The new Long March 5 rocket launched successfully from the Wenchang Space Launch Center. The rocket measures 187 feet, making it the largest produced by China. It can carry 25 tons of payload into low-Earth orbit. The rocket carried a satellite that will be used to test a variety of technologies, from observing space debris to electric propulsion.
“Thanks to the incredible data returned by New Horizons, we were able to observe tectonic features on Pluto’s surface, update our thermal evolution model with new data and infer that Pluto most likely has a subsurface ocean today,” said Noah Hammond, a graduate student in Brown University’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences.
It had been theorized that if Pluto did once have a subsurface ocean, it would be completely frozen by now, but the data from New Horizons seemed to suggest otherwise.
“We don’t see the things on the surface we’d expect if there had been a global contraction,” Hammond said. “So we conclude that ice II has not formed, and therefore that the ocean hasn’t completely frozen.”
There is also evidence that Pluto’s largest moon Charon had a subsurface ocean as well, but it is likely completely frozen solid.
Pluto’s thin atmosphere appears bluish when seen backlit by the Sun, a view never possible from Earth. There is also evidence for possible clouds in that hazy, layered atmosphere.
So what is next for New Horizons? The spacecraft is continuing its journey deeper into the Kuiper Belt region of the outer Solar System. A new mission extension, called “KEM,” or Kuiper Belt Extended Mission, will allow the probe to investigate other objects in the Kuiper Belt. The next close flyby will be of a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) called 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019. This flyby has been discussed before, but now would be part of a larger extended mission plan. 2014 MU69 is much smaller than Pluto, only about 21 to 40 kilometres (13 to 25 miles) across (similar in size to Mars’ two tiny moons), but New Horizons would fly past at a distance of only about 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles), four times closer than the Pluto flyby.
Nextbigfuture – On October 5th 2016, Ranga Dias and Isaac F. Silvera of Lyman Laboratory of Physics, Harvard University released the first experimental evidence that solid metallic hydrogen has been synthesized in the laboratory.
It took 495 GPa pressure to create. The sample is being held in the cryostat in liquid nitrogen.
Atomic metallic hydrogen, if metastable at ambient pressure and temperature could be used as the most powerful chemical rocket fuel, as the atoms recombine to form molecular hydrogen. This light-weight high-energy density material would revolutionize rocketry, allowing single-stage rockets to enter orbit and chemically fueled rockets to explore our solar system. To transform solid molecular hydrogen to metallic hydrogen requires extreme high pressures.
Nextbigfuture – Harvard researchers have studied and observed solid hydrogen under pressure at low temperatures. With increasing pressure we observe changes in the sample, going from transparent, to black, to a reflective metal, the latter studied at a pressure of 495 GPa. They have measured the reflectance as a function of wavelength in the visible spectrum finding values as high as 0.90 from the metallic hydrogen. They have fit the reflectance using a Drude free electron model to determine the plasma frequency of 30.1 eV at T= 5.5 K, with a corresponding electron carrier density of 6.7×10^23 particles/cm3 , consistent with theoretical estimates. The properties are those of a metal. Solid metallic hydrogen has been produced in the laboratory.
* they have made some metallic hydrogen and have it in a cryostat in liquid nitrogen
* they might leave it under pressure and let it warm to room temperature or they could keep it cold and release the pressure
* they are planning to test for high temperature superconductivity
Nextbigfuture – The telescope element of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the largest space telescope ever constructed, stands completed in an enormous clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. JWST will now go through a series of rigorous tests, including shaking and noise tests to simulate launch conditions, and cryogenic tests to make sure it can stand up to the frigid conditions of space.
This telescope element of JWST includes the optical components and science instruments. After testing, the telescope will be affixed to a sunshield to prevent thermal heating and a spacecraft bus that contains the propulsion and communication systems to complete JWST. Launch is scheduled for October 2018.