January 02, 2024
Privatised Moon landings: the two US missions set to open a new era of commercial lunar exploration
Two commercial spacecraft are scheduled to launch to the moon early in 2024 under a NASA initiative called the Commercial Lunar Payload Service CLPS . This programme is intended to kickstart a commercial transportation service that can deliver Nasa experiments and other payloads to the lunar surface. If successful, these missions will represent the first landings on the Moon by spacecraft designed and flown by private companies. They could potentially open up a new era of commercial lunar exploration and science. CLPS was inaugurated by Nasa in 2018. An initial pool of nine companies received an invitation to join the programme. They included Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines , the two companies behind these missions. Both missions expect to land within a week after lift-off. The first launch, and the first Nasa flight of 2024, is the Peregrine lunar lander, built by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic. It is scheduled to launch at the earliest on January 8. Broadly speaking, the lander is a box the size of a medium-sized garden shed containing several separate experiments. These include a set of mirrors called a laser retro-reflector array, used for accurate positioning of the lander from orbit. There are also a number of spectrometers – instruments that separate and measure the distinct colours found in light. These will measure radiation on the lunar surface and look for signatures of water in lunar soil. One of them, the Neutron Spectrometer System , will look for hydrogen-containing materials on the surface, which can indicate the presence of water below ground. This water could one day be used by human explorers. There are two principle sources of dangerous radiation for humans in space. One is the Sun, which unleashes electrons, protons and heavier ions that are accelerated to a significant fraction of the speed of light. These solar energetic particle events (SEPs) are more likely to occur during the Sun’s peak of activity (solar maximum), which occurs every 11 years. However, that does not mean there is a respite during the solar minimum. The other source of harmful radiation is galactic cosmic rays (GCRs). These energetic particles originate outside the Solar System, probably in explosive phenomena such as exploding stars (supernovas). During periods of lower solar activity (including the solar minimum), the Sun’s magnetic field, which extends throughout the Solar System, weakens. This enables more GCRs to reach us instead. Another spectrometer on Peregrine will measure both SEPs and GCRs on the Moon. This is important for examining how dangerous the radiation environment at the lunar surface will be for future human explorers. The second spacecraft to launch early in 2024 is the Nova-C lander . It is designed by Houston-based Intuitive Machines and has a similar volume to Peregrine, but in the shape of a tall, hexagonal cylinder. It will carry several instruments including its own laser retro-reflector array. Nova-C is currently scheduled to launch in mid-February. Other instruments include a suite of cameras for producing a 3D image of Nova-C’s landing site. This will allow scientists to estimate how much material is blown away by the landing rocket’s exhaust plume during the descent. Potentially, any material blown away can be imaged to get an idea of the composition of surface material. The “radio observations of the lunar surface photo-electron sheath” ( Rolses ) instrument is designed to measure how the extremely tenuous lunar atmosphere and the Moon’s surface dust environment affect radio waves. The behaviour of electrically charged dust particles on the Moon is a technical challenge which future explorers will need to deal with, as the abrasive particles can attach themselves to surfaces and mechanical devices and potentially cause harm if inhaled by astronauts. A privately built experiment onboard Nova-C is the International Lunar Observatory ILO-X , which will aim to capture some of the first images of the Milky Way galaxy from the Moon’s surface. This would demonstrate the concept of lunar-based astronomy. Peregrine’s landing site is a bay on the west side of Mare Imbrium, known as Sinus Viscositatis (Bay of Stickiness). Here, two volcanic mountains called the Gruithuisen Domes are made of a different material to the surrounding plains. The plains are a form of basalt, while the domes are composed of silica. Both are volcanic in origin, but one appears to have been formed by lava with a viscosity of mango chutney (the silica), and the other by runnier lava (the basalt). On Earth, silica lavas typically require the presence both of water and plate tectonics. However, plate tectonics are not known to be present on the Moon, and neither is water in the quantities necessary for silica lavas. The Gruithuisen Domes thus present a geological enigma which Peregrine could go some way to resolving. The landing location for Nova-C is Malapert A crater – which is of particular interest for lunar exploration, as it lies close to the Moon’s south pole. The surrounding mountains permanently shield this depression from sunlight, leaving it in constant darkness. Consequently, it is one of the coldest locations in the Solar System and, given the lack of sunlight, a place where water ice delivered by comets hitting the surface over the aeons could remain stable. Future human explorers could use it for life support and making rocket fuel. There are additional payloads on both spacecraft from private investors. Peregrine contains the “DHL Spacebox”, which will carry personal items from paying customers, while Nova-C contains “The Humanity Hall of Fame” – a list of names to be sent to the Moon for posterity. Such payloads can generate additional funding for the launch companies. Several other companies are due to launch their first payloads to the Moon in the next couple of years. With greater input from private companies – assuming the these first few missions succeed – we may soon witness a new era in lunar exploration.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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