Space launch costs are dropping rapidly. Solar panels are cheaper than ever. Could space-based solar power soon be price-competitive with nuclear? Promoted as a zero-carbon solution, classified military space planes have also been conducting experiments into wireless power transmission. The FT’s Peggy Hollinger looks at whether space-based solar power can move beyond science fiction.
Spineless sea squirts shed light on vertebrate evolution, and an iodine-fuelled engine powering a satellite in space.
In this episode:
00:45 A story of sea squirts, ancient vertebrates and missing genes
When a PhD student set out to study the developmental pathways of a strange sea creature, he hoped to shed light on the origins of vertebrate animals. Instead, researchers found themselves investigating a strange case of missing genes. We hear why gene loss could be a more significant factor in evolutionary processes than was previously thought.
Research article: Ferrández-Roldán et al.
08:17 Research Highlights
The unusual crystal that gives a beetle its glittering green sheen, and the genetics of a fish’s 200 year lifespan.
Research Highlight: Weird crystal makes beetle a living jewel
Research Highlight: Some of Earth’s longest-lived fish show how to reach extreme ages
10:43 An iodine-fuelled engine for satellites
In space, many satellites use xenon-fuelled ‘electric propulsion systems’ to maneuver. However, xenon is rare and requires high-pressure storage systems, so researchers have been working to develop alternative fuels. This week, a team publish details of the first in-space test of an iodine-powered electric propulsion system, which they say has many advantages over xenon systems.
Research article: Rafalskyi et al
16:37 Briefing Chat
We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, issues aboard the Hubble Space Telescope, and what the discovery of a theorised mineral reveals about processes deep within the Earth.
For millennia, bright lights sprinkled across our celestial sphere have guided great explorers, passed on storied traditions, and lent insight into the nature of our universe. Now, they have competition: thousands of satellites circling the globe in low orbit. Read the story: https://www.science.org/content/artic…
SpaceX has more than 1,000 satellites beaming high-speed internet to Earth, but China promises to offer higher speeds with the launch of what it calls the world’s first 6G satellite. Here’s how both are on a quest to build powerful internet networks in space. Photo illustration: Sharon Shi
SpaceX’s broadband satellite internet, Starlink, is still in beta, but already has over 10,000 customers. The fledgling service is expected to be a cash cow for SpaceX, bringing in as much as $30 billion a year — more than 10 times the annual revenue of its existing rocket business. This revenue will be used to fuel Elon Musk’s ultimate goal of building a colony on Mars. Eventually, Starlink may even keep us connected on the Red Planet.
NASA is working alongside Conservation International and the Liberian Government through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pilot an innovative and replicable approach to more accurately map ecosystems to support effective planning and sustainable decision-making. NASA’s satellite data and expert analysis will provide a country-wide picture of Liberia’s hardwood forests, mangroves, and other ecosystems; Conservation International and the Liberian Government through the EPA will augment that data with their expertise in ecosystem accounting, field studies, and local knowledge to quantify the value of the country’s natural resources and related ecosystem services.
Liberia is a country in West Africa, bordering Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. On the Atlantic coast, the capital city of Monrovia is home to the Liberia National Museum, with its exhibits on national culture and history. Around Monrovia are palm-lined beaches like Silver and CeCe. Along the coast, beach towns include the port of Buchanan, as well as laid-back Robertsport, known for its strong surf.
Read more: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/…
First up, science journalist Julia Rosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about a growing fleet of radar satellites that will soon be able to detect minute rises and drops of Earth’s surface—from a gently deflating volcano to a water-swollen field—on a daily basis.
Sarah also talks with Hui Cao, a professor of applied physics at Yale University, about a new way to generate enormous streams of random numbers faster than ever before, using a tiny laser that can fit on a computer chip.
Every legacy has a compelling origin. The soon-to-be-launched Landsat 9 is the intellectual and technical product of eight generations of Landsat missions, spanning nearly 50 years.
Episode One answers the question “why?” Why did the specific years between 1962 and 1972 call for a such a mission? Why did leadership across agencies commit to its fruition? Why was the knowledge it could reveal important to the advancing study of earth science?
In this episode, we’re introduced to William Pecora and Stewart Udall, two men who propelled the project into reality, as well as Virginia Norwood who breathed life into new technology. Like any worthwhile endeavor, Landsat encountered its fair share of resistance. Episode one explores how those challenges were overcome with the launch of Landsat 1, signifying a bold step into a new paradigm.
Additional footage courtesy of Gordon Wilkinson/Texas Archive of the Moving Image and the US Geological Survey. The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth’s changing landscapes for the benefit of all.
Music: “The Missing Star,” “Brazenly Bashful,” “Light Tense Weight,” “It’s Decision Time,” “Patisserie Pressure,” from Universal Production Music Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Matthew R. Radcliff (USRA): Lead Producer Ryan Fitzgibbons (USRA): Lead Producer Kate Ramsayer (USRA): Lead Producer LK Ward (USRA): Lead Writer Ryan Fitzgibbons (USRA): Lead Editor Jeffrey Masek (NASA/GSFC): Lead Scientist Marc Evan Jackson: Narrator Terry Arvidson (Lockheed Martin): Interviewee Aaron E. Lepsch (ADNET): Technical Support
It’s been about a month since the Chinese Communist Party forced a national security law on Hong Kong. This new law made it illegal for anyone anywhere in the world to promote democratic reform in the region. Recent arrests of top media and political figures have made it clear that Hong Kong’s relatively free political system is over.
- Plus, the risk of space attacks against U.S. satellites is growing.
- And, some hopeful pandemic parenting advice from Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Guests: Axios’ Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, and Miriam Kramer and special thanks to Dr. Sanjay Gupta and the Asian American Journalists Association.