authorities.

The MORE Act comprehensively decriminalizes cannabis on a federal level by de-scheduling it from the Controlled Substances Act – where it is absurdly classified as a Schedule 1 drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” alongside heroin – and opens the door to states setting their own policies regulating the commerce and consumption of the plant.

A major highlight of the bill includes expungements of federal convictions for a number of federal convictions of low-level cannabis offenders, removing a barrier that bars access to voting, employment, professional licenses, housing, and even the ability to adopt a child. States would be incentivized to also follow suit.

The legislation would also provide for re-sentencing and block federal agencies from denying public benefits and security clearances over past cannabis convictions, while immigrants would no longer be denied citizenship over marijuana.

The MORE Act would also levy a 5% sales tax on commercial cannabis, and investing in grant programs addressing the needs of communities who have suffered serious negative impacts from the “War on Drugs,” especially those communities of color that have suffered disproportionate over-policing and mass incarceration.

Other provisions of the MORE Act include providing opportunities for cannabis businesses and expanding medical cannabis programs within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Cannabis has already been comprehensively legalized for recreational use in 15 states, and another 21 states have legalized medical use of marijuana through physician prescriptions.

A vote on the MORE Act had initially been set for September, but the vote was delayed as Congress wrangled over the passage of a coronavirus aid bill before moving on to addressing legalization.

The passage of the MORE Act could also be a boon for cash-strapped budgets across the country, which have seen tax revenue dry up amid the economic devastation wrought by the ongoing pandemic. The creation of a state-regulated cannabis market across the country is expected to create an up to $37 billion business within five years.

“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” Vice President-elect Harris said in a 2019 press release. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives. As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry.”

However, while the House has offered clear bipartisan backing of the bill, GOP senators have been far less favorable toward the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blasted the bill on Twitter, remarking earlier this year on a study about diversity within the cannabis industry:  “This is their effort at coronavirus relief?”

In 2018, a study from Pew Research Center found that cannabis-related offenses comprised 40% of all 1.65 million total drug arrests in the U.S. that year.

However, another study by Pew in late 2019 found that two-thirds of respondents across the country support the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana.

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White House is Being Investigated by DOJ for Alleged Presidential Pardon Bribery Scheme

Elias Marat

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In a potentially explosive development in the waning days of outgoing President Donald Trump’s administration, the Justice Department is investigating an alleged “bribery-for-pardon” scheme involving cash payments to the White House or its associates in exchange for a presidential pardon.

The heavily-redacted court records unsealed Tuesday in federal court do not name any individuals involved nor do they mention President Trump, or whether any officials in the White House were acquainted with the scheme.

However, the legal drama that the records hint at create new, dark clouds over the outgoing administration after a number of his top associates and advisers have faced federal criminal charges while Trump has openly mulled pardoning those who have proven their loyalty to him.

In 20 pages of partially redacted documents unsealed by the DC District Court, the question is discussed of whether prosecutors can review documents that are potentially protected by attorney-client privilege and were seized after a search warrant.

The records also reveal Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell’s Aug. 28 opinion on an ongoing investigation involving at least two figures who “acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials, without complying with the registration requirement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act… to secure ‘a pardon or reprieve of sentence for” an individual whose name is redacted.

In the review, the judge noted that the communications could be reviewed by investigators because the email discussion involved a non-attorney.

“This political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from one individual’s role as an attorney advocate for” another individual, the ruling added, with both names involved being redacted.

According to the filings, the communications were seized from an office in a raid that occurred at some point prior to the end of summer 2020.

During the raid, a filter team – meant to ensure that prosecutors don’t receive tainted evidence that should not have fallen into their hands because it was privileged – had over 50 digital devices, including smartphones, tablet computers, laptops, thumb drives and hard drives after investigators raided the undisclosed offices, reports CNN.

In the court documents, prosecutors requested access to the filter team’s trove of devices. This is because the prosecutors believed that the holdings showed alleged crimes such as a “secret lobbying scheme” and bribery conspiracy that solicited “a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence” for a defendant who was convicted, according to the redacted records.

“The political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from [redacted]’s role as an attorney-advocate for [redacted name],” Judge Howell wrote in the court order.

A grand jury investigation was also revealed, and appears to relate to unnamed parties who acted as unregistered “lobbyists to senior White House officials” and pursued pardons while using an intermediary to transmit bribes, the records say.

However, prosecutors have not provided evidence to the judge of any direct payment. Instead, they showed evidence that the redacted person was seeking clemency in return for past and future contributions to a political campaign.

Over the last week, the Department of Justice has informed Judge Howell that it wants the filings to reman confidential in court because “individuals and conduct” have not been publicly charged with any crimes related to the potential scheme.

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