Russia says International Space Station is falling apart & may have to be abandoned early, plans to go it alone on replacement
Russia may invoke the spirit of ‘Mir’ by launching its own orbital station after 2024, as a replacement for the ISS. The current setup had been expected to operate until 2030, but there are signs that it may not be possible.The proposed new Russian replacement is set to consist of between three and seven modules, with a crew of up to four people.
Moscow’s plans were revealed by Vladimir Solovyov, the first deputy designer general for RSC Energia, the company which operates the Russian segment of the ISS. In his opinion, several elements on the international station are already failing, and it will just get worse from 2025.
“Until 2025, Russia has obligations to participate in the ISS program,” Solovyov explained to the Russian Academy of Sciences. “There are already a number of elements that have been seriously damaged and are out of service. Many of them are not replaceable. After 2025, we predict an avalanche-like failure of numerous elements onboard the ISS.”
The ISS regularly has problems. Last month, the Russian Zvezda module suffered a crack. At the time, former cosmonaut Ivan Vagner explained that it may have been caused by wear and tear.
“Twenty years is actually an absolute record for all space stations,” he explained.
As things stand, Russia has obligations to participate in the ISS program until 2025, and afterwards, the costs may be too prohibitive.
Writing on Twitter, the head of space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said that it was too early to decommission the international project but that some modules might have to be replaced.
“I think it’s too early to write off the station,” Rogozin wrote. “I see the great potential of the ISS for the development of space tourism and the participation of private space companies.”
Later, in a press release, Roscosmos clarified that Solovyov’s comments were of “an informational nature” and did not contain any “proposals for termination of participation in the ISS.”
The Russian-built proposed replacement for the ISS is currently in development and is planned for deployment after 2024. The Russian Orbital Station will be able to run autonomously, and will be operated by a crew of two to four people. In May, Rogozin explained that an ISS replacement was in the works, but it was not yet clear whether it would be visited or inhabited, national or international.
Earth is 2,000 light years closer to supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy than we thought
A new map of the Milky Way by Japanese space experts has put Earth 2,000 light years closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.
This map has suggested that the center of the Milky Way, and the black hole which sits there, is located 25,800 light-years from Earth. This is closer than the official value of 27,700 light-years adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985, the National Observatory of Japan said.
What's more, according to the map, our solar system is traveling at 227 kilometers per second as it orbits around the galactic center -- this is faster than the official value of 220 kilometers per second, the release added.
These updated values are a result of more than 15 years of observations by the Japanese radio astronomy project VERA, according to an announcement released Thursday from the National Observatory of Japan. VERA is short for VLBI Exploration of Radio Astrometry and refers to the mission's array of telescopes, which use Very Long Baseline Interferometry to explore the three-dimensional structure of the Milky Way.
Because the Earth is located inside the Milky Way, it's difficult to step back and see what the galaxy looks like. To get around this, the project used astrometry, the accurate measurement of the position and motion of objects, to understand the overall structure of the Milky Way and Earth's place in it.
The black hole is known as Sagittarius A* or Sgr A* and is 4.2 million times more massive than our sun. The supermassive hole and its enormous gravitational field governs the orbits of stars at the center of the Milky Way. Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez earned the 2020 Nobel prize for physics for its discovery. There are several types of black holes, and scientists believe the supermassive ones may be connected to the formation of galaxies, as they often exist at the center of the massive star systems -- but it's still not clear exactly how, or which form first.
More precise approach
In August, VERA published its first catalog, containing data for 99 celestial objects. Based on this catalog and recent observations by other groups, astronomers constructed a position and velocity map. From this map, the scientists were able to calculate the center of the galaxy, the point that everything revolves around.
VERA combines data from four radio telescopes across Japan. The observatory said that, when combined, the telescopes were able to achieve a resolution that in theory would allow the astronomers to spot a United States penny placed on the surface of the Moon.
To be clear, the changes don't mean Earth is plunging toward the black hole, the observatory said. Rather, the map more accurately identifies where the solar system has been all along.
A whale skeleton thought to be up to 5,000 years old has been discovered, almost perfectly preserved, by researchers in Thailand.
The skeleton, believed to be a Bryde’s whale, was found in Samut Sakhon, west of Bangkok. Researchers have excavated 80% of the remains and have so far identified 19 complete vertebrae, five ribs, a shoulder blade and fins. The skeleton measures 12 metres (39ft), with a skull that is 3 metres long.
The bones will be carbon dated to verify their age, but it is thought they are between 3,000 and 5,000 years old.
Bryde’s whales are still found in Thailand’s waters, where they are considered a protected species. The whales – which prefer waters above 16C (61F), and feed on schooling fish such as anchovies – face threats from fishing equipment as well as tourism.
The remains, which were found about 12km (7.5 miles) inland, will help scientists understand the evolution of the species, and track how sea levels have changed over thousands of years, said Varawut Silpa-archa, the natural resources and environment minister.
Marcus Chua, of the National University of Singapore, said the discovery adds to evidence of “relatively large sea level changes around 6,000 years to 3,000 years ago in the Gulf of Thailand, where the shoreline was up to tens of kilometres inland of the present coast”.
Previously, only marine deposits containing small fossilised marine shells or crabs had been found inland, and it was not clear if those fossils had been moved by humans, said Chua. “A large subfossil whale dated thousands of years ago near Bangkok would provide strong evidence of where the sea was during that time,” he said.
Such evidence is highly relevant, given that the climate crisis is contributing to rising sea levels. “This could certainly bring attention to the issue, and show how and where low-lying areas could be inundated by the sea when that happens,” said Chua.
The discovery will also help deepen researchers’ understanding of the Bryde’s whale, as well as other marine life. Alongside the skeleton, researchers found preserved items including shark teeth and shells.
“Scientists could also study the deposits found at the same level as the whale to reconstruct the biological communities present during that time, and compare them to present day systems,” said Chua.
The exact age of the skeleton is expected to be confirmed in December.
Source: The Guardian