NASA has a long history of crowdsourcing solutions, seeking input from the public, entrepreneurs, and citizen scientists. Currently, the agency is tasked with preparing for the long-awaited return to the Moon (the Artemis Program) and addressing the growing problem of Climate Change. The former entails all manner of requirements, from launch vehicles and human-rated spacecraft to logistical concerns and payload services. The latter calls for advances in climate science, Earth observation, and high-quality data collection.
To enlist the help of entrepreneurs in addressing these challenges, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) has once again teamed up with the world-leading crowdsourcing platform HeroX to launch the NASA Entrepreneurs Challenge. With a total prize purse of $1,000,000, NASA is looking for ideas to develop and commercialize state-of-the-art technology and data usage that advances lunar exploration and climate science. The challenge launched on April 10th and will run until November 29th, after which the winners will be invited to a live pitch event hosted at the Defense TechConnect Innovation Summit and Expo in Washington, D.C.
In November of 2024, NASA’s Artemis II mission will carry a crew of four (who were recently announced) on a circumlunar flight. This mission follows on the heels of the successful Artemis I mission that validated the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion Spacecraft, and established a new long-distance record. In 2025, NASA plans to send the first astronauts to the Moon since the Apollo Era (“the first woman and first person of color”) with Artemis III. This will be paralleled and followed by the deployment of infrastructure like the Lunar Gateway and the Artemis Basecamp, with the long-term aim of creating a program of “sustained lunar exploration and development.”
Much of NASA’s research into Climate Change takes place through the Earth Sciences Directorate.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, humanity is facing a mounting climate crisis as rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are driving temperature increases. By 2050, global temperatures will increase by an average of 1.5 to 2 °C (2.7 to 3.6 °F), according to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), leading to rising sea levels, coastal flooding, melting ice sheets, and increased drought, famine, disease, and heat waves all across the globe. In keeping with the Mitigation and Adaptation strategies recommended by the IPCC, space agencies rely on Earth Observation satellites to track Climate Change and predict where ecological impacts will occur.
These two challenges are not mutually exclusive, as developments for space have always had game-changing applications for life here on Earth. Through its “Moon to Mars” architecture, NASA is fostering advances in habitats, power generation, food production, and bioregenerative life support systems. These technologies emphasize sustainability, closed-loop cycles, and strategies for living in environments where there is little to no margin for failure. Therefore, it is fitting that NASA has chosen to combine these two areas of focus for this year’s NASA Entrepreneur Challenge.
This year’s competition is a follow-up on Entrepreneur Challenges held in 2020 and 2021. The former was focused on machine learning, autonomous systems, mass spectrometry, and quantum sensors for astrobiology and astrophysics. The latter sought ideas for small satellite capabilities, metamaterial sensors, and sample handling and processing technology (respectively). This year’s challenge will consist of two rounds, where companies will submit pitch decks and technical papers that outline their concepts.
For Round 1, teams will submit a Pitch Deck of up to 8 slides alongside a Technical Submission (a white paper of up to 5 pages) outlining their ideas. These submissions will be judged by a panel of NASA personnel and venture experts who will award up to 20 companies with $16,000. These companies will be invited to participate in Round 2, where they will support a Pitch Deck of up to 12 Slides with a more extensive technical submission (10
Starship | First Integrated Flight Test | Recap
Starship gave us quite a show during the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship (S24) and Super Heavy rocket (B7) from Starbase in Texas.
On April 20, 2023 at 8:33 a.m. CT, Starship successfully lifted off from the orbital launch pad for the first time. The vehicle cleared the pad and beach as Starship climbed to an apogee of ~39 km over the Gulf of Mexico – the highest of any Starship to-date.
With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and we learned a tremendous amount about the vehicle and ground systems today that will help us improve on future flights of Starship.
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ARABSAT BADR-8 Mission Control Audio
This is the vehicle trajectory and mission control audio without any additional commentary. There may be very long periods of silence. For our full hosted webcast, visit
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When Black Holes Merge, They’ll Ring Like a Bell
When two black holes collide, they don’t smash into each other the way two stars might. A black hole is an intensely curved region of space that can be described by only its mass, rotation, and electric charge, so two black holes release violent gravitational ripples as merge into a single black hole. The new black hole continues to emit gravitational waves until it settles down into a simple rotating black hole. That settling down period is known as the ring down, and its pattern holds clues to some of the deepest mysteries of gravitational physics.
Gravitational wave observatories such as the Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have mostly focused on the inspiral period of black hole mergers. This is the period where the two black holes orbit ever closer to each other, creating a rhythmic stream of strong gravitational waves. From this astronomers can determine the mass and rotation of the original black holes, as well as the mass and rotation of the merged black hole. The pattern of gravitational waves we observe is governed by Einstein’s general relativity equations, and by matching observation to theory we learn about black holes.
General relativity describes gravity extremely well. Of all the gravitational tests we’ve done, they all agree with general relativity. But Einstein’s theory doesn’t play well with the other extremely accurate physical theory, quantum mechanics. Because of this, physicists have proposed modifications to general relativity that are more compatible with quantum theory. Under these modified theories, there are subtle differences in the way merged black holes ring down, but observing those differences hasn’t been possible. But a couple of new studies show how we might be able to observe them in the next LIGO run.
The modified Teukolsky equation. Credit: Li, Dongjun, et al
In the first work, the team focused on what is known as the Teukolsky Equation. First proposed by Saul Teukolsky, the equations are an efficient way of analyzing gravitational waves. The equations only apply to classical general relativity, so the team developed a way to modify the equations for modified general relativity models. Since the solutions to both the Teukolsky and modified Teukolsky equations don’t require a massive supercomputer to solve, the team can compare black hole ring downs in various gravitational models.
The second work looks at how this would be done with LIGO data. Rather than focusing on general differences, this work focuses on what is known as the no-hair theorem. General relativity predicts that no matter how two black holes merge, the final merged black hole must be described by only mass, rotation, and charge. It can’t have any “hair”, or remnant features of the collision. In some modified versions of general relativity, black holes can have certain features, which would violate the no-hair theorem. In this second work, the authors show how this could be used to test general relativity against certain modified theories.
LIGO has just begun its latest observation run, so it will be a while before there is enough data to test. But we may soon have a new observational test of Einstein’s old theory, and we might just prove it isn’t the final theory of gravity after all.
Reference: Li, Dongjun, et al. “Perturbations of spinning black holes beyond General Relativity: Modified Teukolsky equation.” Physical Review X 13.2 (2022): 021029.
Reference: Ma, Sizheng, Ling Sun, and Yanbei Chen. “Black hole spectroscopy by mode cleaning.” Physical Review Letters 130.2 (2023): 141401.
The post When Black Holes Merge, They’ll Ring Like a Bell appeared first on Universe Today.
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